Driver spotlight: Kelvin Fletcher
He’s one of GT4’s fastest amateurs, but soap star Kelvin Fletcher just wants to have fun.
British GT has hosted its fair share of celebrity drivers over the years. Bakers, boyband stars, DJs and even a multiple Olympic champion have graced the grid. And for the past two seasons one of UK TV’s most recognisable faces, Kelvin Fletcher, has done likewise with UltraTek Racing Team RJN.
Following a tough start in 2017, this year has seen Fletcher emerge as one of the fastest amateurs on the grid, as well as a genuine Pro/Am championship contender. Having found his natural level and achieved breakthrough results – including a maiden class victory at Silverstone – it’s clear he’s enjoying the challenge in a suitable environment. But that’s not always been the case.
Best known as Emmerdale’s Andy Sugden, the 34-year-old joined the championship following stints in Porsche Carrera Cup GB and British Touring Cars where a lack of experience and results led some uninformed observers to pillory a soap actor who supposedly considered himself a racing driver.
“No, first and foremost I’m an actor. I just happen to enjoy a bit of motor racing,” he says matter-of-factly. “People will always have an opinion, and I suppose it’s easy to assume this and that or belittle someone for having a go. But I’ve never chased plaudits from the motorsport community because, at the end of the day, I know I’m an amateur here to have fun. Too often I think people forget about the fun part.”
In truth, 2017 didn’t look like much fun for Fletcher who had to grapple with switching from BTCC’s robust style of racing to British GT’s two-driver, multi-class endurance format. What’s more, previous experience ensured he was graded silver, meaning he’d be partnered by another amateur.
“It was tough but I learned an awful lot that has helped me this season,” he admits. “We were the only two ams partnered together, and although that status was quickly recognised it meant we raced together all season against Pro/Am and Silver crews who had a natural advantage. We just weren’t competitive enough, but I didn’t lose heart.”
On the opposite side of UltraTek’s garage was former Le Mans class winner and FIA WEC champion Martin Plowman, who also spent that first season mentoring Fletcher. For 2018 there was only one choice of team-mate.
“Martin’s one of the quickest guys out there but he’s also a calming influence in the garage and a very good coach who’s really got the best out of me this season,” continues Fletcher. “That’s definitely had an impact on our results, which have often been achieved from the back of the grid following a problem of some sort in qualifying.”
Indeed, the sight of UltraTek’s #53 Nissan charging up the timing screens has become commonplace during this year’s opening stints as Fletcher, and then Plowman, make up positions lost on Saturday.
But while most drivers would feel frustration at what might have been, Fletcher is having the time of his life.
“The racing has been brilliant this year; it’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed competing in British GT more than any other series. The driving standards and camaraderie between the amateurs is very good, while the pros give you something to measure yourself against. It’s a privilege to be racing against some of the guys out there.