Sadly I provided my parents with few such opportunities. Bone-idle at school, I failed to trouble the further education system. I could run a bit, but only slowly, knock over smaller boys on the rugby field but only if they were kind enough to run straight at me, and hit cricket balls I could neither throw nor catch. The only things for which I showed genuine aptitude were smoking without getting caught, forging my housemaster’s signature and collecting useless information.
This last ability I carry with me to this day and if I could rid myself of it, I’d be a far richer person. Because instead of being sent off in random directions for facts that will never be of any use to me, I could instead be writing and earning. Today’s wild goose chase started with a clip of Jim Clark drifting a Lotus Cortina and ended with me having to find out whether American comedian Will Ferrell and Chad Smith, the drummer of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers whose likeness to Ferrell is uncanny, have ever had a drum battle on stage before. I won’t bore you with the entire route but it started at Crystal Palace and proceeded in short hops via Indianapolis and Talladega. And, because I know you’re desperate to find out, indeed they have.
But when it comes to racing trivia, I am less a child and more a zygote in stature to David Hayhoe whose latest work thumped onto the doormat yesterday morning. When not pursuing careers in the Civil Service and aviation security, Hayhoe has been an F1 statistician since 1982 and his ‘Grand Prix Data Book’, first published in 1989, has been not just a source of fascination but also a vital working tool for anyone writing about the top level of racing. My edition is 20 years old and so well-thumbed, it’s falling to bits in my hands.