A legendary name on the British Touring Car Championship circuit, James Kaye made close to 300 race starts in the series in the 1990s and early 2000s, claiming championship glory on three occasions during a fruitful, 15-plus year tenure with Honda.
Turns out he’s a dab hand with a plough, too…
“My name is James Kaye.”
“I am 55 years old. No lying!”
“So my first ever car race was at a circuit called Lydden Hill, which is in the south of England in Kent, and I was 17. But I’d been racing for many years before that in go-karts.”
“That’s a very good question! I’ve won three different titles within the British Touring Car Championship, so Independents (’92), Privateers (’94), and Production (‘02). Probably my best ever was winning the races I did and being picked to be a works’ driver for Honda for 1995.”
“My favourite circuit, I think, is either Macau in China, or Bathurst in Australia. Why? Because they are iconic circuits. They take a lot of your attention, and you have to be very respectful.”
“One race stands out in the mid-90s – probably 93 or 94 – at a BTCC meeting. Matt Neal came over the top of me, literally over the top of me, upside down, in a Mazda. He didn’t hit me, but somebody hit him from behind and he cartwheeled over the top of our car. It was a very big accident. I continued on, he didn’t.”*
*This was round five of the 1994 BTCC season at Silverstone. Unfortunately, though the future three-time series champion would be back for 1996 with Ford, this was Matt’s last outing in the Xedos 6.
“On the side of my helmet, I have two ‘K’s, because my surname is Kaye, and my father, who used to race many, many years ago in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he had a very similar design, just with a ‘K’.”
“I think my greatest strength is resilience. Every morning, I get up…I’m not a professional racing driver any more but I still enjoy motor racing, so my world is based around things that have happened within motor racing. So my strength is making use of all the things that have happened to me in the past and using them in the future.”
“[Laughs] Rowan Atkinson. Similar outlook on life!”
“Well technically I have already retired from motor sport because I don’t earn any money from it any more. But were I to retire altogether and never race a car again, I’d like to make sure that safety standards are improved even more, not just for the drivers, but at the circuits. Also, particularly in the UK, there is a good strength of young drivers being brought up into Formula 1 or touring cars, or whatever. I’m a member of the British Racing Drivers Club, and they have a very strong driver training program – the young driver’s ‘Superstars Program’ we call it – which is very, very good at promoting young British talent.”
“I’m a farmer. Well, I have a small farm, where I keep pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, dogs, cats, ducks, everything you can imagine.”
“For me, at my age and my position in motorsport, it is very good. You get a lot better value for money for the sponsors. The series has grown over the last 12, 13 years, and it’s a fantastic series. It just keeps getting better and better and better. And now, more professional people are coming into the series from elsewhere because it is getting that good. It won’t slow down. I think it can only go up.”
*James Kaye was speaking with Jolijn Jongenelen and James Gent. Images courtesy of Petr Frýba.