BTCC CAREERS: PITLANE COMMENTATOR AND PRESENTER
For the latest BTCC Careers feature, btcc.net caught up with pitlane commentator and BTCC aficionado Alan Hyde.
Alan expressed interest in radio and television presenting from a young age, watching presenters on TV to increase his understanding, as well as comparing his own skills and abilities with theirs.
“When I was in a rock band, I looked forward to talking in between the songs more than playing the songs. So I guess the signs were already there – I wanted to be a talker!”
In addition to this interest, Alan had been drawn to racing for many years and, given the opportunity to bring these two passions together, felt it was an opportunity too good to miss!
“Although I never planned it, it seemed like the perfect fit. I think at the time I was still planning a presenting career in music radio if possible, but events took over and here I am with no regrets whatsoever!”
After leaving school, Alan’s involvement in motorsport took off, as he also increased his experience in presenting. A missing commentator on the podium at Thruxton in 1993 would allow him the opportunity to demonstrate his presenting abilities, ensuing a request for him to fill another date at the Hampshire circuit covering support race podiums at a BTCC event – it’s this anecdote that has resulted in Thruxton being Alan’s favourite circuit.
“The next year I got some more dates, the next year some more, including some dates presenting Radio TOCA, the radio service at the time, and it’s carried on ever since! I just sort of eased into it and didn’t go away. I’m waiting for the time I turn up to the first round of a season and Mr Gow says, ‘what are you doing here?’”
While Alan’s route to becoming a pitlane commentator and presenter didn’t rely on his education, in recent years the opportunities for individuals looking to enter the field, through both vocational and academic routes, have increased tenfold.
In listening to him, however, it seems a key factor is preparation. In both understanding the role and necessary skills prior to entering the industry, and ensuring he’s ready for whatever an event can throw at him, “preparation is everything”.
Having worked in the series for over 20 years, Alan has an incredible level of experience in the British Touring Car Championship. Due to this, his duties on and off event may be extensive, but are also fine-tuned to be undertaken efficiently.
“Doing my homework on each and every driver competing in the BTCC and support races is a day’s work for every race weekend, then I’m reporting on stories and events from the pitlane and presiding over the podium presentations for each race meeting for the PA system and live stream.”
Alongside his on-event duties, Alan works closely with Championship Co-ordinator, Dan Mayo, in the preparations towards the annual TOCA Night of Champions, as well as presenting numerous support championship awards evenings and, needless to say, presenting the hugely popular BTCC podcast, Autoglym Tin Top Tuesday.
“I also arrange the other commentators for BTCC meetings and do music things here and there. Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Courtesy of his vast experience in the championship, his favourite moments are numerous and the emotion that highlights them makes for some impressive anecdotes:
“There are many. Presiding over the podium when Matt Neal won £250,000 at Donington for being the first Independent to win a race overall. Interviewing Nigel Mansell on his excursions into the BTCC when he was at the very top of his game (such a thrill, and during lockdown, one of my self-assigned jobs was to transfer hundreds of my cassettes and MiniDiscs onto computer and, during that process, I recently chanced upon and listened to some of my chats with him from those meetings – lovely memories).
“And finally, most recently, the moment when I went up to Colin Turkington to interview him after he claimed his fourth title in 2019, and he just hugged me. The moment was beautifully caught on camera and the picture is proudly on my office wall. I’ve interviewed Colin since he first came into the championship, and have worked with him often, away from the BTCC, and it was a terribly special moment for me.”
In addition to discussing the route which carved out his career and the duties his role consists of, he highlights the importance of awareness of the audience and the level of respect necessary towards everyone in the industry.
“Being aware of the audience you are talking to, and never losing sight of the fact that you’re still one of them – a race fan, who was once sitting where they’re sitting now, but who’s lucky enough to talk about it on a microphone.
“Be nice, do your prep, and never become big-headed. There are some hugely talented and experienced people in our industry (racing and broadcasting) that can share that mine of information if they like you. If they don’t, they won’t. Respect the knowledge they have and soak it up like a sponge.
“The people you are talking to are the talented ones, you’re just talking.”