David Addison – Alfas, Anoraks And Australia

dailysportscar.comWhat makes for a great commentator?

Well, inside knowledge and an understanding of the sport is a handy starting point, and a healthy (some would say unhealthy!) enthusiasm can’t hurt either.

Really important though is an ability to talk constantly for several hours whilst keeping up to speed with what is happening in front of you, what you are hearing through a headset and what is being placed in front of you on reams of paper.

Do that, and sound enthusiastic whilst you’re doing it, and you’re about half way to cracking the code. The rest is pure, unadulterated public entertainment. Ask David Addison.

David is the regular commentator for the British F3-GT package and his efforts add immeasurably to the ‘product’. Wisecracking, mickey-taking but always seamless and always well-informed. But how on earth do you wind up as a commentator?

David himself takes up the story:

“It really started when I went to a race meeting with Dad in 1984 at the age of 12 - to the British GP. Brian Jones was commentating and I was a bit of a know-it-all and thought I could make a decent fist of it too. It stayed as a bit of a pipe dream until 1990, when the BBC held a competition for the amateur commentator of the year. A bit like Pop Idol with anoraks.”

The competition required entrants to submit a demo. tape of a radio commentary, and the judges were sufficiently impressed to select David for the regional final against seven other North Western hopefuls.

“That’s when I got a bit of a lucky break. For the regional final I commentated on a TV edit of a British Formula three round which had been filmed by BHP, and (BHP boss) Steve Rider was one of the judges.”

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Addison won the regional heat, made the national final, but lost out to a man whom history has forgotten but typically Addison hasn’t: it’s a mark of the man, a memory truly crammed with useless trivia.

“His name was Colin Fry and he was a cashier for Thomas Cook in Grantham.”

His spirits boosted by this success he proceeded to politely but repeatedly request an opportunity to prove himself at the mike. Eventually Robin Bradford was persuaded to give the young man his chance. “It was the only way to shut him up,” was allegedly the initial endorsement of the selection decision.

“It was a British F3 round here (at Donington Park) on the 21 April 1991, David Coulthard got his first win and I was down to do the post-race interviews in the pitlane. My first opportunity was at the end of an MG Owners club race, I stood there, brimming with confidence waiting for the winners car to arrive…and he drove straight past me into parc ferme. I was crushed!”

Predictably, Addison remembers the name of the driver he then found to interview (Gary Storer) and the fact that he drove a Class B car!

After this inauspicious start, things started to come together quite quickly with mike duty at the then booming British Touring Car Championship meeting at Oulton Park, and a stint at Silverstone, commentating from Becketts for British F3.

A TV debut was next up, Eurosport grabbing the keen young Englishman for the RAC rally, before a debut with Radio Le Mans gave him an overseas opportunity.

“I was doing all sorts in the very early days, but none stranger than the Madras GP200, in 1999.”

This extraordinary event was a heady mix featuring an international F3 tournament, supported by a 250cc motorbike event.

“It was quite unlike anything I’d done before or have done since. There was a three man commentary team: Myself, Geoffery Thomas (a local radio broadcaster) and Rajaram, our Tamil speaking colleague. Typically I would be thanked thus: “Thank you Mr David for your most informative commentary and now over to Rajaram for his bit in Tamil!” I’ll never forget it.”

By this time, the late 1990s, David was looking to spread his professional wings. His day job as the press officer for a Chamber of Commerce was beginning to lose its day to day appeal, and he became more and more convinced that he could produce work far better than much of the press and PR material that was landing in his daily mailbag..

“I’d always wanted to set up shop on my own and when in 1999 a client told me that if I left he’d come with me, I decided it was time to make the move.”

He set up shop as Cloverleaf Media with a business partner - and a new chapter began.

“I was already helping out Matt James at Motoring News on press days and picked up some business doing PR for British GTs and National Saloons. That put us in a great position when PowerTour came forward, we were already looking after two of the three elements and with contracts to provide PR support, programmes and circuit commentary, it was a big leg-up for us.”

Even when PowerTour was prematurely put to the sword, victim of the growing tide of politics in British motorsport, Addison’s business was still well placed.

“We’d never had to borrow money and weren’t in debt. We’d read the situation well and had picked up business outside motorsport too.”

So with his business secure there would be more opportunity to indulge his passions: motorsport, Alfa Romeos, his partner Dawn and, a little later Australia.

Addison is famously an Alfa fan, that’s ‘fan’ as in ‘fan’atic: “You have to be an enthusiast, Alfas certainly have their ‘features’. In my case (Fellow commentator) Ian Titchmarsh is to blame. He drove me all the way to Le Mans from the Wirral in 1999 in his GTV6, I had a VW Golf at the time. I ordered a 2 litre GTV as soon as we got back and have been hooked ever since. I’ve now got a lovely GTV6 and Dawn has a 147: two Alfaholics in one household, I’d love a 147 GTA mind you!”

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We were talking in the paddock of the SRW Super Weekend at Donington Park and David was, quite typically sitting in close proximity to the ETCC Alfa pit garages: “This is a great meeting, good racing, a very professional paddock but without the attitude that you get in some forms of racing. I’d gladly wander around this meeting as a spectator, but I’m glad I don’t have to!

“Modern GT racing has everything – speed, sound, tactics, drama unpredictability: there’s always a story and that makes it both easy and interesting for me as a commentator and as an enthusiast.

dailysportscar.com“Despite the fact that PA commentary really just covers your costs, I still feel very lucky. It doesn’t cost me anything to indulge my hobby and despite the grim conditions at some circuits (in the Spark Plug at Donington - left), I’d give my right arm to be assured that I can carry on doing it as long as I’d like to.”

“I’m luckier still though, Dawn is a total star and a real race fan. Anyone deeply involved in motorsport knows just how important the support and understanding of his family is. In Dawn’s case the racing gene runs deep. Her dad and brother are both scrutineers and she camps at Le Mans with the family: she tries to watch the race at every corner.”

So what commentary challenges still remain and which is he sorry he missed?

“I’d love to commentate at Pau and Monaco but I’d be happy to spectate there too, and as for the race I’d have loved to have been in the tower for, bizarrely enough it happened right here (at Donington Park) - Group A Touring Cars in 1983 or ‘84. Strangely enough, Enzo Calderari was in that race too in an XJS. Brundle and Fitzpatrick were fantastic that day, there were so many cars, an Alfa GTV6 non-qualified but it sounded fantastic. Touring cars now don’t sound so good, don’t look so good and don’t entertain so well.”

“I’m a big fan of the Thoroughbred Grand Prix series too, but perhaps that’s because I’m an old fart at heart and remember the cars in their heyday. Sometimes I feel that I don’t find modern motorsport as thrilling as I once did. But then again I have a real soft spot for F3, I’m always conscious that there is history being made.”

A developing passion in the Addison portfolio of enthusiasm is Australia - the country and its motorsport:

“It came about in part through the ALMS Radio Web. It occurred to me that their regulars had wives and kids and I told John Hindhaugh that I was available for the race of 1000 years in Adelaide . I eventually ended up doing pitlane commentary. It was a wonderful event, a great race and a fantastic country: I was hooked.

“I went over again on holiday in 2001. The trip included a V8 Supercars race at Sandown. It rained, but it was still unmissable. While I was over there one of the organisers told me about the plans for the Bathurst 24 Hours

“I was sold. In 2002 at the inaugural race, we did four hours of live TV for Channel 7. It will be nine this year. The event was brilliantly conceived, Mount Panorama is one of the world’s truly great circuits and even for the first race the organising team managed to attract several international entrants including, happily for me, several that I was very familiar with.”

“For 2003 there will be more teams and drivers that I know well, together with a field that has more quality in depth than 2002. With Mosler coming back after getting a great reception last year, and TVR represented too, we are getting UK teams tapping into the Aussie motorsport culture of good looking, big, noisy hairy cars.”

So there you have it. A very English enthusiast in a very Australian environment, an Alfa nut with a love of big noisy V8s, a paradox surely?

“Funny you should say that, there’s this bloke in Australia called Tony Ricciardello who races a Chevy V8 powered GTV6 …………………….”
GG

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Brands Hatch this weekend, for the final round of the British GT Championship. What will Adipose be asking this man?

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