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Racing is heaven sent for Andy Haynes

Sport | Published:

When Market Drayton-born preacher Andy Haynes is not spreading the gospel, he can be found hurtling round the some of the country's top race tracks.

Haynes, who attended Grove School as a child, is a sidecar racer who regularly competes against the cream of the sport at national and international level.

His exploits on the track have taken him to such famous tracks as Brands Hatch and Snetterton, and he is closing in on a top three-finish in a national championships.

Haynes, who is a lay minister based primarily at Aldridge Methodist Church near Walsall, is currently third in the National Club F1 Sidecar Championships with one race to go.

He also works full-time as a regional director for Premier Christian Radio.

He and Berkhamsted-based driver Jon 'The Rev' Bicknell, an ordained Church of England minister, were in Brands Hatch at the weekend for the penultimate round.

They recorded two second-place finishes to keep them in the top three going into the final race of the season, which will take place at Snetterton in two weeks' time.

Haynes said: "It would be amazing if we finished third overall, especially riding the bike and sidecar that we do.

"This is the first season Jon has driven it and my first season riding this sidecar, which is a lot more physically-challenging than some.

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"It is our debut season racing together and to finish on the podium would be beyond our expectations."

Sidecar racing is not a pastime traditionally associated with the church, but Haynes has been a regular competitor since he made his debut in 2013.

He said: "When I was about 16-17 I went to watch the motorbike racing at Donnington and in between the races there was sidecar racing.

"I thought at the time 'I'd love to have a go at that, as a passenger rather than a driver'. It looked cool but I didn't really do anything about it.

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"Then, three years ago, I was on the Isle of Man watching the racing and I got chatting to a guy who was a sidecar passenger.

"I told him I had always fancied that and asked him how I would go about having a go and seeing if I liked it and was any good.

"He gave me a website address for popular sidecar racing site Steveengish.com, I contacted a couple of people and had a go.

"It's safe to say I have never been so scared, but never enjoyed myself so much.And I was hooked from then on."

Haynes has since taken part in more than 100 races since his debut.

Among his highlights so far have been winning a race at Cadwell Park in the British Historic Racing Series last year.

That's as well as completing a sub-two-minute lap at the Oliver's Mount Circuit in Scarborough earlier his year.

He and another driver, Phil Boote, also competed in two rounds of the Camathias Cup, which is Europe's premier race series for classic sidecar teams last month coming 11th, 10th and 11th overall.

Haynes does not flaunt his faith during competition but nor does he shy away from it when asked, and he bares the nickname 'preacher' on his race gear.

And he believes he can 'gently' challenge stereotypical perceptions of Christians and Christianity with his racing endeavours.

He said: "Just because we might be committed Christians, it doesn't mean that we don't want to go on a race track and try to go as fast as is humanly possible.

"We are there doing something a little bit different. I have 'racing preacher' on my clothing and people sometimes say 'is it for a laugh?'

"I tell them 'no, if I wasn't racing on Sunday I would be in church'. It is never shoved in anyone's faces but sometimes people ask the odd question about it and if they do we'll have a chat."

There may be misconceptions about his role as a side car rider too, but for anyone not familiar with the sport, Haynes explains there is plenty of graft involved.

He said: "I move my weight from left to right, side to side, up to help balance the sidecar.

"Where I put my weight is very important to how the side car handles and grips. It is quite a tactical and physical role.

"When you are accelerating hard, with 160-180-brake horsepower, changing directions can be hard to do. It takes skill and timing, and you can be racing for 15-20 minutes so it can be hard work."

Haynes is nearing the end of a busy season now but is already looking forward to the next campaign.

It will see him tackle the British Superbikes Sidecar Championships before taking on the Isle of Man TT in 2017.

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