Behind the Scenes: Bryan Makinson

Most of us who follow stock car racing know that being able to go into the pits and watch the drivers and their mechanics at work makes our sport one of the most accessible to fans. And, over the past couple of seasons, one fan has taken that accessibility to a whole new level. Using only a mobile phone and a microphone (courtesy of some crowdfunding), he interviews drivers and broadcasts it to the stock car world via Facebook Live and YouTube. Bryan Makinson – aka the Stock Car Suzi Perry – asks the questions we would all like to know the answers to and has persuaded the drivers to open up with some very honest and perceptive responses.

But is he as good at answering questions as he is at asking them? Time to have a quick word with the man himself…

How long have you been involved in stock car racing, and in what capacity?

My first meeting was back in 1974 when I was five. My father was a massive fan and worked as a steward and I tagged along. We travelled all over the country and my favourite driver was 391 Stuart Smith. I didn’t attend any meetings between around 1984 until about 1998, but since then I’ve been a marshal, assistant clerk of course at Coventry and raced twice: at Belle Vue (for my 40th birthday) and Buxton. I massively enjoyed Belle Vue, where I scored a point, but didn’t enjoy Buxton at all! I’m currently part of Team Harrhy 45/345 as a mechanic. I say team but they are more than that. They are my racing family and have helped me through some tough times in my personal life, so I thank them for that.

What first gave you the idea to do your pitwalk interviews?

With Nigel Harrhy doing his Stoxnet blogs, during season 2016 I asked him if he’d like to do a video blog. We started doing one every few weeks and also did mid-meeting ‘in the pits’ ones as well, just to show what goes into keeping the car on track during a meeting. Nigel wasn’t racing at the British Championship at Sheffield in 2017, so I thought I’d see what sort of reaction I would get by doing an all-drivers interview. I contacted a few drivers and they all agreed to participate. And they have basically gone from strength to strength since then. The videos I’ve done have a total of approximately 40,000 views on Facebook and YouTube.

How do you actually do the interviews? Is there any unseen help behind the camera?

I contact the drivers anyway I can prior to doing the chats to get permission, and I’ve not had one refusal, which is brilliant. I even had a few Dutch driver interviews this year at Texel and on World Final day at Skegness. They are done on my phone, straight onto Facebook Live via the #ovalfamily page. I then download the video onto Youtube to be able to share onto Stoxnet etc. I’ve been asked to do something similar at the Motorsport With Attitude show next year and I’m hoping something special in the pipeline will come together for a meeting coming up before the end of the season.

My daughter Daniella helps me prepare by sorting out driver lists, previous results, point standings, letting me know who is free and where they are in the pits – basically she is my producer! Also thanks to the #ovalfamily page I now have a microphone which worked brilliantly at the World Final this year.

Who is the best driver to interview?

Completely honestly, they are all brilliant! Not one driver has refused to be involved. Some are more used to being interviewed than others but for me each and every driver is a credit for being involved. I’m just sorry I missed a few out on World Final night due to time and battery life – I went through three batteries for that chat!

Your interviews are a good example of social media being used in the sport. What’s your opinion on the way that F1 uses social media and modern means of communication?

For me, the BSCDA and BriSCA go through stages of using social media up to an okay standard but it’s not consistent enough. They need to keep fans up to date with information about meetings , results, news and discipline matters. If fans become uninterested they will drift away and it makes it much harder to get them back.

To be fair, a few promoters are using social media pretty well. Interacting with your paying customer generates interest in the ‘product’ which then should lead to better crowds. Unfortunately some promoters have stuck their head in the sand and completely ignore social media. I’m sorry but it’s not going away. Yes, there are some things we don’t want to see splashed around the Internet, but that can apply to any sport in the world. Social media is an integral part of life now so we the fans, the BSCDA, BriSCA and all promoters need to embrace and use it to expand our brilliant sport.

If you could interview any past driver, who would it be?

Could only be 391 Stuart Smith Senior. I had the pleasure of chatting to him at Sheffield once where he kindly agreed to a photo with my Daniella. As a kid he was the driver I constantly shouted for and for me was the greatest we have ever had.

Do you see yourself as a Martin Brundle or Suzi Perry?!

Neither! I’m not posh enough for a Martin Brundle and not good looking enough to be a Suzi Perry! I’m a normal bloke who lives and breathes this sport. I just wanted to do something different that had not been done before and I will continue doing them for as long people watch them.

Interview with Bryan: Scott Reeves

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