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Meet The Team – James Keane

Like all members of the Caged! team, James plays an integral part – the man behind the scenes that keeps us all running. Fans around the raceways will most commonly see James as part of the OrangeArmy down South at Spedeworth’s venues.

James’ introduction to racing is a little different to the norm. ‘When my mum was working nights at a local hospital, her taxi driver back home on a lot of mornings was banger driver 90 Rob Baker – one day he said that she should bring her children down to watch the racing at Birmingham. I must have been about 5 or 6, and after one visit I was nagging to go back all the time!’

Nagging his mum all the time clearly paid off, as James would become a regular spectator at the Incarace ovals. ‘My earliest memories are of standing behind the Incarace start marshals Dan and John Gould. I had my little flags with me, and they would tell me what to do with the flags where they could and put up with my constant questions between the races. Racing wise – the National Teams at Hednesford and the Spedeworth vs Incarace meetings at Wheels and being amazed at the electric atmosphere for those meetings.’

The time that Dan and John Gould took out of their day to interact with James as a youngster had a big impact on him, mainly one of the reasons as to why he opted to take up a marshalling role. ‘My mum always used to joke about when all the other children wanted to be the racer, I wanted to be the start marshal – and I’ve never really got over that!’

It would be several years removed from being the boy standing behind the starter’s at Birmingham and Hednesford before James would take to the flags again. ‘I’d been away from the sport for ages when I moved to London – but when it was Wimbledon’s last season, I ended up going to every meeting that season except for one, and when Wimbledon closed, I made the decision that I’d fell back in love with the sport again, so I made the plunge to contact Spedeworth and offer to be a marshal going into the 2018 season. It was actually as the last Wimbledon season started that I took Sarah down to see racing for the first time – and she as much as me wanted to go to every Wimbledon that season – I wonder if she now regrets it!’ He laughs.

Being part of the OrangeArmy is a major role, and James reflects on what it means to him. ‘Sometimes it’s hard when it’s a long meeting and we’re all stretched, sometimes it’s difficult when there is a big incident, but it’s always amazing when you look back at a meeting and think that you were part of the reason that it was able happen – and I still get that feeling whether it’s a domestic meeting or trackside for an Ipswich World Final (although obviously to different degrees!) It’s just funny how it’s always the same cycle, no matter the size or scale of the event – the hardest work comes before the first green flag, because once the first race starts, you don’t have time to think too much about anything else than doing the job you love! I know that sounds cheesy – but it’s the reason I spend so much time travelling, in hotels etc – I know so many others are doing the same, drivers, mechanics, spectators – and it’s a massive sense of pride to look back at meetings and to think I’m part of that.’

James mentions the highs and lows, the thrills and spills of being a cog in the big team that is the OrangeArmy, and identifies some of those moments over the years. ‘Some of the 3L jacking trains on the wall at Aldershot were amazing when you look back at the carnage you’ve been looking after, and also definitely starting my first BWS at Aldershot last year was a great moment. Nothing can compare to the feeling of the world final rolling laps going into the green, so definitely the Spedeweekends and the Unlimited and 1600 finals! Unfortunately there are negatives. Serious incidents like the one Paul suffered at Aldershot last year still live with me, but it’s those moments where the whole team rallies together that makes the difference.’

One thing that James tries to keep quiet about is his little venture behind the drivers’ seat. ‘I really don’t want that in the interview as it was one really bad run in an Incarod,’ he laughs. ‘I’ve never raced a banger though – and from tomorrow my new wife will almost explicitly ban that happening.’

James prefers to be involved behind the scenes, and luckily for us here at Caged, he decided to be a part of our team. ‘After getting back into the sport in the last 2017 season of Wimbledon, I started following a lot of the social media around the sport again, even if at that point it was from an arms length. I love a podcast on my commute to work, so I started listening to OvalTalk, after that ended I then, after a recommendation, started listening to the original Caged podcasts with Matt Josey, Andy Watts and the legend that is Jord. From there I submitted a few meeting write ups for the old site, and after my Civil War one, Matt asked me onto the old podcast to talk about that 2018 Civil War.’ 

From that point, James has become part of the furniture, his role is vital in keeping the website and running and the podcasts that you hear would not be possible without him either. James discusses what he loves most about being part of the team. ‘The friends I’ve made! As with most things in the racing community – if it wasn’t for this mad, bizarre world we love, I wouldnt have crossed paths with people that now mean a lot to me – that otherwise I’d never have met! Our group chat has very little to do with anything to do with the page, website or podcasts, it’s more a place where we can vent, moan, be annoyed or celebrate other things going on to a bunch of brilliant people! I do also like to think we make a bit of a difference – there are two things that come to mind. Firstly the mental health special podcast we did – we had some amazing feedback from people that were going through some tough times because of the bravery of our guests telling their stories. Secondly, the Caged end of year awards – what started as a bit of a throwaway feature seems to have become something that really matters to the nominees and winners, and it’s brilliant to be a part of that!’

James has seen the sport evolve from those early days at the Midlands ovals, to where we are at presently, and like many has seen the changing faces and developments of the racing over the years. James reflects on those times and whether there would be anything he would do to improve the sport. ‘What I love is the same thing as I love about stock car racing as a whole – it’s such an expression of passion, skill and talent, that’s why it becomes a way of life for so many of us. What would I change? Ironically for someone that has a lot to do with social media in bangers, I’d like to think people could be more respectful. Everything is so polarised once a hit is posted on social media – things become either shit or brilliant, promotors are either celebrated or demonised, hits were either sensational or dirty. The passion is what makes this sport great, but it would be nice if people were more balanced! Unlike a lot of people’s strong opinions I wouldn’t change too much around the categories. We all know that Unlimiteds can cost a small countries national debt these days, but people like to see it and as the ‘top’ class in the sport it’s nice to see it pushed – from my own Spedeworth viewing angle both the BWS and 1600 scene hasn’t been stronger in recent memory and B2B is there for the gap that the advancement has left.’ James jokingly chimes in with the addition of ‘Oh, and a 12 month ORCi stadium ban for anyone that types out the word ‘manz’ in any form.’

Interviewees are always asked to identify their dream 6 a side team, so James was no exemption to that. ‘617 Jack Overy for obvious reasons – there is a reason he tops most people’s GOAT list. 6 Mark Holdsworth – he was the number one when I was a kid starting to watch at Wheels, and the Avengers as a team were so good around that time! ‘Slim’ 178 Kieran Bowman because he is probably the best all round current driver as we talk today – and his effort and commitment, and as we’re putting a team together his commitment to his team is second to none. ‘Mushy’ 348 Sonny Sherwood – his longevity through so many eras and evolutions of the sport and always remains near the top.’ Those four names came to him without much deliberation, and after a while, James completed his team. ‘249 Mark Boulden – unfortunately I never really got to see him too much but how could you not and finally 331 ‘Boxer Jack’ Jason Jackson – every opinion possible has been said by someone somewhere. He’s been celebrated for his amazing achievements and he’s had his critics for some pretty big controversies, but when it’s all said and done, he’s probably the most dominant driver over the past 2 decades – so how could you not include him in a dream 6?’

We hope this insight into James provides you with more depth than the man behind the microphone or the man you see waving the flags. The whole team here at Caged! share our congratulations on his marriage to partner Sarah, and we thank him for all his efforts behind the scenes.

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