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Racing for Tourettes

Racing for Tourettes

Posted Mon 20th Dec 2021 at 15:14
by Nick Stott

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How motorsport has helped Nick Stott achieve his dreams

Diagnosis and Passion

Tourette Syndrome is peculiar; there is a great spectrum of variety in the way we each experience it, and its effects on our lives.

I have few verbal tics, the majority tend to be movement; erratic head and neck movement, wailing arms, tensing muscles, continuous stretching, contorting my face and on occasion, non-stop blinking. Some I can supress, some I can’t. But suppression is only ever temporary, and always uncomfortable. I usually spend the first 20 minutes after getting home from work letting out all the pent-up tics.

Allowing them to become part of something I’m passionate about however, grants me a satisfaction and relief like no other. Allowing my tics to be influenced, and to influence my driving for example.

I have been going to the racetrack since before I can remember. My father raced in the classic saloon car championship, where most of my early memories are littered with the sound of engines bouncing off the rev limiter and the smell of burned rubber and petrol. Then I raced in Karting against the likes of George Russell, Jack Aitkin, and Jessica Hawkins.

Around the same time as sitting in the race seat for the first time (about 6 years old), I received my diagnosis, Tourette Syndrome and ADHD. At first, I didn’t really understand the implications, it seemed trivial, something that would be done with in a few weeks. That wasn’t the case of course.

It’s the usual story from there: School was hard, kids were mean, teachers lacked understanding and the proper training to prepare them to deal with a kid with TS. TS is difficult to manage in the workplace, like most, I do my best to stop the tics, but frequent visits to the bathroom to let them out gets noticed.

It requires a significant portion of concentration to suppress tics, when they are at their peak it’s difficult to hear what someone right next to you may be saying. Like many, I was always told that my TS would improve as I grew older. This I’m afraid was not the case and won’t be for many others.

Building and working on my car is both a joy, and a right royal pain in wherever I’m ticcing with at the time. Black eyes, cuts and bruised elbows are commonplace while installing the next upgrade, frequent head jerks and windmilling arms see to that.

Racing for Tourette Action UK

I approached TA this year, asking if they would be interested in having the logo and website on my car while I competed. For several reasons, but mostly to help gain awareness of TS. That it is one of the only neurological syndromes that is not supported by government funding, that teachers and carers receive inadequate training to help those that have it, and that it’s not something to be embarrassed about, rather embraced.

Earlier this year I was reviewing in car footage after a session at Brands Hatch with some of my team mechanics and fellow competitors. One of them asked me what I was doing with my right arm and head on the straights. I explained that it was TS, and that usually for the first lap or so before I settle in, it’s quite prevalent (I should explain, that my tics come out when I’m isolated, and being in the car gives me the same sense of security of being isolated to comfortably let them out).

To my surprise, most of the chaps did not know what TS was, or thought it was only related to swearing. This was a theme that I hadn’t considered before. Running the TA logo on my car seemed a good way to stimulate conversation about it, and to generate a greater awareness. I have yet to encounter another racing driver with TS but would relish the opportunity to talk to one. Racing is a fantastic way to ease and embrace TS.

Embracing the Tics

Suppressing tics does little other than hide that you have TS for a little while, the effect on doing it can be exhaustion, lack of concentration and pain (through continuously tensing muscles). Easing tics is different, it’s not suppression or prevention, rather allowing them to flow out naturally in a more comfortable and satisfying way.

Hitting the perfect braking point, getting the perfect apex, and gaining maximum acceleration out of a corner. Allowing the need to tic, the need to hit that crucial point that should (but never does) satisfy the feeling (I’m sure those of you reading this with TS will understand what I mean). Allowing all of these movements and aiming points to flow and letting that take over my need to tic.

Allowing my tics to flow with and join my “ordinary” movements when driving the car provides a very rare reprieve. It is well understood that focus and passion can minimise and reduce the effect of TS, and I certainly see this play out for myself. After climbing out of my race car I rarely tic, in fact I tic very little at all when at the racetrack.

Finding something like racing for me, is I believe one of the best ways to live with, and actually make peace with TS. I’m not going to pretend I’m glad I have it, or that motorsport is by any means the only passion that can help in living with TS. I get a similar sense of Tourette syndrome tranquillity from kickboxing, ballet and playing Dungeons and Dragons, all of which I do for several hours a week.

I intend to keep racing for Tourettes Action UK and to keep raising awareness in the motorsports industry, I’d love to interact with other racers with TS. Next year (2022) I will compete once again in Time Attack UK, I’ll be doing some guest rounds with the Civic Cup championship and will be racing in some one-off races with my MINI in BARC events.

My goals for the future are to race in the Brit Car championship, and eventually to be the first BTCC driver with TS. I fund my racing career myself, so it will be a challenge, But I’ll get there. A key to winning is knowing that you are the best.


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