It wasn’t always like that. As a youngster he frustrated his older brother by gleefully disregarding scale, mixing 1:18 Burago model cars with 1:43 Corgis, Dinky Toys, 1:64 Matchbox series and plastic beach toys. He haphazardly plonked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles atop Formula 1 scale models and raced Hot Wheels against the Batmobile. In short, motoring mayhem. He was even bored at Oulton Park in his early years, watching race driver friend Russell Spence compete wheel-to-wheel with Ayrton Senna da Silva. Yet later, on an ill-conceived family trip to Coventry, he hit upon his first motorsport hero, future multiple world Speedway champion Greg Hancock making an early UK appearance, and asked for a Hancock pin badge (which he still has somewhere).
Having scented the smell of Castrol, he avidly followed Mark Loram throughout his world Speedway championship trail and cheered on Damon Hill from the sofa during the Brit’s successful quest for the 1996 F1 title. This started a lifelong passion for motorsports generally and launched a growing fascination with road cars, nurtured by a cherished Honda Civic and ‘Le Mans Blue’ BMW 1 Series, later totaled by an unlicensed, uninsured driver in central London. Meantime, James studied English Literature at the prestigious Lancaster University, UK, staying on to complete a postgraduate MA course in the same subject, providing a solid grounding in grammar, narrative, and research for a future writing and journalism career. After a vacation job as a delivery driver, piloting a flatbed truck for a local engineering firm, he obtained a position with world-famous bookseller Foyles. After relocating to its store in London, James secured some part-time freelance work with highly regarded titles Autosport and Motor Sports Magazine, traveling to European circuits and crafting well-considered race reports, gaining by-lines for each. This led to a brief spell in motor racing PR at the recommendation of a magazine editor, during which James helped promote a 24-hour endurance series at Silverstone. It was during this weekend that he thoughtfully offered an Emirati GT driver – his future Editor-in-Chief – a lift back to his hotel, a drive that resulted in a series of informal interviews and eventually an offer to work at crankandpiston.com.
As a result of all this writing, reporting, spectating, recording, press box viewing, snapping, chatting, tire spinning, tail-out driving, photographing in 50º heat, live streaming, road testing and performance comparing, James has accumulated a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of all things motoring. He knows Huffy from Woffy, the Dunlop boys from Dunlop tyres, Sam Bird from Sam Lowes, Sébastian V from Sébastien L and Sébastien O, The Doctor from The Professor, Koenigsegg from Kenworth, Dario from Marino, Wonder Boy from The Honey Badger, all the Ferrari model names, the confusing McLaren series numbers…. James could bore for his country on the subject, but never does. Well, almost never.