British Touring Car Championship: Nic Hamilton on overcoming Cerebral Palsy and being 'like a Paralympian at the Olympics'

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'Do you want to sit in a wheelchair all your life or get up and work on your condition?'

"Do you want to sit in a wheelchair all your life or actually get up and work on your condition?"

That was the question Nic Hamilton had to ask himself - and he answered it in some fashion.

Born with Cerebral Palsy, he was never expected to walk, let alone race, but now the 27-year-old is set to embark on a season in the British Touring Car Championship.

Hamilton became the first disabled driver to compete in the BTCC in 2015 when he took part in the second half of the season and now he is ready for a full year in the series.

As the younger brother of Formula 1 champion Lewis, Hamilton is determined to forge his own reputation on the track.

"To be to able to achieve in motorsport I had to overcome my condition - and there's a lot I want to achieve in it," he says.

Nic Hamilton rounds Druids corner
The 2019 BTCC season gets underway next weekend at Brands Hatch, the first of 10 rounds in the championship

"I do put a lot of pressure on myself, and a lot of people question that, but I think that is testament to how I overcome things. I want to have a sustainable career in motorsport and this is the first step.

"I never planned to inspire people, I just wanted to race a car and it got to a point where I realised how many people I was inspiring. If I can inspire people, both able-bodied and disabled people, along the way then that's a bonus.

"I play with the cards that I've been dealt, I was basically born on the back foot. I just try to do the best job I can and if it helps others in terms of their mindset, I always say achieve your dreams regardless.

'I'll need help to get onto the podium'

Nicolas Hamilton
Hamilton became the first disabled driver to compete in the BTCC in 2015, and is now aiming to continue his progress with a full season in the championship with Motorbase

"My first target is to stand on the podium in the BTCC. Firstly because it would be a fantastic story, and secondly, because I'll need whoever I have beaten to help me up onto the podium as I wouldn't be able to get there on my own.

"That would be a massive step for me and then I can develop more and more. The BTCC has 30 drivers within one second and you've really got to be at the top of your game.

"I've got no expectations. These guys are very well experienced and they know their craft. I've just got to learn, sit behind them and really get to grips with the racing.

"It's super difficult and I'm racing against the best, so even if I can make the top 15 and work on the top 10 this year then that would be perfect. I'm just going to take each race as it comes, I've got nothing to prove and I just want to enjoy myself."

Billy Monger and Nic Hamilton
Billy Monger (left) had to have both his legs amputated after being in a crash during a British F4 race in April 2017. The 19-year-old returned to racing in in the British Formula 3 Championship, less than a year after his life-changing accident.

Hamilton is not the only trailblazer for disabled drivers in the racing world. The tales of Billy Monger, Alex Zanardi and Robert Kubica's Formula 1 return have shown that there is a way for disabled drivers to compete at the highest level of motorsport.

"I could never go running or compete against able-bodied people. It's great that with an engine you've all got the same power, so I'm not disadvantaged in that way," Hamilton says.

"Obviously, my condition is a massive disadvantage, basically I'm a Paralympian in the Olympics, but that's what I love about it and it would add to the story if we can get a disabled guy right to the top step of the podium.

"I don't know how long that's going to be, but with the way I want to go, hopefully it's very soon."

Brothers in arms

Nic & Lewis Hamilton
The Hamilton brothers are proud of each other's achievements - but Nic is determined to carve his own path in the motorsport world

When your brother is a five-time world champion, it is almost inevitable that Nic Hamilton's racing career would also end up in the spotlight.

Despite the remarkable Formula 1 success his older brother has enjoyed, Nic is determined to do it his way.

"I've never called Lewis and asked what he thought. For me, I'm a Hamilton in my own right," he continues.

"I think a lot of people judge and think they know what's going on, saying that I've got a two million pound backhander for racing every year and that's not the case.

"I work so hard to get myself on the grid. If I don't have the partners or the money then I don't race, it's as simple as that. I'm trying to develop my own way in life.

Nic Hamilton
Hamilton races with a specially adapted car, with only two pedals and a clutch on the steering wheel

"Lewis is fantastic in what he has done and what he has achieved. Looking at him, he is a fantastic role model for myself and being a racing driver now you realise how good he is.

"But that doesn't change how hard I have to work to get here, and I want people to really start understanding that instead of just sending me a message saying I'm here because of Lewis, because he definitely would not put me in this position.

Despite the comments he has received, Hamilton is determined not to let them get him down.

"I thrive off negative criticism," he admits. "There are a lot of people who don't expect me to do a good job.

"But I'm not doing it for them, I'm doing it for myself and I love to prove people wrong. I want to turn the negative people into fans of mine and that's my plan."

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