LIKE LIGHTNING: Carl Shield, of Middleton Coal Depot, at Croft Circuit
LIKE LIGHTNING: Carl Shield, of Middleton Coal Depot, at Croft Circuit

A friendly face to those stocking up on coal in the upper dale has quietly made a name for himself on the British car racing circuit. Reporter Alex Metcalfe went to see him in action.

THE noise of Croft Circuit is music to the ears of upper dale coalman Carl Shield.

The 38-year-old, from Middleton-in-Teesdale, has loved motorsports since he was five and his move from two wheels to four has sparked a steady rise through the racing scene.

A track day at Croft gave him and his AK Motorsport team the perfect chance to tune his high-powered Ginetta ready for Donnington Park last weekend.

“The whole touring cars package sees quite a lot of people watch it,” he says.

“It’s amazing how many people saw me on TV.

“ITV gets more than 20 million viewers over the season and there is 40,000 spectators on an average weekend.”

Overseeing an armada of wagons, Mr Shield and his firm ship hundreds of bags of coal out every week.

But when he gets the chance, the father-of-two is eager to swap his work garb for his racing suit.

His most recent televised effort in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup saw him pipped to the podium in his final race – after having the car for just a week.

“I don’t think a lot of local people realise how good he’s got,” says dad, Maurice Shield.

A competitive outlook – “nobody remembers fourth, third or second” – was kindled early on riding his bike with his dad near the old Coldberry pit heaps.

“The police turfed us off once,” says Mr Shield senior.

“I got a bit annoyed and wrote to Lord Barnard – he got back to me a few days later and gave use permission to ride anywhere on his land in upper Teesdale.”

A love for motors endured and it was motocross which took up most of Mr Shield’s youth.

It led to a handful of premier league Speedway appearances but injuries and other commitments curtailed that path.

Northallerton Heating

But as one door shut, another opened.

Motor clubs gave him the chance to race BMW M3s and his debut season in 2016 saw him catch the eye of late F1 star and Lotus legend John Miles.

“He picked me as novice of the year,” says Mr Shield.

“That gave us a bit of momentum and got my name out there a bit more.”

The hand-crafted machine he rides now is a different beast altogether – clocking lap times faster than some British Touring cars. He puts this down to his team “knowing the car inside out”.

Mr Shield adds: “You get a similar speed out of it but it’s totally different when cornering and handling. I was eight seconds quicker in this one around Donnington – it was just phenomenal.”

Away from the track, his two daughters, aged five and two, make sure he’s turned out properly and both are already showing signs of a love for motorsport.

The day job is never too far from his thoughts, however, and it often follows him around.

Mr Shield said: “A lot of my customers were ringing me up saying ‘was that you?’.

“I’m doing my laps and sometimes my phone goes off – it’s just constant sometimes. I can be on the holding grid and you see people psyching themselves up.

“I’m there ten minutes before a race picking up phone calls about deliveries or laughing with the lads.”

Despite decades in motorsport, it’s clear the adrenaline rush and sheer joy of racing hasn’t diminished for Mr Shield.

His North East-based team is self-funded and has benefitted from kind donations and boosts from a number of dale folk.

“It’s brilliant – I am very lucky to be able to do this,” he adds. “Not many people get this opportunity so I am fortunate for that.

“You cannot describe the feeling you get with this car – I just have a stupid grin on my face on every lap.”