Thursday, 26 May 2022

Vicar Simon Butler, who races in spare time, to compete at Le Mans

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Simon Butler, 42, began go-karting in his early teens and his passion continued to grow even after he became a man of the cloth 17 years ago. Now he is ready to compete next year in the iconic race. His flock has embraced the sideline by supporting him at races – and have nicknamed him The Racing Reverend. And the dad of three sees it as a secondary calling, overturning the idea of meek and mild mannered clergymen who “spend most of their time drinking tea and eating cake”.

Simon, from the village of Upton Grey in Hampshire where he has a dozen churches to oversee, said: “I’ve been racing from a young age. As I grew older, it became a chance to escape the pressures of parish life.

“While some vicars may use study and writing to refresh themselves, my refresh is in the cockpit of a race car.

“I’m a very competitive person and I love pushing myself beyond my limits – I love the thrill of driving very fast. It has always surprised me people see being a vicar and racing as being incongruous.”

Simon has always competed for fun but will step it up when he takes a routine three-month sabbatical next year.

That is when he will be off to France to compete in his newest car, a 2022 Ligier LMP3. The Le Mans endurance event sees racers from all backgrounds aim to travel the furthest distance in 24 hours.

He will build up to the big event by racing six times this year in Europe.

Simon added: “I find racing grounds and anchors my life as a vicar.

“Having a foot in another world is important. It doesn’t detract from my work, it nourishes it and makes my ministry better.”

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