“Secondly, at the age I’m at, yes, business is great” – he runs a successful sports management company and looks after several racing drivers, including DTM ace Gary Paffett and sports car racer Mike Conway – “but the lifestyle was getting a bit too much for my physical shape… This gave me a target. I’ve dropped 13 kilos about three months.
“And three, if I didn’t think I could be successful – not just on-track results – I wouldn’t be doing it.”
The BTCC’s high profile, big crowds and live TV coverage has enabled Mark to bring some impressive blue-chip sponsors to the programme, which is good for business – but he can’t help feeling disappointed at his form so far. Brands Hatch and Donington Park proved tough, and this weekend at flat-out Thruxton is likely to offer more of the same.
“I’ve said from day one it was going to be a challenge and it’s been exactly that,” he says, acknowledging that he’s struggling to adapt to front-wheel drive (but he’s in good company on that one).
“They are one of the most unique cars to effectively get a lap time out of because the operating window is very small,” he’s says. “Everything I do to invigorate change from what I’ve been used to for many years is fundamentally either reversed or completely different. At this point I don’t really have a reference point.”
He has no complaints about the BTCC’s notorious rough and tumble, even if it’s not his style. “I don’t think I can change it and I don’t want to, because that is what I signed up for,” he says. “It is a different breed of racing. Once I get comfortable with the car I’ll be quite happy to get my elbows out.”
At least the circuits are familiar – although it’s been a while. “At Donington Park, the guys were asking ‘when did you last race here?’,” he smiles. “The answer was 1993, European Grand Prix… You go to Thruxton and it’s 1986, Formula Ford 2000! I’ve gone full circle.