TV icon reveals how motorsport saved his life
Australian motorsport and television identity Neil Crompton believes car racing “literally saved my life” after revealing the serendipitous moment that led to his shock prostate cancer diagnosis earlier this year.
As Crompton prepares to return to broadcasting the Supercars championship later this month with as close to full health as he will ever be, the 61-year-old reflected upon his recovery from prostate cancer and his life in motorsport and broadcasting.
Crompton is the voice of motorsport in Australia. He started in TV in 1980 and has led the television coverage of V8 Supercars as both a host and expect commentator after his own 15-year racing career.
Crompton reveals the full story behind his shock diagnosis in his new book “Best Seat In The House”. In an exclusive interview with News Corp this week he detailed the role his love of racing played in saving his life.
THE DRIVE THAT SAVED HIS LIFE
CROMPTON never thought much of the tiny trace of blood doctors found in a urine sample when he applied for a new life insurance policy.
It was only days later, when he was offered the chance to drive at a Walkinshaw racing test day, that the truth of his hidden health problem emerged.
Crompton had to complete a full medical to activate his licence to drive the powerful Supercars again. Thinking, at his age, it might be his last chance to experience the speed and thrill he jumped at the chance and booked in with his regular GP who immediately noticed a worrying change and ordered more tests.
Those tests revealed his diagnosis and saved his life.
“I think motor racing literally saved my life, ironically,” he told News Corp.
“Even talking about it sort of makes my hair stand up.
“There were three doctors involved – the specialist, the consulting doctor and my regular GP – and they all said that they couldn’t believe that you can trip over this at exactly that moment in time. Heaven help me had I not.
“In the space of a couple of weeks, they saw a shift in my chemistry and went ‘woah’ and probably caught it at the critical moment that in any other circumstance you wouldn’t see and wouldn’t know.
“There were no signs, no inklings, no nothing. It was just my normal, crazy life. That is pretty bizarre and I don’t even know how to properly articulate what that means, other than it was just an extraordinary set of circumstances.
“I already owe my life for the wonderful things that have happened in my motor racing journey and for that to be a part of it just makes it even more special. I’m a very lucky boy.”
BACK IN HIS BOX
THE 61-year-old is back to near full health. He has been back working for about seven weeks, but his big test will come at the end of the month with arguably the longest stretch of commentary duties in his career.
Crompton received his diagnosis of the Friday of the Symmons Plains Supercars round in April, but still called the round before disappearing from our TV screens.
The relaunch of the Supercars season at Sydney Motorsport Park will feature four consecutive race weekends, a weekend off, then the Bathurst 1000.
All up Crompton faces a breathtaking workload: 126 hours and 15 days of live television, spread over 32 days.
There is no easing back behind the mic, this is zero to full throttle from day one,” he said. “I’ve braced all my team in here, put your helmets on and tighten your belts because it’s going to be on.
“I can’t think of a time where we’ve done four (events) back-to-back followed by a break followed by 1000 clicks.
“I’m relishing the idea and really looking forward to it. Because I got crook and had to be away from the game for a couple of events it’s heightened my desire to get back.”
THE SECRETS TO TV
CROMPTON has survived in perhaps the two most volatile industries in the world, motor racing and broadcasting. Not by chance, but by hard work.
“They’re both highly-charged political, egotistical environments so they’re both filled with alphas – male and female – it is hard to find anybody that was ever wrong,” he said,
Crompton has endured because of his relentless pursuit of knowledge and determination to inform and entertain the viewer.
“I try to open my mouth and add value, not just fill,” he said.
“It is easy just to make a noise, but it’s hard to try and add facts and value to the story.
“I don’t imagine a sea of people when we’re on air, I imagine I’m having a conversation with you. So I want you to feel like I’m connected with you and that we’re sitting together and I’m inviting you into my world electronically and I would really love to share the things I love about this with you.
“I will make daily mistakes and there will be a chunk of the audience that doesn’t like what I do and you’ve got to accept that as well.
“I (prepare) to a pretty ridiculous level. I like to feel when I go into the gate that I’ve got as much information about the people, the place, the teams, the history, the background, the strategy as I could possibly cram.
“If you go in and you’ve got a whole lot of paperwork but you’re full of bluster and bullshit people see through you pretty quick when you’re just colours, numbers and names.”
BORN INTO MOTORSPORT
HE knows no other life than motor racing. Sure he might’ve wanted to pursue flying, and does in his spare time, but for him it has and always be about cars.
“(Motorsport) is every bit of a disease, once you catch it you’ve got it forever,” he said.
“(Mum) recounted the story of me standing between her and dad in the old days when seatbelts weren’t a big deal and I would stand between them and as cars were coming in the other direction as a toddler I would call out the names and models of the cars coming the other way which is a bit prophetic, although it’s actually pathetic and prophetic.
“Those of us who manage to get through the crazy maze of the business tend to be welded to it and love it.
“I love every day, there are good and bad days like there is for everybody but I’m essentially doing what I love and have always loved.”
* Neil Crompton’s book “Beat Seat In The House” is available now from your favourite bookshop or online at http://booktopia.kh4ffx.net/P0rJYM
Originally published as TV icon reveals how motorsport saved his life
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