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18 May 2023

From train tracks to the race track

Toby Trice is a racing driver with a mission to create awareness for a cause close to his heart    

Toby Trice can mostly be found on one kind of track or another. In daily life, he’s a high-speed train driver in Kent. The rest of the time, he’s a semi-pro racing driver who made his debut with Porsche in 2022’s Porsche Visit Cayman Islands Sprint Challenge at Silverstone. It’s a safe bet that his 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport is more exciting than the train. 

But Toby’s story is remarkable not because of where or what he is racing, but why he is doing it at all. His racing career has been built on a foundation of wanting to generate publicity and rally support for a cause that’s close to his heart. He’s also an ambassador for the charity Fertility Network UK, which provides advice and support for people affected by fertility issues, and exactly how he came to do that from behind a steering wheel goes back to his childhood.
“I’ve always been into anything that goes from a very young age, particularly cars, and I’ve always had a passion for racing vehicles,” Toby says, and there’s a photo on his website of him sitting on a toy Formula One car, pedals and all, to prove it. “I’ve got fond memories of watching Formula One with my grandfather and my dad in the great days of the noisy, noisy cars. I was always in and around cars, motorsport and that kind of thing and I just absolutely love it. As soon as I got my driver’s licence at 17 years old, I was free as a bird.”

But youthful adventures inevitably receded into the rear-view mirror and, as time went by, Toby and his partner Katie wanted to start a family. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. Their story is a difficult, tragic one, with years of struggle, IVF being unsuccessful and the lowest point involving the awful words “baby loss”. Frustration and sorrow turned into outright depression. The stubborn stigma that lingers around both fertility struggles and mental health only made everything worse. 
It is understandable for those who find themselves caught in the gravel trap of life to wish they were on the racing line instead. In Toby’s case, that’s more or less exactly how he responded. Drawing on his enthusiasm for motorsports, he took up karting at Buckmore Park as the most readily accessible option that confronted depression head-on in an unusual but successful counterattack.
“I found so much solace in just escaping onto the track and being at one with a racing machine, competing against a field of other drivers and just trying to do my best. It gave me this new kind of purpose,” he remembers. 

But it quickly did much more than that. “I realised that actually I had some talent. I was only there a couple of months before I was on the podium with some of the best drivers Buckmore Park had. It was quite an exciting thing because I had something fun to look forward to.”
Being named Buckmore Park’s Driver of the Year in 2018 was a significant accolade and one that led to Toby joining the Ginetta GT Academy. On the track, he did well and steadily built a record that attracted both attention and crucial sponsors. Bigger and better budgets each year were put to good use, and he ended up taking the champion’s crown in the Ginetta GT Championship in 2021. For someone who only started karting seriously in his late twenties instead of the pre-teen years that are more likely to be found in a racer’s biography, this was a meteoric rise indeed. 
But that was only half of the story. “I thought this would be a really great opportunity to talk about fertility issues and try to break down the stigma and taboos,” Toby explains. “So I went out to the media – the BBC, the Sun, the Times, some others – and, suddenly, there I was getting catapulted into this world of motorsport as a rookie racing driver with a media campaign called Racing for Fertility. It’s now in its fourth year. As you can imagine, I was very, very happy and excited about that.”

In the spirit of moving onward and upward, Toby’s next move was to the Porsche Visit Cayman Islands Sprint Challenge. Racing with SVG Motorsport, he joined the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid and his debut at Silverstone saw him cross the finish line in a respectable sixth place in the Drivers’ Standings. “I’m very honoured, very privileged and very lucky. There has been lots of hard work to get here, but really the driving force behind it has always been just wanting to make a difference,” he says.
This year, Toby’s eager to get back behind the wheel of the Cayman GT4 and it’s clear that he and the car get along splendidly. “The first time I drove the GT4, I was a little bit intimidated,” he admits. “Obviously, it was a big upgrade from what I raced before and my first time on slick tires. But the car itself is so well-engineered – Porsche do a phenomenal job of delivering a fantastic race package – that the car is actually quite easy to drive, very fun and exciting. Every time I get strapped into the car, no one can see the grin under my helmet.” 
Talking to Toby, it’s clear that he’s not racing simply to scratch a competitive itch. There’s much more to it than that. “For me, a shot of adrenaline and a good craic with good people really does help out if you’re going through a difficult time,” he says. “When I was at my lowest ebb in my depression, I was still very isolated and didn’t want to talk. But, when I got into karting, suddenly I was socialising with like-minded people. You don’t really have to compete in a particular race series; I think just attending a Porsche trackday with people who also want to enjoy the spirit of driving a car can be a really powerful thing. It certainly was for me. It was a massive breakthrough once I started karting because, ever since then, my world has changed dramatically.”

There’s more on the horizon, of course. Toby wants to end up at Le Mans some day and take his campaign for Fertility Network UK international. In the meantime, his next logical step would be the Porsche Carrera Cup and he’s grateful to Test Him, LogixX Pharma, Railscape and Carter’s Transport including his friend Russ Mead for all the help they have given him over the years. 
Moreover, he’s also keen to thank Katie. “I couldn’t do it without her support. Katie has been an absolute keystone throughout all of this. She keeps me very much grounded and she’s always very supportive. Without her, none of this would be possible. And yeah, we do this together. We’re a true partnership.”
This story is clearly not over, but it can end for now on a happy note. At long last, their son Oliver was born in 2021 and the sounds of him playing happily were in the background when Toby and I spoke for this interview. Perhaps, some day, there will be a photo of him playing on a toy car as part of a racing biography too.

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