Danny Watts (Pic: Morio)
Danny Watts, the recently retired British professional racing driver, has broken new ground in the macho world of motor car racing by coming out as a gay man.
The 37-year-old two-time Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race winner revealed that he had girlfriends and married a woman out of a desire to “pretend to be straight”.
“I needed to lie and womanizse. I was one of the worst womanizers in my over-compensation to maintain the facade of heterosexuality,” he told Gay Star News.
Speaking to Autosport.com he added: “You feel like you have to hide it within motorsport because it’s a very masculine sport.
“There was something burning inside that said ‘right, you can’t hide it anymore, you’ve got to be free and be true to yourself and let it go out there’.”
He explained that it was easier to come out “now I’ve stopped racing” and that, “The biggest thing is worrying what people will think and how they’ll portray you, how they’ll act around you…” Since retiring, Watts has focused on coaching other drivers.
“My stomach is churning about the next paddock I go to and people knowing and how they’ll think of me. It’s bloody scary.”
Watts, who has a son, revealed that he has come out to his wife, ex-BTCC driver Fiona Leggate. “[She] told me she’d known I was gay for ages and she was happy I had finally come out.”
The couple are now in the process of getting a divorce. “Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain,” he admitted.
Matt Beer, Autosport.com Deputy Editor, wrote that he made no apologies for addressing Watts’ sexuality in his article, acknowledging that the motor racing world was not always a welcoming space for gay people.
“Some might feel we’re wrong to write about a driver’s sexuality, that this is a private life detail irrelevant to our motorsport remit. But there’s a difference between someone preferring to keep their personal life out of the spotlight and someone feeling they have absolutely no choice but to keep their personal life completely private from their sport because the alternative is terrifying.”
He went on to point out that, “There’s enough competitive and financial pressure on young racers without them having to fear their own identity.”
“It’s statistically ludicrous to think that only heterosexual white males can be any good at driving fast or that only heterosexual white males would enjoy watching people drive fast,” said Beer. “Gender and ethnicity aren’t the barriers to motorsport success/enjoyment that they once implicitly appeared to be, and sexuality shouldn’t be either.”