This weekend saw the superstars in the World Touring Car Championships roll into Donington Park for the British round of the speedy series. It was wet, wild and filled with waterproofs. Welcome to Britain.
Arriving at the circuit at 7am on Saturday, I had to change my socks before I’d even gotten to post as it was thrashing it down so much. Granted I was wearing leggings, a vest top and some little brown brogues and hadn’t changed into my probans. But still, it was rather inconvenient.
As with most ‘big’ meetings, we were inundated with marshals in Pit Lane, but littered amongst these were the stars of the Touring Car marshals, Dottie, Bex (who is the brains behind the headline of the blog), Kara and Reg as well as a few of my other favourites!
‘Team Pitlane’ sprang into action as soon as our Pit Exit lights turned green and every WTC zoomed out of their garage, at full speed, with full disregard for the other vehicles and pedestrians that were in their immediate vicinity. How someone didn’t have their bumper ripped off or their toes crushed over is completely beyond me.
By the time I’d been at the track for a hour, I was pretty much like a waking seal, or some other marine life. I was so wet, I wondered if my fingers and toes were starting to become webbed. How we didn’t have red flag, after red flag was a miracle. Well, that applied to everyone other than the super beautiful Maserati’s, who called for a red flag as soon as one driver spotted a dot of rain on their windshield. Who can blame them though? If I had a Maserati in my garage I wouldn’t be aquaplaning around Donington Park on a Saturday afternoon. In fact, I wouldn’t be at Donington at all… I’d be driving around some country road with Framing Hanley at full volume and my sunglasses on.
I wasn’t though, and by the time the Maserati’s came out to play, I was actually locked in the Scrutineering Garage with FIA bossman Umberto and his little helper Manuel. Yes, that WAS his real name. As I found out once I spent a hour CONVINCED it was just what the other marshals were calling him because he was Italian. He used to be a journalist too you know, I like him…
So, what was I doing in a garage with a Frenchman, Italian and Rob Huff’s Chevrolet? Well, I was weighing his (and the other top four) cars following their qualifying session. However, it wasn’t as simple as rolling the cars onto for pads. Oh no, we rolled the car in, then weighed it. Gave Umberto a fuel sample. Waited. Emptied the car of fuel. Weighed it. Unscrewed the rear wing. Put it in a box to make sure it was the right size. Weighed it. Looked at the Chevrolet mechanic and thought he was a babe. Reattached the rear wing. Rolled it out. Next one in.
Throughout this process, I was of course getting high as a kite on race fuel, and laughed like a small child when the German team (who are obviously not as used to this process as the Chevy boys) were just chatting away with the fuel hose in their hand when one of their team turned on the machine that draws the fuel out of the tank. Obviously a stream of fuel then fired from the end of the hose, and all over the FIA scrutineers. Oh my, how everyone had to try their very best to keep their faces under control. Umberto got them back the following day though, when their car turned out to be a few grams underweight and he made them go hunting for the wing mirror that had dropped off mid-race. Brilliant.
My dad also paid his first visit to the world of motor racing as he brought his wife down to the track for a day out. He seemed to enjoy it, and proceeded to take loads of photos of me looking like a fat, human, Royal Mail version on Pingu, flapping about as I gridded up cars and wandered around trying to look as though I knew what I was doing. After all, James Thompson and a few of the BTCC drivers were hanging about, so I had to act totally cool.
Despite it being my first time at an FIA meeting, it all went pretty smoothly and there wasn’t as much bossy-booting and rear-end kissing as I expected, I even bumped into Bumblebee of Transformers fame! In fact, it made me want to get a job with the FIA. Namely with Manuel, but we’ll not go into that….