Monday, July 11, 2011

The Greatest Days

 Spedeweekend began for Ross and me outside in the garage polishing the car at so we could leave at and get to Ipswich in good time.  This was then followed up with sitting waiting for the car wash for 45 minutes and a McDonalds breakfast before getting on the road and heading east at about 10.30.  We had all agreed to make a weekend of it and enjoy the time we had off work. The first stop was Jay’s to pick up the new T-shirts, then on to Steph’s house to collect her before finally stopping at the pub.   The pub is to become quite an integral part of this weekend as will be revealed later but I was driving, so only orange juice for me!
After leaving the pub we headed straight off to the house we’d rented for the weekend to get settled in, before heading back to Ipswich for the evening’s fun to begin.   We were sharing the house with my very good friends John and Mel, and they had arranged to meet Chris Harvey and his team in their hotel for a few drinks and to watch the tennis.   My friend Neil was coming straight from work and meeting us there too.   After a good few hours Chris suggested just heading round the corner for a pizza as it was only two minutes away!   We must have different views on times and distance - that definitely wasn’t two minutes Chris!   We got there just as they wanted to close and I’m sure a table for 9 was the last thing they really wanted.   It was a brilliant night though, and one of those moments where you just realise how many good people there are at racing.
Saturday morning was an early start ready to meet Dad at the track for , get signed on and unloaded and everything sorted for practice.  As soon as we were done, we weighed the car and the waiting began.   I can honestly say I have never been as excited as I was last weekend - I hardly slept for days before and was like a coiled spring from the minute we got there until we left to come home.   All the cars looked great and it was nice to catch up and have a chat with everyone.
I went out for the practice at 9.30 and everything felt good with the car.   I came off the track, turned the car straight back round and headed off to do the hot laps.   We always knew I wouldn’t put it on pole and would probably do one of the slowest lap times but the whole point was to enjoy myself.  I had drawn sixth for the laps, so not long for the old nerves to kick in.   It’s quite a weird feeling pulling out onto the track knowing that all eyes in the stadium are on you and any little slip up will be seen by everyone . . . . . never one to disappoint anyone I managed to brake a bit late and launch myself into a slide through the last bend - just managing to keep hold of it and getting it across the line in one piece.   I put in a lap time of 14.95; a long way off the fastest time, but under the 15 second target I set myself.    It meant I would be starting 24th on the grid
With the laps done it was time to relax and enjoy the day.   Spedeweekend is a great chance to see the people you don’t get much chance to talk to and actually sit and enjoy some racing.   Sharing one of the tents down the back straight with Jay and Gav Murray always makes for a good laugh as well. The atmosphere is always brilliant round the stadium and it really is just one of those feel-good weekends.   It was a good excuse for John, Ross, and Neil to have a few beers too!
For Saturday’s comfort break, all the drivers had to be in the marquee in the pits for the ‘meet and greet’ session with the spectators.   I’m sure a lot of you will be aware of the friendly banter between Jason Kew and myself, so when we sat on a table next to each other it was always going to turn into a laugh!   Sure enough it did and I think it was a real success with lots of people coming in to say hello and collect pictures.    I was really shocked by all the people who said they read this blog, and thanks for all your comments - it really means a lot to me.   Jason and I had one pen between us so things were getting a bit chaotic at times as we fought over use of the Sharpie.   We spent about an hour in there chatting to people and signing their pictures and programmes . . .  and yes, David O’Regan, you definitely are my favourite Irish fan!
With the ‘meet and greet’ over I went back to watch the 2.0-litre final before joining the fight to escape the car park and get back to the house ready for a good night’s sleep.   My parents were joining us at the house too, so the peace and quiet of the Suffolk country side was about to be spoilt by our lorry and trailer thundering down the driveway.  
It was another early start and I hardly slept at night with the excitement for the big day.   We were up and ready to leave the house at and after a quick turn around on the golf course we were off and on the way to the world final - the day I had been waiting so long for was finally here.   We arrived and got everything sorted and the countdown began.
We all had new tops and trousers for the parade lap and I can honestly say I have never been so excited in all my life as I was when we stepped out onto the track.   I had all the people who I care about around me, and I was making the most of every moment.   After all the pictures and interviews were over everyone left and it was just me and the car ready to go.   When I tried to turn it on the power switch was off!   One of the marshals turned it on for me and Kevin came over and re-adjusted my mirror.   We were finally ready to go!

I always knew it was going to be emotional as I sat in the car on my own, and sure enough, looking up to the lyrics from the song “Just Drive” over the start/finish line (a song I find hard to listen to at the best of times) and listening to start your engines in my headset soon had me fighting to keep back the tears!   I soon pulled myself together though, and the feeling of the rolling lap behind the pace car was just out of this world and I can’t think of words to describe just how amazing it is.   The atmosphere was buzzing and I couldn’t stop my legs from shaking.   As the green flag dropped I think it was easily the best feeling of my life.
The speed of the world final is really intense and I soon found myself being lapped by the leaders.   I was just trying to keep out of trouble and make it to the flag.   It wasn’t to be though and a collision with Carl Waller-Barrett on lap 17 put us both out of the race.   It was the fault of neither of us; as he got spun, I caught him and the damage done was enough to put us both onto the infield.
It turned out to be a really clean race with no yellow flags at all, and surely that must be a first for the world final?   A massive well done to Malcolm on his second world final win.   Also well done to Gavin for his fourth place, you really deserve it mate!
Back in the pits it was decided there was too much damage to fix at the track, so rather reluctantly we loaded the car back into the trailer and called it a day.    It’s a shame as I was looking forward to the other races but never mind - that’s racing!   We enjoyed the rest of the day’s racing before Mum and Dad had to head off home, leaving us to enjoy our last night before returning to reality.
I’d heard about nights in The Golf pub after the world final, but I was still taken aback at just how insane it actually was.   People thrown over fences, water everywhere and enough drink to easily fill an Olympic swimming pool were just some events from the evening.    I was driving so once again no drink for me but it was one of the best nights out I have had for ages and a very good way to round off what I would describe as one of the best weekends of my life.
I just want to say a quick ‘thank you’ to both my parents, Ross, John, Neil, Steph, Jay and Sarah for coming on the parade lap and sharing the moment with me, and also to Mel and Nicole for cheering from the outside!   Also thanks to everyone who just made it such a brilliant weekend!
Quite a few people asked me “what now ?” and the simple answer is “try again.” Thanks as ever to everyone for reading.
Until next time.
“I want to be the only one to make it to the line.”

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