I have been writing about the wonders of Motorsport for a year now from which my love of all things racing has grown. Throughout this time, I have developed a favourite subject matter in young drivers, their development and the analysis of their future chances.
Writing about the World Series by Renault’s top category, Formula Renault 3.5 has opened my eyes to the struggles young drivers can face year on year to stay funded and prove their worth to the sport’s elite. For that reason, travelling to Spain with Crash.net felt oh so special.
The whole situation was somewhat sudden, to say the least. Talk of 2014 turned into “you free next week?” I am sure you can appreciate my shock and utter excitement at the possibility of fulfilling the paddock dream which once felt so distance. I did not feel prepared at all and, as the date grew closer, the prospect felt very real indeed.
The scariest part of all was the step up it would require. Suddenly I wasn’t just ‘Katie, the Blogger’ but ‘Katie Grimmett, Crash.net’s sole representative’ at the Spanish finale. Gulp. No pressure then!
Starting my day at 4am(!!), I crept out of my university building which, at two-hundred-years-old, is very creaky and requires numerous codes. I joked that I may not get on the right plane but the vastness of London Gatwick Airport felt daunting to little me. After finally boarding the correct flight and recovering from the stares garnered by the shock of “no, this is a business trip”, I was on my way to Spain. Barcelona, here I come.
I would like to take this moment to thank Glenn Freeman, Autosport’s News Editor, who was given the additional title of “chauffeur” for the weekend. After tracking down Glenn in arrivals, we drove straight from Gatwick to the Circuit de Catalunya to make the first testing session on time.
Walking with Glenn was bizarre; everyone knows him and his role at Autosport. Between the car and the media centre, situated at the far end of the paddock, a very excited Mikhail Aleshin walked past; officially the first driver I have seen in the flesh – as weird as I concede that sounds. “That’s Aleshin and…err…guest”, states Glenn at the Russian and his bombshell arm candy, in the calmest voice I may have ever heard.
After establishing my bearings, we arrive at the media centre which is already half-full of journalists, photographers and race day organisers. To our left, the pit entry and starting grid; I could hardly believe it. I started up my laptop, followed Glenn like a lost puppy to pay for WiFi and sat at the table.
“So, what next?”
Collective testing had started before I could form a suitable answer in my head. I was writing, typing, making notes and keeping a keen eye on the timing boards. One driver quickest, then another, the order changing so fast, my mind could not keep up.
As the drivers would finish their laps, the roar of their engines could be heard from the media centre, it is a noise I cannot describe. The tables would shake as the 3.5 litre engines made one final surge for the line. I honestly felt like the only one who noticed this incredible sound, as the rest of the media centre went about their daily business. Like a new pupil at school, I wanted to take it all in – every second if I could.
Kevin Magnussen was unsurprisingly the quickest, the gap to the rest as large as it has been all season. Admittedly slightly relieved that the testing session had brought no obvious surprises, my first report was online shortly after the flag waved.
My initial reaction to get up, to run and find anyone willing to talk to me but no one moved. I was confused to say the least; this was not the vision I had in my head. Fed up of the media centre, I went for a wander around the paddock on the hunt to identify each truck, should an important moment arise that weekend.
Fridays are often quiet on race weekends but the paddock was eerily so. Realising that the drivers would have a schedule of briefings and massages to attend to, I headed back to the media centre to catch up on an insane number of emails.
Later, I found Stoffel Vandoorne who was compliant and ignored my odd stumbling of words. On my way back to the media centre, I found Kevin Magnussen who looked supremely calm as the championship edged ever closer. After thanking him for his time, which was met with an acknowledging nod, I then had the arduous task of listening to my own voice on a Dictaphone. Not a lot of fun, I can assure you.
With my first day done, Glenn and I headed to dinner in what felt like a first date setting – I spent half an hour fighting back extreme giggles. I had planned to get some writing done and later think about the day I had just enjoyed, however my head hit the pillow and that was it – sleep time for a very tired Katie.