The final countdown

IMG_6438It is a wet but otherwise hot morning in Jerez, Spain. The ground resembles a small river and menacing grey clouds hover overhead, ready to unleash yet more rain at any moment. On the walk to the media centre, music blares to introduce the crowds to the weekend of competitive racing at the Spanish circuit.

Over the thunderous roar of engines and the persistent pounding of rain, the famous 1980s track ‘The Final Countdown’ played over the tannoy. A coincidence or deliberate cruel irony? One cannot be completely sure. In what was the single most appropriate piece of music ever heard at a race weekend, the weekend was summed up perfectly by one song.

For everyone in that media centre in the frankly disgraceful weather of Spain, it was hard to ignore that this would be the final Formula Renault 3.5 round as we knew it. After an 11 year partnership ended in Renault Sport’s sudden departure from the 3.5 litre category, RPM Racing will go it alone in 2015 with a new guise – Formula 3.5 V8.

The mood in the media centre was one of nostalgia, promptly heavily by Europe’s classic song crooning in the background. It eventually fades into nothing as the 3.5 litre engines roared in anger but it was too late, by that point the song had taken full effect. The final countdown had begun; soon the media centre was greeted with the last race, the last podium and the last press conference before the forecast change took shape.

“Let’s get the party started!” exclaims a small voice to immediate laughter and cheering. The three rain-sodden drivers take their seats, accompanied by trophies and champagne, a trademark for all podium finishes in motorsport these days.

“Come on, hurry up, I’ve got a party to go to!” – the voice was louder this time but with the same level of jubilance.

Nyck de Vries is the young man behind these humorous remarks. He sits smaller than his rivals and the microphone in front is just a touch too high for his petite frame. One would be forgiven for thinking him older than his 20 years. He looks perhaps even younger than that with a new set of train-track braces. The Dutchman was clearly excited at the prospect of the annual awards ceremony later that evening.

IMG_6198His name will be familiar to anyone following junior racing. A member of the McLaren development programme for four years, he was the 2014 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup champion. In short, he is a natural talent. In the eyes of de Vries, it was clearly a simple case of relief for the DAMS driver had spent nine months waiting for his chance atop the podium as an FR3.5 race winner. For everyone else, premature reminiscing was in full swing – it was to be the final press conference of the season, the last with Renault Sport as co-promoters and, most likely, the last time either Matthieu Vaxiviere, Oliver Rowland and de Vries would participate in a race weekend within the World Series by Renault in any capacity.

After some final parting words from Rowland, a perfect spokesperson and representative for the final FR3.5 championship, a round of applause and several handshakes later, it was time for the goodbyes to begin. The final countdown was over and it came around far too quickly.

In the words of Europe themselves:

“We’re leaving together

But still it’s farewell

And maybe we’ll come back

To earth, who can tell?”

Now the countdown to the revamped 2016 F3.5 V8 and WSR seasons and our next paddock meetings begin.

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