Welcome to Part 3 of my 2021 round-up! We're nearly on to the start/finish straight now, but please continue to read through how my year panned out (please, this took me ages to write!)
September was a Good One
With my Birthday being in September, I always look forward to the month in general. I feel excited about a bit of build-up ahead of "my day" and also to my brother's Birthday, exactly a week later.
This one however was going to be a real belter. On the 10th I flew out to Austria, to cover the next few rounds of Clio Cup Europe at the beautiful Red Bull Ring. I landed in Vienna then embarked on the breathtaking drive down to Spielberg, right as sunset fell.
My good friend and fellow commentator Chris McCarthy was out there covering Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA from this point on), so we met up and he introduced me to a number of the top guys from the series, as well as a host of other people involved. It was great fun.
The circuit and surrounding scenery were both absolutely incredible. It completely stole my heart and I pinched myself about everything I was seeing - even the roads I was driving on. It's truly an astounding place and I'd recommend it to anyone, and even say it's the most beautiful place I've ever been, topping Iceland, which I visited in early 2014.
I also met one of my childhood heroes - Rickard Rydell! I saw that he was at the circuit via his Instagram story and messaged him asking if I could just have a few minutes of his time over the weekend to say hello. He was incredibly friendly and met up with Chris and I for a good chin-wag. He told me about his wonderful space at home where he still has all of his trophies, suits and even his 1998 championship-winning Volvo S40! What a guy.
Before I knew it, Monday was around the corner, so I was in another airport, but not flying home. Instead, I flew to Valencia, where Bef would fly out to meet me, and we would enjoy a week's holiday in the Spanish sun, leading up to another Clio Cup Europe meeting at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, and of course, my Birthday on the Sunday.
We had a great time all week, despite yours truly getting horrifically sunburnt on our first full day at the beach. We were well-located, right next to a huge shopping centre, minutes from the circuit and a few miles from any beaches. On the Wednesday we took a trip down to Benidorm and even went jet-skiing, which I massively enjoyed, despite being very reluctant to do beforehand!
All of this and we had a great hotel, decent car, and a thoroughly enjoyable race weekend at a circuit which really caught me off guard. Admittedly, I had never thought of Circuit Ricardo Tormo as one that I really enjoyed, but then again I hadn't seen much of it or watched a lot of racing there. It's actually incredibly well-kept and up-to-standard for any form of racing. I look forward to going there again.
The weekend after, I was back in my studio at home, commentating remotely on the FIA ETRC, who were at Le Mans using the brilliant Bugatti circuit. As ever, I really enjoyed myself, and continued to exclaim at how bonkers all of the drivers and teams were, because the conditions would be tricky in any sort of racing machine, let alone a five-tonne truck...
At the start of October, I returned to a series/track combo that was my very first in "real world" commentary. I was at Snetterton with the Creative Funding Solutions Sports 2000 Championships for their 2020 season finale. I was welcomed back into the paddock like I'd never been gone, met with great positive comments on my career progression and travels around Europe.
There's no paddock as friendly as theirs, and I sincerely hope that never changes, and that I can be a part of it for the foreseeable. It was them that gave me my first break into doing commentary aside from Esports, and I'll never forget it, no matter how often I can get to one of their meetings to do my bit.
My good friends Mark and Kirsty were absolute heroes all weekend too, driving me there and back (four hours each way) as my car had broken down two days prior. Tom Stoten won the championship overall after a stunning weekend that had all sorts of weather in store for the field. Torrential rain one day, and low, blinding winter sunshine the next. You never really knew what was around the corner.
It was a wonderful weekend another a fitting way for them to end another great season.
Wrapping It Up
The weekend after would be my final British race meeting and final circuit commentary of the year, at Pembrey in Wales. I drove down on the Friday night, hating almost all of it, as there's no easy, direct route to Pembrey from up North. I enjoyed the simplicity of the circuit though - you can see almost all of it from up in the very large commentary box, and with two us up there (I was teamed up with John Ward) it was easy the entire panoramic view around you.
I saw some good friends of mine in the pitlane and had some great conversations with drivers and mechanics up and down the paddock - one of my favourite things to do in the motorsport world. The British Truck Racing Championship was headlining too, and was once again incredibly enjoyable - it's definitely become one of my favourite forms of racing, for good.
For the record, the journey back wasn't as bad the drive there, just longer. M4, M5 M6 - sorted.
The Real Party
The following Thursday, I flew out to Bologna in Italy for the fourth and final time in 2021. I was heading out there to commentate on the FIA European Truck Racing Championship's finale at Misano - my first visit to one of their race weekends in person. I drove down to Heathrow on the Thursday morning to meet with Barbara, the Press Officer of ETRA. We would then get the same flight and share a car to Misano.
Meeting all of the staff, drivers, teams and all the people involved behind the scenes in the championship, even Christina, the main host - after working with them remotely for what felt like forever - was amazing. To finally put names and faces together in person means so much more than doing it over a Zoom Call or Teams Meeting, in ways that shouldn't need explaining.
Then there's the vehicles themselves - they're immense. Absolutely immense. Over 5 tonnes, 1,200 horsepower, 5,000 newton metres of torque, capable of over 100 miles per hour. Insane. The championship was decided on the Saturday, with Norbert Kiss taking the title, while Brit Shane Brereton would have to work hard all weekend to take Goodyear Cup honours on Sunday.
Over the course of the weekend I was truly spoilt, even being treated to a ride in both the Official Truck and Pace Truck - a real bucket list experience that I'll never forget.
On the Sunday night, we all got dressed up for the end-of-season awards, which quite frankly was an honour to attend. It was my first ever motorsport awards dinner, and was thoroughly entertaining. Everyone collected their hard-earned silverware and the food was immense. After that, we all got buses back to the paddock and partied at the Revesz Racing awning with Norbert Kiss and his team until at least 3:30am. It was an amazing way to round out my most enjoyable weekend of the year.
Everything about the championship and the incredible community behind it made me smile all weekend. I'm very grateful to have been recommended to them, grateful as well for their continued faith in me and can't wait to see what comes from my future with them.
That's Part 3 completed - only one more to go! Come back tomorrow for the final part of my year's round-up, where I have some more European fly-aways and a horrible drive down to South Wales!