Welcome to the fourth and final part of my 2021 round-up. Thanks for getting to this point - I hope you've enjoyed the journey. Let's finish it off.
A Traditional Weekend
Towards the end of the motorsport season, I always try to make time to head down to Brands Hatch for the final race meeting in the British Touring Car Championship - it's a weekend I've attended religiously since 2015, with 2020 being an exception due to COVID restrictions. This time though, I had a free weekend right when I needed it, so off we went - Bef and I.
Once again my good friend James and his partner Sarah sorted us out good and proper - sourcing us some paddock passes, hospitality for Sunday, and a plan on where to stay. We were joined by our mate Ashley Beard who came along for the ride, too! It was a brilliant weekend that saw Ash Sutton take his third BTCC title. Unfortunately Max Bird just missed out on the MINI Challenge UK championship crown, but got very close to eventual winner Dan Zelos after a stellar year.
Still, we saw a bunch of friends from all over and enjoyed some terrific racing. What more could we ask for?
Only two more work weekends lay before me - both of which being Clio Cup Europe, as their season began to wind down to the finale. First up was another weekend in Italy - this time heading to Monza with my mate Chris McCarthy joining me. FRECA was there, supporting the Italian GT Endurance Championship, so he was commentating on their end-of-season meeting on the same weekend.
We had a right laugh, as we did in Austria a month prior, and I was even invited on the spot to the end-of-season awards - my second in as many weeks. I'd visited Monza before and realised how truly special it is, but with media access and more reason to be there this time, it was incredible. Standing up on the legendary podium over the start/finish straight while GT3 cars blasted past below me was something I'll never forget.
Another touching moment from the weekend was on the Sunday. As I stood around to witness the trophies being given out under the Renault awning, I chatted to "Horn" who was one of the gentlemen drivers. He didn't speak much English and I didn't speak any French, so our conversations had been limited all year, but still, we interacted and had a laugh. Anyway, when it was his turn to collect his 2nd place trophy, he came back and handed it to me. I thought he was joking at first, but he said it was for me, as I'd done a great job on the commentary all year - his words.
I - for once - was absolutely speechless. It was a really unexpected gesture and a highlight of how pleasant the Clio Cup Europe paddock is. Walking through the airport with it (as it didn't fit in any of my bags) as if I was a racing driver was pretty cool.
The One Where I Shouldn't Have Been There
To round out the year, I had a bit of a strange race meeting. The Wednesday before I flew out to Barcelona, I had a message from David Addison asking if I was going to the last Clio Cup Europe meeting. I assumed this was as he was planning to attend as well, as it was the end-of-year awards on the Sunday.
It turns out that David was supposed to be commentating on this one, not me. I'd just been a silly sausage and never deleted it from my calendar, nor questioned who was covering it... anyway, in the end I couldn't get any of my travel refunded so I may as well have gone.
While it was a shame not to be commentating (long story involving costs behind why I wasn't), it was really nice to be able to free roam the paddock and circuit without worrying about being in a certain place at a set time. I walked on the grid for the first and only time all season and got to enjoy the podium from right underneath it, instead of watching it on a screen. On top of that, David and I watched a number of the other races together and had a good laugh all weekend.
The awards dinner was at a nightclub in the middle of Barcelona called Opium, and was another very enjoyable experience. I spent a lot of time talking with UniQ Racing and having a very sentimental chin-wag about all things motorsport - their company was excellent.
Come the Monday morning though, and it was time to fly home for the final time in 2021, and now I write this during a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas period with my nearest and dearest - we're all happy, healthy and full of positivity about the year ahead. To top it all off, I've just been named as Downforce Radio's Commentator of the Year!
I hope you've enjoyed reading this brief (ha!) outline of what I got up to this year and how it panned out, and I sincerely hope you all got through the year in good health and made something positive of it. I want to extend my thoughts and condolences to those of you that have lost loved ones to the COVID pandemic - I'm sure it goes without saying that I hope it's over as soon as possible, so we can go back to enjoying things in full normality.
Here's to a positive and fruitful 2022.
Thanks for reading, and for the continued support that you give me.
All the best,