The 2015 race season has now drawn to a close and work is already well underway towards plans for 2016. This last year has been extremely challenging and difficult for many different reasons, however, I am still incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity of being able to do what I love for a living. There are many positive memories that I will take with me from this race season, here are a few…
Pre-season testing was a very interesting experience as it rained for all 4 days that we were on track. In fact, during our two day test at Oschersleben in Germany it was both snowing/hailing while also thundering and lightning at the same time. This was also the only time that I had the unfortunate experience of smashing my race car into a wall after suddenly losing the rear of the car under braking.
Having been to Europe on many occasions, this was actually the first time that I was able to visit the UK. Racing at the historic Silverstone circuit was an interesting experience, but driving around the countryside was even more thrilling as it was my first opportunity to drive a road car driven on the left-hand side of the road. After bumping into the curb a few times you eventually get the hang of it.
Winning the race at Hockenheim in Germany was also another great experience. The air temperature was a true 39 degrees that day so wearing fire-retardant long underwear, a 3-layer fire suit and helmet was a difficult task to say the least. In a European culture where air-conditioning is not a major part of people’s lives, just getting to sleep at night is a challenge when it’s still 30 degrees at midnight. The race team was gracious enough to give me a big industrial sized fan that I brought back to my hotel and placed at the foot of my bed throughout the night. But after surviving the heat and then the mental anxiety of having another race car chasing you closely from behind for the entire race, it was a great feeling to cross the finish line in front.
Racing at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is always an enormous privilege so being able to scream through the fast corners and long straights in the hills of the Ardennes once again this year is something I will remember for a long time. But it is the entire weekend experience of being in Belgium that I enjoy, especially as the race circuit is less than 1.5 hours away from Cologne, Germany, where I stay while in Europe so the travel time is very short. Spending the weekend at Les Tcheous Bed & Breakfast just outside the small town of La Gleize is always one of the highlights of the year for me. This region of Belgium is right in the heart of where the Battle of the Bulge was fought in World War II and a German Tiger tank still sits on display in the town. The history of Les Tcheous B&B is no different as bullet holes can still be seen peppered around the windows and shrapnel holes visible in the stairs. Owners Frankie and Christine (and dog, Mini) are simply amazing, very welcoming, and they were more than gracious by inviting me to join them for 3 delicious home cooked dinners!
One of the coolest experiences of the year was racing in front of an enormous crowd at Assen in Holland. Over 100,000 people were in attendance for the race and by the time I arrived at the circuit by 10am, the grandstands and spectator hills around the track were already jammed with people. Finishing the race and seeing all the spectators waving at you afterwards was definitely a unique memory.
There are too many other nice memories to mention in detail. Memories such as; traveling on a very tight budget which allowed me to meet many interesting people from all over the world…on more than one occasion I had to shower on my knees as the shower was too small…or spending the day in Gimli giving people rides around the race track and enjoying their responses to the thrill of flying around a corner.
Life is full of ups and downs but I’m thankful that I can look back on the 2015 race season and see memories that will last a lifetime.