Imagine waking up on a Sunday morning, walking down to the Monte Carlo Country Club, and climbing into a race car sponsored by George Clooney’s tequila company. Imagine receiving a police escort while driving this race car through the side streets of Monaco past party-goers still venturing home in their gowns and tuxedos after a night of lavish partying. Imagine you enter the race circuit, drive through the famous tunnel, down past the luxurious yachts, and park in front of the Ferrari Formula 1 team’s garage. Imagine one of the greatest dreams you’ve ever had come true. Imagine.
The story of how I was lucky enough to live my dream, and venture from driving tractors on a farm in Canada to driving race cars in Monaco, is one that officially began way back in 2002. It encompasses 15 years of exceptionally challenging hard work and support from many people. It’s a story that deserves to be told at some point in the future, long after my racing career is complete, but it’ll take a book to cover the life changing events that transpired during that period of time.
For now, I’ll focus specifically on the months leading up to the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix weekend. The money, the risk, the stress, the blackmail…everything!
The Pre-Season Begins
After arriving in Italy to meet the team for the first time and get properly fitted into the race car, we all jumped onto an airplane and headed to Spain for the first official preseason tests of the year. Once again I was behind the 8-ball as most of the other drivers had been driving almost nonstop since the end of the last race season. Not to mention I was still frantically trying to source the amount of money I needed in order to cover the last two payments which were quickly approaching.
Back on an airplane I was heading to Nice, France, where I would grab a rental car and head west down the Mediterranean coast towards the circuit of Paul Ricard for our next preseason test days. Allow me to point out that literally just a few minutes east of Nice lies the location of the big prize… Monaco! But as mentioned before, I refused to make the trip there until it would be for the specific purpose of climbing into a race car. I was also eager to get to the next wifi location as fast as possible so I could continue searching for the money I desperately needed.
After testing at Paul Ricard I eventually ended up back in Canada to continue working as hard as possible to put the resources together for my last payments. It was a constant struggle with a massive amount of pressure, but I need to give a shout-out to the corporate groups that came onboard to join me in this exciting adventure including Diabolica Wines, Silver Jeans Co, Casamigos, and Super Lube Auto Centres. There were a few additional partners also helping out with a willingness to cover expenses to my race car should I accidentally smash it into a wall at any point. That assurance allowed me to push a little harder on the track.
Everything is Ready
With great difficulty and struggle over the next few weeks, I was finally able to scrape together JUST enough to guarantee I could make the final two payments to the race team. It was an extremely nerve-racking time and if even one thing went awry from here on out, I’d be missing the ultimate prize of Monaco.
With that immediate pressure relieved just in time, I jumped back on an airplane and headed to Spain for the first races of the 2016 Renault Eurocup season. The Casamigos deal came together at this time, just 1 day prior to going on track for our first event at Motorland, hence not having the Casamigos branded race car for the first event.
At this time, with Monaco seemingly confirmed, my investors were also taking a look at booking a luxurious trip to come and watch the dream unfold at the Monaco Grand Prix. After all was said and done, 4 people had committed to purchasing expensive trips to join me in Monaco for the experience of a lifetime.
If you’re looking for specific details in regards to my experience of driving the race car itself and how the races went, you’ll need to wait for another time as details will pile upon details.
After completing the first few races of the season I was extremely excited that the next event was the most important one of them all. The one I had sacrificed so much for over the last 15 years and especially the last few months. The one I had dreamed about for so long and invested so much into. Monaco!
And that’s when it happened…
The Worst of the Worst
I was at the airport leaving Barcelona, the next event on the schedule was Monaco. That’s when I saw an email from the Italian race team I was driving with. The email came direct from the team’s manager and said that the Renault Eurocup had heard that I was only doing part of the season and they were questioning whether I would be eligible to race in Monaco.
I wasn’t overly concerned at that time as the team had assured me from the beginning that they would look after everything and there would be no problems. After all, I had a contract with the race team, not the Renault Eurocup, and my contract clearly stated that if I wasn’t racing in Monaco, no matter whose fault it was, the race team would be on the hook to reimburse me for everything that I had paid to them.
Thinking the team would come to a quick and easy solution for their problem with the Renault Eurocup couldn’t have been farther from the truth and I realized very quickly what the race team was trying to do in the process. In further communication they stated to me that unless I agreed to sign a new contract with them, one that would require me to give them even more money, I would not be allowed to race in Monaco.
Through a series of events it became crystal clear what was going on. The race team thought I had so much sponsorship money that I was going to get rich from racing in Monaco and they wanted to threaten my participation in this race as a way to extract more funds from me than we had agreed on. Obviously they couldn’t be farther from the truth as I was maxed out in all areas as mentioned above and was living on financial fumes.
Learning New Skills
With that enormous disaster in the rear view mirror it was time to prepare for the upcoming race in Monaco. The next item on the list was to design the Casamigos race car and for the first time in my racing career I was going to have a chance to have a say on what my car would look like.
I had no money to hire a professional design team to work with me, so instead I spent a few days learning how Photoshop worked and was ready to make my own attempt at designing a car. I’m definitely not an artist, but after many revisions and tweaking I was extremely proud of how the Casamigos race car design came out.
I jumped on an airplane and headed to the team’s race shop in Italy to begin transferring my ideas from a computer image and onto the actual race car itself. It was a painstaking task as I had never wrapped a vehicle before, and to do one with so many small pieces and constant edging was even more challenging (though the team helped a lot in that process)…not to mention the smallest detail of pin striping around the car.
After 3 days of work the car was finally complete and ready for its photo shoot. But there was another problem; I didn’t have any money to hire a professional photographer. Thankfully one of the team’s mechanics owned a fancy camera and agreed to bring it into the race shop on a Saturday. After a crash course in photography and then photo editing, I spent the day attempting to capture some nice images of the newly designed car.
I was extremely happy with the way everything turned out and very much looking forward to driving through Monaco in a race car that I had completely designed myself.
If you’re thinking all of this seems like a lot of work and doesn’t leave much time to prepare for actually driving the car in Monaco, you would be absolutely correct. During this time, all of my competition was preparing to drive while I was trying to put together money, then save my chance to race in Monaco and then designing a race car.
In fact, my teammate at the time was spending hours in the corner of the race shop on the race team’s simulator driving the Monaco circuit over and over again while I was busy trying to put sponsor decals on my car. In the 5 weeks between the previous Eurocup event and the Monaco race, most of my competition had been actively driving in other championships and doing private test days. I was clearly about to be jumping into the deep end from a competitive driving standpoint, but I didn’t care; I was ready to race in Monaco.
The Time Has Arrived
Climbing aboard the airplane heading to Nice, France, I was full of mixed emotions about everything that had already taken place and all that was about to happen. Finally my eyes were going to see Monaco for the first time and it was for the sole purpose of driving a race car through the streets.
On approach to Nice it was a special moment as the clouds parted and I could catch a brief glimpse of Monaco down below. I landed and found a cheap train ticket for the short trip into Monaco. Exiting the Monaco train station I was spit out into the sunlight, and once my eyes had adjusted to what was in front of me, I could see that I was standing directly at Turn 1 of the famous Monaco Grand Prix circuit. I had arrived!
I found a city bus that would take me to the far end of Monaco and the parking lot of the Monte Carlo Country Club where our cars would all be staged for the race weekend as the centre of Monaco is too packed for space to accommodate anything closer.
I arranged an extremely cheap room on AirBNB that was within a very short 5 minute walk down the hill to the country club’s parking lot. I would be sleeping in someone’s bed, in a 1 bedroom apartment, while he and his girlfriend slept on their kitchen floor. Awkward to say the least but I didn’t care as it was all I could afford and my mind was focused on other things anyway.
After months of unbelievably challenging work, impossible odds, dashes of sheer disappointment, and yet support from so many, I arrived into Monaco completely exhausted.
You would think that sleep at this moment would come quickly, but I knew very clearly what the next morning would bring. Like a child trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, the gift of the Monaco Grand Prix laid waiting.
As the sun rose along the French Riviera, sounds of the sea melodically hitting the rocks below, I climbed out of bed, gathered my things, and prepared to take the final few steps of a journey, years in the making.