Hello. Yes, contrary to popular belief I am alive and well. It’s been an odd past twelve months both within motorsport and also on a more personal level. Although I have been able to travel with Formula E further than ever before, as well as experiencing new and exciting motorsport championships for the first time, there have been some, let’s call them ‘hiccups’ along the way which have made this year quite a challenging one away from motorsport.
Now, if you have ever read one of these “my motorsport year pieces” on my website, you will know I treat them as a not-so-secret diary entry. I just sit at my laptop, often with constant refills of tea or something stronger if it is available, and just blurt down all my highs and lows from the past year. I will do the same this year, just as I will continue to do until I am old and grey, sharing with you all the embarrassing details along the way!
Ah, the start of the new year and the launch of something different. The Small Torque Podcast was, and still is, a platform that I wanted to experiment more with. Although I love writing, one of the best parts of my job is having the chance to sit down with someone who has really cool shit to talk about and just listening about their passions and what they did to get there. I still do have big plans for the podcast, I mean my episode with Nick Heidfeld is still sat untouched and unedited on a USB in my desk (side note: this will be released next month – I promise).
I think my problem has been that I started with this almost ignorant attitude that I would be able to schedule podcasts with all my chums in motorsport at the weekend. As I learnt pretty damn quickly, it wasn’t as easy at that. For those of you that don’t know, I work a normal 9-5 job in digital marketing during the week. I love it and it means I have the weekends and evenings free for motorsport, but turns out it makes scheduling things like podcast episodes damn near impossible. Funny that the people that work in motorsport spend their weekends involved in… you guessed it, motorsport. I tried to get episodes recorded when I was at events but the timing proved tricky, plus the struggle of lugging around equipment the equivalent of my own bodyweight and sourcing sound-proof locations meant the Small Torque podcast didn’t quite get off to the start I had hoped. I will continue to keep trying with the podcast as I know quite a few of you enjoyed it but for now, I think it might have to be a project that is on the back burner.
Also in January, I attended Autosport International for what felt like the ten-thousandth time. I can’t stay away and have even booked for I think will be my seventh consecutive year at the event in 2020. I am sure most of you are aware of what the event is, but for those of you that aren’t, it is basically an exhibition with the world’s best drivers, guests and manufactures – all gathered together in Birmingham’s NEC. Once again the World Rally Championship had a huge presence which I relished in as someone who loves Rally but doesn’t ever get time to enjoy it. However, most of the attention was on W Series. They had announced the idea of the championship months before but for many, this was many people’s first real taste of the series which serves as an artificial platform for women racers. They had a huge stand by the main stage and over the weekend special guests appeared for media appearances and to try their luck on the simulator. It was here I was able to meet some of the core team and decide that I wanted to make my way to a round later in the year to witness W Series in action.
In March, an opportunity arose to contribute to well-respected newsletter by interviewing one of the most successful women motorsport has ever seen. My interview with FIA European Truck driver Steffi Halm was published in the FIA AUTO+ Women In Motor Sport Newsletter for their March edition and I will leave a link to read it at the end of this piece if you are interested! I know it is only a small thing, but to have my name and work published in such a respected and trusted source of information compiled by the FIA was a huge achievement for me this year. Steffi was also a total delight to speak to and hear about her experience with truck racing. It certainly sounds an intense form of motor racing and I have been invited out to experience a race in the future – perhaps I will be writing about that experience this time next year!
Time to reach for my passport and overpack my luggage to an excessive degree. I was ready to head to my first Formula E race of the year in Rome. I had visited the capital of Italy back when Formula E first ventured there in 2018 and fell in love with the city; I mean it is pretty impossible not to. The track is also great and features some fun elevation changes. I wanted to try and push myself to create some fun and exciting content that weekend and despite some shocking vlog efforts which never made it public, I did enjoy filming some quick-fire questions with the drivers in the media pen, of which some are available on my IGTV. I learnt very quickly that in the same way a dog is distracted by a rogue squirrel, drivers are born with a natural gravitation to anyone asking questions in a media pen about favourite ice cream flavours or the best songs to sing in the shower, rather than have to answer any more questions about battery temperatures or track layout. It was great fun and I think most drivers managed to gate-crash the other’s answers, especially in the questions about which driver would win in a fight.
It also has to be said that the guys and girls behind Formula E really know how to throw a party. From afterparties to bumping into people at bars and clubs after the race, this season really peaked with a spontaneous night out for someone’s leaving drinks in Rome. I won’t mention the driver in question, but as we stood doing jägerbombs at the bar another member of the team started stripping off to “who let the dogs out” before we all got kicked out. Crazy night, which ended with the group of us walking the streets of Rome to find pizza before getting in the back of a cab and being gifted a huge unopened bottle of Grey Goose by our taxi driver.
The following month I travelled to another Formula E race in Monaco. I am so insanely lucky to say that this was my third trip to Monte Carlo for Formula E and was, in fact, the first-ever Formula E event I attended back in 2015. It goes without saying that the place holds a special place in my heart, just as it will do most motorsport fans. It is impossible to walk around the principality without having flashbacks to iconic motorsport memories. The teams and sponsors are also keen to impress so there are plenty of events put on throughout the weekend which are always fun and a good way to wind down after a day trackside.
I made time to walk the F1 track too, which was already being set up for the race in a few weeks time. It really is mad how quickly you can walk around the place although the elevation changes really are staggering. It really is a shame that Formula E doesn’t race the entire track. I’m not entirely sure if it is because Formula E is worried about the comparisons, but the drivers have even said that they don’t care about that.
Although I only attended two European races with Formula E this year, I made sure to keep busy in between Monaco and New York. One of the best and most rewarding events I attended this year was a STEM event held at Mercedes’ base in Brackley. The evening, which was put on by Dare 2 Be Different, welcomed girls currently in education like GSCEs or A-Levels with the hope that it could inspire them to see motorsport as a possible career option.
I was in attendance as part of an unnamed project which will be released at some point next year but had the chance to listen to some of Mercedes’ female workforce discuss how they found themselves in their careers and what can be done to help the next generation, both boys and girls, look at a future career in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It was a fascinating evening and also included a guided tour of the entire factory. I have visited Brackley before, for an interview with Toto Wolff, but never got past Toto’s office! The team had just got back from Canada and had the trophies out in reception (hence the photo for this blog), as well as a red cap and an Overseas BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy in tribute to Niki Lauda who we lost in May this year.
The first half of July was spent in Toronto before I headed to New York for the Formula E season finale. I have never been to the States before and think the ‘Big Apple’ was a pretty good first place to go. I stayed in Times Square and travelled into Brooklyn each day on the subway, which was an experience, to say the least. One evening the entire city suffered a “blackout” in which New York literately went dark. This city-wide power cut even has its own Wikipedia page. The subway was down, traffic lights out across the city and Times Square was just filled with emptiness. I was stuck in Brooklyn for a good couple of hours and sought refuge in a bar (duh), before deciding that it was time to face the music and try and get back to the hotel. Big mistake. I ended up walking blocks and blocks for the hotel by which time the power started to return to the city. One day, I will record a podcast or create a series on my website from all the shit I have experienced when travelling with Formula E; from finding a creepy old man at our Airbnb window at midnight one night to getting a death threat from some crack addict on the French subway, there are plenty of stories to share.
Anyway, back to Formula E. Being there to see JEV take his second title was pretty magical. Although Formula E is still only very young as a championship, the dominance Jean-Eric has been able to demonstrate in such an impossibly competitive field just shows us what a talent he is. The two races were also greatly entertaining, with the Saturday race being total carnage.
Being back at a season finale of Formula E race was also a really rewarding experience. Seeing all the guys and girls who had put their blood, sweat and tears into this first year of the Gen2 cars, on top of it being Formula E’s best season to date with nine different winners in 13 races, was a real testament to the championship. It makes it all the better knowing that London is host to the season finale in 2020 – bring it on!
Remember when I said I wanted to visit W Series at some point in its first season? Well, that wish came true in August at their season finale at Brands Hatch. Despite living like an hour away from Brands I have never been which is quite honestly shocking. The circuit was host to DTM for the weekend, something which I totally fell in love with over the weekend, with W Series there as a support series to the German Touring Car Championship. All eyes were on Jamie Chadwick and Beitske Visser over the weekend with the big question being who would become the inaugural W Series Champion.
As I wrote about in a blog post which you can find here, I was pretty sceptical about W Series at first. The idea of a sport, which is one of only a few that lets men and women compete against one another, separating the two sexes left me confused at first. However, after spending time with the series both at Autosport International and at Brands Hatch, it made me realise that the championship is beneficial. From helping reignite that fire inside the competitor’s bellies, inspiring the next generation of fans or even just simply bringing them that joy of being behind the wheel of a single-seater again, W Series was doing its bit for motorsport.
DTM was also wicked. From spending so much time with Formula E trackside, it was quite a refreshing change to be near race cars that made so much noise. Seeing them come up from Paddock Hill was just insane too. If you have the chance to get to see DTM at Brands Hatch next year, do it!
Silverstone was calling for another opportunity to experience a different racing series. This time it was the World Endurance Championship, or WEC as it is more commonly known. I have never really found that connection with WEC or endurance racing as I have with the more traditional ‘F1 race’ or Rally stages. I think it is partly because my attention span is very short. I have been side-tracked writing this entire piece more times than I care to admit. However, as the race was only six hours long I thought I would give it a go. I did enjoy it, and all the hype that went with it being the first race of the season, but generally I don’t know if endurance racing is for me.
I have total respect and admiration for the drivers involved. The skill to keep yourself on your A-game the entire time and work as a team to get the results is commendable but from a spectator perspective, that thrill I experience with other championships just wasn’t there. Christ, I am never going to be asked back. Am I?
From never being to Brands Hatch, to going twice in the space of two months! In October I was back at Brands for some British Touring Car Championship finale action with my dad and brother. I have been following BTCC for the past couple of years and had always toyed with the idea of heading down to one of the race days there. After seeing the DTM around the GP track, I knew I had to head back for the BTCC action especially with such a close battle between five drivers for the championship title. Although I am super lucky with what I get to do with my journalism, sometimes it is the best feeling to just chuck on some comfy clothes, a huge rain mac and a beanie and just go and watch motorsport with no agenda. The only issue was it has rained significantly since I last visited. Let’s just say the white trainers I wore are no more.
After BTCC, the next stop was Valencia for some Formula E pre-season testing. Testing is always important but even more interest was shown this year as it marked the first public outing for Mercedes and Porsche in their new electric adventure.
I like going to testing. Mainly because the atmosphere is so much more relaxed than on a race weekend for obvious reasons, so there are plenty of opportunities to get lots of content from the drivers and team principals.
Lots of you always ask what happens at testing and I am afraid to tell you, it isn’t that exciting. It’s mainly just the drivers out on track all day trying to get as much out of their new cars as possible and then when they aren’t setting laps they are talking to us media stating that “the track is not representative” – which of course is completely true. Testing is hosted on a circuit that is commonly used for MotoGP, which is drastically different to the street circuits the championship normally races on. It did provide me with a great deal of content which I will be sharing in the coming weeks.
During the week there was also an important meeting to finalise plans for a project that I am part of, which brings me nicely onto November and the launch of a very special publication.
Inside Electric. My new project! Alongside some of my closest friends and fantastic motorsport journalists, we have created a new independent publication, http://www.inside-electric.com, to bring you all the latest news, features and interviews from electric motorsport. This has been a huge investment of time from all of us involved and I am excited to see what the future brings the publication. We already have some huge plans and have set ourselves some big goals for 2020.
With this new site, the plan is for most of my Formula E content to shift over to Inside Electric. I will, however, keep this site up and running for another other work such as opinionated pieces or more personal entries like this one. As ever, if there is something you would like to know more about or want to see my views on a particular topic, just shout. Leave me a comment below or send me a DM on any of my socials.
For now, though, I think that covers most of the year. I had no intentions for this piece to be this many words. I know what a pain in the arse these long entries can be, so kudos to you for sticking it out.
I hope you have had a happy and healthy year and that 2020 brings you more of the same. Thanks as ever for all your support. I appreciate it all so so much.
Here’s to the next twelve months!