Sunday. Race Day.
Our Sunday early morning routine mirrored the previous day’s. We parked in the same car park and some of us even had breakfast at the same excellent beach restaurant. Then it was time to make our way to our grandstand ‘k’ seats in the swimming pool section of the track. This proved to be a far more physically arduous task than we initially thought possible due to the very hilly Monte Carlo terrain. We all got a good work-out.
We got to our seats and settled to watch all the the pre-race activities including the drivers parade and watch the ruler of the principality, Albert II, Prince of Monaco and his wife drive past. Moored in the harbour across our grandstand was the double World Driver’s Champion, Mika Hakkinen’s boat jostling for position with many others. The revelers on all these boats and yatches were also preparing to watch the race in typical Monte Carlo style. Only the Abu Dhabi F1 round rivals Monte Carlo for luxury and excess.
The race itself was pretty boring if I’m being honest, but what never ceases to amaze me is the speed and sheer performance of these modern F1 cars. How they can navigate these narrow streets at such speed is proof of the genius of F1 engineering and technology and the skill of these drivers.
We had the return 769 mile (1,238km) return leg to Calais to cover in a little over 11 hours. We could not afford to miss our shuttle as the Eurotunnel services were very busy because of the bank holiday, so we had to set off early, maintain a very high average speed where and when possible and be very disciplined with our fuel and bathroom stops..We really could not hang about.
Luckily ‘Not Hanging About’ is my middle name.
So we began the journey, by now, everyone was more comfortable with the pace and the discipline driving such distances in one hit requires. We went from blazing heat in Nice through torrential downpours and back to cooler, dry conditions. Again we were forced to crawl along (comparatively speaking) through some heavy rainfall. Whats with the weather around these parts?
On we went, following the now familiar routine: drive 2-3 hrs, stop for fuel, bathroom breaks, leg stretches and driver changes. I was the only one who drove the full 1,500 miles and even I was beginning to feel the strain….
Then a Porsche 911 (991.2) Turbo S showed up as we got closer to Calais. It sat on my tail and in the rear view mirror I could see the driver and his son signalling me to ‘GO!!!!!’ Who was I to say ‘non’? Bang the gear lever to the left to put it into manual mode, pull the left hand paddle 3 times and BANG!!! I floored it. The car seemed to say “thank you” and 75mph became 90 mph just like that, at 110mph, I pull the right hand paddle for fourth, BANG!! 110 becomes 130, then 150 then….
I had left the convoy behind but soon came to back to my senses and remembered I had responsibilities as ‘Red 1’, so fun over, I waited for the rest of the convoy to catch up and we proceeded without further temptation to Calais.
As we rolled into the Eurotunnel check-in post at Calais, we could all begin to reflect on one epic road trip to a most fascinating, off-the-scale luxurious and historic city. From the Villa in Antibes to Monte Carlo itself, everything was near-perfect. Such a trip would have been memorable at any time of the year, but it was made even more memorable and enjoyable because we visited on a Grand Prix weekend and the fact that my companions were ‘stand up’ guys who had genuine, uncommon brotherly love for each other. Driving my own car on the race track was the cherry on the cake.
They know they cannot go on such trips in future without me. Never. Ever.