The Night Of Champions
A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Lorraine Gathercole from the BWRDC completely out of the blue. She informed me that I had won the prestigious Lord Wakefield Trophy, an award presented to women for outstanding achievements or services to Motorsport. I was gobsmacked. I've only been in this sport for a short period of time and looking at the list of previous winners, including Susie Wolff and Claire Williams, I could not believe I was soon to be the next name on that trophy.
I was invited to the MSA Night of Champions at the RAC Club to collect my award and could not have been more excited in the lead up to the event. However, I'd been struggling with some pain from having all four wisdom teeth removed the week leading up to the dinner and worried that I wouldn't be able to participate in the on stage interview when collecting my trophy! I was relieved to learn that Louise Goodman would be conducting the interview and instantly felt more relaxed about it. Needless to say she was fantastic on the night and I soon forgot about the pain from my surgery.
The calibre of award winners was outstanding and the event made me truly appreciate how much Motorsport talent we have in our country. Murray Walker and Sir Frank Williams (who unfortunately couldn't attend the event) were presented with lifetime achievement awards and it was an honour to see Murray presented with his award as well as Sir Frank via video link. I was fortunate enough to share a table with two of Britain's finest young drivers, Enaam Ahmed F3 Champion and Jamie Caroline F4 Champion. I was extremely impressed with both of these young men. Enaam greeted Andrew and myself immediately as he approached the table and introduced himself with a handshake and wished us an enjoyable evening. Enaam and Jamie spent the evening chatting about future plans and talked about racing with an appreciation of positions they were both in and showed huge amounts of respect for the other champions being presented awards. As Enaam chatted to Andrew about rallying and how some rally experience days may help him to improve and grow as a single seater racer, it dawned on me that these young racers are the sports people we should be encouraging our children to admire. The sport demands respect and uncompromising focus and discipline due to it's very nature and these two young displayed these character traits in spades. Other more mainstream sports people we see often on TV could definitely learn a thing or two from our young emerging British racing drivers and we should be very proud of the sports people the MSA are supporting.
Amongst all these fantastic people, two people made a lasting impression on me during the evening. The first was Heather Calder, MSA 2018 Sprint Champion and the second was Bonny Monger, Billy's sister. Two very different women being at the awards for very different reasons but both equally making a big impact on me.
Heather is possibly my new hero. She chatted to me about how she got into racing with her dad at just 16 years old having never even driven a road car before with her dad teaching her clutch control on the start line of her first ever sprint! Heather is the real deal, sprinting a 680 BHP Gould GR55 which weighs little more than a post-it note that she shares with her 4 time sprint champion dad is just nuts! When I expressed admiration for her being the first woman since the 70s to have won this title, she couldn't have cared less! She spoke passionately about holding lap records at many of the courses she'd sprinted at and how finally after ten years, she'd beaten her dad to take that title. She's a racer, not a female racer and now a Motorsport Champion full stop. This is why I absolutely love this woman and why she is my new hero.
Bonny Monger is someone I have wanted to meet for a while. Bonny wasn't there to collect an award or go up on stage and receive a round of applause, Bonny was there to do what she's been doing for the past year, to support her brother Billy. Bonny is beautiful inside and out, and not only that but she's selfless in her pursuit to support Billy back to racing. I know first hand how difficult it can be for family members to witness a loved one suffer life changing injuries. I also know how much that support will have meant and continue to mean for Billy. As Billy went up onto the stage to collect his licence from Jean Todt, Bonny in her beautiful dress was waiting for him back at their table with their mum and dad silently saying 'Billy, I got your back'. When Billy wins his first race after having his accident, which he will, that trophy will have all of the family members names on it and I for one can't wait for that day to happen.
I finish this blog with some heartfelt thank yous. I thank the MSA for not only supporting me but for creating a fantastic sport for me and all the other competitors to be able to participate in. I thank the BWRDC who have supported me over the past three years and whose members, who have become good friends, have shown me where I can go with my Motorsport career. I thank everyone I have met through Motorsport who has inspired me to be the best version of myself and to continue to learn and improve. I thank Jean Todt who, through the FIA, has given me the opportunity to create a prosperous future for disabled racers globally. But most importantly I want to thank Andrew, who quit his office job three years ago to come on this journey with me and without him, none of this would have been possible.