Button big in Birmingham
As I emerged out onto the stage, hundreds of expectant eyes bore into me. These excited fans had waited patiently for most of the morning to see one man. And it wasn't me. It was mid-morning on Saturday January 16th at AUTOSPORT International, the world's best racing car show. And the man the crowd wanted to see was newly-crowned Formula 1 world champion, Jenson Button.
World champion Jenson Button is interviewed by our very own Henry Hope-Frost © LAT
I'll never forget the explosive roar of approval as Britain's 10th motorsporting world-beater joined me for a one-to-one interview. He was relaxed, articulate, witty and more than comfortable in his elevated position as a sporting role model to millions.
Forty minutes of questions - from me and the crowd - that he'd been asked over and over since landing the title for Brawn in Brazil the previous October didn't faze him. And when he helped me hand out free tickets to the British GP at Silverstone to youngsters perched on their dads' shoulders, the out-of-reach, multi-millionaire superstar status that comes with the territory was forgotten. It was a privilege to be part of it. Then we did it all again after lunch. And twice more the next day.
I look forward to telling my grandchildren that I hosted an audience with the world champion less than three months into his reign.
Shamefully, Sir Michael Leighton's picturesque Loton Park hillclimb course that snakes its way majestically through his Shropshire estate had passed me by for 39 years. Despite a healthy childhood diet of hillclimbing - Gurston Down, Prescott, Shelsley Walsh and Wiscombe were regular haunts - Loton remained elusive until last September.
My first visit came thanks to commentating duties at the Vintage Sports-Car Club finale. The chance to wander up the famously torturous strip of asphalt and observe spiritedly driven ERAs (I'm always alarmed by the speed of the pre-war voiturettes) and numerous self-built Austin 7 Specials making their practice climbs was intoxicating and about as far removed from the oft-pretentious modern motorsport game as it's possible to get.
A humbling experience that I will endeavour to repeat annually.
The 13th Revival Meeting at Goodwood was not in any way unlucky for me. My event broadcasting portfolio at the world's finest historic race meeting expanded in 2010 to include the post-race interviews out on the grid.
Uniquely at Goodwood, the top-three finishers come to a halt on the start/finish line after their slowing-down lap to be met by pretty girls, garlands, trophies and fine Cuban cigars. And, er, me and a microphone.
It's a role I had craved for many years and the chance to finally share in the immediacy of the exhilaration felt by the podium finishers - which included as diverse a bunch as Le Mans winners Richard Attwood and Derek Bell, ex-F1 racer Jean-Marc Gounon, grand prix bike hero Jeremy McWilliams and outright-lap-record-busting Lola T70 pedaller Andrew Smith - was one I relished.
I always adore every second of Lord March's three-day retro extravaganza, as much as its sister Festival of Speed earlier in the summer of course, and as long as my heart continues to beat I'll be there...
Big night bonanza
There's no better way to end the season than hobnobbing at the AUTOSPORT Awards in the plush surroundings of the Grosvenor House during the first Sunday of December. It's easy to forget the power of the 60-year-old brand we slave (lovingly) over while hidden away up on the fifth floor of Teddington Studios, but the world-renowned Awards are always a refreshing reminder of its status.
To have race and rally legends of the past reminiscing with 2010's big winners Sebastian Vettel and Dario Franchitti, among other modern-day top names, is something to behold. To play a small part in the event's planning and execution is deeply rewarding.
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