Most people don't get to meet their hero, and fewer still get to interview them about the most important moment in their career.
Damon Hill was the great British hope when I first started following Formula 1 as a wide-eyed eight-year-old. Michael Schumacher and Benetton were the undoubted stars of 1994, but I always rooted for Damon as he and the shattered Williams team toiled for the title in memory of the late Ayrton Senna.
Ben Anderson is just one of Damon Hill's many fans © LAT
Few would rate Hill as one of the top grand prix drivers, but anyone who's won more races than Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Sir Stirling Moss, and sits 11th on the all-time winners list, has to have something about them. I supported him throughout the rest of his career - until he lost the fire and quit the sport at the end of 1999.
I first met Damon, properly, during the 2009 McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award shootout, when he acted as chair of the panel of judges. Meeting people you have idolised, so people tell me, can often be a crushing disappointment. Few, in reality, can measure up to the fantastical standard constructed in one's own mind.
That wasn't the case with Damon, who was humble and gracious as I (plied with too much of the BRDC's free wine) gushingly bent his ear for what must have felt like longer than a full race distance aboard the 1992 Brabham BT60B.
Among other things, I tried to persuade Damon to let me interview him for AUTOSPORT's regular Race of My Life feature. He agreed, but it wasn't until this season that he finally got round to telling me all about the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka (a race I watched bleary-eyed, nose pressed to the TV screen).
I listened intently as he described the most significant race of his career: beating rainmaster Schuey, in the wet, and justifying his place as an F1 driver - to himself and the rest of the world. To later see that interview in print was a special moment, and something that wide-eyed eight-year-old of yore would have been immensely proud of.
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