The nervous tension was killing me. In just over an hour, Sebastien Loeb was scheduled to be walking into the AUTOSPORT Awards.
I couldn't help myself. I asked the question to which I seriously feared the answer: "Is he in the country?"
Citroen's World Rally Championship communications genius Marie-Pierre Rossi considered her answer and gave a gamely pause.
"I think so."
He was. Thank the Lord. He was in the country and in London. Unfortunately, he was still someway west of Park Lane as motorsport's great and good began to gather in the greatness of the Grosvenor House Hotel's Great Room.
As with everything else in Loeb's life, timing was everything tonight. The plan was to have motorsport's two Sebs - the ones with 12 world championships between them - walking down the stairs to the mass appreciation of the 1300 guests awaiting them.
This was one journey Sebastian Vettel couldn't make on his own.
And the journey wouldn't wait, such was the precise and perfect timing of last Sunday evening. Be at the top of the stairs for a 19:55 descent or one of the highlights of the night would be scratched.
Vettel and Loeb begin their descent © LAT
What had happened to my watch? When did a minute stop being a minute. They were clearly being done in 10 seconds now. Another phone call. It's 19:31 and still no sign.
A couple of minutes later, Mr and Mrs Loeb were in reception. And happily standing in the queue for check-in.
Loeb's brilliantly laid-back and unassuming character came to the fore. I jumped the queue for him.
So, he was in the building with 19 minutes to spare. Should be fine. Except he was wearing jeans and we were at the wrong end of the building.
He's mighty quick in a World Rally Car, but did that speed carry over to changing his strides? Moreover, how pacey could the good Mrs L be in this time of crisis. Surely they wouldn't go OTL before the evening began?
At this point I have to apologise to anybody who came out of the lift and into the Grosvenor reception at around 19:45 last Sunday night. The doors opening offered fierce optimism, a glimpse of the occupants dropped faces to undisguised disappointment.
At 19:51 the doors opened and we got the result we wanted. A brilliant Frenchman and his beautiful wife walked out. We were back in the game.
Out of the hotel's main entrance, a dash down Park Lane and onto the red carpet - via a few autographs and pictures for the massed ranks of fans braving a miserable Sunday night in the capital - we were in the right part of the building.
Passing Jenson Button's McLaren MP4-27 things were looking good. We hit the top of the stairs for a Seb-Seb rendezvous at... 19:56.
In rally terms, that's a 10-second penalty. That's nothing to a Loeb.
Loeb picks up his award © LAT
Lights on, the moment had arrived. The world champions descended and 1300 people rose to greet them.
And my heart rate dropped below 160 for the first time in what felt like days.
What a moment. What a moment.
I must admit that, before I worked for AUTOSPORT, I didn't really get the Awards. I couldn't grasp the sheer, undiluted mass fever of the occasion.
I get it now. And I keep on getting it.
Somehow, don't ask me how, the Awards just keep on getting better and better. Seeing Loeb and Vettel on stage enjoying a bit of banter with Steve Rider was a brilliant, brilliant occasion. They were witty, understated and genuine heroes.
This year's Awards had a real focus on rallying (probably another reason why they were so good!), with Loeb joined by his Citroen team principal Yves Matton. As well as the world champion contingent there was an emotional return to the Awards for Jimmy, Margaret, Alison, Hollie and Stuart McRae. And those emotions were cranked up a notch or two when Malcolm Wilson presented Jimmy with a Gregor Grant, a lifetime achievement award.
Believe me, it's no surprise the Awards are awesome - the attention to detail is second to none when you see it up close; such organisation makes your average military operation look a bit slap-dash.
I thought long and hard about writing this column, concerned at the prospect of sounding conceited. But it was the words of Awards regular Malcolm Wilson who convinced me. The thrust of the evening had passed, the Awards awarded and now Wilson and I were mulling the past few hours with the dregs of the splendid Sauvignon Blanc that had graced the tables.
"What a bloody great night, again," he said, before adding almost absentmindedly, "as always."
Loeb, and everybody else, had a great night © LAT
That sealed it. Why not break out of the traditional British reserve and pat ourselves on the back. AUTOSPORT did something absolutely brilliant last Sunday.
From Christian Horner's barracking of Rider's own prolonged mickey-taking of Jake Humphrey's move from the BBC to the Premier League with BT, it was a stunning night's entertainment.
And as the doors closed on Great Room, the entertainment went on at the aftershow party.
Loeb's flight departed at 0830 Monday morning and, despite the lateness of the hour, I offered him a lift to Heathrow in five hours' time. He smiled and declined. Normal bloke to the end, he declined, saying: "We'll take a cab."
He then asked about the party. Prompting me to ask about the plane.
"If we go to the party, there's always another plane..." a classic answer to end a classic night.
To continue reading this feature, subscribe to Autosport Plus today.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
- Your Autosport Plus subscription includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from a monthly or yearly membership.