Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Lanchester goes to a funeral

Posted in Columns, Roy Lanchester by Roy Lanchester on Friday, April 17th, 2015

RoyLanchester14Extremely seasoned motoring correspondent ROY LANCHESTER receives some sad news

An ordinary morning at Over The Limit With Roy Lanchester Towers was disrupted last week by the unusual sound of the telephone ringing. I picked up the receiver to hear the familiar North Of The Border tones of Alan McTavish, chairman of the Northern & Scottish Motoring Correspondents’ Association. ‘Oh Christ, it’s you,’ he muttered. ‘I was trying to call Roy Lansbury from The Runcorn Bugle’. And they say our Scottish friends don’t have a sense of humour!

McTavish spent some two or three minutes rather aggressively repeating rumours about me which are not true and cannot be proven now that the money has been returned, after which he got to the reason for his erroneous phone call, which was to tell Roy Lansbury from The Runcorn Bugle that legendary motor industry PR Johnny Bauvais has received some bad news. The news in this case being that he was about to die, a prediction that immediately turned out to be accurate.

I was so shocked by this I almost dropped my breakfast wine. I had known Bauvais for a long time, I believed that he still owed me £27, and I can say without fear of contradiction that he was a absolute gentleman. I mean that in the truest sense of the word, not just because he was one of those people who often wore a bow tie. Truly he was a car press officer of the old school and wherever he worked he brought dry humour, a relaxed attitude to panel damage and a relentlessly open bar tab.

I remember once being on a launch somewhere in the Far East when I became separated from the rest of the group and was forced to find my own entertainment for the evening. I later confronted Johnny about this and suggested that, since I was a guest of his employer, I should be reimbursed for my evening’s outlay. Quick as a flash, Johnny replied that he would be happy to, as long as I had a receipt. ‘Oh wait,’ he added, impishly. ‘Prostitutes don’t give out receipts!’ He later had to re-pay my £142 because actually this one did!

We don’t see the likes of Johnny Bauvais in the car industry these days, something I was reminded of when I attempted to borrow a press car in order to get to his funeral. It’s a sad reflection on the state on our industry that press officers at several major car companies will refuse to give someone a car on compassionate grounds and prefer instead to trot out tedious grievances relating to previous bookings such as ‘substantial bending of the roof’, ‘one of the wheels missing’, and ‘overwhelming smell of faeces’.

So it was that I found myself getting the train from Harrogate to the funeral location in Marlow via London. The journey was long but I had packed accordingly with a good book and an even better Burgundy, and these items easily saw me to a well deserved pit stop at The Parcel Yard pub within King’s Cross station. From there it was just a short hop to Paddington station’s The Mad Bishop & Bear for a swift lunchtime livener and then on to my destination, The Marlow Donkey just near Marlow station. From here it was just a brief walk to The Prince of Wales and then on to poor old Johnny’s funeral, via The George & Dragon.

The scene outside the church is one that would have warmed the great man’s heart, if only it hadn’t stopped working. Truly the great and the good of the motoring industry were out in force and, despite the solemnity of the occasion, the usual hilarious banter was much in evidence with joshing aplenty and typical cries of ‘Oh Christ, what’s he doing here?’, ‘For fuck’s sake Lanchester, how much have you had?’ and ‘Aren’t you that bloke who did a shit in a Nissan?’, swiftly moving on, following a slight commotion, to the old ‘Oh my God, you awful man, get out now!’

I like to think that dear old Johnny was looking down on all this and chuckling. We will not see his kind again and I find that almost sobering. What saddens me most is that I will never get to sit with him in the hotel bar on some far flung launch and say, ‘Hey Johnny, remember that time I was sick on your widow’!

Roy Lanchester is motoring correspondent for Your Stoats magazine and founder of the blog Over The Limit with Roy Lanchester.  (

Lanchester on fuel injection

Posted in Columns, Roy Lanchester by Roy Lanchester on Thursday, February 5th, 2015

RoyLanchester14Seasoned car journalist turned blogger ROY LANCHESTER looks into the fascinating world of fuel injectors

If you are of a certain age, you will remember when all cars boasted the humble carburettor. I can certainly recall this simple yet complicated device with its various foibles and problems. It often needed adjusting, it was prone to causing trouble and it made an unreasonable PR man extremely angry when he discovered that I had removed it from the press demonstrator and swapped it for the lower specification one on the Peugeot 205 belonging to my then-wife. Funnily enough, until a few years ago I used to see that very same Peugeot still driving around town. Unlike my ex-wife, it looked in tidy condition for its age and I was technically allowed within 30 feet of it!

Nowadays the carburettor has gone the way of the wire wheel, the starting handle and the ability I have to borrow cars from Peugeot. What has replaced it of course is the fuel injection system. I bet most of us pay very little attention to this marvel of modern engineering. I must admit, I gave it very little thought and this situation did not change, even when I was invited to visit the British manufacturing plant of Akeisan Injectors. However, I later learned that lunch would be included and realised just how interesting fuel injectors are.

The Akeisan fuel injector factory is in Loughborough. I found myself ‘between press cars’ on this occasion, but the trip by rail simply flew by and required only three trains, two arguments and some help from my good friends Mssrs Whyte and Mackay. After the third argument of the day, resulting from a need to remind the Akeisan PR man that it was not his place to question how late I was nor what I smelt of, I was handed a useful USB stick containing a potted history of the company.

For example, did you know that Akeisan was founded in 1957 in Nagoya in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan and swiftly became a most valued supplier of fuelling systems within the vehicle industry of its home nation. The 1980s was a time of great expansion for the company with new factory facilities in the United States, Canada and Europe, as well as a growing customer base of many global manufacturers. The Loughborough plant was opened in 1987 and grew with the phase 2 expansion in 1998. It supplies fuel injectors, lines and pumps to OEMs in the UK and across Europe. Page 2 For more information please contact the UK press departm

Since it was now lunch time, I was delighted to be informed that we would not have to look at any fuel injectors since lunch was being served. This was where the good news ended, however, since I was then told that proceedings would take place in, of all places, the staff canteen! I reminded the unctuous PR gentleman that I was not staff, I was a journalist! His idiotic claim that it was ‘part of the experience’ was nothing to his frankly rude insistence that they did not serve wine. Mercifully, I had brought a bottle of pretty stout Malbec in my bag which I was hoping to keep for the journey home but which I regretfully uncapped in order to accompany the turgid lamb that had been plonked in front of me. It is a general rule that journalists such as myself ask the questions and PR lackeys answer them but today that could not have been further from the case as the press chap for Akeisan became quite the Jeremy Paxman, unreasonably harrying me with a barrage of nonsense: ‘Was it you that took all the notebooks from the meeting room?’, ‘Why have you got so many of our pens and a mug in your bag?’ ‘Where did you get that wine from?’ and so on. As if to compound the problem, he then insisted that they had a ‘strict no drinking’ policy on site and attempted to remove the welcome libation from my very hand.

Akeisan is an excellent company manufacturing many excellent and fascinating products, and I must in particular commend their excellent policy of not pressing charges, even when one of their employees claims to have been ‘assaulted’. The next time you drive your car, remember the fuel injection system it uses. It makes the use of carburettors seem like another world in which we all wore different clothes, you could drink without being bothered and Marie hadn’t left me.

Roy Lanchester is motoring correspondent for Folk Explosion! magazine and founder of the blog Over The Limit with Roy Lanchester.  (



Roy Lanchester on used cars

Posted in Columns, Roy Lanchester by Roy Lanchester on Friday, November 28th, 2014

RoyLanchester14Seasoned car journalist turned blogger ROY LANCHESTER on the experience of buying a second hand motor

As a motoring journalist I’m often asked what I drive myself and the answer, of course, is ‘press cars’. Recently, however, I have found myself ‘between loans’ for rather longer than I would care for, as a result of misunderstandings, errors, arguments, accidents and, in one case, what a grumpy fleet administrator called ‘a ridiculous amount of sick in the glovebox’.

With no bookings forthcoming and at least one legal action pending whilst my solicitor explained to a well-known German car maker that the fuel was legitimately mine to syphon, I found myself in the ludicrous position of having to buy my own car! Happily, my dear friend eBay has been kind to me recently and my cashflow was looking relatively healthy. Who knew miscellaneous spare wheels and parcel shelves were so sought after! Happily, selling all 21 items meant  I could set my budget at a heady £500 and set out to purchase a runaround to tide me over, at least until a certain Japanese company accepted that the driver’s seat ‘stank of urine’ when I got the car.

In the past, if I needed a used car I would have headed straight to Boroughbridge and my old mate in the motor trade, Chris Gritley. Unfortunately Chris is now dead, probably for tax reasons! Instead, I took a stroll via The Rifleman’s Arms to a second hand car dealer not far from Lanchester Towers where my interest was aroused, firstly by The Royal Oak next door and then by a reasonable looking Toyota Yaris on the forecourt. Appraising an old motor like this is a simple matter for those of us seasoned in the car business but it’s vital to follow a visual inspection with a thorough test drive and not to get fobbed off if the salesman refuses because you ‘fucking stink of booze’. Upon encountering such a dismissive attitude, I immediately turned tail and headed smartly back to The Oak to reflect on the shabby attitude of certain used car traders!

The next day I approached a different dealer, the excellent Dengham’s Used Car Centre on Adley Road, just off the A59, only one mile from Harrogate town centre, directly opposite The Brown Horse pub. The latter is strictly off limits to yours truly following an argument with the very rude landlord over which of his kitchen items might reasonably be used as a lavatory. The welcome I was given at Dengham’s Used Car Centre on the Adley Road, just off the A59 could not have been more of a contrast, however, as their excellent salesman Mark Spright gave me an excellent tour of an excellent 51-reg Kia Rio in an excellent bright green which he had excellently received in part exchange and which, to his excellent credit, he was happy to let me drive away for an excellent discount off the £500 asking price, in return for a brief mention in this column for Dengham’s Used Car Centre on Adley Road, Harrogate, just one mile from the town centre, where the pre-owned car of your dreams could be just waiting for you!

If there is a moral to this tale it’s that buying a second hand car doesn’t have to be difficult, as long as you buy from a reputable and excellent outlet, such as Dengham’s Used Car Centre of Harrogate, the pre-driven car dealer you can trust! I must say, I am delighted with my excellent new car, not least because it rather disproves the claims of a senior employee from a certain well-known Korean car manufacturer who said ‘after seeing the amount of damage to the carpet, I promise you will never drive a Kia again!’ Well who’s laughing now, Mr Kim!? I am. In my £485 Kia. Excellent.

Roy Lanchester is motoring correspondent for Hedgehog Enthusiast magazine and founder of the blog Over The Limit with Roy Lanchester.  (

Ask A Total Prick From An Internet Forum… about Top Gear

Posted in Columns by Sniff Petrol on Thursday, November 27th, 2014

TPFAIF_4Dear Total Prick From An Internet Forum,
What do you think of this thing about Top Gear and the Porsche number plate in Argentina? Reckon it was deliberate?
Rav, Sheffield

Total Prick From An Internet Forum replies…
I think there’s some people on here who need to wake up and SERIOUSLY smell the coffee. Of course it was deliberate. It’s completely obvious that Top Gear decided to film in Argentina and then combed the UK looking for a car that had a number plate that looked a bit like a reference to the Falklands war and that, luckily for them, the right plate happened to be on a Porsche 928 GT. It’s TYPICAL of Top Gear to assign a team of hundreds to searching the nation to find the right plate and/or illegally hacking into the DVLA computer in order to make a joke like this. They were just fortunate that the right plate was on a very rare car that Clarkson likes and that the car in question was also for sale so they could buy it. That is what happened. FACT.


Dear Total Prick From An Internet Forum,
So you know this Top Gear number plate thing. Apparently the plate had been on the car since 1991 and the car was only bought by Top Gear in August, less than a month before they started filming in Argentina. They say it can’t have been deliberate. What do you think?
Jake, Wexford

Total Prick From An Internet Forum replies…
You’re SERIOUSLY making yourself sound stupid here, Jake. It’s now obvious to me and anyone with a brain that what Top Gear actually did was happen across this rare Porsche with a number plate that looked like a reference to the Falklands in August and that, as a result of this, they then immediately decided to film their Christmas special in Argentina and arranged for their presenters, producers, director, assistant director, researchers, cameramen, soundmen, camera assistants, safety advisors, fixers and medical support to fly to South America. They were just lucky to find flights, hotels, a route, and an editorial reason to be there at short notice. That is what happened. END OF.


Dear Total Prick From An Internet Forum,
Hey there. I saw you and your car at the Honda Civic Type S owners’ forum meet last month. I noticed that the last three letters of your number plate are CNT. Did you buy that reg?
Matt, Guildford

Total Prick From An Internet Forum replies…
No, it’s a coincidence.


2014 Abu Dhabi GP preview

Posted in Columns, Motorsport by Trentham Sleaves on Friday, November 21st, 2014

trenthamsleaves1Abysmal F1 journalist TRENTHAM SLEAVES looks forward to this weekend’s race

There’s a crackle in the warm desert air here in Abu Dhabi. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can’t smell or taste it, but you just know that it’s there, assuming you are here, which of course I am.

I was saying as much to my dear friends Marty Brundle and Davey Coulthard only yesterday. There’s such a unique atmosphere to the Yas Marina, I suggested, and that makes the place a worthy venue in which to end the season. ‘I’m sorry but this is a private conversation,’ Mart quipped. ‘Please go away.’ Such a wonderful sense of humour!

Last night I intended to dine alone at Gino’s, a marvelous little Italian place I first discovered a couple of years ago after following a certain British world champion of the 1990s who shall remain nameless! To my delight, upon walking into the premises I spotted the chap in question was dining here too! What a charming coincidence, I observed. ‘Oh Jesus,’ he jested. ‘I’ve told you before, leave me alone you weirdo’. Then who should join in but my good friend Gerhard Berger who humourously called me a ‘fucking asshole’. I was still chuckling about this when a voice behind us said, ‘They’re right, you’re a pain in the ass and a total dick.’ Why, it was my great chum Niki Lauda! ‘Why don’t you do us all a favour and get out,’ chimed in my good mate Alain Prost. ‘He’s right,’ added my dear old buddy Mika Hakkinen. ‘Get out, you smug, annoying, pointless little prick!’ Wonderful banter!

So we come to our reason for being here in the flower of the desert’s rose; the dénouement of the 2014 season, and what a sensational showdown it promises to be. The double points rule comes under lot of criticism and I feel I have to speak out and say, it’s not my place to comment either way about the advantages or otherwise of this innovative and unusual system. What I will say also is that now is not the time to sit on the fence as to who will take the coveted championship. There’s everything to play for and everything to win as well as everything to lose. The million dollar question is, who will be the ultimate winner? To my mind the answer is simple: The winner will be Formula 1.

It has been quite a season. So many great races, all of them so much more enjoyable when you see them in person. As always in an F1 season it has also been quite an endeavour, travelling the world to take in all this action. So many flights, so many hotels, so many delightful dinners at charming restaurants. In many ways, it has been exhausting. Never has a quiet night’s rest in my modest London pied-a-terre sounded so appealing! But before all that, there is the small matter of one more race. I’m sure I will be on the edge of my seat this Sunday, although of course mine will be right by the track and I’m sure yours won’t be. Because remember, all season long, I’ve been here and you haven’t.

2014 Brazilian GP preview

Posted in Columns, Motorsport, Trentham Sleaves by Trentham Sleaves on Friday, November 7th, 2014

trenthamsleaves1Appalling F1 journalist TRENTHAM SLEAVES looks ahead to this weekend’s race

If Formula 1 had a spiritual home then surely it would be here at Autódromo José Carlos Pace, better known as Interlagos, the venue for the always-wonderful Brazilian Grand Prix. The atmosphere here in the paddock is literally electric in a manner that anyone who has been here, as of course I have many times, will recognise instantly.

The crackle in the air comes partly from the passionate fans, partly from the tangible smell of history in the wind, and partly from the very real ghost that hangs above the place like so many gossamer curtains in my charming hotel room. I’m talking of course about the legend and my dear, dear friend Ayrton Senna da Silva.

There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of Ayrton and, if he was still with us, I’m sure that would be mutual. I remember once being in the McLaren motorhome and asking my great pal Alain Prost what made Senna such a fearsome and passionate presence out on the track. ‘You’re not allowed in here,’ Le Professeur quipped. ‘Get out!’ Al is such a character and much missed, although of course he is not dead.

Last night I dined alone at Benito’s, a delightful hole-in-the-wall Italian close to the track and very much a legend amongst those in the paddock. As I enjoyed my spaghetti vongole I felt in a very real sense that I was not dining alone but was watched over by Senna, or Ayrto as I called him though he asked me not to. My thoughts were interrupted when I noticed a certain 1996 World Champion who shall remain nameless coming out of the lavatory and approached him for a chat. ‘Oh for God’s sake, leave me alone,’ he jested before walking briskly out of the premises. Priceless!

As to who will take the infamous chequered flag here amongst the passionate Brazilian fans, I think it would be churlish to speculate. However, you’d be foolish to bet against either of the Mercedes unless you fancied an outside bet on the impressive Williams’ or the late charging Ferraris or a final push from the Red Bulls.

Whatever happens here in Brazil, rest assured I will be enjoying it from right in the thick of the action. Because remember, I’m here and you’re not.

2014 US Grand Prix preview

Posted in Columns, Motorsport, Trentham Sleaves by Trentham Sleaves on Friday, October 31st, 2014

F1 journalist TRENTHAM SLEAVES looks ahead to this weekend’s race

trenthamsleaves1The F1 circus has been to Austin just twice before yet already this typically Texan track feels like a fixture on the illustrious calendar and the atmosphere in the paddock is quite, quite unique. Like the local cooking, it’s a rich, full flavoured and heady experience that is impossible to understand unless you are here, which of course I am.

F1 has taken Austin to its heart and vice versa, something I was able to reflect upon last night as I dined alone at Giovani’s Italian Food Center, a delightful restaurant that many well-known motorsport names have rapidly made a firm favourite. Or, as they say in these part, favorite! I recalled my first visit here just one year ago, led to the unassuming premises by a certain former world champion who raced under the number zero! ‘Oh for God’s sake, are you still following me?’ he quipped, before hilariously asking the waiter not to let me join his group. Such a tremendous sense of humour!

Less of laughing matter this weekend is the sad absence of not one but two teams as Marussia and Caterham have been slain by the financial perils that in particular haunt the lower ranking teams in these fiscally punishing times for the sport. Someone who knows all too well the pressures of funding a top flight racing team is my dear friend, Sir Frank Williams, and I was delighted to be able to have a natter with him about this very topic. ‘Oh God, isn’t this something you could bother Claire with you horrible man?’ he joked before reversing away. Good to see some can still find time for a light-hearted quip in these difficult times!

As to this weekend’s racing, it would be absurd to speculate on who will take the famous chequered flag under the big skies of the lone star state but suffice to say I think a Mercedes will clinch it, though one shouldn’t discount the increasingly fearsome Williams’ nor the charging Red Bulls and surprising Ferraris.

Whatever happens, rest assured I will have a prime seat for the action. Because remember, I’m here and you’re not.

Ask a large breathless man

Posted in Columns by Large breathless man on Thursday, October 30th, 2014

American readers’ questions answered by a sturdy gentleman apparently on the verge of a cardiac episode


Dear Large Breathless Man,
I’m looking for a new truck. I have a boat and my kids are getting bigger so I need towing ability and a real big interior. Any suggestions?
Dave, MI

Large Breathless Man replies
I… uh… I think… uh… pfff pffff pfffffff… you shouldn’t… uh, should get… a Chevy… uh…. because…. technology and stuff… ed crust… With extra cheese… fffffffffffff… gnnnngh.

Dear Large Breathless Man,
I’ve driven F150s for 20 years but this new aluminum business plain well puts me off. What alternatives have I got here?
Jon, MO

Large Breathless Man replies
Well… ungh… what you knees… need, uh… is… uh… a levy… Chevy, gnnnn… cuz, it, uh, uh, uh, uh, got… ugh… technology and, uh… I can’t read that… my uhhh… my card got, uh, technology and sweat on it… uhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Dear Large Breathless Man,
I need a powerful motor for my next truck. No six cylinders, a V8. What’s good for power and performance?
Arn, AZ

Large Breathless Man replies
I… uh… uh… uh… uh… uh… uh… uh… uh… uh… you need, gnnn, you need… my arm has gone numb… gnnnnn…. gnnnnnn….. urrrrgh….. please… please… rub more butter on me… uh-hu-huhuh.

Roy Lanchester on vans

Posted in Columns, Roy Lanchester by Roy Lanchester on Friday, October 24th, 2014

RoyLanchester14Have a look around your home. If it’s anything like mine it will have many consumer durables within it and, from the Peugeot pen to the Monroe shock absorbers desk lamp, all of these items had to come from somewhere. How do you think they reached the shop or market stall or press launch? It was almost certainly in a van. Yet we take vans for granted and none more so than the products of Kangjai, better known as Korea’s fifth largest van manufacturer.

I had long overlooked these myself, not least because their press officer was a former Renault man who I had fallen out with in an argument about whether the spare wheels from press cars were mine to remove and sell. It tells you all you need to know about this particular chap that he insisted they weren’t. Fortunately for me, just six months after taking up his position at Kangjai he had to leave the job due to circumstances out of his control, specifically a heart attack and then death. It certainly looks like I had the last laugh there!

His replacement was much more amenable to speaking to me on the phone without swearing and, though he claimed not to have heard of me, he finally agreed to invite me to his next event as long as I promised to end the conversation and get off the phone. It helped of course that I write a website that is now in the top 85 for car-related blogs in northern England!

Just five weeks and three more phone calls later I was delighted to receive an invitation to try out the revamped Kangjai 400 and 600 light-to-medium vans at Broughleigh House Hotel in North Yorkshire, conveniently situated just 15 minutes from On The Limit with Roy Lanchester Towers. Naturally, I was really looking forward to trying these excellent machines.

Shortly afterwards I arrived at the charming Broughleigh House Hotel, its close proximity to my home meaning I could be there bright and early, ready to check-in to my room and prepare for the day ahead. Making my way downstairs again for the technical briefing I encountered Kangjai’s new PR man for the first time in person and what an enquiring fellow he turned out to be, firing endless questions at me such as ‘Have you been drinking from your minibar?’ and ‘No seriously, it’s 11am, have you really been at the minibar?’ I parried his rather impertinent line of questioning and, together with two dozen other ‘muttering rotters’, entered the allotted conference room where a Korean gentleman stood at the front and began to address us. I was sitting next to a rather dull chap from Van & Vanning who failed to see the funny side of my humourous interjections during the presentation and eventually gave me a rather terse explanation of the difference between North and South Korea. Rather pathetic in my view. I’m sure it’s not the first time the Korean gentleman has been called ‘Kim Jong-van’ in a jocular manner!

Suffice to say, the presentation was excellent and gave a highly informative view of these excellent commercial vehicles, as did the electronic press pack handed out afterwards which reminded us that Kangjai strives for the utmost quality and value in the purchase and ownership of a new commercial vehicle and the company has seen a significant 11 percent rise in sales YTD in 2014 which the thorough revamp of core models will build upon as the company bolsters its brand positioning in Q4 and beyond for more details call the Kangjai press offi

Following the presentation, we were invited into an adjacent room for an excellent lunch during which there was plenty of opportunity to ask the waiter to bring some wine and then to sample it. The representatives from Kangjai, however, seemed less keen and began muttering some irrelevances about a ‘driving exercise’ with the excellent new vans that afternoon. I diffused the situation with another large red livener and regaled them with a tremendous anecdote about a visit to Korea with Daewoo many years ago during which I encountered the most extraordinary prostitute.

I had barely reached the part where she removed the apple from whence it had been inserted when I found myself being bodily removed from the room by three or four exceedingly angry men, none of whom would cease in their desire to escort me from the premises, even when I was attempting to be sick. To my disappointment, I was bluntly informed that I was no longer welcome on the launch event and bundled into the back of a vehicle to be driven home on a pile of towels.

Can you guess what sort of vehicle it was? No, me neither. However, I presume it was a Kangjai van and therefore excellent!

Roy Lanchester is the motoring correspondent for Your Knitting magazine and founder of the blog Over The Limit with Roy Lanchester.  (


2014 Russian GP preview

Posted in Columns, Motorsport, Trentham Sleaves by Trentham Sleaves on Friday, October 10th, 2014

F1 journalist and world’s smuggest man TRENTHAM SLEAVES looks forward to this weekend’s race


There’s something wonderful about arriving at a brand new track on the F1 calendar and savouring the paddock atmosphere for the first time, as I did yesterday. Though the air is tinged with sadness following the awful, awful accident that befell my dear friend Jules Bianchi, it is also full of hope and the excitement of the new.

I said as much to my old mate Ron Dennis as we walked together down the pit lane this morning. ‘Please terminate your parallel perambulatory course and cease forthwith this unrequested conversational gambit,’ he quipped! As those who know him well, and I do of course, Ron has always had a marvelous sense of humour!

A new track means new experiences outside of the paddock and I certainly enjoyed one of those as I dined alone at a charming little Italian place I had been recommended by a certain ex-driver and 1996 World Champion who shall remain nameless! The food was revolting and the service appalling but the view was something else. It was of a human waste processing facility! Dear old Damo always did have the most wonderfully mischievous sense of humour to those who know him well, which of course I do!

As to who will take victory on this freshly minted hallowed turf of motorsport, I think the newness of this venue makes any speculation utterly foolish. Suffice to say, I think the Mercedes will have it but Red Bull could be in with a shout and you could never discount Williams or Ferrari though don’t be surprised if the McLarens have a point to prove as well. Whatever happens, rest assured I will have an excellent trackside view of all the action.

Because remember, I’m here and you’re not.