A little over a year ago I began to write bits and bobs here on Oppo in what I freely admit was a of spur of the moment sort of thing. I was grounded with a nasty injury and so while injured I figured that it might be pretty good fun to write about my love of cars to keep busy. Little did I know where it would lead...
Last week I attended my first international car launch for the new Ford Focus ST on behalf of drivingspirit.com. The launch was situated just outside of Barcelona, in the cava producing region of Catalonia, Spain. Taking place over the course of two days, me and my pal Gav from petrolblog.com shared a couple of new Focus ST's and duly put them to task through the exceptional driving routes of Catalonia. If you're curious (and I'm hoping you are!), my review on the car is just below this paragraph, but I actually wanted to discuss my general experience of the launch in this little blog piece. I'm hoping it'll be a cool little insight into what it was really like to be at a big launch.
Being really rather new (compared to the other journalists on the launch) to this whole writing thing, I was of course a little worried about how I may be received by the professionals, but they actually couldn't have been more welcoming. Any time I spent with the people who do this rather better than I do was warm, friendly, and bloody good fun. From funny stories about Mika Hakkinen, to top tips on how to avoid trouble on and off road ("don't crash the car", "don't tell your partner how good these events are"), each and every one of the journalists I met were great people to be around, and I hope that I'll get more chances to hang out with them on future events.
So, what was it like driving through mountainous Catalonia? Pretty spectacular to be honest. We weren't so lucky with the weather on the first day, but being British it didn't really put us off much. That first day was spent in the diesel hatch, a torque monster that would wheelspin on the greasy roads right up into 3rd gear. Changes in the concrete at the sides of the Catalan roads nearly caught me out, and for a moment around a right angle corner we were sliding quite dramatically. Thankfully a combination of the electronic safety systems and my steering inputs helped avoid anything embarrassing, but one car was crashed on that first day. Major injuries were avoided thankfully, but it was a timely reminder to take care on these tricky roads.
We were fortunate enough to stay in an absolutely beautiful hotel up at Tibidabo, overlooking the entirety of Barcelona. The views are really hard to do justice to with just words, so here are a couple of snaps I took; one at night, and one from the morning before leaving.
As you can see, it really is a staggeringly beautiful location and I felt very lucky to be there looking at one of my favourite cities in the world. Worth showing you I feel, but anyway, back to the event!
On the launch we were given a set route to follow, taking us through the twisting mountainous roads up into the national park around the multi-pointed mountain of Monserrat. It was up here I got some of the better pictures of the car you'll see attached to my review, and they were absolutely some of the best driving roads I've been on to date. On and off camber, tightening, opening, fast, slow... you name it, the region had the lot and on the second day when the sun emerged we were able to attack the corners with a little more confidence. It was a fantastic day of chasing each other across Catalonia, and just about as much fun I've had in a car since driving the Morgan 3-wheeler near Malvern. I can honestly say it was just like being in your own living, breathing motoring show. Truly superb stuff.
Without a doubt this job is the best 'job' in the world. Throughout the entire experience I was absolutely aware of just how lucky I was to be doing what I was doing. I also remembered where I started. Because you guys read, commented, shared my articles, etc etc, I was able to grow as a writer, getting better (hopefully!) and becoming somebody worth inviting to one of these important events. We haven't always agreed on things, but we've always had good natured and entertaining discussions on the matters!
I really hope that I can provide a bit of insight as to what it is like doing this as I (again hopefully!) do more events. If you have any questions about the whole thing I'll do my best to answer them!
Hope you enjoyed this little piece anyway... if you rate it as being alright I might try and do one after each event? What do you think? You guys let me know, I'll leave it up to you.