The month of October was an extremely hectic one for me; just think about being in nine different countries on three different continents in nineteen days. I would have to say it was one of the most interesting and diverse schedules in my career and this is after the regular season had ended.
Right at the beginning of October I got notification that I'd be doing the MRF Challenge series in India on the grand prix race weekend at the Buddh International Circuit. I already knew I was headed back to England on Oct.10 to prepare for my first World Series Formula Renault 3.5 test in Barcelona, but this added a whole new adventure to the trip. I didn't have enough time to organize an Indian visa on my American passport because it would, at the very least, take a couple days; so I had to frantically see if I could get an visa on my Irish passport, when I got to England (yes, I have two passports and it does indeed make me feel like James Bond).
With some help, I was able to find out that I could get an Indian visa on my Irish passport in a day (with an added fee...) if I went to the Indian Embassy in Dublin. This was good news; it meant I could actually race in India. So on Oct. 9, the night before I was supposed to fly to England, I had to quickly add a flight from London to Dublin on the day I arrived in London.
After a little sleep on the 10th, I departed the good ol' US of A with a suitcase packed for three weeks, which meant it would become rather smelly after two. I got to London early on the morning of the 11th had enough time to drop off my stuff at my UK address and had to leave that night for Dublin. I slept a little during the day because I was feeling quite sick with a cold or something worse that I caught in Indiana. At this stage of the trip, I had no time to be sick, though.
I woke up early the next morning in Dublin to be near the front of the line at the Indian embassy – and of course I was beaten by several other hopeful people. I had all kinds of documents, passport-sized photos, and letters from India saying I could swing by and do some motor racing in their country. The Indian official didn't seem to be very happy with what I brought him, mainly because I wasn't quite sure how to make the payment for what I needed. He just shouted at me and told me to go to a post office and get some postal order (an Irish cashiers check). I ran to the post office to get what he needed and went back and waited again, this time in a longer line. It was getting to the point in the day where they wouldn't accept any more visa applications, so I was happy when I got to the front of the line.
He started shouting at me again saying I needed something else (which would have been great to have known the first time at the window). A second trip to the post office was required and when I returned, I skipped the line and gave him all the stuff he needed. Finally, in the late afternoon, I left the Indian embassy armed with the required visa and headed back to the airport.
After a quick two days in England, it was time to take my road show to Toulouse, France. I was going to spend a few days with the Tech 1 Race Team preparing to drive their World Series by Renault car the next week in Barcelona. I was able to make my seat at their workshop, go over data, on-board videos and study anything I could to be as prepared as possible for the test.
On Thursday morning we drove together to Barcelona for the final round of the World Series by Renault championship. It was very difficult to be patient to wait for my opportunity to drive, because both of my GP3 teammates from this season – Aaro Vainio and Daniel Abt – were racing that weekend and so was one of our other homies, Antonio Felix da Costa. I knew a lot of the guys in the race, which is always difficult because you want to be out on track battling with them.
Renault does a great job with their events because they get huge crowds and have a lot of cool stuff going on during the weekend. I was able to sit down with Tech 1's drivers – Jules Bianchi and my teammate Daniel – after all their sessions, which was another great bit of preparation. Jules was fighting for the championship that weekend and it came down to the final race on Sunday.
Unfortunately, after putting forth an incredible effort to get ahead of his championship rival Robin Frijns, he was knocked off track and out of the race by Robin. I hated to see a championship end that way, it was not right...
The good news for me, though, was that the next time the cars would be on track, I would be driving one of them. The test was a two-day program and I was originally only scheduled to do one day, but thankfully we were able to work it out with the great people at Tech 1 and some of my supporters back home to do both days. These cars take a lot to learn and it was hugely beneficial to do both days.