It’s that time of year again. The nights are already drawing in at an alarming rate, a coat is definitely required clothing and shopkeepers across the land seem to believe that putting out dodgy plastic trees will encourage people to part with their cash in case they’ve forgotten that Christmas is fast approaching.
It’s also around about this time of year that most of us enter into a period of reflection, looking back on the past 12 months with the added benefit of hindsight and recalling some of its defining moments.
In keeping with the general theme of this blog (motor sports if you hadn’t already guessed), I sat and pondered which of the many events this year really stood out in my mind. And after a nanosecond’s worth of thought, I came to the conclusion that it had to be Nick Tandy’s maiden British Formula 3 win at Rockingham this summer.
This wasn’t just any conventional win. After two and a half weeks of turmoil, this was the result that everyone wanted for Nick Tandy and JTR.
On a gloriously sunny May day at his local circuit, Tandy paid the perfect tribute to his brother Joe – killed in a car accident earlier in the month – by claiming his and the team’s maiden victory in Britain’s premier producer of talent.
After such a loss, Tandy’s sublime performance under what must have been difficult conditions provided a much-needed tonic for all those who knew JTR’s founding father.
An emotional weekend began with a moving minute’s silence, held outside the team’s garage before racing began, said everything about how much people had regarded Joe Tandy and how sorely he would be missed in both Formula Ford and British F3.
With a dark cloud of grief looming over the Rockingham paddock, JTR put on a brave face and focused its sorrow and efforts into what was a sterling effort on the racetrack, which Nick duly produced as he coupled some good fortune with a stellar drive behind the wheel of his Mygale-Mercedes, to seal the most popular win of the season.
Lady Luck shone down at the start of the race, as championship leader Daniel Ricciardo locked up and walloped Dutchman Renger van der Zande as they tried to sweep around the hairpin on the first lap. This tangle then held up Marcus Ericsson and provided Tandy enough time to cut underneath all three.
And from there Tandy simply drove away from the rest of the field. After 25 emotional laps, constantly chatting with his engineer to try and remain focused and avoid any thoughts of his brother, he clinched a comfortable 8.6s victory over Ericsson.
There was more to come as he crossed the line, as he tried to dabble in a spot of tyre-smoking celebration with his emphatic JTR crew, but would you know it, the front-right suspension promptly collapsed and nearly sent him careering into the pit straight wall!
An odd ending, which couldn’t take the shine off what was a memorable triumph under enormously difficult conditions for Tandy. He merely climbed out of his stricken car and embarked on a Jeson Buttonesque trot down to the pitlane to join his team whilst receiving a standing ovation from the thousands of spectators lining the circuit.
“What a tribute to Joe. That was for you brother, that was for you!
“He made this car the fastest out there today and my God was it fast. What a team, what a car and what an engine. F3 race-winner – that sounds really good. Joe would have been proud.”
A delighted Tandy exclaimed shortly after the race, and I have absolutely no doubt that his brother would have been immensely proud of his team’s performance. I know I was. Sat there on the banking of Rockingham that afternoon, receiving a huge dose of gratification after watching one of the hardest racers on the F3 grid not become derailed by tragedy.