What a massive opportunity it was to take part in last weekend's FIA Motorsport Games in Marseille, France. Seventy-four countries were represented competing in 16 different disciplines that included circuit racing, rallying and E-Sports. I was there as co-driver and coach for Indian rally driver Sanjay Takale who was competing in the Rally 4 category in a Peugeot 208.
We've worked together before, as team-mates at Cusco Racing in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and then at the Estonia Rally in 2016, where again I was Sanjay's co-driver and coach.
There was an extra challenge at the FIA Motorsport Games though as this was Sanjay's first event on tarmac and in a left-hand drive car. The mountain roads in the South of France are used for many rallies including the famous Monte Carlo and we were fortunate to have time for some testing before going out to recce the course and write our paces notes.
The huge start ceremony on the waterfront at Marseille was followed by qualifying laps around the Formula-one circuit of Paul Ricard, where the service-park and event was based. Compared to many rally service-parks this was luxury, huge marques housed the teams on a tarmac base with catering French-style available to all competitors.
The stages were very to close to the circuit and were a good mixture of fast and sweeping corners to tight and twisty, with lots of grip. Sanjay got quicker and quicker as the event went on and the last 16km stage was his best, shaving 10 seconds off his earlier run through the same stage and really committing to the braking points.
We didn't win but finished with a flourish and the FIA gave Sanjay a very special award saying they were impressed with the way he took on the European drivers and ‘at this age, 54, you drove like a youngster!'.
All in all a great experience and I'd certainly like to return to the next FIA Motorsport Games that will be held in 2024 in Valencia, Spain. Next time though I'll fly the New Zealand flag.