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How a flat held me back from getting Vettel scoop

Published August 29, 2014

One Wednesday back in June, Nissan invited me — and others — out to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to break bread with four-time World Driving Champion Sebastian Vettel and BBC F1 commentator (and a pretty good racing driver in his own right) David Coulthard.

The promotion on the eve of the Grand Prix du Canada weekend in Montreal was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. with a question-and-answer session featuring the two drivers.

As it turned out, that didn’t happen till later but I didn’t know that when I set sail early for CTMP.

I figured that if I arrived at the historic racing circuit north of Bowmanville before any of the other reporters, I’d maybe be able to conduct a private interview with Vettel rather than having to participate in the general media scrum that would happen later.

It is how reporters sometimes snatch exclusive quotes, or even whole stories, out from under the noses of the competition.

So I’m driving along Highway 401, heading for Old Mosport and giggling about how smart I am (I am easily impressed), when I start to hear a strange noise coming out from the back end of my car. Is that a wheel bearing going, I think to myself? I’d better stop and see. So I pull off the highway at Oshawa and I get out and I don’t have a bearing going but I do have a flat tire.

“This is wonderful,” I think. “My plan to beat everybody else out there has now officially backfired and on top of everything else I will probably miss the question-and-answer session too. This means I will have to beg one of my fellow journalists, who I was in the process of trying to scoop, if he or she would please fill me in on what was said so that when I file my story to the Star later I won’t look like more of a dummy than I already am.”

I call the CAA and they are there within minutes. (I mean it; I seldom have had to use their services but when I have, they’ve proved to be fast and efficient.) The fellow takes off my wrecked tire and puts on the bicycle-type tire that passes for a spare car tire these days and he tells me not to go faster than 80 km/h on it and to get my flat tire repaired or replaced, asap.

I say thank you to the CAA guy and off I go to CTMP and when I arrive I find that Vettel and Coulthard haven’t even shown up yet and the whole schedule has had to be re-arranged.

More important — for me, anyway: there’s no chance of having a tête-à-tête with the champ. And since they’re running late, that means I will be running late, later, and how am I going to get my tire fixed?

So I’m standing there in the Corporate Event Centre at CTMP, looking out through the floor-to-ceiling windows over this fabulous racing facility, and I see for the first time in my life a sign that says MICHELIN.

Now, I’ve seen this sign maybe a thousand times previously (I tend to exaggerate) but for one reason or another it has never before registered that, “Hey! There’s a tire store. Right there at the corner of Garage Row at Old Mosport.”

That’s how I came to meet Brad Shimbashi, who operates Braidan Motorsport at CTMP, and two things came out of shaking hands with him: I got a new tire installed and balanced (for a fee) and I got the idea for a story about the stuff that goes on behind-the-scenes of Old Mosport that fans don’t usually see when they show up for a race.

Stephanie Wallcraft researched and wrote that story and you can read it today on Page W18.

Now, before I go, the next time I get feeling chatty, remind me to tell you how close Sebastian Vettel and I came to disaster when he took me out in a car later that day for a couple of hot laps around that wonderful old race track.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca

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