Wake up at about 1pm, or maybe it’s even later. Who cares? As long as I’m out of my hotel room by 3pm I’ll be happy.
This is not a case of me being the laziest journalist in the world. It’s just that I’m on the west coast of America for a mere 48 hours, so I’m determined to remain on British time. My meeting with Carlos Ghosn, worldwide boss of Nissan is at 4pm (8am California time).
The previous day, just a few hours after I stepped off a plane from London, Ghosn arranged for me to drive a total of 26 Nissans.
Driving a handful of multimillion pound, one-off concept cars in a single day is something that I’m used to.
Driving dozens of weird, alien motors with names like Moco, Cube Cubic, Kubistar and Sylphy is unusual, even for a man in my line of work.
After my interview with Ghosn it’s time to pack, check out of my hotel, tip the hardworking room maids and avoid the bell boys (who expect tips in return for nothing).
BA gets me back to London, more or less on time but there’s trouble for me, Nat Barnes from the Express and several other people who’ve flown overnight from San Fran. Our bags are lost. The searching, fruitless discussions and form-filling wastes about two hours. A BA representative tells me not to worry because my case (containing laptop, camera, tape recorder, paperwork, phone charger and a whole lot more) will be sent to my home. That’s not much comfort to me since I’m travelling from Heathrow to Le Mans for the 24-hour race. Even assuming that BA can locate my luggage, the airline offers no guarantee that it can get my possessions to me in France – especially as I’m not going to be staying at an hotel at Le Mans but will, instead, live in an Audi-supplied 6ftx6ft sleep/work capsule inside the vast, packed circuit where a BA delivery driver simply wouldn’t be allowed access.
The BA rep adds insult to injury by handing me an overnight pack consisting of very basic toiletries, a tacky BA T-shirt (nice) and a pair of hideous mega-stretch Y-fronts (even nicer), that are conveniently designed to fit everyone from Jodie Kidd to John Prescott.
Spend more valuable time buying proper emergency clothing and equipment in and around Waterloo, where I catch an evening Eurostar train.
Check into my Paris hotel room at about 10.30pm.
No time to get to Le Mans tonight.
My train pulls into Le Mans station on time at 9.30am but the Jaguar driver isn’t there to meet me as promised.
Can’t see any taxis or buses either, but I do spot a man in the station bookshop who looks suspiciously like former F1 and Le Mans driver, Perry McCarthy. And he’s got the keys to an Audi parked outside. And yes, he’ll gladly drive me to the circuit if I buy him a cup of coffee.
By 11.30am I’m out on the fullblown Le Mans circuit, road testing Jaguar’s new XKR, which does 155mph.
Dinner trackside is delightful. I’m on the same cramped table as my friend and former colleague, Ginny Buckley, the new face of BBC’s holiday programmes; Nick Mason from Pink Floyd; Audi PR boss Jon Zammett and the hilarious Robbie Coltrane, who insists that a wall be removed because he can’t see the race.
Zammett actually makes enquiries about having it demolished.
Just after midnight we get to experience what 24-hour racing at Le Mans is all about – noisy cars hurtling through the forest at heart-stopping, flat-out speeds. Being out in the woods, in the dark, with the mostly jovial, occasionally serious Coltrane is surreal and just a bit scary.
I’ve borrowed a camera and I’m back in the pits by about 2am, getting some great shots of cars being rebuilt, mechanics trying to stay awake and drivers preparing themselves for the life-threatening night work they’re about to undertake. Rather them than me. Footballers aren’t brave but Le Mans race drivers are.
Collapse in to my 6×6 capsule at about 4.30am. Sleep well, despite the thunderous noise from the race cars.
Drag myself away from Le Mans around lunchtime because I’ve got to get up to Paris in time for a 4pm flight to Lisbon. Arrive at the stadium for the England v France game 10 minutes before kick-off. Wish I hadn’t bothered.
My weekly Auto Express column is due to be filed today but my source material and laptop are in the lost suitcase, which is at my home in England, I’m reliably informed.
Get out of lovely Lisbon as soon as possible but it’s a late and inevitably delayed flight. When I get home, I’m reunited with my luggage and therefore able to write the column before crashing out.
It’s the simplest job of the year as I cover the Canary Wharf Motorexpo, which is a 30-minute drive from my house.
Get back to the family home at a reasonable time and see my kids for the first time in more than a week. They briefly tell me about their exams, their new guitar teacher and their imminent tae kwon do grading sessions.
Write my weekly two-page motoring column for Friday’s Daily Mirror.
My world exclusive story about driving a Jag on the full-blown Le Mans circuit just hours before the start of the world’s greatest motor race goes down well. But minor problems, a deluge of unexpected phone calls and pictures that fail to turn up result in me sitting at my desk for many more hours longer than planned.
I finally get home at about 9pm, aware that I’ve promised to take my kids out for a meal. Too late. They’re both fast asleep, no doubt tired of waiting for the old man.
If it wasn’t for the fact that it robs me of so much precious time with my children, I could honestly say that I reckon I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world.