Ellen Witte and I arrived at Düsseldorf on the 3th October around 9.30 in the morning. We were both quite nervous and anxious because there was still much to do before meeting the teams.
Much time spent talking about them and still no idea of their personalities. Ellen asked who according to me would be the Drive Me winner, but frankly I had no clue, since they were the best drivers worldwide. We cheered for our own countries but we quietly hoped to see a surprising final either with a female winning driver or a newcomer on the podium.
When I met the teams I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to know them better. They were like stars to me, I knew everything about them, their names and their expectations, but at the same time they had no idea of who I was. During the evening I met a funny Noe Astorga, a self-confident and smiling Denis Jakobsen, a reserved and kind Roy Cheuk, a good-hearted Macdonald Saasa. The team from Switzerland was particularly cheerful. Massimo Ruggeri, from Lugano, took his chance to speak Italian to me and shared his emotions and fears about the challenge, but at the same time he seemed quite resolute to achieve a respectable result.
Despite all the difficulties with the language, the teams managed to share ideas, experiences and tips.
The following day it was pouring rain. The teams woke up very early trying to disguise their tiredness and muster their strength before the challenge. I could perceive the tension nonetheless nobody seemed too worried about the result.
After the tour of the track and the oral briefing, the teams lined up for the Le Mans start. At a weak horn blast the drivers started to look each other without knowing what to do, but they soon realized that it was time to compete. Slalom, narrow curve and up-hill start were only some of the obstacles that the teams had to face and some of the participants got carried away with competitiveness.
After two hours, four minutes and six seconds the first team cut the tape, but the competition was not only about speed.
France for the second consecutive time excelled in eco and safe driving as well as customer experience. Bernard Mach and the co-driver Alfred Chantre were visibly happy and satisfied. Despite I didn’t know French I could congratulate them personally and Viviane Reichert, 2011 Drive Me winner, was there to salute them and celebrate them.
Italy was again on the podium. Rosario Lipani and Joost Bous were so self-critical that they didn’t believe they performed so well. The real surprise was the second classified: the newcomer Greece. The humble and reserved Vasilios Panoutsakopoulos together with the sunny and yielding Kostas Adamopoulos performed extremely well in all the categories.
The challenge really took my breath away and it was an honour to meet all those incredible drivers. It was amazing to realise that despite the competitiveness all drivers were all mainly interested in the experience itself and meeting their colleagues from around the Globe. The Drive Me spirit is once more alive and continues to flourish in the TNT driver’s community.