Prestigious Grand Prix turns into a ‘Wheel’ Challenge

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(L to R) SGMW events officer Chris Rees, FIAT press relations manager Conor Twomey, SGMW chairman Sue Baker and Karting Grand Prix 'co-conspirator' Massimo Pini.

(L to R) SGMW events officer Chris Rees, FIAT press relations manager Conor Twomey, SGMW chairman Sue Baker and Karting Grand Prix ‘co-conspirator’ Massimo Pini.

FIAT’S press and PR department has been presented with a steering wheel trophy to mark its victory earlier this year in the Southern Group of Motoring Writers’ Karting Grand Prix.

But the FIAT team has just a couple of months to bask in the trophy’s glory before donning race suits and helmets once more to defend the title, and all because there was never intended to be another grand prix…or even a trophy.

SGMW chairman Sue Baker explained: “We had thought long and hard about staging a ‘thank you’ event for our friends in motor industry PR, but February’s grand prix was only ever intended to be a one-off.

“Instead, it was a far greater success than we had hoped, raising £3,325 towards an excellent cause, the lifesaving efforts of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance.

“And the question kept being asked: ‘So, when’s the next one?’ By the summer, we realised that we just had do it again on many counts: by popular demand, for deserving charities and, dare I say it, so some teams could seek revenge.

“But it meant we also had to create a decent trophy, which proved harder than expected, but was achieved by great SGMW teamwork: Robert Couldwell researched and sourced  a splendid Moto-Lita leather-covered sports steering wheel, events officer Chris Rees tracked down a bespoke – no puns intended – trophy maker in Tunbridge Wells, and I acted as ‘courier’ during some road tests.”

Sue, Chris and Massimo Pini – who originated the Grand Prix along with SGMW colleague Kevin Haggarthy – then travelled to FIAT UK HQ at Slough where the trophy was accepted by a member of the victorious team, press relations manager Conor Twomey, who said:

“I think the SGMW has created a fantastic charity event. It was great fun, especially going wheel to wheel with some surprisingly professional-looking competitors, but that made top honours on the night all the sweeter.

“We now look forward to defending the title in the New Year and battling again for the fine new trophy sourced by the SGMW.

“We love it. It’s far more appropriate than the sort of six-foot tall glass and chrome monstrosities favoured by the wider motor racing world.

“(laughing) As other departments can now see it quite clearly from across the office, we also know we are finally getting the respect here that we deserve!”

A total of 81 drivers across 18 teams took part at the original event, watched by many colleagues and supporters. The re-match is on Thursday 5th February 2015 at the same venue, TeamSport Karting in Crawley, which offers an 800-metre international track on three floors, allowing a top speed of 40mph in 200cc karts.

SGMW’s Chris Rees added: “Invitations have gone out to 30 potential teams, but the venue can only handle a maximum of 20, so it’s first come first served and we have a deadline of January 9 for entries. So, forget those last minute Christmas cards: this is your priority if you want to race…or get your revenge!”

NB – The top teams at the inaugural event were: 1 – Fiat, 2 – Audi and 3 – Porsche. Best drivers: 1 – Harrison Scott (Ford), 2 – Chris Clubley (Fiat) and 3 – Rob Punshon (Porsche).

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