It was Bruno Senna’s first WEC race at Silverstone and a momentous occasion at that. For Clara Bennett though, it was a dream come true. She got to meet and hang with Bruno and watch him take the first place on the podium for Aston Martin Racing. This is how it happened.
By Clara Bennett
On the Friday the 12th of April 2013, I set foot on Silverstone circuit for the very first time, after almost 20 years as a motorsports fan. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this was ever going to happen for me! I had waited so long for this moment. I felt excited, nervous, sick; there were tears in my eyes and millions of butterflies in my stomach, and that still doesn’t come close to describing how I really felt.
It all started when it was announced that Bruno would race for Aston Martin in WEC after he did not get a competitive drive in F1 and chose to walk away from the sport. I was devastated that Bruno wasn’t going to be in F1 anymore. Two of my greatest loves in life, Bruno and F1 were no more.
Then I realized that this was my chance to finally see him race. It was more affordable than F1 and after missed opportunities I wasn’t going to let this one slip away. I was going to make it happen, no matter what it took. It was touch and go for a while, but in the end I made it happen. Everything was booked. I was going to see Bruno Senna race live, right in front of my very eyes and hopefully meet him too. I had all my hopes pinned on the autograph session on the Sunday morning.
The time arrived for me to make my way to the UK where my first stop would be Donington Park. As a massive fan of the legend that is Ayrton Senna, I wasn’t missing the chance to see where he won that amazing race in 1993, and see some of his cars. As we drove into Donington in our taxi, straight from the airport just after 9am that Thursday morning, the first thing I saw was that amazing memorial to Ayrton and Fangio. I had only ever seen it in pictures. I have no words to describe how I felt, standing in front of it and seeing it in person! I was running around like a crazy person. To see Ayrton’s cars and to be able to touch them was a dream come true. This was as close as I was ever going to get to Ayrton. What an amazing start to my journey. I couldn’t have asked for more. I even got to touch the steering wheel of one of his McLaren’s. Awesome! I was finally able to do my happy dance. It was a very special moment.
I was very sad to leave Donington. I wanted to stay forever, but it was off to the hotel and get sorted to see Bruno the next day. I was full of adrenaline and couldn’t sleep that night for what tomorrow would bring.
Friday morning arrived and I was finally off to Silverstone. The minute I walked in I was like, yes, I’ve finally made it. I could hear cars out on the circuit and it was like music to my ears. I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to happen for me and here I was, in a place I had only seen on television at home. We walked into the entrance to the garages and went straight down to Aston Martin garage. I was asking where Bruno was and when he would be around. Bless them they were so nice with us. We got to go into the garage and hang out. We saw and heard the cars up close and personal as they worked away. I was standing in the Aston Martin garage looking out into the pit lane… and oh my God, just opposite was the pit wall and the grandstands. I just stood there and took it all in, tears in my eyes. I never thought I would get that close in a million years!
I walked out and saw the cars coming into the pit and going out. After about two hours we were at the back of the garage and on the lookout for one Bruno Senna. We were standing there chatting and taking everything in, when a group of people go into the motor home and the last person was Bruno!!!!!!!! I wanted to go over to him, but I just stood there thinking, Oh my God, that is Bruno Senna right in front of my very eyes. As we waited for him to come back out, which took forever, I went through a million emotions. I told myself, “Be cool, be cool Clara and for God’s sake, don’t cry and make a fool of yourself in front of Bruno!”
And then out walked Bruno with one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen. I was numb and I couldn’t feel a thing. I was standing there looking at him. People came from nowhere and I stood there waiting my turn. I can’t remember what I said, but we just started talking and then he signed the Bruno’s Girls logo for me that I had printed out. He was so friendly and I couldn’t believe how down-to-earth he was.
Bruno Senna is one of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet, so happy and willing to give his time to fans. He was joking and laughing with us, happy to sign everything we had and take many photos. I couldn’t get over how normal he was. He was just a regular nice guy. He lived up to my expectations and more.
After we finished and let his other fans have him for a while, we went back into the garage! Here comes one of the greatest moments of my life. I was in desperate need of a wee, as I had held it in for two hours while in the garage and waiting for Bruno. We were going to leave when we were told that we could use the toilet in the garage. We were very appreciative and in we went. I went first and as I was washing my hands I could have sworn, I heard Bruno’s voice coming from the hallway. I brushed it off. I was thinking, “That can’t be right as he went off after we had met him.” I walked out to see my friend Jodie’s face tell a different story. She told me Bruno had come in to use the toilet and asked her if it was locked. She said yes it’s in use. He responded with a “ooohhhhh” and ran off holding himself. He was also in desperate need of a pee like we were! I was in the toilet when Bruno Senna came in for a wee! I’m going to tell this story for the rest of my life and I would just like to say, if you are reading this Bruno, I’m sorry!
The Saturday I got to have #TeaWithBruno!!!!! Another 20 minutes well spent with the lovely Bruno. He was so at home with us. I really can’t get over how nice he is. He chatted away as if we were all great friends, signed more stuff for us and took more pictures with us. We talked about the race and his excitement at being on pole position. He was looking forward to the race and what it would bring. He spoke about how cold he was, bless him. He doesn’t like the cold, it’s makes him very sad to see people walking around in t-shirts. Ha! Ha! He has a great sense of humour. He commented on my Ayrton helmet design phone cover and said it was lovely, but pointed out that it wasn’t his, but Ayrton’s helmet. Ha! Ha! I showed him my small tribute to Ayrton, a tattoo of Ayrton’s logo. He thought it was lovely. That was another day of meeting Bruno.
On Sunday, we arrived to line up for the pit lane walk and autograph session. I was going for the hatrick of meeting Bruno three days in a row. After all three is my lucky number. And there he was once again! I was looking forward to the race and honoured to say I met Bruno three days in a row. I wish I could put in all that happened, but then, you would be here for days reading it.
All I can say is, I had four of the best days in my life. I got to see and touch Ayrton’s cars and Bruno. I’m an even bigger fan now if that is possible. I got to see him race, I got to see him on the top step of the podium, where he belongs. I got to see racecars right in front of my eyes and hear them racing around track. I got to go to Silverstone! To say it was a dream come true is an understatement. I couldn’t have asked for a better time. I got everything I wanted and more, much more.
I got to have my cake and eat it too! Bruno you have given one of your biggest fans (me), a very special memory that I will treasure and bore people with for the rest of my life! 🙂
All images copyright Clara Bennett.
Follow Clara on Twitter