Where’s a leap year when you need one? The moment dawned on Josie Rimmer and I at the same time. March… it’s next week.
It was Sunday, February 19 and we were finalizing the content program that would carry DirtFish through its second ever Women’s Month. We need an introduction, a banger to get us going on March 1.
Realization dawned. A fortnight from here and we would be in the middle of the thing. Three weeks from now and the Summit would be done. Done.
Profanities bounced back across the Atlantic, then Josie did what Josie does. She got things done. A fortnight later we were in the middle of the thing – and the thing was flying.
And three weeks on from that slightly panicked Sunday, Josie and I went for lunch in one of Seattle’s coolest Pike Place restaurants. Neither of us will forget it. Sitting with us?
The world’s most successful female in the history of motorsport.
Welcome to Seattle, Michèle Mouton.
March is a day from being done. This is one of the final pieces of WiM content we’ll run through Women’s Month for another year.
It’s a moment to relax the shoulders, but it’s also a moment to look ahead. The debrief starts tomorrow morning. By the afternoon of April 1, we’ll have a skeleton plan in place for Women’s Month, 2024. And possibly something even bigger.
That’s tomorrow. Today’s about a reflection of something quite extraordinary.
I’ve got to be honest and say I’ve wrestled with this one a little bit. Was it my place to write something about the Summit?
As the month has rolled on and more and more cool content has flashed across the homepage, I’ve felt a stronger and stronger desire for the sensation that was the Summit not to get caught up in what’s been an epic March.
As you can imagine, preparing the School for around 500 staff and visitors was not the work of a moment. Typically beefy Washington weather kept the team on their toes as they raised the biggest tent I’d ever seen, while a pause in the downpour offered a slightly steamed up window of opportunity for the digital geniuses to flick the right switches to send the stream right around the world.
The work that went into the Summit was insane. It rolled out with military precision.
Until around 11.30am on Saturday March 11. Having 400 seats in a room can be slightly intimidating – especially when only around 50 of them are filled.
It was 30 minutes before she opened proceedings with an A-list panel comprising Mouton, Pernilla Solberg and Rhianon Gelsomino. Josie turned white.
“There’s nobody here…”
Fortunately, her radio channel cracked with a request for her elsewhere on site. Distracted, she fixed the next thing.
What was going on? The car park looked full.
Where had those people gone? I got distracted. At 11.55am I went back to the tent (we need to stop calling it a tent, it was a monster marque… but that doesn’t seem to be a thing Stateside). Even approaching the door, the feeling was obviously different.
There was so much more chatter coming from inside. The place was full.
Folk had been distracted by the world’s coolest School, not to mention a display of some of world rallying’s finest finery. The next problem was that they wouldn’t stop coming.
The seats were all gone and standing room was spilling outside.
Now with a touch more color about her, Josie agreed to stall the start by five minutes to allow everybody to try to find somewhere to stand.
The McRae Room, which hosted the Summit last year, was pressed into action with the stream being shown on the big screen. Classrooms, offices and store rooms were emptied of seats and the show was good to go.
All six panellists (Mouton, Solberg, Gelsomino, Leanne Junnila, Heather Holler and DirtFish’s very own Michelle Miller) would walk into the back of the tent. Nothing; nothing could prepare any of them for the reception.
The cheering started as soon as they set foot inside and it ramped up and up and up. Last in, the atmosphere and the wall of noise smacked Michelle between the eyes. She paused briefly and let out an emotional: “Oh my…”
Don’t worry. Those hairs on the back of your neck will eventually return to their normal position. Eventually the noise died down and the Summit was well and truly go.
“Champagne,” said Michèle.
It’s a day later. Lunch.
“Josie,” said the four-time world rally winner, “I never felt emotion like this – not in all of my career. These people were coming to me with tears coming down their faces. It was unbelievable. The welcome and the warmth from everybody.”
The Frenchwoman’s voice trails away. She doesn’t need to say more. Nobody does.
The Summit wasn’t just a success, March wasn’t just a success, DirtFish did Women in Motorsport proud.
Once again, Josie made the world stop and stare.