I’ve been a bit quiet on DGB for the last few days. The reason being the winner’s event for the 2014 National Fenestration Awards. We’re going to write a full review of the event over on the NFA website, but this post is about my own personal view of the day.

Nerves and excitement

I would say that in the days leading up to the event, I was probably a massive pain in the arse to live with. I was a mixture of nerves and excitement as the day drew closer and closer. I was keeping an eye on social media to see what people were saying about the upcoming day, and everyone seemed really excited to get there.

They day of course was at Oulton Park race track, racing some top notch cars around one of the best facilities in the UK. When we sat down to decide how we wanted to celebrate the winners, we were determined to try and do something different. The NFAs are different after all, so the event had to be different too. We had thought about a dinner at one point, but there are dozens of those already, and the initial reaction to that idea from some was flat at best. But when we floated this idea, the excitement from those we talked to about it was obvious.

So we ran with that. It was going to be initially at Brands Hatch. But on reflection, looking at the location of the majority of winners, we decided that Oulton Park was probably the better choice.

Excellent facilities and service

I’ve never been to this sort of event before in my life, so I didn’t really have any expectations as to what to expect. It also meant it was a risk. Because no one in the NFA team had done something like this before, this was a risk. We were trying a formula that may not have worked.

But right from the off we were all impressed. Even the guy at the gate pointing out where we needed to go in the rain and wind impressed us. Each and every staff member did their very best to make us all feel welcome. You could tell quite clearly that every single person working there was passionate about what they did. From the reception staff, team leaders, event manager and catering staff, they were all fantastic. That helped to create a polished, professional but relaxed event everyone enjoyed.

The day…

It all kicked off at 10am with registration and breakfast. You can’t have a day of racing cars without a good hearty breakfast! The group was then split into two teams, Hamilton and Button. Each team would then take part in racing excellent Caterham 7s, 4 x 4 Defenders on a brilliant off-road circuit, and brand spanking new Toyota GT 86 Rally cars across a dedicated wet track.

The morning saw both teams take on one car each in the morning. One team took on the Defender challenge over a really funky, tricky course which saw them go through water, balance on logs and try and hit white markers with their wing mirrors! The other team took on the Caterham 7s in a head to head battle with each other. Both went down well. Some initially nervous drivers came back buzzing to a fantastic lunch and ready to get back out there!

The afternoon saw myself join in some of the fun by joining the group that had yet to have a go in the Caterhams and the brand new Toyota GT 86 rally cars. Needless to say, both were absolutely fantastic! Although I did get my backside whooped by my girlfriend in the Caterhams!

With a breezy but awesome day of driving done, it was back to the Foggarty Moss suite for more refreshments and the main reason we were all there. Nervous as hell, I got up and announced who the winning drivers were in all three of the vehicle challenges. It was the speaking at the end which I was most anxious about all day, so I thought if I started with that, it would settle me down nicely for the giving out of the NFA trophies. It did, sort of. When you read the main event review on the NFA website, look out for some bloody awkward handshakes and handovers from me to the winners. I’ve never done anything like that before, and you could tell! Still, you live and learn, and I’ll be practising my handovers for the next one!

The people

The guys and girls that came and represented their companies at this event were an absolutely top notch bunch of people. If there was a group of people I had to pick to represent the industry as a whole, it would have been these guys. They were all genuinely nice, down to earth, friendly people who demonstrated the professional, fun hard working side of our industry. And this isn’t flattery for flattery’s sake.

Everyone seemed to get on really well throughout the day, and the evening drinks at the Macdonald Portal Hotel just a few miles from the track. It was a perfect way to relax and re-live the day. It was fantastic to see everyone talking about how much fun they had and how it was nice to do something that they wouldn’t normally get to do. It was also a relief for the team and myself to know that this previously untested formula seems to have worked. People were already saying they were looking forward to the next time, before we’d even said we’d be doing it again. So I guess that decision has been made for us!

Any criticisms?

Those who attended were all very nice in saying how much they enjoyed the day and evening. We were all bowled over with how well this very first NFA winners event went.

But on reflection, I think if there were anything to criticise, I would say it would probably have been my own performance at the time I had to speak after the racing was done. I was nervous, and sort of learning as I went along. This meant I made a few slip ups, like the awkward handing over of trophies, a couple of stumbles etc. Althoug everyone was very kind to say I did well.

Next time, there will be a proper speech planned out. I’ll learn from this time round and hopefully make a better, slicker effort, and learn how to hand over a trophy lol! I don’t think it spoiled anything though. This is just me being a bit picky.

Also, the time of day when they awards are physically given out may change for the next one. We’re already looking to grow the support for the next race day and that will mean more cars and a slightly longer programme of events. So the giving out of trophies may need a re-think.

I wouldn’t call these criticisms, but things to tweak and change for the next time. Overall, the team and myself were overwhelmed at just how well our first event seemed to go. Nothing went wrong. Everyone really enjoyed themselves. Everyone wants another one! I don’t think it’s quite sunk in what we have managed to achieve. Coming from absolutely nothing to this, in such a short space of time is incredible.

So I want to say a very personal and sincere thanks to everyone involved. To Lee, Michael and Sophie, the other three very important members of the NFA team. To The VEKA UK Group and GQA Qualifications, who were our main event sponsors. To all those who turned up to pick up trophies. To all those who have nominated, voted, tweeted, Google +’ed, Facebooked. To all the other sponsors and to all those who have supported us in their own little ways. It all counts and helped us to make Thursday a day myself, the NFA team and of course the winners, will never forget!

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