Although we’re only entering the second round of the 2016 Blancpain Sprint Cup this weekend at Brands Hatch, the paddock will be bidding a fond farewell to one of its most recognisable faces. Or rather, voices.
Jack Nicholls first got behind the microphone at a Blancpain Endurance Cup round as a 21-year-old in 2011 and quickly set about establishing himself as a voice of calm authority in the comms booth alongside former Grand Prix racer John Watson. But after five years, Nicholls will bid goodbye (for now at least) as his commitments in the FIA Formula E Championship and covering Formula One for Radio Five Live take precedence for the foreseeable future.
“I’m trying not to think of it as the last one because hopefully I’ll be back for the Sepang 12 Hours,” says Nicholls. “It hasn’t really felt weird yet, probably because I was there for first race in Misano and I’m doing second race as well. I’m going to really miss it.”
When he looks back on his time in Blancpain in the years to come, Nicholls certainly won’t be short of anecdotes to tell. From the controversial finish to the 2012 FIA GT1 World Championship at Donington when Markus Winkelhock collided with Yelmer Buurman, to Sebastien Loeb’s seamless transition to circuit racing and capturing the reggae spirit at Zandvoort (below), Nicholls has taken it all in his stride.
That’s it, I’m retiring. Nothing I ever do will surpass this. Thanks to illwillem on Instagram for it pic.twitter.com/P8YbqQNzxB
— Jack Nicholls (@Jack_Nicholls) October 13, 2015
“I remember Tomas Enge once told me that he really liked my enthusiasm and I made it exciting, so I was happy with that,” he said. “Mainly the people who compliment me have English as a second language so I don’t know whether they just hear these loud noises and think it’s great, and the people who actually understand it aren’t really fans of it!
“I promise I’m not just saying this, but honestly one of the standouts was Misano this year because the competition was absolutely nuts,” he continued, enthused as ever. “The last couple of years, the Sprint Series has been something of a Pro-Am Series, but this year we have the likes of Tristan Vautier and Felix Rosenqvist together in the AKKA Mercedes, Rene Rast and Will Stevens in an Audi – are you kidding me?
“I’ve met some very cool people, one year we made a little documentary about Alex Zanardi so we spent quite a bit of time covering him and that was probably a highlight. Going to Russia was quite cool too because Watty and I went for a day in Moscow beforehand. Watching him try to get into Red Square when it was closed by saying ‘I’ve won five Grand Prix’ was very amusing – it turns out it doesn’t work!”
Nicholls can be particularly proud of his polished on-air relationship with ‘Watty’, one evidently borne of mutual respect and understanding. That’s a particularly remarkable feat when you consider that Nicholls – a man more than forty years his junior – was not even born until five years after Watson had retired.
“Watty always gets into trouble, there’s always someone unhappy with what he says,” Nicholls chuckles. “I remember Darryl O’Young had a bit of a go at Watty for something he’d said about him and Marc Basseng got a bit annoyed as well, but that’s just his thing. I can’t get away with that sort of thing because I’m a no-one!
“I hope we will work together again because I think we’ve built up quite a good rapport, on air we both know where we are with each other and off-air we hang out quite a lot. He’s a friend now and he’s invited to my wedding next year, which is very cool!”
With some 37 cars set to take to the Grand Prix circuit at Brands, you can follow all the action from the qualifying race at 12:05 on Sunday, before the feature race gets underway at 16:20.