Melbourne woman Lynda Britten has worked behind the scenes of the Melbourne Grand Prix for 23 years and, in an experience she will never forget, she was invited to ride one of the race cars for the first time last weekend. For 22 of those years, she has worked as a traffic controller at the event and everyone who arrives at the Albert Park track has to go by her, through the one tunnel into the infield.
Ms Britten controls the cars and her team control the pedestrians. She has been there so long she is a bit of a local celebrity — a landmark of the Melbourne track, loved by world-famous drivers: “It’s become a bit of a joke over the years because people stop and talk, men get out of their cars and give me a hug and a kiss saying its great to be back in Melbourne,” she said – “I’ve had a lot of compliments over the years.” Lynda Britten’s employer sponsors the comparison race, a handicapped race between two different model Mercedes and a Formula One race car. When she got the call last week to ask if she wanted to take part, she was floored: “[She said] ‘we’ve heard you’ve been there for a long time and we were wondering if you’d like to go in a Formula One car’ and the rest was just a blur because I burst into tears,” she said.
As if getting a ride in the car wasn’t enough, Lynda Britten was given a box of chocolates by this year’s winner of the Melbourne Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferarri’s Sebastian Vettel, her favourite driver: “It’s quite amazing. He was riding a push bike in and undid his backpack and said ‘oh, Lynda, these are for you’ and the box said number one. He said that’s because you’re number one. He always has time to spend talking to me which is quite amazing.”
Unfortunately she left them out on the table while she was at work and her dog ate them: “All that was left was the box and the wrappers. I didn’t even get to take a photo of the box,” she said.