Northeast Grand Prix IMSA at Lime Rock the debrief

It’s been a while since I’ve done the Northeast GP at Lime Rock… last year I was marshaling in Europe with my triple event schedule in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. A year before that I did something else, and the year before that the Northeast GP was quite good! There were prototypes racing. There was lots of action. There were lots of incidents and lots of opportunity to blue flag. This time around though the pace of the event slowed way down. Dare I say it was quite boring on the first day which was disappointing.

Luckily there were Miata’s racing… so I kept myself entertained!

The station assignment for Friday was at post 6A or more traditionally called Bridge… where absolutely nothing happened.

I did enjoy the company of my fellow flag marshal there, so we made it through the day… the only excitement came from us getting sprayed by big clouds of dust as a few cars ran wide out of the previous corner…

The next day though things picked up tremendously. I was posted in Turn 2 for the first time (I don’t remember if it was my first time ever, or certainly in a very long time, which was very exciting!). There was lots of potential at this turn because at most other events when I’m somewhere else, you can always hear Turn 2 calling in incidents. Of course I became the anti-magnet today, and absolutely nothing interesting happened. We had a few bumps. There were some spins before us and a few after us, but nothing noteworthy.

It was very close to the track and a great place to be a spectator.

Poor Miata… knocked out of 3rd place with a broken mouth:

But being so close to the paddock meant we could wander into pit lane for grid walk… and that’s exactly what I did!

The event was rather crowded, which was super awesome to see… but I don’t know if the GT-alone racing series lived up to the expectations… they certainly left me wanting for more. The IMSA races used to be some of the fastest cars that came to LRP, I’m not sure if the same could be said in it’s current form.

Maybe that’s why the Turner car had a BS-looking sponsor:

What’s the deal with Tacos anyway?

But anyway… looking back at the weekend I have to say that the initial feeling of boredom become overcome with a “it’s not so bad” attitude and ultimately, “this is a pretty good event.”

I certainly enjoyed the Miata’s racing and winning. This was the major difference comparing it to PWC event earlier in the year where the MX-5’s qualified well but faltered during the races.

So congrats to Freedom Autosport! And to the other Miata teams that didn’t do so well but put on a great show nonetheless…

Interesting that the headsets we used were Made in Australia!

And best of all every night the LRP Cafe took care of the workers with a tasty meal. So thank you Skip Barber for that!

Post Card from the Northeast Grand Prix IMSA GT’s at Lime Rock

Greetings from Lime Rock!

Here’s some pix taken over the two day Northeast Grand Prix event:

Formula E NYC e-Prix the debrief

First, I’d like to express my gratitude to the organizers of the first ever FIA Formula E New York City ePrix for giving me the opportunity to participate in such an amazing event. Thank you!

I could only imagine what it took logistically to put this race on. And it certainly took a lot of different groups to come together and pitch in for the occasion. I saw Jeanie from CoTA running around with a radio looking very official. Walking in Friday morning there was a Pocono Raceway truck prominently parked at the entrance. According to the fire marshal posted at the Finish line they provided 10 of their fire crew for the race. I know that the Northern New Jersey and New England region flag chiefs co-chief’ed the event bringing flag and communications marshals not only from their local regions but from around the country and around the world. I got the pleasure to work with a Pit Lane chief from Arizona, alongside marshals from my home region as well as from Canada (both Ontario and Quebec) and from France (Paul Riccard Circuit!). That was super cool. And even though I didn’t make it onto the Scrutineer team like I was hoping to do, I got to work closely with them in pit lane which was mission accomplished for me. So I was thrilled.

What exactly did I get to do… well everything I wanted to.

  • I got to be in Pit Lane, as pit lane marshal
  • I was posted at Pit Out, working a Radar gun
  • I got to wave the green flag when the lights malfunctioned
  • I got to push some Formula E cars around to Parc Ferme
  • I got to steer one of the FE cars instead of a Scrutineer

What more could I possibly ask for?

There were some awesome perks for working this event. After all it was my local race, just about 30 miles from home. Although using public transport it took me longer to get there than it usually does to go to Lime Rock or Pocono Raceway. The organizers provided two nights hotel stay free of charge. We had an awesome pizza party on Saturday which they generously over-estimated allowing me and probably many others to take a few slices back to the hotel to have cold pizza for breakfast. The shuttle buses were provided to get to the track which was super convenient. It was great, and greatly appreciated too!

The series and the races didn’t disappoint either. First of all it was a big and small atmosphere at the same time. Big because there was a lot of clout for this massive international event. But small enough that the whole pit lane and garages filled a relatively small area. The pit lane set up was unique in that the garages faced each other, and therefore when cars were released they shot out at each other slotting into one lane. Even the safety cars and medical cars were electric, provided by BMW and including i3, i8 and an X5 hybrid electric SUV. It was cool to see i3’s with German plates (from Bavaria) and the North American HQ with American (New Jersey) plates. Cars looked identical and yet unique. I loved the little things that were noticeable about them.

The races were messy, and yet with limited safety car or virtual safety car periods. I managed to sneak a peek at the start on a big screen near pit lane and it was nuts to see all those pieces of body panels flying as cars inevitably bumped into each other on a tight circuit… but they continued. Some cars stopped on track and our fellow F&C marshals got to respond under local yellow to push them into cutouts. Which by the way were awesome. The track set up, including catch fencing and marshal post cutouts were perfect. Nice big holes, marked by orange paint and without sharp fencing edges sticking around. I mean someone did an awesome job designing and executing the set up. It was unlike any other street circuit I’ve done recently for IndyCar or Formula 1 for example. Props to them.

And then there was the view. The views were spectacular. You could see lower Manhattan across the river. You can see various boats and ferries passing by. You could see the Statue of Liberty. And with the weather we had it was a perfect view to take in. I’m even super happy it rained on Friday because it added to the appearance/view of the track with big rooster tails one day, and nice shiny cars the next on a sunny day. It was perfect!

All in all I had a blast. I feel lucky to have had a chance to participate. And I feel very proud of the job the organizers did to put on this event. I think this race was incredible and I am totally looking forward to doing more events for Formula E. It’s a shame it took me this long to volunteer I remember planning to go to Cyber Jaya on the first season or at the very least the Miami race, but never did.

Oh… and for those that say there’s no sound. That’s a tricky one. The sound is deafening. It’s a very high pitch electric/metalic noise that comes through as the cars leave past you at full blast. Coming at you though you can’t hear them at all, which is nuts, but that was the function of our Pit Lane team, whistling every time a vehicle was in pit lane because none of them could be heard at slow speed. But being at Pit Out and seeing them go full throttle you could definitely hear them and maybe even too much. The fact many of them went way too close to the wall on exit, often hitting it, that was another sound that was clearly audible. Body panels bottoming out or smacking the wall make very loud noises that you don’t normally hear over traditional engine noise.

I loved this event! I want to do more…

Roborace… Yay or Nay?

The main question everyone had going into the first New York City ePrix debuting Formula E on the streets of South Brooklyn was whether or not they are the future. In my opinion there’s no question about it, of course electric race cars will be part of our future in Motorsport. But one of the support races called the Roborace, that is a real question whether it’s the future or not?

I do believe it is.

There’s so much opportunity!

We were treated to a display of a traditional LMP3 chassis car with a driver on board doing several learning laps around the Brooklyn Street Circuit to teach the software how to do an ideal lap. Then the pilot gave control over to the computer to do a lap while keeping his hands close to the steering wheel with the ability to take over if the computer did something wrong. And finally the car executed a perfect lap with the driver out of the car…. The car didn’t go particularly fast, but it did what it was supposed to do driving autonomously and speed in my view is a totally adjustable parameter at that point.

So do I think this stripped down prototype replace the flashy Le Mans cars we are used to watching in IMSA or WEC?

No… not at all. But I’m thinking to the old days of Le Mans where there was variety. And with this series I think the opportunity for “variety” is incredible! Remember when formula cars raced alongside sports cars on the same track… we have the prototypes and GT cars racing together now, having multi-class competitions each competing for the top step on the podium at their own speed, depending on the class. I think it would be awesome to see humans compete against Robocars on the same track in the same race, at the same time.

It would be incredible!

I love the look of this driver-less Robocar:

I will be watching eagerly to see how this plays out in the near future! I for one would love to see more of these cars at the tracks I go to volunteer around the world.

Post Card from the FIA New York City e-Prix

Greetings from Brooklyn… How you doin’?

This was one of my favorite events of the 2017 season. I once said if I only do one race this year it would be this, and it totally didn’t disappoint. I am happy with every aspect of the event. I’ll write in greater detail about it but for now here’s some pix:

All Electric LMP3 Robocar… which did a few laps with the driver, autonomously and all by itself without a driver!

I love the fact the organizers offered a hands on training sessions on Day 1 – Friday in pit lane (for extrication marshals).

Gorgeous view of Lower Manhattan from this temporary street circuit on the grounds of the Brooklyn – Red Hook Ship Terminal.

Speaking of Robocars, this display model was neat…

Back to my office: Pit Lane

I love how Virgin Racing keeps with tradition of naming their cars. They do the same with airplanes too, each Virgin Atlantic flight has a fairy sticker on the front pulling the British Union Jack. In Australia I saw Virgin Blue (now Virgin Australia) have a flying chick on the nose with an Aussie flag.. very cool:

Roborace in progress:

All electric truck used for the driver parade:

So Holly won! (both races)

Bellie didn’t do so well…

But Holly is awesome!

Welcome to Brooklyn ferry and cruise ship passengers and race fans

At the conclusion of the event a fellow Quebec pit marshal and a fellow French went marshal and I went to lower Manhattan for some food. We had Chinese Soup Dumplings in Chinatown and desert in Little Italy!

I really love Joe’s Shanghai!

more to come soon…

Mazda MX-5 Miata Maintenance Day

I have tried and once again failed with another attempt to fix the metal to metal clanking sound coming from the rear of the car. It has appeared out of the blue once we swapped my OEM shocks to a set of Bilsteins from a newer Miata. Since then I have greased the rear sway bar bushings. Replaced the rear sway bar end links. Replaced the bushings on the rear sway bar that I had greased before with OEM parts and still the noise persists. So after much research it was suggested that the exhaust hangers may be faulty. They are rubber and after 10 years of use I’m sure they would have lost some of their rigidity.

So I researched the ones to buy. OEM ones on eBay are nearly $20 bux apiece. There are two different kind and a total of five of them in use on our system. One on the pipe under the car, and four holding the exhaust manifold in place. Part # LF46-40-061 of which you use three of, goes under the car and on the back of the muffler closest to the rear of the car (tail pipes). Part # N3H2-40-061A are nearly twice the width of the other hangers and go on the front of the muffler closest to the differential.

But I was not going to spend $100+ bux on OEM hangers, they’re just cheap rubber, I don’t get why they cost so much. Even online part stores like Quirk or Tasca wanted over $10 apiece and something like $13 for the fat ones. No thanks!

The aftermarket hangers from Flyin’ Miata were $8-$9 apiece. The same ones on eBay could be had even cheaper from Kartboy and COBB with various offers for around $40 for a set of 5 with free shipping. But it still seemed excessive for what they really are.

So I started doing more research and found Advance Auto Parts sells Walker Insulators Part # 35119 for just $3 bux and with their generous 20%-30% discounts, it was just $11.55 with tax for the five I bought initially and $5.28 for two more that I bought to double up one of the muffler hangers to replicate the fat design of the OEM.

Everything looked so great, but after a test drive the noise is still there… Fuck me!

Here’s some pix:

A set of five from Advance Auto cost less than one OEM hanger!

The fat OEM hanger on the front of the muffler closest to the diff.

I used a lot of soapy water in a spray bottle to loosen the rubber, for whatever reason the 12mm holes on the OEM hangers were so loose that most of them just popped out with little effort.

new one on the right and old one on the left

the new hangers are 10mm so it took effort to put them on.

but with soapy water sprayed on both rubber and hangers it worked.

and then I had an idea to double up the rubber on the back hanger, it fit just right and introduced more rigidity I believe.

Although the brand name on Advance Auto web site and what I picked up in the store didn’t match, these seem to be good quality product, Made in India.

While inspecting the bottom of the car I noticed my X-brace was bent upwards in a place closest to where the exhaust pipe goes. So I took it off and straightened it out in a vice grip.

Oh how I wished this would have solved my clunky problem… it would have been so awesome especially how cheap the parts were compared to the new OEM end links and even OEM bushings. But fuck it didn’t work… the problem persists and it’s going to drive me crazy until I find the culprit!

Sunday Fun Day Cruising Skyline Drive in Ringwood, New Jersey to High Point State Park and Warwick, New York

Today was a fantastic day to go for a cruise… the weather was perfect! Not too hot, not too sunny… not too much traffic on the roads. So my friend Bill and I headed up Skyline Drive in Ringwood, New Jersey towards Wanaque Reservoir, up Greenwood Lake Tpk to Warwick Tpk to Clinton Road in West Milford, down to Route 23 and then up to the High Point State Park. From there we came back down to Route 94 in Hamburg, New Jersey and headed up to Orange County New York where we turned off on Route 17A and down Route 17 back into New Jersey.

Unlike the many trips to Bear Mountain New York this trip was far more laid back, slower speed and through much more residential areas. Bill and I joked we would do a Foodie Tour visiting the many Ice Cream parlors along the way. But the joke turned into a much tastier reality. Because instead of ice cream parlors we actually visited the source for the ice cream at the various Farms which featured proper Ice Cream Shacks and Barns where the fresh ice cream was Oh Sooo Creamy! We stopped for a root beer float in Orange County New York and then again in Sussex New Jersey for some Frozen Blueberry Yogurt. It was so amazing.

And of course I took a million pix:

Lots of cool cars out on the road today like this fat ass Porsche Cayman… obviously a ton of bikes too!

and some good looking British Midgets…

This ’69 was fully restored by the owner who was proud to point out he’s done a cross country road trip in it all the way to Reno, Nevada wow!

The 2007 Copper Red twins

At High Point State Park at the Northwestern tip of New Jersey

tractor man

The ice cream in this place was amazing. I got a blueberry frozen yogurt and it was finger lickin’ good!

Welcome to New York… again

Welcome back to New Jersey!

Mazda MX-5 Miata Maintenance Day

Big day  working on my friend Bill’s Miata today.

We were planning on changing his spark plugs to NGK Laser Iridium plugs as well as put in his new rear end links and replace the license plate light bulbs to the new LED ones I ordered online from Taiwan. The day started early for Bill with a trip to Ramsey Mazda to help diagnose an air conditioning leak… which they spent many hours looking for but couldn’t find.

It was a very wet start to the day. I had to run some errands before meeting Bill at the dealership (to also pick up my rear sway bar bushings) and it was tough to get around with multiple highways flooded. But we managed to meet up, went to have delicious Korean BBQ for lunch and the day suddenly cleared up and became sunny!

So here we go…

I first vacuumed and then blasted the top of the engine with compressed air to clear any debris from the area we were going to work on…

and there was some debris, especially from the underside of the engine cover that left a fine sand-like crap over the wiring

I’ve done the spark plugs on my car at around 50k miles so it was interesting to tackle Bill’s car which has over 100k miles on his and presumably these were his original spark plugs…

Getting to them was easy, instead of unplugging the coil packs I just moved them upwards and out of the way

Most of the holes were clean except for the one next to last, which had a visible amount of oil in it

Shiny new plugs… while undoing the old ones we quickly were faced with them being stubborn and not turning as freely as you’d want them to… so Bill went ahead and sprayed them with PB Blaster… and while they soaked we moved on to doing some other repairs

So we proceeded to changing Bill’s rear end links. I had him using my old take offs as a temporary solution to see if there would be any issue. The shop that did his suspension install used some cheapo aftermarket ones and we quickly discovered that one of the end links had it’s ball ripped out of the housing. So it was nice to see that the OEM pieces held up and we replaced them with new ones.

After this we took another crack at turning the spark plugs and all were loose except for the very first one closest to the front of the car, so we blasted it again and moved on to installing rear sway bar bushings on my car hoping that would stop the clunking… spoiler alert… it didn’t! But now I have new bushings in the back. Oh well!

My old bushings looked fine. We lubed them up with Mobil 1 grease not that long ago. But I was hoping against hope that they were the culprit of my clunking noises. Now I’m not sure what it is. We put on new end links, new bushings…  what could it be? Bad shocks? But bad shocks would surely show wear. I am stumped!

Back to finish the spark plug change:

With enough lube all came out effortlessly. In fact they came out with much less effort that I did on my car doing the dry swap.

The hole that had oil in it was showing clear debris left when the spark plug was removed, so I cleaned it out nicely before installing the new one

All done! Started up no problem. No engine noise. No vibrations. Perfect!

After a short test drive we proceeded to the last job of the day… changing the pesky license plate bulbs on the trunk lid… one of Bill’s burned out and that was the reason I ordered a bunch of them from Taiwan to replace mine as well

I already knew how to approach this change. Pulled out a bunch of fish line and started working my way along the backing of the light unit. The rubber piece that touches the metal trunk lid was very much stuck to it. So the reason for using the fishing line was to break it loose and then the light unit slides to the left and pops out by pulling on the right side of it. And so that’s exactly what I did.

All the plastic tips in tact, nothing snapped or broken. Nothing brittle

Interesting observation the soft top Mazdaspeed spoiler has a little area cut out for the Mazda logo… who would have thunk?

I asked Bill to bring his new ramps so we could change the rear end links, and they fit very nicely into his trunk. Taking up all the space!

The LED’s look perfect!

What a difference a couple of hours make. It was a perfectly sunny day for Bill’s drive home… I had an awesome time working on this car looking forward to another excuse to do something else in the near future. Thanks Bill!

BMW Z4 Roadster Maintenance Day

Today was a Bimmer maintenance kind of day… after taking the car out yesterday to get new rear tires installed I had to talk the owner into doing oil and all the filters change… after all it’s been nearly a year since the last oil change I did on this car.

Interestingly enough the Bridgestone Potenza’s the car had fitted only 20k miles ago were bald. So she went with a newer Bridgestone run-flat that seems to be a much softer tire, drives smoother.

…and it was significantly cheaper price wise than the Potentza’s.

Driving the car to the tire place I noticed the TPMS was illuminated on the dash… turns out someone tried to patch the run flat…

I liked the idea of two jacks lifting the whole car up, I went and ordered a second jack for my garage. Lucky for me Sears had one deeply discounted. I picked up a Craftsman low profile 2 1/2 ton jack for $23 dollars out the door!

Driving the Bimmer I also realized that as similar as this car is to my Miata, it’s significantly different also. Besides the obvious 6 cyliner vs. my 4 cylinder, it has a bigger fuel tank too.

old vs. new tires

When I got home I also went shopping for some Air Filters. I had already ordered the oil and oil filter from Walmart previously, by far the best place to buy oil at only $26 bux a jug for 5QT and $8 bux each additional QT… and another $10 for the oil filter. I went with Castrol EDGE 0W40 Euro Formula like last time.

Walmart didn’t have the air filters. So I shopped around and it’s amazing how arbitrary the pricing is. Both online and in store. Advance Auto had it the cheapest, the Wyckoff store had both the Air Filter and the Cabin Air Filter for $23 total. (*$4 off per filter), I had some gift cards I wanted to use up so I went to the store and the price there was not discounted showing up at $33 total. So I stood at the counter and placed the order on the Internet. It showed up in their system 5 minutes later and I walked out with the same product for $10 bux less than what they sell ins tore. I didn’t get a chance to use my gift cards though… Touche!

I did some more research for the identical filters online and Pep Boys had the air filter two bux cheaper, but cabin filter was nearly double the price… and I’m talking the same exact Purolator stuff.

Anyway…

I love this Bimmer. I got to drive it long before I bought my Miata and in many ways this car inspired me to ditch a big four door sedan and start looking for a little red convertible, my very own roadster.

Much like last year the weather was kind of iffy… but the rain held off

I tackled the Air Filter first… as expected there was a lot of debris…

I don’t believe it was changed in a long time… comparison of old vs. new below:

The Cabin Air Filter was next, and it wasn’t much better. A ton of leaves came falling down out of the cabin filter slot:

So I made sure to vacuum everything in there to make it nice & clean

And the final job was to do the actual oil… first time using my new Craftsman jack, fresh after being picked up in store just minutes ago

Using two jacks makes life so much easier!

It’s amazing that this little car uses almost 7 QT’s of oil… it seemed like it was pouring out there forever:

I left the thing unplugged for a good half hour so all the oil dripped out, but when I went to button it up it was still dripping!

While waiting for the oil to drain I did the filter change on top of the engine which is very convenient!

I don’t know how these mechanics do it… it wasn’t particularly hot day, maybe in the upper 70’s F and I was sweating bullets!

Had to go take a shower when the job was done…

Filling up with oil took no time, and unlike last time when I poured 6QTs in and bought another one of which only half was used, I went ahead and poured in 6.9QT like the forums recommended. The car has no dip stick so I relied on the onboard computer for the read out. The level went up when I went for a drive. And I was more comfortable with it being over half on the read out than on the first mark like in the previous time I did the same oil change. Car felt super smooth after the oil change. I’m really pleased with the way everything worked out.

And it’s time to return the car to it’s owner… What a joy it is to drive!

Sahlen’s 6 hour at the Glen 2017 the debrief

As is usually the case, I started writing several looooong paragraphs took a deep breath and deleted them because many things I said there would get me in trouble. So instead I’ll just tone it down to this: I had a generally great experience this Independence Day/Fourth of July Weekend at Watkins Glen.

The Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen proved to be everything I expected it to be and then some. The weather could have put a damper (? not sure if that’s the right word here) on things but it didn’t. Tent stayed relatively dry. Racing was relatively good. And people I was hanging out with were super friendly. I would say I got the VIP treatment from RSI but that would imply that they somehow treated me better than they treat others, which isn’t accurate. I’m genuinely satisfied with the way everyone behaves at RSI that I come in contact with and for me that’s a huge plus, I appreciate the positive vibes and positive attitudes.

We did have a few massive smash ups that I personally got a chance to respond to. A driver left in a Medevac unit which nobody ever wants to see, several others ended up in the hospital also, and the race was red flagged. It was an incredible experience and one I will definitely learn from.

There were moments I really liked. Like all the star and stripe and patriotic liveries many cars were wearing. Some things I didn’t like… the weather – mainly. But also the performance of the Mazda prototype team which keeps playing this underdog role that they really don’t deserve anymore. It was nice to see one of the cars end up on the podium, but that happened only because so many cars didn’t finish, including the other Mazda prototype. So that’s that.

Favorite little car that was an actual underdog was this yellow NC:

It still uses NC1 tail lights… just like my car.

Interestingly enough the #25 car had a smashup this weekend running it’s traditional Freedom Autosport livery, and suddenly it re-emerged wearing #25 under Murillo Racing orange livery. Wish I had snapped a photo of it. But my station was too far to the grid so I had to boogey down in order to make the start of the race.

Here’s the previously mentioned 4th of July liveries I did manage to get a snap of:

And here’s a few cool NC Miata’s I ran across in town at Watkins Glen and at the track:

There was a convoy of about five of various vintage Miata’s parading around Watkins Glen on Wednesday that I waved to while driving in the opposite direction, but I’m not sure what club they were from or what group it was that organized that cruise… it would have been nice to join them but I saw nothing about this event posted online.

Back to the track..

I got to flag from Station 3 on Thursday which is at the top of the Esses. Station 4 on Friday which is the next station after the bridge leading up to the Bus Stop… and Station 9A at the exit of the Boot on Saturday and Sunday.

The major smash up I experienced was Porsche GT3 Cup behaving very NASCAR-like… in fact I had worked an event for NASCAR when we had an identical full-track-blockage incident on the same station. This one however was far scarier. One of the Porsche’s completely lost it’s front end… wheels, suspension, frunk… everything!

On GTD qualifying I had a weird experience with the two Lexuses. They had back to back, identical incidents within seconds of each other, where one vehicle recovered the spin with damage and the other planted it into the guard rail causing a small engine fire.

So all in all it was a pretty active weekend. Lots to see. Lots to do.

I loved it!

Thank you Watkins Glen, and I hope to see you next year.