Category Archives: Hampton Downs

Hampton Downs, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

Pro Photos Marshaling at Hampton Downs Thanks to Alison Hogg from Media77

Way to make me feel like a celebrity Alison Hogg!

I’m really grateful to have a professional photographer friend who was willing to take a few action shots of me marshaling at Hampton Downs for the Auckland Car Club raceday.

Check them out:

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Check out Media77 facebook page: www.facebook.com/Media77nz

If only I had a private photographer taking pictures of me at various race tracks I would have never gotten in trouble for doing it myself.

Thank you Alison!

Postcard from Auckland Car Club Racing at Hampton Downs

You can’t volunteer an event in Australia without coming over and marshaling in New Zealand. So since I was in the neighborhood I decided to pop up for one of the Kiwi racedays at Hampton Downs.

I have been planning to come back to New Zealand for ages, and I’m really glad this opportunity presented itself. Anna Scott the flag chief for the Motorsport Club of NZ invited me to spend the weekend with her family and I couldn’t be in better hands on my visit. It was a bit sad to see fewer marshals at the track than the last time I was there. Even the race day itself was shorter than usual, instead of the full weekend of racing Auckland Car Club crammed all of their practices and races into one Saturday. But the action was still there and thanks to an awesome post assignment I was having a hell of a good time.

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I was paired to work with Peter for the weekend who was really great and welcoming to a “newbie” which made my day. We were pretty lucky to have a few incidents including minor spins, cars coming to a stop suffering mechanical failures as well as a side to side metal to metal impact resulting in a spin which I had to write a report on. All in all we were kept busy the whole day.

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I asked Tom and Anna to make a pit stop on the way to the track so I can get some of my favorite track food to go: the Kiwi Meat Pies, which were especially delicious once I worked up some appetite working trackside.

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Once lunch came around, Peter and I were picked up by the Porsche Cheyenne Course Car and brought into the paddock area where I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the race cars and all the improvements done to the track since my last visit. The garages have really been build up, adding a second level. Race control was completed. And one of the most visible additions was the actual expansion of the track adding quite a few more corners for Anna to staff once the track is fully finished.

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I was really happy to see a few MX-5’s racing with the other Japanese cars in their class. Mazda’s are very popular in New Zealand although in the past it was the RX-7’s and RX-8’s that dominated the car scene. Still nice to see Miatas race everywhere I go to marshal.

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Happy to also be served L&P – my favorite Kiwi drink at the end of day party for the marshals.

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After lunch it was back to the office at Post 2. My favorite tool to use was the Hampton Downs lighting system. A very simple controller tethered to the Light Panel via a cable. The functionality is simple and intuitive. You push and hold the switch into the direction of the flag you wish to display and it stays on while you’re holding the switch. Upon release the light turns off. Yellow flag up, Double yellow down. Blue flag up and White flag down. Using Yellow forces a Green at the next post automatically. Debris flag can be switched on and left to display, though the way it shows on the pane is by alternating flashing lights of Yellow and Red which some drivers apparently found rather confusing. For a few incidents where the track was more than 50% blocked I found it a bit clumsy to try to wave a both yellow flags and hold the double yellow button simultaneously. But I would imagine as simple as this system is it would cost a fraction of what the F1 light system cost, and I have a feeling this one is far more efficient.

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One of the coolest things I saw on this visit was during a recovery. The tow truck driver that had already freed one car from the gravel trap, pulled up to the second disabled car by our post and hooked it to the bumper of the first car. He then proceeded to drive the train of stricken cars back to the paddock. I thought that was rather efficient making due with what they have and not wasting time waiting for another tow truck to free up to do the recovery.

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As the day was getting hotter and marshals were getting tired, the Motorsport Club did an ice cream run to cool us off. And it really worked wonders. Tip Top the kiwi ice cream brand is actually quite creamy and milky, much better than the water based ice creams we typically get in the US.

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And so another wonderful weekend spend at a race track was in the books. I was super happy to have had this opportunity to marshal even if just for one day. It totally made my visit to NZ worthwhile!

My next trip to New Zealand will hopefully involve a visit to a new circuit down on the South Island – Highlands Motorsport Park.

Fun in the South Pacific: the Debrief – Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands

Another trip of a lifetime is in the books! Although I shouldn’t call it “lifetime” because I know sooner or later I’ll be departing on other one. In fact with an amazing trip of a lifetime just a few months ago to Southeast Asia, I would call this the trip of the year, or at the very least trip of the month: February 2016!

This post will be a brief overview: a debrief, of the trip overall followed by a number of specific posts about the individual events I’ve marshaled, the experiences I had hanging out with the local MX5 clubs and catching some sun in some very exotic places as part of the vacation that tied this trip together. I had such a blast!

To start, I flew to Australia via Hawai’i. And unlike my first visit there a few years ago after Korean Grand Prix, I decided to get off the plane at Honolulu and actually spend the night in Waikiki Beach. The Polynesian theme for the rest of the trip truly began there. Besides enjoying an amazing sunset that I shared with a few folks at home via Facetime, I got to experience some of the local cuisine just outside of the touristy area. I loved it!

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A traditional meal from Ono Hawaiian Foods just minutes walking distance from Waikiki Beach… the dish featured some pork wrapped in taro leaves and poi poi along with dried fish and all the fixing’s.

Of course an overnight stay in Paradise wasn’t enough, at all! But it was just a start to my South Pacific adventure. I’m kind of glad I broke the trip in half because some of these longer flights of 10+ hours have started getting to me, tiring me out completely. This time I was travelling with an extra handicap I hadn’t encountered on previous trips. I had a flare up of Gout Arthritis just a few days before leaving and my right foot was in terrible pain, something akin to walking on glass. The pain wouldn’t really go away for the entire trip but since I couldn’t do much about it I just learned to live with it.

Next stop: Sydney! The flight arrived in the early evening and after a quick clearance at Immigration I headed to the CBD to get some sleep before heading out for Bathurst early the next morning. Like Waikiki I decided to stay in a hostel near Central station for convenience and it worked out really well for me.

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First order of business while in Australia: meeting an MX-5 owner from the Club of NSW, Sydney Chapter. What an incredible experience!

In the morning I managed to arrange a lift with someone from the MX-5 community in Sydney. It’s really nice to see how close the Miata community is to Motorsport and specifically marshaling. The lady who’s car I got to check out on my first day in Australia volunteers as a Steward while her son is a flag marshal, who was kind enough to let me tag along for the two hour drive to Mount Panorama. While I could have taken the train all the way to town, I found it far more interesting to have some company along the way. It was especially interesting when we were on the hunt for Meat Pies for lunch while passing through Lithgow. That’s where I spotted something I really wanted to see on my trip, a Miata trailer. The owner drove past us as we parked up near the bakery and while he was stopped on a red light I tried to snap a fuzzy shot of his car.

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one of Paul Byers creations… an MX-5 trailer made from the rear quarters of an actual MX-5… looks bloody awesome!

I will talk about my experiences at Bathurst 12 hour and Mount Panorama in a separate post but suffice to say it was an interesting experience. While it wasn’t my first visit there, it was definitely a little different from before. For the first time I camped right at the track. A fellow Aussie marshal Paul from Victoria was kind enough to supply me with a comfortable tent, some pillows and a sleeping bag, which helped a lot so I didn’t have to drag all that stuff with me. Not only that he was our designated driver taking a whole group of us out to dinner in town every night, which was fantastic. It was the first time I consistently stuffed my face with proper Australian food including roast lamb and a variety of other local pub dishes.

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Paul Kelly driving us around every night after the end of track activities.
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Australia’s finest pub food in Bathurst.
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Every year there’s a team promoting tourism NSW and Australia, this year there was a Terra Australis Audi complete with an aboriginal photo shoot that we stumbled upon in pit lane.

After the event I headed back to Sydney for a few more nights in a CBD hostel. I had a few things planned but the stay was way too short. Luckily I did manage to squeeze in a lunch at Bondi Beach which I was really looking forward to as well as a nice MX-5 cruise from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach with a meeting spot just under the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was pretty spectacular. So many cars showed up! I was pleasantly surprised and very humbled to see so many owners give up their weeknight for a little cruise along the Northern Sydney suburbs for some fish and chips. Again I will write more about it later but I can’t express my gratitude enough to have had this opportunity!

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Tuesday night Fish & Chips run from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach, with a meeting spot under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney CBD and Opera House in the background.

Next stop: Auckland! A short hop and skip over the ditch (as they refer to the Tasman Sea) and I was in New Zealand. The flight arrived after midnight and I was off to my hostel in the CBD. Early next morning another MX-5 meetup awaited me, and after a short 4 hour sleep I was in a beautiful JDM-import Roadster heading to Papakura for my next adventure which I’ll describe in it’s own post. In a way it was another Fish & Chips run but this one lasted for over 300km visiting some scenic and twisty roads across the entire Northern Island from West (Waihu) to East (Coromandel Peninsula).

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MX-5 Club of New Zealand MX-5 members Lloyd and Ralph took me around on a day trip showing me the twisty parts of the North Island heading towards Coromandel for fish & chips.

As if this incredible two car road trip (as I jumped out from one car to the other at every stop we made), couldn’t get any better – it did! The day ended on a boat in Auckland Harbour where we had a nice dinner joining another MX-5 owner while he and his family celebrated the mum’s birthday. This was my first time on the water on the North Island something I was putting away until later while living in Auckland and never actually following through with, until now. It was really amazing.

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A sunset dinner cruise with a bunch of MX-5 owners celebrating a birthday. What a way to end my Kiwi MX-5 road trip!

Believe it or not I actually got to marshal while in New Zealand. It was only a one day meeting for Auckland Car Club at Hampton Downs but I certainly got my money’s worth with plenty of spins and spills on Turn 2 where I was lucky enough to work. It was such a good pleasure to catch up with a bunch of people whom I started my marshaling with while living in New Zealand a few years ago. And it was nice to see the improvements done and are currently ongoing to Hampton Downs under Tony Quinn’s ownership.

Besides Hampton Downs, Anna Scott – who hosted me for the weekend, took me to Pukekohe Raceway Park and showed me the improvements done there after Aussie V8 Supercars moved to their event there from the streets of Hamilton. I had such an incredible time I’ll have to write more about it in another post.

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Anna Scott the flag chief for the Motorsport Club of NZ taking me on a private tour of the upgraded Pukekohe Raceway Park including a visit to Race Control and a few laps around the circuit.

Although I had already spent two weeks on the road which seemed to have gone by in a flash, I still had one more exotic stop on this incredible journey: Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! I was really looking forward to this visit because it was something I planned to do while living in New Zealand back in 2012. Now the dream came true. I didn’t know what to expect but the reality surprised me in a very pleasant way. The tiny island of Rarotonga was very clean, friendly and welcoming for my visit. The resort I booked (my first stay in a proper hotel on this trip after all the hostels in Hawaii, Sydney and Auckland I decided to splurge and pamper myself) was fantastic. I got to tour the island, sample some delicious Polynesian food and completely relax on the pristine beaches with baby blue water crashing over the corals just off shore. What an experience!

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Kia Orana Cook Islands! I arrived on a rainy day in a cyclone season thinking that my trip would be rained out but the weather was perfect during my stay on Rarotonga.
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I was very impressed at how clean and organized Rarotonga was, it was very exotic!
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The beaches were amazing! The water crystal clear. I had such a great time relaxing.
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Of course I managed to spot a bunch of MX-5’s, mostly NA and NB’s.

The trip home at the end of this vacation took me back through Auckland where I was a total zombie while shopping for souvenirs to take home. Luckily I was able to meet up with friends for lunch and dinner and that kept me awake long enough for some much needed sleep on my 11 hour flight back to LAX.

Huge thanks to all the people that helped me along on this trip. I couldn’t have done this without you!

Buy a #MarshalCam Patch. American or Australian Versions. Or Both!

A few things to accomplish in this post:

1st: I wish to express my gratitude to my buddy Joey in Singapore for designing the Marshal Cam patches which I have recently re-ordered to distribute to marshals that participate in my interviews about their volunteering experiences.

2nd: I will have both versions of the patch with me at the following events to distribute to marshals that wish to participate in my interviews:

  • WEC 6h of the Americas at COTA in September
  • Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October
  • Sepang 12h – Malaysia in December
  • Bathurst 12h – Australia in February
  • Auckland Car Club – New Zealand in February

3rd: If I am not at an event near you and you’d really like to get a patch for your collection, you are welcome to buy one or many. Just get in touch about pricing and shipping charges and we could set up a package for you in no time.

The patches cost me $400 USD for 400 pieces. My break even point is to sell 100 patches at $4 USD apiece (or more at a cheaper price). Plus shipping and handling charges which killed me the last time I mailed out a ton of the original Marshal Cam patches, paying for everything out of my own pocket.

I am going through serious withdrawal right now, my last event was NASCAR at Watkins Glen in early August and it’s been a month without any volunteering whatsoever. So I’m eager to get back to the race track. I’m also very much looking forward to traveling again. Especially to my trip back to Southeast Asia!

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For any of you on the list of stops above I’ll be sure to have patches with me if you’d like to meet over lunch or dinner and catch up about marshaling in your neck of the woods. I’m sure that besides my right hand drive Miata exploits in Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur I’ll be hanging out with some marshal friends too.

Again, huge thanks to Joey in Singapore for designing these awesome patches, they look fantastic!

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The original Red, White and Blue design resembles the American Interstate system sign. While the Green and Yellow design resembles the Australian Interstate system sign. They were designed specifically for my trip to Bathurst in February of next year, and I’m very much looking forward to that journey.

Stay tuned for more, and get in touch if you want one, or a bunch!

#MarshalCam

Thank You Doctor!

As volunteer marshals it’s part of our job to help people in an emergency. We see a driver get injured, we call it in and seek medical assistance. But what happens when we as marshals get hurt?

I’ve had the misfortune of getting injured on several occasions now, and wanted to share my story to hopefully help out a fellow marshal in a similar situation, should it occur.

My most recent experience was during the WEC race at the Circuit of the Americas. Through a variety of circumstances I felt nauseous, some shooting pains in my stomach and in short order I managed to get a ride to the Medical Center to get help. Now saying the description above would likely get it dismissed as a minor incident. But consider the facts. Leading up to the race weekend I caught a bug. Something gave me food poisoning, not sure what… I was being especially careful knowing full well I will be away from home for a week, camping at a track with long hours on my feet and I knew I couldn’t afford to get sick. I got sick nonetheless. If you have never dealt with food poisoning it will be hard to understand the consequences. But with only one day rest before my flight, my entire rib cage hurt from puking every so often for over 24 hours. Needless to say I was not 100% when I arrived in Texas. And that’s important to consider when dealing with worker well-being on station. Sure our activities may not be all that strenuous to you, as a turn captain or a post chief, but you never know what your colleagues have gone through. Once at the Medical Center it was discovered I was battling high fever and was dehydrated. Despite my best efforts to keep my fluids up during the day, drinking lots of water, soft drinks and Poweraid, I still managed to get dehydrated. The treatment I received at COTA, with a bunch of pills to deal with fever and an IV drip for the dehydration worked wonders immediately. But had I not gone to seek help I would have been rather miserable the next day, because let’s face it: it’s not like I would have “slept it off.”

COTA Medical Center

I had a similar experience at Silverstone a few years back while volunteering for the British Grand Prix. The outcome was completely different to what I experienced at COTA, mainly because I didn’t know what to do or ask for once I reached the Medical Centre. I twisted my foot getting out of the tent on Friday morning, hours before any track activity had started, and essentially my weekend was ruined. The pain was excruciating. I hopped on one foot to get to the bathroom which shot sharp shooting pains throughout my body. Sitting, standing or even laying down caused pain, sharp pain. There was no position I could be in so it didn’t hurt. So naturally I made a trip to the Medical Centre where they poked my swollen foot, looked in my eyes and with a smile said “it will hurt a lot more tomorrow!” And like an idiot I walked away cringing from the news, and hurting from the pain that terrorized my body. Sure it was a simple sprain, but at the moment it was the most ridiculous pain I had ever experienced. Nothing was broken but it might as well have been. And it wasn’t until the last day, Sunday when I found my way back to the Medical Centre with the help of a media person on a golf cart, and started demanding pain killers because I couldn’t take it anymore. Incredibly, as soon as I took the simple pill of Ibuprofen I felt immediate relief and it made me wonder 1). Why didn’t I ask for this sooner? and 2). Why wasn’t it offered in the first place? Since then I’ve started carrying a simple first aid kit that has basic pain killers, but by the same token they wouldn’t have done much for my nausea example from the COTA incident. So it pays to utilize the Medical Centre’s at each track if need be… considering they’re designed to treat everyone from spectators to the drivers, it’s an invaluable resource to rely on. At Silverstone I spend the three day weekend hidden in a shed on station, with a pack of ice over my injured foot.

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I’ve had other incidents with minor injuries that didn’t require a trip to the medical center, though it helped having medical staff around. During my second Singapore Grand Prix I cut my finger climbing a fence to remove some signage that was blocking our view. One of the nurses on our station washed the wound with peroxide and insisted I get a tetanus shot once I get home, wherever that home may be. In New Zealand I followed another marshal to get to the station through the spectator area which required climbing a wire fence. It was raining, I was wearing several layers including a fairly restricting rain suit, and while the jump over the fence was fine, the landing wasn’t. I felt immediate shooting pain from my knee up throughout the body. And it only got worse thru the day. The night after I spent tossing and turning, almost hallucinating from the fever and pain, but the next morning I could whobble out to the street to catch my ride to Hampton Downs. There, my flag chief who’s a former nurse, gave me her knee brace and I felt sufficiently better to finish up the weekend.

So moral of the story, if you are going to volunteer it’s likely that you may get hurt doing so. Be prepared, but if you’re not please don’t hesitate to take advantage of the available help. You are not being a pest, you must look out for your own best interests first before helping others. You also don’t want to become a liability should something happen and you cannot perform 100% because you are suppressing a pain that should have been addressed. Use the available resources and please be careful out there!

Remember to thank your Doctor 🙂

Marshal Training Kiwi Style – Motorsport in New Zealand

As soon as I posted the Aussie video, Kiwis wanted one of their own… so I made it twice as long, and possibly twice as good. Getting to ride in a Fire One – chase vehicle for the V8 Utes race as a fire marshal was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done in my life. Not to say that doing flag marshalling or working rescue wasn’t short of amazing either. New Zealand provided me with my education when it comes to marshalling, and over one racing season I took full advantage of all the racing series there to absorb as much as I could. I participated in such racing series as Tasman Revival, Formula 5000, New Zealand Festival of Speed Celebrating BMW /M Motorsports, Toyota Racing Series, NZV8’s, V8 Utes, V8 Supertourers, V8 Supercars, a variety of classic Mini series, Central Muscle Club, Auckland and Taupo car club racing, etc. I’ve even done the New Zealand Grand Prix

I’m looking forward to going back there… again and again!

New Zealand V8 Supertourers

2012 has been my most adventurous season to date… As much as I’d love to out-do it next year the reality will be some sort of a toned down version. Luckily I have signed up for the 12 hours of Bathurst which promises to be a very exciting GT endurance race in Australia, however between that event in February and the Australian F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park in March, there’s a huge amount of time to kill. So I’ve made a decision to revisit Auckland for a few weeks. Call it New Zealand part II.

The plan as of now is of course to do the V8 Supertourers who should have their season opening at Hampton Downs just a week after the Bathurst event. I’m really looking forward to another Air New Zealand 12 days of Christmas sale so I can fill my days in Kiwi land with quick trip around the country, especially with a visit to the South Island – something I missed out on earlier this year. I would really like to visit Dunedin and Queenstown. Perhaps another trip to Manfeild for Toyota Racing Series, and definitely Taupo. 2013 will be great!

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New Zealand Motorsport

Its not even winter yet, but with no racing on the weekends I feel quite awkward being home… even after hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the Jersey Shore and flooded NYC and the surrounding area in NJ, our house was spared – thank God! but the level of excitement was quite different to what I’m used to by now 🙂

I’m bored… so I was looking through some pictures on facebook and right about now I miss New Zealand a lot. During the time the last big storm hit Northern New Jersey I was living in Auckland on the North Island… and just about every other weekend I’d find myself marshalling at Pukekohe Raceway or the new track at Hampton Downs. The Motor Sport Club of Auckland gave me my education when it comes to flagging. The folks I worked with, some ten years my junior and others old enough to be my grand parents, but all very friendly and helpful. I can’t wait to go back and volunteer with them again.

Visit my facebook page for a number of galleries from New Zealand… I worked some major events like the New Zealand V8 Supertourers, Australian V8 Supercars… the Toyota Racing Series at a few tracks like Hampton Downs, Taupo and Manfeild. It was all a blast!

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PS. perhaps the coolest sight on track was the Muscle Car racing of the 1960’s era. While I’ve seen them a million times at car shows in the US, Canada and Australia… seeing them go full blast on the track was something else. Kiwi’s raced them and crashed them, repaired them and raced them again. I don’t think anyone is as hardcore about racing as Kiwis!