Category Archives: New Zealand

Where Can I Rent the New ND MX-5 Miata?

With several trips coming up in the near future, I’m curious to learn where is it possible to rent the new Mazda MX-5 Miata for a few days of driving?

It might sound like such a simple idea but save for a few “MX-5 rental” exclusive places like those in New Zealand or the UK, I haven’t really come across many major rental car chains advertising the new ND Miata in their fleets. I’ve read about the possibility of renting a track spec Miata for the big Mazda MX-5 get together at Laguna Seca in California, which is neat. I’ve also seen plenty of other track rental Miatas like those pictures I posted from Flatout Racing at Thompson Speedway, but nothing from Hertz or Avis, Budget, National, Europecar, Sixt, etc.

Why?

I would really be interested in considering a Miata rental while, say in the Cook Islands. One of the TripAdvisor reviews mentioned a tourist talking about their green MX-5 convertible hire in Rarotonga. How cool would that be. How expensive would it be? The rates posted on the Kiwi MX-5 Hire Car web site on the North Island of New Zealand were in the $50+/day which is crazy expensive. On the other side of the spectrum, South Florida is where I regularly rent cars for $10-$20/day and while searching for my own Miata have come across a number of cars on eBay with “Fleet” designation on their car history report. But when it comes to rental car companies, I can’t say I’ve seen any MX-5’s as rentals in a sea of Chevy Camaro’s, Ford Mustang’s and of course the Ferrari and Lamborghini exotics that you can easily find on every corner of South Beach. Who’s got the Miata’s?

Would love to find out more about this…

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!

bangkok kuala lumpur singapore road tirp mx-5 miata mazda

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!

marshal cam patches america australia usa

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

The Worst Frequent Flyer Program Nominee

I love the challenge of optimizing my frequent flyer mile and point redemptions to travel around the world. It’s the only way I could afford to travel, really. The US is very lucky with airlines offering some of the best loyalty programs out there even when foreign carriers offer superior aircraft and service products. But it amazes me how bad some foreign loyalty programs really are. The worst I’ve had to deal with is Airpoints from Air New Zealand, and I’ll explain why giving examples from my upcoming trip to the Pacific.

So my goal is to use my New Zealand based Airpoints to book a one way trip between Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. I say NZ based because Air New Zealand treats Australian Airpoints and American Airpoints very different from New Zealand Airpoints. 1 Airpoint equals $1 of the currency where you first registered your program. So 1 Australian Airpoint is NOT equal 1 New Zealand Airpoints because $1 AUD does not equal $1 NZD. And this little nugget has been the cause of much of my frustration trying to burn the damn NZ Airpoints I’ve accumulated for something more useful then letting them expire.

Last week Air New Zealand announced a 24 hour Australia sale.

The Auckland to Sydney route was advertised at $159 NZD outbound and $206 NZD on the reverse trip, on the Kiwi web site. The Sydney to Auckland route on the Aussie web site was advertised at $179 AUD for the leg that I was interested in booking. However, when I tried to use my NZ Airpoints for this booking the Aussie web site booted me to the Kiwi web site, where the route re-priced at $317 NZD without any sale in sight even though it was clearly coming up through both web sites separately. The global web site, or the American web site as I like to call it because the prices come up in American dollars, was quoting the same trip at $250 USD. So you got three Air New Zealand sites quoting four very different prices for the same exact trip:

$179 AUD = $133 USD (Australian sale price o/w purchase)

$206 NZD = $139 USD (Kiwi sale price based on r/t purchase)

$317 NZD = $214 USD (Kiwi regular price, based on o/w purchase)

$250 USD (American regular price, based on one way purchase)

Now, Air New Zealand is not the only carrier out there that publishes different pricing based on the country of origin. But when it comes to redeeming frequent flyer miles or points, it is generally a common practice to have the  value of airline’s miles or points not change from country to country, there’s some predictable consistency… the airline’s frequent flyer miles or points are the currency of that airline independent of the currencies of the countries where that airline operates. Air NZ has to be the only one that doesn’t follow this model, and it’s totally one sided. I’m sure it benefits Air NZ greatly, but me as a consumer: not so much.

The other unfair practice is the redemption of the Airpoints towards the purchase of the flight. I recently booked Auckland to Rarotonga using one of Air NZ’s sales. The price was advertised at $209 NZD one way, and I booked it using my Airpoints, where only 177 Airpoints  were applied to the purchase and the rest I had to pay in cash. Try doing that the other way around. Say I would accept the ridiculous $317 NZD price for a $133 AUD sale ticket, and I wanted to pay partially with Airpoints and the rest with cash, you are not allowed to do it. Air New Zealand will not take my 100 or 200 Airpoints as credit towards partial payment for a ticket if I don’t have enough to cover the air ticket portion of the price, the tax they collect in cash. Not cool at all.

Saying all this, Air New Zealand is actually a great airline to fly and I have a number of flights booked with them on this trip already using their Star Alliance partner United Airlines. I am very much looking forward to the All Black planes and the outstanding service on board. But I’m frustrated to no end about their sneaky loyalty program operation that does not allow me as a consumer to burn off the Airpoints I had collected because of all the damn restrictions.

So shame on you Air New Zealand!

 

Frequent Flyer programs theoretically are meant to reward loyalty not punish customers by making it impossible to use the points or miles. I will have to get creative with my redemption though… considering it’s possible to book the SYD-AKL trip outright for less than $130 USD using third party sites like Expedia or Orbitz (and even less when one of those American sites announce a sale). And then maybe dump the remainder of my Airpoints on a round trip flight within New Zealand… I’ve never been to Queenstown, Dunedin or Invercargill on the southern tip of the South Island… I wouldn’t mind going there for FREE… the only deficit I have at this point is the limited time I am spending in New Zealand overall….    so the challenge for the most exotic road trip continues!

kiwi all blacks air new zealand

The Logistics Behind Planning a Trip to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands

Very excited to say that the 2016 Grand Prix Road Trip of a lifetime has been booked! This post is a follow up to the previous two posts I made on the subject while planning the trip, and it’s nice to see the evolution of the plan over a period of time. Have a look at the previous post at the start of the planning stage here: “the logistics behind planning a trip to Australia & New Zealand,” and a follow up here when I discovered it’s cheaper to fly home from the Cook Islands via New Zealand than directly from New Zealand: “booked a flight to Rarotonga, Cook Islands.”

the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper
the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper

The planning process went from a mock-up above to the actual route depicted below on this beautiful Great Circle Mapper image. The difference being the addition of Hawai’i stopover on the way to SYD.

dream trip to exotic pacific cook islands australia new zealand
the trip will actually look like this, image from Great Circle Mapper

For those that didn’t read the previous planning posts I’ll explain the process of selecting the routes based on the frequent flyer programs I used. Initially my plan was to burn some Virgin America frequent flyer points I had accumulated on a redemption on Virgin Australia to fly from Los Angeles to Sydney. I’ve determined that that was a poor use of those points, so instead I’ll save them for next year to fly on Singapore Airlines A380 between NYC and Frankfurt for one of the European events. Instead, I used American AAdvantage program to book the trip. My dilemma was that I had already used up 8,000 miles in rebates from booking this year’s European trips, and that 1,750 miles would be wasted as I would only get 2,000 back with the 10% rebate that AA offers for AA credit card holders (10,000 max/year). But in the grand scheme of things I’d rather waste 1,750 AA miles which I could earn back relatively quickly (use one of the many AA video promos or dining promos that give 1,000 bonus) instead of paying money on a connecting flight between NY and LA to position myself for the Virgin Australia alternative that I had dismissed earlier. The two options with AAdvantage were to fly Qantas from JFK-LAX-SYD or Hawaiian Airlines JFK-HNL-SYD. And while I was very much looking forward to another flight on Qantas on one of their soon to be retired Boeing 747’s, I chose the stopover in Honolulu instead. I’ve flown Hawaiian before on the way back from the Korean Grand Prix (ICN-HNL-LAX) and always wanted to step out of the Honolulu airport to see a little bit of the island, and now I’ll finally have that chance… I’ll spend the night in Honolulu arriving at 4pm and departing 12pm noon the next day.

kirribilli australia sydney
G’day Australia! Sydney Opera House from Kirribilli

The trip back home is just as convoluted as on the way over. I’ve blogged before that I booked a $21 USD flight from Auckland to Rarotonga and that was done for positioning purposes. You see, to fly from Auckland to New York requires 40,000 Mileage Plus miles to fly Air New Zealand, a United partner in the Star Alliance. Whereas it only takes 35,000 miles to do the same trip from Rarotonga to NYC. So it seems like a no-brainer, Kia Orana Rarotonga! The caveat is to fly home from the Cook Islands you actually fly via New Zealand, and a further caveat it is possible to spend the entire day in Auckland before heading home (with a 5am arrival and a 10:45pm departure). So I was absolutely sold on that deal. But since I didn’t have enough Mileage Plus miles in my own account, I asked mom for help. Signed her up for a new United credit card, spent very little time charging all the house renovation expenses on her card, and in a month I had the mileage at my disposal with enough miles left over in her account to book a round trip flight within the US. Great deal all around.

I have yet to book a flight between Australia and New Zealand mainly because the flights are quite pricey right now ($300+ with AirNZ direct or $149+ with AirNZ through a third party like Expedia). I will wait closer to the travel dates to book that leg of the trip hoping to use the remainder of my soon to expire AirNZ Airpoints. Luckily they’re spoiled for choice with connecting flights between the two countries, so if SYD-AKL doesn’t work out I can do SYD-WLG, MEL-AKL, MEL-WLG, etc.

auckland skyline new zealand nz
Kia Ora Aotearoa! Auckland Skyline from Westhaven Marina

So, compared to the previous trips I took to Oceania/Pacific with my numerous flights to Australia and New Zealand, I think this will be by far the most exotic one I’ve ever done. I’ve read great things about the Cook Islands and look forward to that being the highlight of my trip. But I’m also very excited to see my Aussie and Kiwi friends on their turf. Bathurst 12h is going to be an amazing event. Unfortunately I won’t get a chance to do the NZ V8 Supertourers (or just V8 Touring Cars since competing NZ V8 Supertourers and NZV8’s series merged), but I’m sure there will be a club event I could attend at Pukekohe or Hampton Downs while on the North Islands.

It’s going to be awesome!

For anyone needing help planning their next trip using a combination of frequent flyer miles and other cheap flights, please get in touch… I love a challenge.

 

Some stats on this trip, total mileage flown: 24,098 miles according to the Great Circle Mapper.  Honolulu is almost exactly half way from New York to Sydney, JFK-HNL 4,983 miles vs. HNL-SYD 5,066 miles. I will depart Auckland at 10am on a Monday morning and arrive the Cook Islands at 4pm Sunday afternoon, the day before! (giving me an extra day to spend on the island). Caveat: I will celebrate two Valentine’s Days one in Auckland and one in Rarotonga…

Booked a Flight to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

I know… most people reading this will probably ask: “where the hell is Rarotonga?” or “where are the Cook Islands?” sound familiar, don’t they… Well, this is just the first piece in the puzzle for my 2016 marshaling trip down to Australia and New Zealand.

While the flight was only the equivalent of $21 US dollars after using some Air New Zealand Airpoints that were about to expire, I think it will be the most important trip on this whole adventure to marshal the Bathurst 12h race at Mount Panorama in Australia. Mainly because I’ll be enjoying the peak of southern hemisphere’s summer when my poor little MX-5 at home will likely be covered in snow like the picture below. And so be it! The trip to Saint Lucia earlier this year was the best trip I’ve taken all year so far. It was completely relaxing and very much enjoyable. I suspect the visit to the Cook Islands will be a similar experience.

The beauty of this trip, if things go as planned, is that it’s actually cheaper to fly home from the Cook Islands than it is from New Zealand. And the kicker is, you actually fly to the US via Auckland. So my plan is to use less miles and enjoy an extra day in Auckland on the layover home… or a few days in the Cook Islands before leaving NZ… (depends on how people look at the situation). Either way, it will be awesome.

When I lived in New Zealand in 2012 my goal was to collect enough AirNZ Airpoints to go to Tonga or Samoa as a tourist. Those trips never materialized. The other goal was to find my way to Tahiti, Bora Bora… French Polynesia. But that too was way too expensive. For some reason I didn’t know much about the Cook Islands. But they are situated right next to French Polynesia, a few hours flight directly south of Hawai’i and to the East of both Tonga/Samoa and Fiji, where I have been before during my time living in Australia.

the cook islands rarotonga
Check out the Cook Island official tourism web site: cookislands.travel

I love island hopping… who doesn’t? So this would be a fantastic opportunity to add a new dot on a map, and a new flag to the countries I’ve been to. I’ve started researching more about Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, and as a New Zealand associated country it uses the NZ dollar, so that should be very convenient. There are also a great deal of hostels on the island so I don’t foresee breaking the bank like on St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

Looking forward to another safe Air New Zealand flight.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is the first of a series of flights that I plan to book for this adventure, and in a way it’s the keystone flight. Now that it’s booked I have to go through with the trip, and continue researching the rest of the itinerary… like the flight home via NZ, the flight to AU and the flight between AU and NZ. I’m hoping to spend a few days in Sydney CBD this time, or Melbourne CBD depending on which city offers cheaper flights. It should be absolutely awesome!

the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper
the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper

 

Stay tuned…

Here are a few more gratuitous photos of the MX-5 covered in snow:

miata in snow

mx-5 in snow
poor Miata will have to sit snow covered in the driveway for a few weeks while Im gone.

The logistics behind planning a trip to Australia & New Zealand

2016 is going to be a great year. To start I’d like to do a couple of international events that I haven’t done in a long time. Bathurst 12h is perhaps the biggest one of them all.  But getting to Australia and New Zealand is a bit of a challenge. For one it’s on the other side of the world, and it literally takes days to get there. Which means I need more time off from work. But it’s also costly even when redeeming frequent flyer miles to pay for the trip.

The purpose of this post is to collect information on what my options are, and to seek advice from other frequent flyers to optimize my redemptions and get the best deal possible.

Virgin Australia booked through the use of Virgin America elevate points seems to be the best deal. It would take only 40,000 points and $140 tax to fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) round trip. Unfortunately I would still have to find my own way to LAX from NYC, and I don’t actually have 40,000 elevate points in my account which is currently at just 26k or so. Luckily one way redemptions start at 25,000 elevate points either LAX-SYD or SYD-LAX and $90 tax.

virgin australia using virgin america points

American Airlines AAdvantage redemption is the second best choice. It would require 75,000 miles and $114.50 in tax to fly from New York City (JFK) to Sydney (SYD) with a layover in Los Angeles (LAX). A bonus of redeeming miles with American as their credit card holder I would also get 10% rebate back on the mileage spend. So it would only take 67,500 miles to fly this route. I have flown Qantas on this route before a few times, using both their Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 birds, and it was a very enjoyable experience.

qantas using american airlines milesThe downside of course is that this year I have already used up 8,000 of the 10,000 rebate allowance with my two trips to Europe for Nurburgring 24h and Spa 24h. So the most I would actually get back is the remaining 2,000, which would result in 5,500 miles wasted. So I’m not too eager to redeem my AAdvantage miles on this trip. And I haven’t even gotten to the part of visiting New Zealand yet.

United Airlines Mileage Plus is also a valid option on this routing. At this point there are a lot of redemption opportunities both on UA metal and on their partners like Asiana Airlines or Air New Zealand. And best of all there is opportunity to book open jaw flights to arrive Australia and leave from New Zealand. However availability is non-existent to arrive NZ in the heart of their summer at the end of January so the only option is to fly to Australia first and leave from New Zealand after the race at Bathurst.

My ideal redemption would be to fly to Sydney (SYD) on a partner airline like Asiana with a connection in Seoul Icheon (ICN) using 40,000 UA miles and $36.40 in tax.

asiana using united miles

Or I could fly on United metal directly from Newark, NJ (EWR) with a layover in Los Angeles (LAX) with a minimal connection of 45 minutes which would definitely get me to Australia in the least amount of time and money using 40,000 UA miles and $27.40 in tax.

united mileage plus redemption to australiaOn the way back I could fly United’s partner Air New Zealand from Auckland (AKL) to Newark, NJ (EWR) with a connection in LA (LAX) and I would actually plan a trip in such a way that would give me a 13 hour layover in California so I can go do stuff in Los Angeles, have an In-n-Out burger at LAX or something. It would take 40,000 UA miles and $45.90 in tax to do this.

united mileage plus redemption from new zealand

The problem of course is I don’t have 80,000 UA miles to book this trip. I don’t even have 40,000 UA miles at this point, I’ve spent most of my savings flying Singapore Airlines in 2013 to get to Singapore GP and the Korean GP. But there was a UA credit card offer that I signed up and expect to earn the 40k necessary in the next few months.

So my real dilemma is how to mix and match the miles I have to make this trip a reality.

There is also a final option, and that is to buy the trip outright. However, at this point I’m looking at at least $1,200 to $1,400 investment, possibly more as I am dealing with arriving in Australia and traveling back through New Zealand. That’s a lot of money to spend on a Motorsport event. I remember Qantas put on a sale a few years ago offering NYC-SYD for just $700 USD. But that was back in the days of V Australia creating competition between Qantas, United and Delta AirLines which had started flying to Australia. Since then, Virgin Australia and Delta codeshare on the route eliminating some of the previous cutthroat competition. I will be keeping my eye out on The Flight Deal and similar web sites between now and the end of the year to see if any new sales or mistake fares pop up.

The sure plan though is to use frequent flyer miles. So if anyone has any suggestions or best routing tricks I could implement to make this trip a reality without breaking the bank, I would love to hear form you!

I haven’t mentioned how I’d get from Australia to New Zealand or vice-versa should things materialize that way. Since I lived in Kiwi land in 2012 I have saved up 300 AirNZ dollars that have been impossible to redeem for anything of value. They are best spent on purchasing tickets with AirNZ where 1 AirNZ dollar = $1 NZD. So my plan is to use one of the many AirNZ flights across the ditch from Sydney (SYD) to Auckland (AKL) and paying a premium for it just to use up the points. In the past I’ve purchased a flight round trip from Australia to NZ for less than $300, but now I just don’t want them to expire, so I’ll use them as necessary. While living in NZ my goal was to use those points to fly to some place exotic like Tonga, Samoa or the Cook Islands… but just like a job that never materialized there, neither did the dreams to go to a beautiful Pacific island for vacation… Boo freaking hoo!

air new zealand flight between sydney and auckland

Ironically, $300 NZD seems to be the sweet spot for booking the flight outright so many months out from my travel dates. While using Airpoints – the AirNZ currency, only a certain amount of points can be used with the rest paid in cash, which makes this trip ridiculously overpriced. Also ironic is the partnership between Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia to compete with Qantas and their low cost carrier JetStar on the route. The sub $300 round trip I mentioned before was booked on JetStar.

 

ITM500 Volunteer Application Form for V8’s in New Zealand

For those of you interested in volunteering an Aussie V8 Supercars race outside of Australia, there’s no better place than New Zealand!

The Motorsport Club of Auckland, NZ is now recruiting for the ITM500 event at the Pukekohe Raceway Park (the little horsetrack surrounded by a newly improved automotive racetrack) about an hour’s drive south of Auckland.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KSQR3J3

 

Kiwis are crazy about V8’s no doubt, and I guarantee a good time to anyone that participates in this event. Pukekohe was my very first marshaling experience in New Zealand:

pukekohe raceway park new zealand

First day on the job, volunteering with the Motorsport Club in  November 2011

pukekohe first intervention vehicles ITM400

pukekohe fire one vehicle ITM400

The flag points are neat featuring a well like concrete structure with a cutout to climb in. Bring wet weather gear because it will rain!

pukekohe station 8

Nice and cozy… Do stop in Pokeno on the way over to pick up some freshly made meat pies for the day…. my favorite! Wash it down with some L&P soft drink… also my favorite!

foodie new zealand meat pie

 

More info about the club:

www.themotorsportclub.com

 

Who provides the best Marshal uniform for an Event?

In my recent chat with a representative of the marshal club at the Red Bull Ring in Austria I discovered a few things… 1) there’s no camping at the track and hotel rooms nearby are really hard to come by during the F1 weekend so the club relies mainly on marshals that live nearby (i.e. visiting marshals would have a harder time finding accommodation during F1 than say DTM weekend) and 2) the circuit provides those fancy looking Red Bull logo blue and white overalls to the marshals that participate in their events. That’s really cool!

Why is it cool?

Well, as a visiting marshal you could travel to an event lighter, and travelling lighter makes your travels easier and more convenient (less bags to check when flying, less crap to pull around when you navigate a public transport system in another country, less luggage to worry about when storing stuff during an event, etc.) So in this post I would like to run down through a list of places you could volunteer where the uniform will be provided, and more importantly which places offer the best uniforms out there. Obviously this post is very subjective.

One of the most recognizable uniforms a marshal could wear anywhere is the 24h of Le Mans overalls that are provided by the ACO and are yours to keep after volunteering the event.

le mans 3

Fantastic deal right? Yes, certainly. Although slightly problematic for those of us that are overweight or that are fat like me. You see the ACO issued overalls look beautiful, and for a fashion forward country like France it is very fitting. But I have a hard time fitting into mine. Primarily because the crotch area is a bit painful with the seam riding way up into my scrotum. I don’t know if that’s by design or not, but it’s less than comfortable. Similarly I can’t raise my arms wearing these in either of the pairs I got. Design flaw or I’m not proportioned correctly for them, I don’t know. But damn do they look good! And more importantly we are FREE to keep them after the event, which has been fantastic wearing them in Germany for the Nurburgring 24h and in Portugal for the Maxi Endurance 32h… painful but beautiful 🙂

Closer to home, Circuit of the Americas has one of the better looking designs out there made by the same company that provides racing suits to the drivers: OMP Sport. And even though the overalls aren’t without their critics (there was one incident last year where someone complained so much about using the blue suits for WEC race that COTA caved in and required people to bring their own white uniforms for the event, which sucked!) I love those smurf suits! What’s not to love? The overalls are properly proportioned and run slightly on the larger size giving you good freedom of movement. The sleeves and pant legs have an elastic band that keeps the uniform in place without being too loose. There are plenty of pockets and the zipper works perfectly.

us gp 8

The “Speedway” brand blue overalls issued by USAC at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have many of the same properties of the pricier OMP suits from COTA but they work similarly well. Even when “some” critics don’t like them, I like them a lot.

grand am indy 1

YAS Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi issues a similar style (possibly same material weight) overall for their events. The famously grey colored suits with the embroidered logo on the back, sleeves and front pocket are quite useful and yet they have their critics too for being too warm in the heat of the desert. But when I volunteered for the Gulf 12 hour in December a few years ago, they were absolutely perfect!

yas

What I liked most about them was the freedom of movement. There was plenty of extra space so the pant part didn’t ride up my crotch, I could raise my hands above my head without pulling the pants into my crotch, pockets were great, etc.

In New Zealand, the Chicane brand uniform is of a very similar design and works absolutely perfectly for the marshals wearing them. Notice the giant pocket for the radio on one side of the chest.

new zealand hampton downs 1

Although it’s important to note that not all visiting marshals get the fancy Chicane uniforms from The Motorsport Club. I was really lucky to try on a few different sets, both for my recovery work the one weekend I rode around in an FIV car, and another time I snuck away from my grid marshal duties to get a ride along in the Chase vehicle with the rest of the fire marshals working that role:

new zealand hamilton v8s

The most generous allocation of overalls you get is in Singapore for the GP. You are provided with 3 sets for the 4 day weekend, where the first day is really just a systems test or a full dressed rehearsal. The Singapore overalls are your standard orange worker overalls you can buy for $30 bux on ebay with loose fitting wrist and pant openings. Each overalls is collected by the post chief at the end of the work day. Sadly you don’t get to keep them.

johor circuit sgp

The SGP issued overalls are loose fitting, light (I believe either 100% cotton or mostly cotton blend) and have great pockets, especially on the side of the legs. They also feature a reflective band around the elbows and below the knees. Similar style overalls are issued in Malaysia for events at the Sepang Circuit, though they don’t have the reflective stripe. A separate “Marshal” reflective vest is issued for night events there:

sepang circuit reflective boards

Interestingly enough for night events Sepang Circuit uses reflective boards instead of flashing lights (F1 style) though a yellow flashing lights at strategic locations around the track are obviously common. The blue reflective board is very effective at night, so long as the station is in direct headlight angle to the cars on the track.

South Korea, Australia, and Bahrain also issue standard orange work overalls to both their own and visiting marshals for a particular event.

korean gp 5

In Korea, like Singapore marshal roles are color coded, where Orange is the standard color for flag & track marshals, Red is for fire crews and Green is for Medics. However unlike Singapore, in Korea, Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia you only receive one set of overalls for the entire weekend, no matter how hot and how likely to sweat you are in the sweltering heat of that country.

So which uniforms were best, and where?

It’s not easy to say or pick one over another. Certainly most uniforms I have been issued with made perfect sense for the country where they were issued. The light uniforms of Singapore, Malaysia and Australia made sense there. The heavier material uniforms in the US also made sense here though like I mentioned people criticized such choices on a hot summer’s day in Texas when some events are ultimately run. Many Americans and Brits would be vocal proponents of bringing your own uniform to events where you volunteer. But personally I love the diversity of wearing the “track’s” uniform for a particular event, especially when travelling.

For more information on what circuits provide uniforms to their marshals do check out my Marshal Spotter Guide page: Motorsport Marshal Spotter Guide and blog entry.

I would love to hear about what other tracks are doing around the world for their marshals, so please share your experiences below. Keep in mind the information I shared above was only current at the time when I volunteered at a specific track, that information may change with time.

marshal-cam-spotter-guide

Top 10 Foodie Experiences while Marshaling (International)

Three important components make up this wonderful hobby that I blog about while volunteering in Motorsport: 1). Racing, 2). Travel to get to the Races and 3). the Foodie experiences along the way.

Here are my Top 10 Foodie experiences (cheap, greasy, delicious!) while marshaling, that I would absolutely go back for just to sample the awesome food again. This post will be divided into three sections, because I could and totally will give my Top 10 Foodie experiences while marshaling just in the USA alone. This part is the  International foodie experiences at each venue. And then the places you may transit through just to get to the event (both domestically and internationally).

#10 Canada: Poutine

canada poutine

When marshaling in Canada, you should try Poutine –  french fries, covered in cheese curds and smothered in gravy.

Although a Quebeci cuisine I haven’t really been all that crazy about it while marshaling the Canadian GP in Montreal. Instead it was the food of choice for me in Ontario during the ALMS races at Mosport. I tried to stick to a strictly “poutine” diet which meant trying quite a few different poutine trucks every day, and my favorite by far was one located at a little gas station just north of the Candian Tire Motorsports Park.

The best experience so far was sharing a few big portions with friends right at the track, which we all immediately regretted feeling bloated and full, so we decided to walk the entire length of the circuit to “walk it off” and that I will always remember! You have to try it for yourself.

alms mosport 6

#9 Australia: Fish & Chips

foodie australia fish and chips

When marshaling in Australia (or New Zealand for that matter) do try their Fish & Chips.

While traditionally a British thing, I think it would be foolish not to call Aussie style Fish & Chips an Aussie thing especially when you do have an opportunity to visit a proper fish and chips place along the Indian Ocean like say driving the Great Ocean Road, or on your way to Phillip Island because there’s a beautiful assortment of excellent and very outstanding fish and chips places that serve ridiculously fresh fish. Typically served with malt vinegar or tartar sauce which is my favorite.

The fries are really good, but the fish will be the highlight of that quick and tasty meal. Legend has it they deep fry flake which apparently is shark (gummy shark). And I don’t know about you but tasting shark is exotic and generally awesome.

#8 Germany: Veal Schnitzel with Gravy

foodie germany schnitzel

When marshaling in Germany you must have the Schnitzel!

Whether you go for chicken, beef or veal you won’t go wrong because they’re all equally tasty. I’ve sampled a lot of delicious food in Germany from their wonderful sausages to the delicious sandwiches (pretzel bread = yumm!) But a nice warm veal schnitzel served with fries and smothered in mushroom gravy is finger licking good. Especially when you are walking distance from your post at the Nordschleife on a cool summer’s day.

So when going to work at the “Green Hell” that is Nurburgring add a schnitzel to your list. My favorite joint is Giulia’s in Adenau which is a stone’s throw away from Post 120. And no meal would be complete without a stein of WARSTEINER beer. Seeing it served instantly brought memories of classic cars I saw on TV and later in person at various historic races around the world sporting the WARSTEINER sponsored logo including those beautiful E30 BMW M3’s, the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR of the mid 2000’s and of course the Porsche prototypes of the much older vintage era.

foodie germany beer nordscheleife

#7 Bahrain: Shawarma Malgoum

foodie bahrain shawarma malgoum

When marshaling in Bahrain you must try a Shawarma Malgoum!

So the french fry theme continues except this time it is engineered in to a delicious shawarma served on a busy street corner in a little village outside of the capital of the tiny island of Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf. I got really lucky to have an opportunity to marshal WEC in Bahrain and one of the marshals that drives a course car offered to show me around and give me a little sample of what the local food scene is like. It’s tough otherwise to find proper Bahraini food in Bahrain because of the dominance of all the western food chains and typical Indian joints that are readily available in the Middle East. But a cheap and compact shawarma really gave me a culinary peak at something truly local. You must experience it for yourself.

I did get a chance to go out for some lamb chops and other well made meats served with humus and pita bread, but I don’t think anything hit the spot like the Malgoum. Why do they call it that? and why is it a very Bahraini thing? Well because it’s an “everything” shawarma stuffed with all sorts of goodness from diced tomatos to generous portions of beef (chicken or lamb, whatever you prefer) some salad, and chili sauce.

Quickly made. Cheap and best enjoyed with friends late night. Typically followed by smoking some hookah at a juice bar. An experience I can’t wait to repeat in the future.

foodie bahrain hooka

#6 Singapore: Chicken Rice

foodie singapore chicken rice

When marshaling in Singapore you must have Chicken Rice!

It’s impossible to come to Singapore and not be overwhelmed by all the amazing culinary variety. You’ve got your traditional Chinese food, Malay food, Indian food, Thai food, Indonesian food, and plenty of Western food options too. But what MUST you try on your visit? Chicken rice, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it! Why? Because it is the simplest and the most readily available foods found on the island. It is also one of the cheapest. And most importantly it’s one of the best things they have to offer both locals and visitors alike.

Chicken rice or more properly Hainanese chicken rice is exactly what the name suggests, a simple cup of white rice served with poached and steamed chicken with some sweet chili, ginger and molasses like black substance that adds a very unique flavor to the dish. Often accompanied by a little bowl of the broth that the chicken is cooked in to sprinkle on your rice while you eat it with a fork and a spoon (using the fork to pile spoon-full’s of chicken and rice mix for each bite). I would highly recommend chicken rice for anyone as basic as it sounds it’s the one thing I really crave the most after living in Singapore for a while.

Don’t forget to get some freshly cut fruit for desert after your meal. Readily available at just about every Kopitiam on the island, the fruit is as important as the dish itself, to me at least. Especially with the exotic options like dragon fruit, starfruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, green/red apple, banana, strawberry and kiwi’s. Try it! Love it!

foodie singapore fresh fruit

#5 Malaysia: Nasi Lemak

foodie malaysia nasi lemak banana leaf

When marshaling in Malaysia you must have Nasi Lemak!

Nasi Lemak to me is the most Malay of the Malaysian dishes I’ve sampled, and I’ve been fortunate enough to try a few. It is coconut rice cooked with your choice of chicken, beef, cockles or even livers covered in spicy fish paste and topped with an egg all wrapped around in a banana leaf.

Traditionally eaten for breakfast, I’ve learned to love this dish at Sepang when one of my fellow marshals would make a morning run to pick up enough for our entire team. It’s true that coconut rice has a tendency to drive your stomach crazy afterwards, but the food is so delicious it is well worth all the funny business that may happen after you’ve digested it. It is phenomenal. You must try! And whenever possible have some Ipoh white coffee to wash it down. Ipoh coffee is served with a hefty serving of condensed milk which makes it white’ish in color and is absolutely amazing with a perfect amount of sweetness that I really love.

foodie malaysia nasi lemak

#4 South Korea: Anything with Kimchi

foodie korean bbq kimchi

When marshaling in South Korea try anything and everything that comes served with Kimchi!

I’m sure you all know what kimchi is so there’s no point explaining why this fermented spicy cabbage goodness is amazing. But when volunteering in Korea, like the Korean Grand Prix of the past or any of the current events held in the country. Whatever you eat that’s served with kimchi will leave you with an excellent memory to take back from Korea home, wherever you may live.

On my last visit I was lucky enough to experience kimchi with a several “guides” that showed me around. I first used CouchSurfing and people were kind enough to show me around the Seoul market, trying food all along the way, from Korean Sushi to Korean BBQ.

Then when we made our way to Mokpo with a fellow marshal he spoiled me for choice with the food options on the way and at the Marshal hostel that served us food for breakfast and dinner. Whatever the food: from delicious meat to fish, kimchi highlighted the dish and made me crave it more and more. I can’t wait to have it again on my next trip to this beautiful country. You should try it too!

foodie south korea kimchi

#3 Malaysia: Fish

foodie malaysia fish rice

When marshaling in Malaysia and if you’re lucky enough to have someone knowledgeable show you around… try the Fried Fish!

There’s a little village not far from the Sepang Circuit that I’ve had the pleasure to frequent after long days of working at the track. The whole rescue team that I camped together with at the track would go out every night for a relaxing evening to socialize with fellow marshals and share a delicious meal. Needless to say I was the only foreigner there, but I felt extremely welcome and more importantly I was absolutely in love with the fish they served at this little Muslim Thai restaurant that basically specializes in a very unique dish I haven’t tried anywhere else in Malaysia or Thailand on my travels, and I always make it a point to sample as much food as possible whenever I am in Southeast Asia.

What is the fish called? I have no idea. It is grilled to make the skin crispy and then smothered in the most delicious sweet chili sauce, served with rice. I always get a cup of Ipoh coffee or two to go with it, which is white coffee I described with my Nasi Lemak dish above, or coffee served with condensed milk. My favorite!

PS. the name of the fish dish is: “ikan kembung masak pedas

#2 New Zealand: Meat Pies

foodie new zealand meat pie

When marshaling in New Zealand (and Australia) you must try the Meat Pies!

Much like fish and chips, which I also really really like, Meat Pies are a British import to the Pacific but one that has gotten a flavor of it’s own and I much prefer the Kiwi meat pies to anything I tried in the UK. The meat pies are typically stuffed with chicken, beef, pork, livers, veggies, and a variety of other combinations like black pepper steak or curry chicken. And I love them all. I really do!

The best part about meat pies you get them served at the track while marshaling so you don’t really have to go looking for them at a specific restaurant or bakery. Although while driving on the way to Hampton Downs or Pukekohe on the North Island I’ve always made it a point to stop at Pokeno to stock up on their delicious goodness.

The pies were also readily available to buy frozen and heat up at home by brands like Big Ben who also sponsored local racing. But nothing compares to freshly made kidney liver pies or chicken curry pies I’d get on the way to the track. I loved it, you’d love it too!

foodie new zealand kiwi meat pie big ben

#1 Singapore: Durian

foodie singapore durian

When marshaling in Singapore the #1 meal you should try is Durian!

The highlight of my life in Singapore and pretty much every subsequent visit since has been to sample some fresh Durian. I don’t know if people would ever understand the craving I have for such an infamous fruit. But I definitely crave it! And you can’t just have any durian you stumble upon the street. Hell they sell them in Chinatown in Manhattan or San Francisco. But apparently there’s nothing worse than bad durian. You have to have it in season. You have to ask for the Malaysian durian which is smaller than the big Thai durian and therefore more potent, tastier.

Other products with durian are a hit or miss. I’ve tried durian ice cream and absolutely hated it, but also tried durian moon cakes during Chinese New Year celebration and absolutely loved them. But there really isn’t a substitute for the real thing. And if you do end up going to the Singapore GP I would highly recommend spending one evening exploring Geylang with a local marshal who would surely be able to point you in the right direction to try the “King of Fruit!”

Of course your experience may be way different from mine. I’m happy to share my favorite American Top 10 Foodie Experiences… and I think the Malaysian and Singapore Top 10 Foodie Experiences will follow, so stay tuned!

The Best Marshals!?!

As my Facebook Timeline is flooded with real-time photos from the beautiful Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, with F1 cars taking to the track for the final time this season. Or from Putrajaya street circuit in Malaysia, with Formula E cars making their debut in my favorite Southeast Asia destination. I wanted to share a thought about the notion of “the best marshals” out there, many of whom are sharing these photos with me and the world. I will also make some comparisons to myself, and tell you – the reader, why I am not the best. And if you’re also a marshal, why you probably aren’t either. But we certainly can become better!

According to a recent article quoting Mohammed bin Sulayem, the famous Arab rally driver and an influential FIA official who claimed UAE marshals are ready to prove they’re the best in the world, you would be right to think that they  probably are. Of course if you ever watched a broadcast of any race from the UK, they would certainly have you believe that the British marshals are the best in the business. I have written extensively about the quality of the marshaling Australians tend to provide, as they are constantly contracted to train and supervise newbie marshals throughout the Asia Pacific region, including most recently Russia. So who is really the BEST?

Well, as I see it: the BEST marshals are the one’s that are trained well. Which pretty much eliminates me from that candidacy because in the past year of volunteering I have not attended any training sessions in my local region. Not because I didn’t want to. But because it wasn’t offered. So there you have it. If you live in a region that doesn’t offer regular training you have little chance of honing your skills to become a better marshal. Of course I’ve nagged my region to offer training, not just to me but to the entire marshal base of my region. And the most common response I’ve received was to organize it myself or travel to another region. Fair enough! (or not fair, considering I pay an annual membership – presumably for something?) Lets say I take the initiative and organize my own fire training with my local fire department, or first aid training with the local ambulance corps. But then I have to translate this into my Motorsport volunteering, and hardly all road accidents are similar to what we see in racing. So the optimal solution is to travel to receive training where it is actually relevant.

Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 boss everyone loves to hate, once said that if you don’t have the money to race in Formula One – you shouldn’t! And I think the same applies to marshals. In a sense, if you can afford to travel to various events around the world, you become a better marshal because you pick up skills new to you. Assuming something actually happens in the post you have been allocated so that you either see a proper handling of the incident taking place or you are actually involved in it, hands on. If you don’t see anything happen, you haven’t learned anything new. So training is still paramount to your “quality” of skills as a marshal. The “quantity” of events you have attended is only relevant if you have hands on experience. Classroom training, demo’s and simulations are critical. So does it make sense to travel to receive proper training? Yes! But it depends on whether or not you have the funds to do it. Personally, I would rather spend my hard earned money on a pro event with the hopes of having a hands on experience I can learn from, than spending the same amount to travel somewhere where I’m guaranteed to learn something. Is it wrong? Probably… but when applying or registering for events to marshal, you are asked what events you’ve worked previously and not what training sessions you’ve attended. Maybe that’s wrong on the part of the organizers to assume that attendance = experience?

So what can I and others do to be considered “better” or “best” marshals out there? Well, as I pointed out above some factors are well within my control and some are not. For example, I think I would be a much better marshal if I was just a little bit taller, just a few inches. But that ain’t gonna happen. Likewise, I would definitely be a better marshal if I lost some weight. It is totally within my control though talking about it is far easier than actually doing something about it. Ultimately, the best motivation to become the best marshal possible is having training provided. It encourages you to do many things, and most of them positively improve your skill set. And as I’ve written before about the CAMS Young Officials program in Australia, it’s up to the top level of Motorsport organizers to push down to the grassroots level. If the FIA demanded better “quality” marshals for it’s events, and coughed up some money around the world to facilitate such training. The marshals it would create would not only shine for the single F1 or WEC race held in their area, they would certainly seek other events available around them to keep them busy throughout the year, including other pro races and club events. They would probably travel to volunteer races outside of their area. And all in all the “quality” of the pool of marshals worldwide would be improved.

In closing, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the best marshals are not necessarily those that are the most experienced but those that have the means to travel to and participate in various events. Yas Marina marshals will prove to the world they are the best this weekend not just because they receive amazing training locally, but because the organizers welcome a whole army of visiting officials from around the world that will help the locals prove their worth. There are plenty of British, Canadian, American, Australian, Hungarian and many other nationalities represented alongside the Emiratis in Abu Dhabi this weekend to help the ASN run the event smoothly and professionally. It would be nice then in the future to not hear that the UAE or British or Australian marshals are the best in the world, but that the FIA marshals are the best in the business… I would love to receive some FIA training to make me a better marshal because relying on my local club certainly hasn’t resulted in much.

 

Photo credit (Bernie Ecclestone) unknown, if it belongs to you please provide a hotlink that I could link to giving you credit. Thanks!