Category Archives: Circuit of the Americas Austin

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA

Grand Prix of Texas, Pirelli World Challenge Season Opener at CoTA

If there was one word to describe this race weekend it would be: VARIETY! There was excellent variety of cars in each class of the series. My station assignments gave me a good variety of action from different parts of the track. And there was a great variety of fellow marshals I got to work with as a corner captain. In this post I’ll share some of the experiences I had and some of my lessons learned.

First, the cars!

World Challenge Vision organization sanctioned by SCCA PRO has opened the field up to GT3 and GT4 cars from around the world (mostly Europe) to participate in the event, which really spiced up the field compared to previous years. I remember when the top battle in PWC was between the Cadillac’s and the Volvo’s. Not anymore! This time around there was an excellent representation of the best sports cars in the world right now. The GT3 field featured McLaren MP4-12C’s, Nissan GT-R’s, Audi R8 LM’s and LMS’s, Porsche 911’s and 911 R’s, new Cadillac’s, old BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, new Acura RL’s, Aston Martin’s, Bentley Continental GT’s, etc. And a very competitive field of Porsche 911 GT3-Cup cars. The GT4 field featured the whacky cars that haven’t been previously really visible stateside, like the KTM X-bow’s, SIN R1 GT4’s, Maserati Gran Turismo’s, a couple of older Lotus Evora’s, some relics of the past like Ford Mustang’s and Chevy Camaro’s, Aston Martin DB7’s, Ginetta G55’s, and others. Even the TC field was full of surprises. Turns out that with the introduction of the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup, the previous models had no place to go racing, so they ended up in both TC and TCA fields. Sporting a 2.5L motor and a big wing in TC and the standard 2.0 and the lip Mazdaspeed spoiler in TCA.

I loved all the variety!

grand prix of texas pwc at cota ktm xbow

grand prix of texas pwc at cota lotus evora

grand prix of texas pwc at cota maserati gran turismo gt4

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 17

drumpf 2

I already mentioned all my awesome station assignments in my post card thread. But it was truly fantastic to work Turn 1 for the first race of the season in the TC/TCA/TCB class. To my great surprise we went through the whole thing without a full course yellow! Both of the TC/(A)/(B) events went off without safety car periods even when there were plenty of incidents and some amazing hard racing, but the more professional drivers in the GTS and GT/GTA/GT-Cup were far more messy and up to their usual tricks. I think we started more than one of the GT/(A)/(Cup) events with a full course on the first lap. There were some heavy hits too, especially in the GTS races and practices. Both Sin R1 GT4’s were taken out on stations within a my view from Turn 9. It was such a shame to see that, but by the same token it was hard racing.

And finally to the lessons learned. I was lucky enough to be the corner captain for all of my station assignments, which was great because it taught me how to better work with people especially those with less experience than me. It’s always a fine line to try to teach others to work to your expectations without offending someone or giving them information that is contrary to what they have had learned before. I had this sort of issue at Turn 1 and 9 where I let the guys make their mistakes during practice believing that by the time a race came around we’d be on the ball. But it surprised even me how mistakes were made that I was not anticipating. This included waving double-yellow flags like in Formula 1 where this series only relies on a single-yellow. Or debating whether a yellow should have been waved over green when a car spun just prior and directly across form our station (since I was on flags I waved green, but my rookie coworker suggested he’d wave yellow in that instance… and he would be wrong to do so (I have already blogged about a similar situation from the IMSA race at Watkins Glen last year)).  All in all we were incredibly lucky to have stuff happen right in front of us. Plenty of spins, some of them quite dramatic. Some light contacts between cars and smashes into the barrier, etc. I think we all walked away from this weekend with a little more experience than we started with, which is an excellent opportunity! I don’t think anyone was bored the entire weekend.

And so it was a great start to my American racing calendar. I’m really grateful to everyone that made my experience an outstanding one. And of course I’m very much looking forward to more of the same (excitement) starting with my next trip tomorrow when I’ll be driving down to Florida for two back to back Pro events: Grand Prix of St. Pete and Sebring 12 hour. Wish me luck!

PS. It would have been even more variety if the Intercontinental GT Challenge had made it’s scheduled debut this weekend. However, even though it never materialized it was neat to see Mr. SRO himself wandering around the paddock… yep, I saw Stéphane Ratel at CoTA!

Postcard from the Grand Prix of Texas: PWC at COTA

Howdy from another fantastic weekend trackside.

What an amazing experience the Grand Prix of Texas, or officially Nissan Grand Prix of Texas presented by VP Race Fuels, was… I had such a blast it’s hard to describe quickly… I’ll do a more comprehensive debrief when I get home to Jersey, but for the time being I’d like to share a few pictures from the event.

Keyword for the event: VARIETY!

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 30

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 29

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 28

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 27

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 20

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 26

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 22

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 21

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 16

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 17

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 18

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 19

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 11

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 12

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 14

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 15

#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain 😉

drumpf 1

drumpf 2

Some awesome looking MX-5 Racecars that raced in two classes, TCA – the standard MX-5 Cup Cars and the upper TC class that ran big wings and 2.5L engines which were on par with much larger Mustang V6’s and Nissan Z…whatever has the 6 cylinder in it…

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 23

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 25

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 24

And of course the food was absolutely amazing, as always! Barbecue + Mexican + Tex-Mex, it was sooooo delicious!

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 6

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 10

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 2

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 3

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 4

As usual big thanks to my buddy Joaquin for hosting me for this week, and chauffeuring me around to the track and all the restaurants. Big thanks to Brent McNaul the Flag Chief of the Lone Star SCCA Region for making my trip awesome with amazing station assignments each day… I got to do Turn 3 for the first time, Turn 1 and Turn 9… and all saw some great action there. Thank you so much! And a huge thanks to Jeanie Caulfield for taking care of the marshals with all the breakfasts, lunches and swag at the end. This is much appreciated and encouraging to come back again and again!

I’m very grateful for how everything went down during this event.

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 1

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 9

Turn 3

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 7

Turn 1

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 5

Turn 9

grand prix of texas pwc at cota 8

Yep… Have Flags and Will Travel!

Planning 3 Major Trips Simultaneously: Motorsport Events in Texas, Florida & California

With the excitement from the trip to the South Pacific barely starting to wear out I’m keeping the momentum going by planning 3 massive domestic trips to marshal around the country.

What’s on the agenda?

Pirelli World Challenge season opener at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas immediately followed by a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida for a few events. I plan to drive down to Florida in my MX-5 the day after I fly home from Texas. The trip will put at least 3,000 miles on the car while volunteering my first St. Pete Grand Prix tagged along to another exciting Sebring 12 hour enduro with the IMSA WeatherTech United SportsCar Series Championship race. After a few weeks of recovery I’ll depart on a trip to California for another IndyCar Grand Prix on the streets of Long Beach.

I could hardly contain my excitement about these trips, and am currently wrecking my brains trying to organize all the travel arrangements. In a way, the flights are the easiest part of the equation. The costs to marshal are tremendous especially when the volunteers compete for the same accommodation that drivers and fans use during a race weekend. I’ve found this to be especially true in the case of St. Pete where even the cheapest hell-hole hotels are pushing $100/night. But it’s a challenge I’m happy to accept, I find the planning part almost as exciting as being trackside for the event.

PWC at COTA

For the Pirelli World Challenge season opener at the Circuit of the Americas I’ve frankensteined a trip together using a $36 AA flight from LGA to DFW and then $2.50 bus from Dallas to Austin with Megabus. On the way home it’ll be another $2.50 Megabus ride back to Dallas to connect to a $49 UA flight back to LaGuardia via Houston: DFW-IAH-LGA. I’m looking forward to my buddy Joaquin helping me out in Austin again with his monster Chevy dually.

St. Pete GP & Sebring 12h

The IndyCar season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida will be a two day drive in the MX-5 from New Jersey. I will probably break up the trip into a 12 hour and an 8 hour drive with a rest stop overnight in Columbia, SC. I am a little concerned about parking for the MX-5 while in Florida especially if I do stay at a cheapo motel, which tend to be in bad parts of town and therefore prone to crime. But fingers are crossed everything works out. I plan to camp at Sebring, as much as I dislike the idea of camping you can’t beat the price. Although my camping gear, sleeping bag, pillows, etc. will completely pack the poor little convertible.

Long Beach GP

For this trip I frankensteined a few flights to bring the price down. Because it’s a busy Motorsport weekend in the LA area the flights are priced higher than normal. My goal was to book something for under $200 round trip and I just managed to do it by booking a number of separate reservations with United. The one way NY-LA was about $150 but I cut that cost in half by booking NY-Chicago and Chicago-LA separately… $35 for LGA-ORD and $35 ORD-LAX with favorable departure times and plenty of room between the two separate bookings in case there is major travel disruption on the day of travel. The flights back home were the pricey ones and in fact I paid almost double of the cost to get there. I chose to fly out on the Monday after the race, and the cheapest option was a $132 flight from Burbank to Newark via San Francisco: BUR-SFO-EWR. I think I am pretty happy with these bookings considering the alternative was at least $75 to $100 more, or I would have had to rely on wasting an award which I would rather save up on a flight to Europe.

In the next few days I’ll continue researching accommodation for these three trips and trying to decide whether to stick to public transport in California or rent a cheapo car to get around.

I’m excited!

PS. I am especially looking forward to the lengthy trip in the Miata, after a beautiful Road Trip in New Zealand I want to appreciate driving my own car as much as the owners I met love driving theirs.

Pirelli World Challenge remains the feature race at COTA while Intercontinental GT Challenge pulls out

Two things are inevitable in Motorsport: excitement and disappointment. Unfortunately after the excitement of finding out that the SRO would debut at the Circuit of the Americas this year with the Six hours of the Americas, disappointment followed learning the news that their appearance was cancelled.

Officially the SRO says the event has been postponed until October of 2017 but with the lack of information made available leading up to the March 2016 event, I highly doubt there will be anything to look forward to two Octobers from now.

I am disappointed, especially after booking my flights specifically to see the Intercontinental GT Challenge on American soil after experiencing it in Malaysia for the Sepang 12h and Australia for the Bathurst 12h. But the good news the SCCA-PRO: Pirelli World Challenge is a decent show to experience. I have had the pleasure of working a race with PWC at COTA during the Australian V8 Supercars visits to America a few years back, and I’m looking forward to seeing PWC succeed on its own.

Shame SRO cancelled though 🙁

SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge and Pirelli World Challenge at Circuit of the Americas Marshal Invitation 2016

Another invitation to return to the Circuit of the Americas this season, this time for the Pirelli World Challenge which plays a support race to the brand new format from the SRO: the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

Sounds familiar? It should be. SRO is going head to head with WEC creating a global endurance series championship including Sepang 12 hour which I just did in Malaysia and Bathurst 12 hour which I’ll be going to Australia for in February.

The COTA event is definitely on my to-do list!

Here’s the invite e-mail from Brent McNaul, Lone Star SCCA flag chief:

Happy New Year everyone, entering a new racing season.  Pirelli World Challenge is returning for a 4 day run at Circuit of the Americas, Thurs thru Sun March 3rd-6th (Thurs is a test day).  They’re running all their classes again making 3 race groups (GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS, and TC/TCA/TCB).

And there’s a very special addition this year, making the 4th race group… A new racing word for us this year, and it’s a special one… Blancpain.  It gets better.  NIGHT RACING.  The SRO Blancpain GT Endurance series from Europe have their inaugural US debut on Satwith a 6 hr enduro, and it runs well past sundown Sat evening until 9:15pm.

Cadillac, Ferrari, McLaren, Maserati, Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and many other manufacturers, plenty of top Pro sports car racing.  Add it to your calendar and make plans to join us if you can.
Please register at motorsportreg.com, more info as we get closer.  Cheers,
Brent
See ya’ll in Texas!

MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas Marshal Invitation 2016

Just got an invite from Jeanie to marshal MotoGP at COTA.

If anyone is interested, now would be a good time to sign up:

Can you hear the tires?
Smell the rubber?
Catch that lean? 

It’s that time again!

We have MotoGP and support series, MotoAmerica back on track April 8th – 10th! We need a few great marshals to get us up and running again. We’ll need:

Flagging and Comm – talk to race control, flag the riders.

Track Marshals – get out on track and pick up those bikes.

Medic Assist – help the EMS to bring the rider to safety.

Bike Pick Up – get those bikes loaded into trailer and safely back to their home.

AND MANY MORE!

As always, registration and training will be on April 7th. We’ll have a great dinner, learn the track and get equipment/necessary forms.

This year we are also running our FLAT TRACK, we opened this for XGames and the response was immense!

We have some new tricks for this year that will knock your socks off!

Please go to MOTOGP2016 hosted on MotorSportReg.com!

Thanks everyone! Hope to see you back!

Jeanie and the Race Admin Team

Let’s Support the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas

A lot of sad news is coming out of Texas about the state of affairs at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Speculation this morning that Formula 1 may drop the venue now that Texas will not foot the bill for the event in the future. The pretty disastrous 2015 running of the United States F1 Grand Prix which was mostly rained out. And of course subsequent storm damage, pictures which have been circulating around the Internet for a while now, but were officially posted on the COTA web site to point out the damage… see here: http://www.circuitoftheamericas.com/storm who knows if the pictures will stay up, so I just wanted to share a few here:

circuit of the americas main grandstand damage
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas double decker bus cota
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas flooding
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas tunnel 1 flooding
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas tunnel 2 wall collapse
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas storm damage tunnel 2
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com

The picture above of the Tunnel 2 is especially scary because it is essentially the evacuation site for the marshals, which we practiced getting to in an expedited fashion during one of the events specifically in situations of severe weather, life threatening weather like what the pictures of the aftermath depict.

While I chose not to participate in this year’s F1 Grand Prix at COTA I did volunteer there for the WEC/IMSA: Lone Star Le Mans races. I have gone there for two consecutive years to volunteer Formula 1. And I would have been there again for MotoGP had they responded to my inquiry sooner. I have a very special place for COTA in my heart for a variety of reasons. Not least because I find it to be the best circuit the US currently has to offer to the world. Yes, I acknowledge that there are other amazing tracks like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California, Watkins Glen International in Upstate New York and Road Atlanta in Georgia. But COTA is the newest and most advanced circuit US has. It is the most impressive facility we currently have on a world stage, and in its current state it’s worth supporting!

I understand there have been a change in management because of the less than desired outcomes of recent events. The prospect of losing F1 could snowball in larger problems that could send COTA in the direction of what happened to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Mother nature hasn’t been cooperative this year, that was a big hit. But as American Motorsport volunteers and fans we ought to support this place because many more “good” things will come out of COTA in the future. I firmly believe it!

I really hope the Circuit of the Americas receives the support it deserves in the 2016 racing season…. whether it is for Pirelli World Challenge (PWC), IMSA Weathertech United SportsCar Series, World Endurance Championship (WEC), MotoGP, Formula 1 (F1) and all the other smaller track rentals that occur there. I have faith!

Lone Star Le Mans the Debrief

For the second year in a row, Lone Star Le Mans proved to be one of my best events of the year so far. In many ways it was much better than last year. The weather was nice, warm and sunny compared to last year’s rain and cold. I was feeling much better physically, none of that nausea from food poisoning that messed with me last year. There wasn’t a generator with an exhaust pointing into the station, so things were pretty good all around.

Of course things were up and down, starting from the time I booked my flights. I overpaid for my air travel this year. Part of it was due to the lack of cheap offers I took advantage of last year, and another part was because I chose to burn up some soon to expire mileage which actually resulted in me paying a higher price. This year I used the last of my Avianca Life Miles frequent flyer points to book a one way trip from Austin to Newark in time to get to work on Sunday afternoon. In all it cost me $120 dollars to pay for taxes and to prop up the mileage which Avianca allows you to buy in order to book the trip (I didn’t have enough to book it outright). The price also included the $25 booking fee which Avianca charges which sucks. To get to Austin I booked a $118 flight with JetBlue from Westchester County airport on the NY/CT border to fly there via Orlando. It wasn’t the cheapest flight possible, but it allowed me to satisfy some frequent flyer criteria to earn a bonus with JetBlue to use for the future. Of course a few weeks after I booked these trips that amounted to $238 and a bunch of layovers, Southwest came out with a sale that was $50 cheaper on direct flights into Austin from Newark, and that had much better timing. Go figure!

For comparison purposes I paid $106 round trip to go to Austin last year, in fact I booked two of those trips for WEC and F1.

But enough about that. The next snag came once I landed in Austin. I had some miscommunication with my buddy Joaquin which resulted in me waiting at the airport for him to pick me up. Somehow we didn’t get the arrival date correct. He thought I was flying in the next day when he had work commitments at COTA. I foolishly thought he had to work on the date I arrived. So I sat and waited at the airport until 5pm when he would have been finished with the work, and then 6pm, and 7pm, etc. I people-watched. Had some Salt Lick BBQ which I know I wouldn’t have a chance to go to since I wasn’t renting a car to drive to Driftwood. So I waited. About 6 hours later and no sight of my buddy… I decided to call him. And then we both realized out mistake. While waiting I got a chance to say hello to Marc Miller the driver of the CJWilson #3 Miata which had a very good start for the Continental Tire SportsCar Championship race this weekend.

I always have high praise for Salt Lick BBQ – an Austin institution, but I had a bad experience there on this visit. The girl behind the counter swiped my credit card twice during my purchase. I didn’t think anything of it until I got home and saw two separate and different charges on my card. She charged me for my meal, which was delicious and for something else which I didn’t order nor receive. So I sent Salt Lick a note about this theft from my credit card, but got a pretty arrogant reply back requesting my card number so they can credit the account back. At this point I had already disputed the transaction with the card issuer so that was a pointless piece of the process but it is sad to see that the organization doesn’t take theft seriously. In the past I had seen duplicate charges from my purchases at the Austin Airport but the amount was too small to fuss about. But this time it was more about the principle. I don’t like being robbed even of a small amount.

And so onto the actual event.

On Wednesday I arrived with Joaquin who was scheduled to work for COTA that day, thinking I would just hang out and take some pictures. Luckily the powers that be decided to use me for the practice sessions, so I got issued with a radio and dropped off at Turn 12 for the Porsche GT3 Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge practice. There were five sessions in total, and at the end of the day I was able to register for the main event without having to arrive extra early the next day.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were extremely long days. We were to arrive at the crack of dawn, 5:30am and most of the time didn’t leave well after dark… the hardest were 9:30pm finish on Thursday and the 11pm finish on race day Saturday. My feet were completely swollen.

Thursday I got to captain at Station 20 Alpha which is the exit of Turn 20 opposite the finish stand on the main straight. That was an amazing opportunity. My goal was to sneak away during our breaks, to the pit lane and say hello to some people while snapping some pix, but that wasn’t realistic at all. The track stayed hot most of the time.

I did get an opportunity to go down the pit lane and check out the paddock on Friday and Saturday because I was stationed at Turn 2, the station had an incredible view of the uphill leading up to Turn 1 which was amazing. But besides the convenience of walking to the pits and watching the cars shoot for the first turn, we actually had some great action ourselves at our turn, where again I was captain. First for the Lamborghini Super Trofeo event there was a Huracan car that smacked the ARMCO just up the station from us, which allowed me to respond with a fire extinguisher. Since the car was facing away from me I never got the driver to make eye contact so I could tell him that the rear end was broken. But after a few moments he drove away, crabbing along with the left axle clearly destroyed. For the IMSA practice we had a PC prototype cruise backwards after a spin at Turn 1 and then suddenly shoot out into the oncoming traffic trying to rejoin. Another PC prototype collected him in a violent fashion and both ended up coming to a rest just prior to Station 3. I was on flags again so I went from waving a green, to waving a yellow, to standing a yellow to asking my partner to go waving white, to again waving a yellow when the crash happened. The incident repeated in the Porsche GT3 Cup when the second car in Gold class got bumped and spun out of the way in the apex of our turn by a Platinum class driver. Like the PC incident the whole thing didn’t make sense, and resulted from some pretty aggressive driving. While on comms for the headline WEC race we were extremely quiet. The only call I made was for the #50 Corvette getting pushed off the track by a passing LMP2 car, and a few laps later I was surprised to hear that the Corvette was penalized for that incident. From my vantage point it looked like the prototype clearly muscled his way through.

Going to this event I was happy to just be a flagger, but I understand why the flag chief would make me a captain. I wanted to share what I have learned over the years with my crew, but it was interesting to see how some selectively accepted what I told them, and at other times didn’t bother listening to it at all. It took some adjustments on my part to get people to do what I wanted them to do. And some mistakes were made, minor but mistakes nonetheless. I was happy to see a fellow marshal request the communicator role which freed me up to do some flagging. But during both of our major incidents at Turn 2 I noticed he had the boom of his Mic over his head. And even though he tried calling in the incident play by play, Race Control would have a hard time making out his call because the Mic was so far away from his mouth. Both times I reached out and pulled the Mic down to the proper level. But that obviously interfered with the smoothness of the call, as it should have been made. I had a great time training some new marshals, and one of the main things I tried to instill is confidence in blue flagging. It almost worked too well because my rookie flagger threw the blue flag on second lap for the mixed GT field. I quickly corrected him and explained that during the race blue flag is ONLY for lapping. But it was one of those things that totally caught me off guard, as he didn’t throw the blue flag on the start of any other support races. It wasn’t just the rookies that surprised me. One of the experienced flaggers that I wanted to rotate with during a support race took the headset off my head as I got the blue flag from him, which is something I asked him prior to the start of the race we were not going to do. Leaving me fumbling to find some ear protection. And at the start of the front straight the station is at the point where all cars accelerate flat out making it a very noisy station. My ears were ringing for a while after that. I still don’t understand why he did what he did, and certainly didn’t appreciate it at all.

So that was that, good racing. Three different perspectives and eight different people I got a chance to work with. Most were really nice, some were quite stubborn and didn’t seem to approve of my choices at times. But I got a real kick out of two people listening to my advice as they were new to endurance racing and appreciated the opportunity they got for the training I offered them. One even said he had stumbled upon my blog in preparation for his first event at COTA which I thought was really cool.

During the pit walk I managed to snap a whole lot of pix. Got an opportunity to say hello to Mr. Alain from WEC who surprised me with a few WEC/Le Mans 24h patches. And even got a chance to tour the Race Control room. Although it was a bit awkward getting in, as security was under strict orders not to let us in so we had to wait in the sun until someone was sent to get us. It was ironic as there wasn’t many people in race control when we finally got in, so I’m not sure what was the point of making us wait outside in the sun to begin with. Maybe that was a way to elevate the image of the idea of the Race Control facility… or who knows what else. That aspect should have been organized better.

I’m glad I got an opportunity to go back to Austin and substitute my previous trips to Le Mans 24h in France with two American events with “Le Mans” in their names. Petit Le Mans is my next big trip only a week apart from Lone Star Le Mans, and if it goes half as well as the Texas event I would be very happy!

Stay tuned for more…

Post-Race Praise for Jeanie Caulfield the Motorsport Operations Event Manager at COTA

I have major praise for Jeanie Caulfied the Motorsport Operations Event Manager with the Circuit of the Americas for a job well done at the Lone Star Le Mans this weekend.

In this blog post I would like to express my gratitude to Jeanie for the awesome work she has been doing, from a marshal’s point of view. That work is greatly appreciated because it makes a big difference for those of us that are visiting marshals. Those that don’t live in the Central Texas area and those investing significant amount of time and money to be able to volunteer the events that COTA puts on.

lone star le mans swag 1

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Jeanie on my very first trip to COTA for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in 2012. Since then, I’ve been back to Austin a number of times including several Formula 1 and a few WEC events. There were also a few that I almost participated in but things didn’t materialize on my end, most notably MotoGP this year, as well as Pirelli World Challenge and ALMS – American Le Mans that became the current version of IMSA TUSC series. And over the years I’ve learned that the most important person at COTA for the marshals is Jeanie. I made an earlier post praising Brent McNaul for his excellent work as a flag chief for the Lone Star Le Mans, but the majority of e-mails Brent forwarded onto the rest of us marshals actually came from Jeanie. So big thumbs up to her for the open communication channels and being a great person to seek information from about a particular event or the track itself.

I’ve been learning about Jeanie’s job(s) and the multiple hats she wears during a particular event purely from observation. I’ve seen her transport marshals to and from station during the F1 and WEC weekends. She is a great shuttle train driver, pulling several trailers behind a Ford Super Duty in true Texas style. She’s brought us a Kubota quad this weekend to make a quick getaway from station at the end of the day so we don’t impede scheduled track activity that didn’t require marshals. That was very thoughtful so we didn’t have to be stuck on track for another hour at the end of an already long day. Thanks for that!

The track services staff work directly with Jeanie and for anyone that likes food like I do, could appreciate her efforts in organizing lunches and drink runs to all the stations especially on hot days like this weekend. Track food is always a hit or miss. I’ve written posts about us volunteering for a soggy sandwich or how Singapore GP has the worst food I’ve ever had track side by offering Délifrance as the least-likely-to-spoil option in the heat of Southeast Asia (when distributed in the morning sign-on meeting and meant to last to the end of the day without refrigeration on station). But Jason’s Deli that COTA has been offering marshals for the past few years is quite tasty and the variety offers something for everyone. So thumbs up for taking care of us, when all of our attention is on the race cars on track!

I’ve even seen her ride around the ring road with the track services people delivering lunches and drinks with a water gun spraying unsuspecting marshals. So she’s got a great sense of humor to boot.

Jeanie has also been very creative in rewarding volunteer participation with excellent marshal swag. I think this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans was her best work yet with a very stylish t-shirt design. A useful cooler bag with COTA branding. A participant patch customized to show the year of the event. And a neat poncho which we luckily didn’t have the need to use… but it made for a cool and useful keepsake.

lone star le mans t-shirt

lone star le mans swag 2

Besides being really good at her job she’s also a very pleasant person to talk with. She’s always friendly, polite and courteous and that’s important. Especially when arriving at the track at 5am and leaving after a double shift at 10 or 11pm like this weekend. I know I have a tendency of getting cranky especially when things don’t go my way, but Jeanie has a big smile on her face at the start of the day when you see her during the morning meeting, during lunch delivery or shift relief drop offs, or at the end of the day when we’re dropped off at the marshal tent. Thanks for always smiling!

Thank you very much Jeanie!

 

In true Austin style, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeanie bring live music to the marshaling tent at a future event… some almost famous dude or a chick with a guitar playing a catchy tune at morning sign-on… yep! totally see that happening.

This is Texas! My Ride for Lone Star Le Mans at COTA The “Beast”

There’s one thing I look forward to the most when arriving in Austin, Texas for any of the events at Circuit of the Americas: and that is a ride in my buddy’s truck: the “Beast”

What is the Beast?

It’s a ninety seventies something Chevy Silverado Dually… with a big ass V8 under the hood and a four speed manual transmission with a skull for a shift knob… it’s loud, it’s aggressive and it’s powerful. It certainly got a lot more heads turning at the airport when I got picked up than any of the fancy new pick ups or other vehicles that picked up other people as I was waiting for my ride. And there were plenty of Texas Edition and Lone Star Edition trucks driving through the terminal. The noise from the Beast is really something…

the beast lone star le mans austin texas cota 3

the beast lone star le mans austin texas cota 1

the beast lone star le mans austin texas cota 2

I met Joaquin the owner at COTA last year during the Lone Star Le Mans weekend because we worked the same station together. He’s been kind enough to store my tent for me since then, picking me up at the airport when I arrived for the Formula 1 weekend and now Lone Star Le Mans this year.

To me, Joaquin’s truck is what Texas is all about. Big, noisy and tough! And this time around I actually got to drive the Beast myself being the designated driver when we went out for some Mexican food and margaritas. What a thrill! Only stalled it once when I put it in 4th instead of reverse while leaving the parking lot, but did pretty good the rest of the way to the house. Very happy to have had this experience. Certainly made my day!

la palapa austin mexican cantina

tacos at la palapa austin mexican cantina