Category Archives: Circuit of the Americas Austin

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA

CALTEX Road Trip debrief

The two week road trip to California and Texas went off without a glitch, I got to volunteer for two amazing racing series, all while sticking to a shoestring budget.

First, the American Le Mans series at Mazda Laguna Seca was one of the most amazing experiences ever, especially since I got to work the famous Corkscrew turn. I was stationed atop turn 8 leading into the Corkscrew which meant I had plenty of opportunity to blue flag, especially the fast approaching Prototypes and equally exciting GT class. While we had no major incidents, there were a number of spins and some tight passes, few spraying us with gravel as the cars went extra close to the station.

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Second, the V8Supercars at the Circuit of the Americas was the inaugural weekend for the Australian series making its debut in the US. I was stationed at turn 19 one of the last corners before chequered flag and we had a ton of great passing happening. Got to call in a hard impact with fire for one of the support races, where one Porsche GT3 Cup got rammed by another setting it in flames. Got to finally visit the Austin 360 tower overlooking the whole of COTA.

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Excellent two weeks that I wished wouldn’t end so quickly.

Some costs involved since everyone always asks… flights from Newark, NJ to San Jose, CA; San Francisco, CA to Austin, TX and back to Newark, NJ were approximately 20k Southwest points plus $15 tax… five car rentals, three in California costing $31 for the first day Ford Fiesta at Thrifty SJC, $70 for 4 days in a Kia Rio at Hertz SJC; $47 for the last day in a Ford Focus at Thrifty SJC (would have been $26 if I didn’t pay extra to drop it off at SFO). $89 for the first two days in Austin for a Nissan Versa followed by $70 for four days in a VW Passat at Hertz HLE. Cost me more for car rentals than I anticipated, but it was a necessary evil.

PS. CALTEX road trip not to be confused with CALTEX petroleum common in Asia Pacific

Another day at COTA, another lesson: GoPro

Being a latecommer to this hobby has its drawbacks, by the time I come up with an idea someone is already doing it. Take for example my friend Chris – the ‘Superbunny’ and his hat mounted GoPro camera. While I have been debating whether or not I could reasonably do it, he showed me today that it can be done and the results are awesome. Chris showed me some raw footage from Sebring, Long Beach and Petit Le Mans.

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The look of even an older GoPro video is amazing, watching the footage has a feel of a video game which could be a perfect tool to shoot training videos with like we used in classroom modules in Singapore. Still photos are also possible and look far better than what I take with my phone while keeping your hands free.

The V8’s races today were uneventful but fun, blue flag got a fantastic workout for World Challenge. Snuck in on station wearing orange making it easier for my Aussie friends to spot me on TV. Looking forward to more!

Accepted to V8 Supercars at Circuit of the Americas

Great news, after a quick enquiry on Facebook which flag chief to contact to participate in the V8 Supercars debut at the Circuit of the Americas, I got my application submitted and accepted within hours. Fantastic news as a matter of fact, though the next logical step is flights, car rentals and accommodation. Which is of course the expensive part.

Ever since I returned from my two month road trip to Asia Pacific a few days ago I’ve been searching and booking flights for this year’s racing season. Today alone I booked a one way Newark to Paris for the 24 hours of Le Mans which I’m praying I get accepted for, and of course the V8 Supercar trip to Austin, Texas. Of course, as part of that trip I also booked a slightly complex itinerary to include Monterey, California… the ALMS race at Laguna Seca. I’ve been dying to visit that track forever it seems, and now I finally have the opportunity to do so. The other day I also booked a cheap JetBlue flight from Newark to San Francisco for Grand-Am at Laguna Seca but that trip isn’t until September, very lucky to have only paid $120 round trip which will also hopefully yield me some 5k American Airlines frequent flyer miles which I can then in turn use to book my trip home from Singapore. I have already booked a one way heading to Singapore using Virgin America miles as soon as they announced their partnership with Singapore Airlines…. sounds complex, and it is… but for me its simple. 2013 will be an excellent year to do some amazing racing. The way the economy is going and the fact I’m still unemployed, it will probably be the last year I could do this kind of travel. Might as well enjoy it!

I should also point out that it’s rather ironic that this year I’ll be doing three events in California and so far there’s nothing notable happening at New Jersey Motorsport Park.

Go figure!

To see if you’re flying with me, go here: http://www.ba97.com/ba97/calendar/report.asp?handle=JerseyVics or here: http://www.openflights.org/user/JerseyVics

United States F1 Grand Prix

My sixth and final Formula 1 race of the 2012 season took me to Austin, Texas this November… via a few stops along the way in Dallas and Houston. I decided to book a flight to an alternate city for two reasons, first the price of the flight was cheaper and more importantly the price for a rental car was a fraction of the cost that the Austin businesses were charging. The drive from Houston to Austin was a little over three hours and I went straight in for the worker party which was set up for us near the track by the marshal organizers – United States Auto Club – USAC.

On Friday I got my first glimpse of the track and it looked quite impressive. It didn’t seem as exotic as say Sepang or Yas Marina Circuit, but it had some hints of modernity and plenty of elevation changes. Nothing like Mosport in Canada, but similar nonetheless. My station assignment was at “Alpha” which is on the main straight directly opposite the pit exit. The station itself had a major flaw for blue flagger, which happened to be me, because they placed a large brake marker on the pole where the flag cutout was, basically eliminating any view down the track.

This situation was fixed towards the end of the practice day as my post chief was super accommodating and listened to my suggestions. This doesn’t always happens but since it did I was very happy. Saturday and Sunday it was quite exiting to see so many spectators at our turn. The traffic didn’t cause a problem and we were able to enter and exit the track without much of an issue. Of course we were the first to arrive, and close to last to leave.

The racing itself was not what it could have been. Too clean. Hardly anything spectacular happened in terms of incidents. No safety car deployed. So pretty quiet. With so many Mexicans and Latin Americans in attendance I was expecting a few drivers to step up their game, but that didn’t quite happen. Similarly, the organizers didn’t really give us any opportunity to get US F1 GP memorabilia… we were all provided with Circuit of the Americas hats and t-shirts, but that’s obviously not the same as getting United States F1 Grand Prix hats and t-shirts. Oh well!

I had an absolute blast and am hopeful I’ll get to do this again next year. Thanks to everyone that made this trip possible, especially the good folks at USAC!

One of the perks of working Alpha is it’s proximity to all the track entertainment 🙂

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United States F1 Grand Prix photo book ordered

I had a hell of a time in Austin, Texas last weekend. As is usually the case, we were instructed NOT to take pictures except for those times when pictures were specifically allowed to be taken. There were no other instructions for safety or operations, like in Singapore and Australia the most paranoid part of running Formula 1 events is preventing marshals from taking pictures… ugh!

Anyway, I took some awesome shots for my photo book collection.

Follow the link on my facebook to check out the 20+ pages of awesomeness! I’ll write a full review of the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas a little bit later. Enjoy!

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F1 Fan Guide for Austin

This morning the Austin American-Statesman included a flashy 108 page Formula 1 Fan Guide in their papers for the thousands of fans swarming on Texas this weekend.

But if you’re not going to Austin for the race you should still download this magazine as its a wonderful keepsake. Included on the pages is useful information on the 2012 Formula 1 season, Teams & Drivers, explanation of equipment and flags used for the race, and lots of advertising from Texas, Yee Haw!

Download page: http://www.statesman.com/documents/2012/nov/13/download-copy-your-f1-grand-prix-fan-guide/

Trip booked for United States Grand Prix

I like to share a good deal when I see one, and the deal I just booked for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas is pretty good. Unlike the international Grand Prix where I either drove or relied on frequent flyer miles, I decided to find the cheapest flight available. And as one could imagine the flights from NYC area to Austin in November aren’t cheap. But the nice thing about Austin its only 2.5 hour drive from Houston or 3.5 hour drive from Dallas. So my search focused on those two cities. To my amazement, EWR-IAH (Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental) was a fairly low $249 all in with American Airlines. This works well for me because generally speaking, good deals posted on FlyerTalk betwen east and west coasts go between $200 and $300… middle of the country is generally more, so with a month to go, a deal under $300 is a genuinely good deal that will net me some much needed AAdvantage miles I could use for flights overseas.

My car rental deal is even  better. While carrentals.com advertises Hotwire deals for some $13.95+ a day, it comes out to roughly $125 taxes included. After playing around with a Hertz web site, whom I rented from several times before, I got the same car for $102 all in. Renting directly from Hertz allows me to get some FlyingBlue miles which I expect to use next year for my Euro Trip when marshalling Silverstone and LeMans. Now if only I could find a CouchSurfer to host me for the duration of the race, I’ll be a very happy camper 🙂