Category Archives: USA

ALMS at Mid Ohio, oh yes Indycar & World Challenge

Mid Ohio was the final stop on a three week, three thousand mile road trip to three different racetracks all featuring some of the best sports car racing series in the world.  And the verdict: it was the best event of the trip… at least the ALMS race where I got to do blue flag for most of the race. Having done American LeMans several times now I was quite used to the field, so it was very natural to blue flag the leaders and the fastest cars in each class. There was also Indycars racing on Sunday, but that race was totally overshadowed by ALMS.

The new entry to the GT field in ALMS was a 2012 SRT Viper with two cars #91 and #93. I got to see them in practice when I arrived early for registration, but they didn’t seem particularly quick. Surprisingly, bumped into John Hammer from SRT track experience on a few occasions at Mid Ohio. Looks like Chrysler is really pushing this racing program.

Having spent a stressful two weeks in Michigan I couldn’t wait to head back East, trying to limp my iffy car back to Jersey. Surprisingly with minimal A/C use and sticking to the speed limit there wasn’t a drop of coolant anywhere in the engine bay. So much so that the water pump I bought in Detroit will not be used yet. I will continue using the car as is for the next trip to Watkins Glen International for another Grand Am instalment as a support race for NASCAR. Luckily unlike Indianapolis Motor Speedway I will actually stick around for NASCAR this time 🙂

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We even made it on TV broadcast:

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Brickyard 400 Grand Am at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The second stop on my two thousand mile road trip over a three week period went rather well though very nerve-racking. Now that I’m back in Detroit, I guess I can say things worked themeselves out though I still have a trip to a mechanic coming up first thing Monday morning.

First the problem stemmed from a slow leak that has upgraded to an alarming leak somewhere between Canada and Michigan. Nursing the car all the way to Indianapolis for the race made me more than nervous for all five hours it took to get there. But I made it, and even though it looked like the coolant was gushing out of the system, I made it back to my friend’s house as well.

The race itself was equally nerve-racking. It was perfectly hot weather when I arrived Thursday. The buffet dinner was a welcoming sight, as well as meeting some big wigs at USAC – United States Auto Club that ran the event at the Speedway. However on race day the wather yo yo’ed from hot sunshine to cooling rain throughout the twelve hour schedule. I had to put my wet weather gear on three times or so. Both Continental Tire Challenge and Rolex Grand Am finished under caution, but racing was close and fun to flag. There was lots of blue flagging which I always enjoy.

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Road Trip via Detroit, Michigan – the Motor City

My travels from ALMS in Ontario, Canada to Grand Am at Indianapolis have taken me back to Detroit. I’m a huge fan of the Motor City not just for all the automotive history but a few years ago I made some friends through my SRT owners web site and now I have a perfect excuse to visit them time and again. I was last here in May for the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and should return to kill some time between Grand Am at Indy and ALMS/Indycars at Mid Ohio.

Besides all the automotive history there’s good food here… but even that is car related…

The Packard Grill is an institution, located on the old Packard proving grounds it has a fantastic menu with funny automotive names like a hub cap of soup, or a spare tire, spark plugs, lug nuts, etc. All delicious menu items!

Mid Atlantic Road Racing Series at Summit Point

Spent another excellent weekend in West Virginia 🙂

This time I found a new host in Winchester, Virginia so there was far lesser country feel to it compared to last time, though there was no shortage of country music on the radio, lol

After spending a nice evening hanging out at the Union Jack pub, I hit the Summit Point track bright and early and to my surprise the security guard at the gate started acting up, wanting to charge me $25 admission… cause he never heard anything about “volunteering” what a prick. Anyway, after checking his list, and then another list, and then a third… well you get the idea, I made it in.

I was pleasantly surprised to see some senior corner workers from up north show up and since we were all from the North East we got put on the same corner, at Turn 1. Boy did it not disappoint. Lots of action followed, including a high speed rollover wreck involving an open wheeler formula car. The driver ended up upside down in the gravel with fuel dripping over him… which meant we had to lift it off the ground for him to get out, I was stationed with a fire bottle opposite the gravel trap so that was a quick response running across a hot track to his aid. Luckily there wasn’t need to pull the pin, came very close though.

Had a nice drive home, with another 33mpg run so the car is back to normal on the highway with about 5,000 miles after this trip just in time to change oil for the road trip to Canada.

for more info on the MARRS visit Washington DC SCCA web site: http://www.wdcr-scca.org/ClubRacing/tabid/59/Default.aspx

Media from Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

UPDATE: I never gave credit to the photographer that took these photos because I had initially found them on facebook… but here’s his direct link: http://www.pointepics.com/Sports/Racing/Detroit-Grand-Prix-2012-Corner/23388439_TRsPtx#!i=1888965061&k=QqRg9Mm

An interesting sight at the Detroit GP… SCCA Detroit region hired a photographer to capture the work of the corner workers, luckily the guy was always around our post and took some awesome shots.

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Northeast Grand Prix – ALMS at Lime Rock Park

I had no idea what to expect with the American Le Mans Series running the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. I can’t say I get nervous anymore, even with Formula 1 now things are pretty calm and cool, but there was a bit of anxiety… if that’s the right word to use. Le Mans series of course is what I grew up watching in Ukraine as a child. From what I’ve heard before its a more advanced series than the Rolex Grand Am. The reality however was somewhat of mixed feelings.

In the end it was a relatively low key event. Sure it had the celebrity clout and the army of camera people following the action, but the field consisted of only 29 cars. Prototype 1 class or LMP1 only had 3 cars… similar fields for LMP2. The Prototype Challenge or LMPC was about on par speed-wise with the faster GT cars, so blue flagging was interesting but very exciting at that. Getting used to the classes made me guess a few times, but it worked out.

For Friday’s practice I was at station 8 or for the purpose of ALMS “the uphill” where a chicane was used at the bottom of the hill. To my surprise many of the GT and GTC class cars were actually pulling away from the LMPC cars that were nearly side by side with them at the bottom of the hill before the chicane. Luckily on raceday I was at “pit entry” which is Lime Rock station 12… or basically the main straight after the downhill. A station I worked before and a fantastic spot to blue flag from.

The race finished under double-yellow/caution as a Patrón Ferrari smashed into the tire wall at the bottom of the hill. So both days of the event I was at a corner that had lots of action. Great times, some excellent new contacts made like Maurice from the Netherlands and the owner of ORANGEMEN.NL web site… my future source for European marshalling opportunities I expect. Being at pit entry put me smack in the middle of the grid action and great photo ops with the grid girls. Next stop Mosport in Canada.  Stay tuned for more. Here are some pix:

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PS. almost forgot… got to push Patrick Dempsey’s LMP2 from main straight into the pit lane and down to tech inspection after the prototype ran out of fuel at the end of the race.

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Pro Photos courtesy of David Wilks: RaceShotsResource.com

Sahlen’s 6hr at the Glen, Rolex Grand Am

WOW! What a freaking weekend. Not only was it long… 4 days, 4 stations, and a 6 hour endurance race, my longest one yet. It was very intense and exciting! I love it.

I was a bit bummed out that I decided to follow Grand Am to Watkins Glen after flagging one of their races at NJMP, especially since ARCA was having a pro event there which paid corner workers for their help. But boy am I glad I came. Not only because ARCA at NJMP experienced a blackout due to the intense heat, but because Grand Am did not disappoint with the level of excitement and intensity.

I became a member of Race Services Incorporated since Watkins Glen doesn’t really use SCCA folks opting for their own special group of volunteers. And after visiting them a few weeks ago for the Porsche Club meeting I was amazed how quickly they trusted me to be on my own. Thursday I was solo at Station 9 at the entrance to the famous Boot. Friday I was at Station 5 the straight at the exit of the Esses, an excellent blue flagging station. Saturday I was corner captain at Station 3 which was supposed to be quiet, but with my fellow flagger getting sick, and several major impacts just before my station that I had to call in because Station 2 had no direct visual of the area thanks to the campers set up on the infield, it was amazing. For race day I was in my favorite location yet, at Station 17 just before the main straight for start/finish. The very last corner with me on blue flag was sweet!

I will definitely head back to the famous Watkins Glen International, it is all its cracked up to be, and then some.

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Porsche Club of America at Watkins Glen

Club events have got to be my least favorite volunteering experiences because they tend to be pretty boring. Granted its not always the case but more often than not its the case. This time I was on my first visit to the Glen. I joined RSI – Race Services Incorporated in order to volunteer the 6hr endurance Rolex Grand Am race, but before I could be considered I had to audition. This was the only weekend I had open to go to Watkins Glen.

I used the opportunity to CouchSurf again and found an amazing host whom I hung out with part of the weekend. There was a neat cardboard regatta held at Seneca Lake of which she was a part so it was very much fun in that respect.

I am however looking forward to the actual race which is just around the corner.

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Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix in Detroit

I’ve been blessed with good luck the past few months because even after realizing I had missed registration by several weeks I was graciously accepted to participate in the Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix. It was a great deal of fun not just for the racing, but specifically because of the type of series represented in the races as well as an opportunity for me to do some flying which I absolutely love.

The pieces slowly fell into place after I got my acceptance e-mail. As luck would have it an email from Southwest Airways followed with a neat 35% discount coupon and the dates of travel I selected were actually the cheapest in that week! A quick e-mail to a Michigan buddy that I haven’t seen since Woodward Dream Cruise many years ago took care of the accommodation and some hocus pocus with Hertz allowed me to have a rental for the duration of my stay in Detroit for a fraction of what it normally costs. I love when things just happen right.

Upon arrival things continued smoothly, got a nice Chevy Sonic to test drive for a few days, collected my credentials, got some new SCCA patches, etc. Friday’s practice was wet but with my New Zealand wet weather gear I was fully prepared. Saturday was perhaps the best day, sunny and warm and Grand Am kicked ass. It was the main attraction for me and as far as I was concerned that was the feature race, though I realized later that IndyCar was meant to trump it. But it didn’t. On race day Sunday track started falling apart especially after the World Challenger cars had their way with it (and boy did they rip it apart, I and my fellow flaggies were pelted with tiny rocks from the asphalt all weekend) that wasn’t much fun getting hit in the face all the time.

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Meeting some new marshals was one of the highlights of my trip, especially the internationals from Canada. But hanging out with my friends was even better. The day after the races I had an opportunity to finally visit the Henry Ford museum, it was neat. Shortly after I drove across the tunnel into Canada to take a closer look at Windsor, Ontario and had an excellent time. Quick flight home, had my father do a tune up on the Impala and now I’m all ready for Montreal. Here we go!

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It rained a lot, so here’s the obligatory wet weather gear pic.