Category Archives: VIRginia International Raceway

Michelin GT Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix IMSA at VIR the debrief

People often ask what’s my favorite race track, and it’s a hard question to answer because I frequent some of the best of them in the world. VIR though is one of the very best in my book! I can say that with confidence and I would encourage people to come and check it out for themselves.

The IMSA at VIR event was my second trip to Danville, Virginia/Milton, North Carolina this year. Of the two this was arguably the bigger event and it showed with amazing crowds of spectators that showed up in force. For the third time now I failed to read the instructions given to volunteers to camp in the South Paddock and instead did what I did before and set up my spot in the North where the usual spectators camp. I say the usual, because most of my neighbors were there for PWC weekend earlier this year, and they were there last year for IMSA as well. One of the spectators made a comment complimenting my Miata saying he remembers it from before… COOL! I even got a visit from a “Mazda Santa” this time who mysteriously dropped off a few new Mazda lanyards by my tent. ALSO COOL!

My first accomplishment of the trip was finally getting to try out Biscuitville… I’ve seen their restaurants before in this area but they were always closed by the time I had free time to visit.

To my surprise Biscuitville sponsored the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, which is nice to see. Local businesses supporting the Motorsport activity in their region.

We were extremely fortunate this weekend to be blessed with perfect weather. It wasn’t too hot or too cool. It didn’t rain. It was perfect. Our pit fire team consisted of a bunch of visiting marshals from Daytona which was very neat. Some very experienced firefighters that follow the NASCAR circuit around.

And then there was me in their midst. Good educational experience.

Nothing noteworthy happened in the pit boxes I was responsible for. But I’m happy to say it was a lot to see right in front of me from the Weathertech Series down to SCCA Pro Formula 4. And specifically the ITM sponsored Kiwi Motorsport driver that hails from the part of the North Island in New Zealand where I got my start as a marshal. It was very cool to see them in action, and even though the guy didn’t win he certainly crashed enough… as the saying goes, if you’re not crashing you’re not going fast enough. He was fast!

I already mentioned this in a previous post but for some reason the burgundy Acura NSX really caught my eye this weekend. It was easily the nicest car on the grid. And it just so happens I was manning their pit box.

The blue one looked pretty neat too… neither did particularly well unfortunately.

Big thanks to IMSA for sending out an ice cream lady with free refreshments during the big race. They did this last year too, and it was a very nice gesture at a perfect time. This was neat!

My local New Jersey dealership sponsored Lamborghini team expanded again, with the paddock growing from 3 cars to 5 now. They didn’t do so well except for one. Which I guess was good.

All the usual NC Miatas had a great race too, but a NISSAN won, which was somewhat appropriate as VIR is NISSAN sponsored track. Nevertheless I enjoyed watching them race.

I didn’t get a chance to check out the infield with all the displays and such, but I did get a chance to walk past the local SCCA region tent which had this car on display…

Figures that the local club would feel this paint job was appropriate to attract new members. But whatever.

All in all a fantastic weekend. Car was covered by an inch of dust by the time the event was over. I would love to be back again at this track… what an amazing facility. As the Radio Le Mans commentators put it, “its a very old school track, no run off areas… you make a mistake and you’re off in the grass”

Happy I was a part of this race weekend!

Grid Walk Post Card from Michelin GT Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix IMSA at VIR

There was one car that caught my eye this race weekend at VIR: the burgundy red Acura NSX GT3 of Michael Shank Racing. I’m not a huge Honda fan or an NSX fan in general, I liked their patriotic Fourth of July liveries too, but this red wrap really stood out… and I found myself always checking up on that car… checking it out. I was lucky that since I got to work as pit fire marshal one of my responsibilities was the Acura pit box, and their hauler was parked directly across from their pit box in the paddock… so there were many glimpses of that car. But of course other cars shined bright, and while the Mazda Miata’s are showing their age, I was very happy to see them race and do fairly well over the weekend.

Lots of pix of course:

I love when they send out the ice cream lady up and down pit lane, all the crews from each pit box run to her to get cooled down lol

For a little while there exotica had taken over the GS class of IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge… now with both Mustang and Camaro in GT4 form however, they are back to dominating… beating Porsche’s, McLaren’s, et al.

My other favorite car of the weekend…. sadly it didn’t do so well either, just like the NSX

and a few uniform pix working with VIR Fire Rescue:

more to come soon…

Post Card from IMSA at VIR Michelin GT Challenge and Formula 4

Greetings from beautiful VIRginia International Raceway where IMSA has brought some of it’s best classes with support from US Formula 4 open wheelers. I’m excited to say I finally got to see F4 after a number of failed attempts in the past, and it was very exciting to see a field of 30+ cars do three races over two days. IMSA brought everything except for the Prototypes which was awesome as well as I love GT3 and GT4 machinery and all the spec-racers like Lambo’s and Porsche’s.  All in all it was fantastic!

I’ll write in more detail about my role for the weekend in another post, but here are some photos from Day 1, walking around the paddock…

So my plan was to sleep during the day and drive to VIR overnight. The sleeping part didn’t happen, and foolishly I departed for the 8 hour trip around 9pm. Twelve hours later I arrived in Danville, VA

I felt like a zombie even after stopping a few times along the way for a snooze. But first order of business after collecting my credentials and setting up my tent was to get some food at Biscuitville. I saw them on my last trip but they close at 2pm which was way earlier than I could get there in the past. This year Biscuitville actually sponsored the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. The food was delicious, I ordered a bunch of biscuit sandwiches to last me through Friday…

The others I ate in the car while watching the cars practice on track.

stay tuned for more…

Michelin GT Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix Spotter Guides by Andy Blackmore for IMSA at VIR

Great news!

Andy Blackmore Design has released the latest spotter guides for the Michelin GT Challenge and Biscuitville Grand Prix racing this weekend at VIRginia International Raceway.

This is the event I’ll be working as a pit fire marshal and am very much looking forward to spending some quality time in hot pits.

So a few observations looking at this guide compared to the last IMSA event I worked… there’s a change for the #50 WeatherTech car… it used to be a Mercedes-AMG GT3 and now is a Porsche 911. In the Conti Series, a bunch of McLaren 720 GT4’s have been replaced by Mustang GT4’s… interesting!

I’m sure there are other changes also. I’m glad to see the same Mazda MX-5 Miata’s in the ST class.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Prestige Lamborghini’s doing well. I’ll be driving past their dealership on my way to Virginia here in Paramus, New Jersey.

2017 Official IMSA Spotter Guide

www.spotterguides.com/portfolio/17_imsa/

Thanks to Andy Blackmore for these awesome little keepsakes I get to collect at every IMSA event I participate in.

My New Role as a “Hooker” Working With Fire Rescue for PWC at VIR

Oh man, I thought I hit the highlight of my marshaling career working Pit Fire at VIR for IMSA last year. This year the bar has been raised as I found my new favorite marshaling role: “Hooker” with VIR Fire Rescue.

First, huge thanks to Cowboy for allowing me this opportunity. The man runs VIR Fire Rescue as a well oiled machine. I’ve never heard anyone more calm and collected and cool under pressure than this man. Every call to dispatch trucks he made was precise and purposeful, a man in complete control of otherwise chaotic scenes around the track. I absolutely loved the experience.

What is the “Hooker” role?

It is the person in the Fire Rescue truck that hooks a stricken car to the truck for a flat tow. This person also assists the Wrecker with hooking a car that requires to be lifted off the ground because of damaged suspension, like was the case with many open wheel cars. And it’s the person that assists the flat bed driver getting a mangled vehicle winched onto the tow truck. That person this weekend was me…. and boy was it an awesome rush of adrenaline!

It wasn’t the first time I worked in this role. Back in 2011/2 I was on the rescue truck in New Zealand working at Hampton Downs. But the situation was a little different. We had a truck full of people and my role wasn’t to “hook-em” but instead to carry a fire extinguisher and help in case something ignites. At VIR it was only me and the driver, so it was totally a much more hands-on role.

VIR fire rescue has several locations to stage. The most visible probably is by pit exit. Another at the half-way point on the Patriot track that could respond from Turn 7 or Turn 14. And finally on the south paddock/pit lane near Turn 12. Throughout the day the trucks rotate positions to get a different view, and an opportunity to respond to different incidents around the track. That was fantastic!

Here’s some pix… Day 1;

On the rescue truck at Turn 7 staged on the Patriot track.

With an awesome view of the uphill esses, the VIR resort and spa, and the Oak Tree turn (missing the Oak Tree which fell down)

Day 2: On the Avalanche fire rescue truck in Pit Out:

A much busier day on Saturday. Got to respond to a massive incident where I actually ran up to the car with a fire bottle… Ended the day by removing a blown off frunk off of the Acura NSX GT3:

A/C so cold in the truck the camera lens was all fogged up…

Day 3/Race Day… no assignment, asked to stay in the office to see if I’d be needed to jump into a rotation somewhere. I pitched the idea of working on a Wrecker since the driver was just by himself, but instead was paired with a Tow Truck driver, which worked out fantastically… we had quite a few incidents to respond to. It was so awesome!

Staged at Turn 12A

I got a whole new appreciation for VIR after having driven the track at high rate of speed. My goodness how much elevation changes this track has. Far more dramatic than other tracks I love because of their hilly nature like Watkins Glen or Mosport in Canada. VIR takes the cake with it’s snaking turns, climbing esses, roller coaster down to the last turn. Just impressively incredible up and down ride. I can see why the fastest cars running here at the likes of GTE in IMSA or GT3 in PWC. I would imagine prototypes would take flight here.

Anyway, I was very privileged this weekend to find myself working in this position. A new learning experience for me. Especially riding in the same rescue truck as the track doctor who shared a lot of knowledge in terms of approaching a driver after a crash. I’m very lucky to have experienced this and am extremely thankful.

Love VIR and can’t wait to get back!

Thanks Cowboy!

Mazda MX-5: Winning PWC TC Cup Cars and My Miata

Thanks to VIRginia International Raceway Fire Rescue folks who gave me VIP treatment at this year’s Pirelli World Challenge debut at their amazing track with paddock parking, I managed to sneak into the SAC racing area as the team was packing up to take some close up shots of my car with their winning race cars:

I don’t think the SAC crew was too thrilled with me getting in their way of packing shit up, but after passing a similar opportunity to take some side-by-side shots at PWC Mosport Grand Prix last year, I didn’t want to blow this moment.

Love the way these pix came out. Just goes to show how similar the MX-5 Cup cars are to production Miatas.

Thanks SAC Racing for the reluctant opportunity. And good luck!

The Debut of MX-5 Cup Cars (Hardtops) in PWC Pirelli World Challenge

My goal signing up to volunteer the Nissan Grand Prix of VIR was to see the Global MX-5 Cup cars make their debut in the Touring Car class of Pirelli World Challenge series. This series, unlike the Global MX-5 Cup which I got an opportunity to volunteer for under the IndyCar sanction at Alabama Grand Prix a week prior run with hard tops (instead of open top convertibles). I figured it would be great to check out the new hard tops in person… funny enough, most of the tops didn’t arrive until the very last day and the final race. Most of the practices and the first race for some cars was run open top. I’m sure many teams had a nail biting experience waiting for the big box shipment to arrive.

Naturally I took a million pix of both the new ND MX-5 Cup cars and the established NC MX-5 Cup cars that have run and win PWC TC / TCA class for years now.

The Skittles Team:

And the Long Road Racing trailer:

On Saturday big wooden boxes started arriving… and that’s when you started to see hard tops on ND’s being installed… At last!

At first it seems like each team got one hard top allocation, but by race day on Sunday all teams were wearing theirs.

They do look pretty good!

Congrats to the Miata teams that took the top step on the podium this weekend. It was great to watch!

Post Card from the Nissan Grand Prix PWC at VIR

I didn’t think things could get much better after an awesome Alabama Grand Prix but the Nissan Grand Prix of VIR blew things out of the water for me. What a fantastic weekend I had there!

Here’s some pix:

You know you’re in Virginia when your local supermarket is called: Piggly Wiggly 🙂

Love all this GT3 machinery of the SRO/PWC partnership…

The best part of arriving on promoter’s test day is the ability to take some pix of cars on track and all the stuff being unloaded in the paddock:

Back in the garages:

One thing I don’t really get… NISSAN dropped the factory GT3 GT-R NISMO program but they still sponsor this Grand Prix (and VIR)

I think I was the only marshal camping there… same spot as last year.

How about a Road Trip to the South: Volunteering MX-5 Cup at Barber in Alabama and PWC at VIR?

I would really love to plan a Southern Road Trip to Alabama and Virginia for some awesome car racing. The trip would be approximately 2,000 miles long and last two weeks with a weekend at Barber Motorsports Park volunteering for the Global MX-5 Cup and it’s parent sanctioning body IndyCar. Followed by a fantastic weekend at Virginia International Raceway volunteering for some classes of the Pirelli World Challenge which would include Sprint X, GTS and the TC/TCA/TCB support series which all feature Miata’s.

How cool would that be?

I think it would be fantastic! But how do I make it work?

Challenge #1: Money!

My concern isn’t just driving down 1,000 miles to Birmingham, Alabama… that’s actually an easy part, and I could make it happen relatively cheaply. There’s only $1 in tolls crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and then smooth sailing all the way down i81 which is my preferred route to travel to Florida. The problem is if I plan this now when I’m still unemployed it would be super tough requesting time off from an employer if I do find a job which obviously presents a predicament… should I make contacts now hoping to be accepted or wait until later time when I know for sure I am not committed to actual paying work… I don’t know.

Both the Barber event and VIR event pay for participation. At Barber Motorsports Park, Flagging by Faynisha organizes marshals. They pay some money which would certainly offset the fuel and some of the accommodation costs involved in getting there. Similarly, VIR pays employees for participation at non-club events. And even though last year both the Global MX-5 Cup and Pirelli World Challenge were under the SCCA Pro umbrella, this year neither one is. The MX-5 Cup went with IndyCar as it’s sanctioning body while Pirelli World Challenge switched to USAC for the same reasons. And that will be interesting to see how and what, if any, will the differences be within the series. I suspect little to none, but I am curious to say the least.

There would be a few days to kill between the event in Alabama and the next event in Southern Virginia on the North Carolina border, which is about 500 miles drive from Barber. I would imagine instead of heading directly to VIR I’d make a few day stop in Georgia and maybe spend some time exploring Atlanta. It’s a nice city with nice food and I would love to have a few delicious meals there, like the amazing Fried Chicken and Waffles I sampled on my last visit to Barber where I flew via Atlanta and spend the night before flying back through Philadelphia (hey, the flight was cheap… $35 bux cheap). Anyway, it would be pretty amazing.

And I think I’ll put this high up on the list of events I’d like to participate in this year.

Since neither event is SCCA sanctioned and neither of the marshal bodies are run by SCCA people, I wonder if I should even renew my SCCA membership this year?

Stay tuned…

New Track, New Role! Working GT Challenge at VIR as Pit Fire Marshal

Another enjoyable experience working a new role as a Pit Fire Marshal at Virginia International Raceway for IMSA GT Challenge.

I was pretty excited to take advantage of an opportunity that presented itself to work a track where I had previously only been rejected to work as a flagger… I had a slight concern how I’d fit in among all the other “real” fire fighters on pit lane, as they typically are in places like Pocono where I worked last weekend as spectator marshal roaming the pit lane during IndyCar race and making sure VIP’s don’t get in the way of the teams working.

This time around I had to wear a red fire suit, nomex balaclava, a helmet, boots, etc. The full kit! It was stinken hot, but I enjoyed it more than any of my recent flagging experiences including the one day I spend on flags at VIR for this same event.

Pit Fire is a position I would definitely like to do again. It was awesome!

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The calm before the storm… when the Monsoon hit we had to take shelter in the Turner tent because everything else was getting washed out with heavy rain and lightning. The paddock was 2 inches deep under water… my shoes got wet which quickly resulted in blisters forming from walking… one of the track radios got a little wet and stopped working. But other than that I think we weathered the storm pretty well.

Next day it was just sun shine and lovely!

working pit fire marshal for gt challenge at vir pit lane 5

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working pit fire marshal for gt challenge at vir pit lane 8

working pit fire marshal for gt challenge at vir pit lane 9

Pit Boss thought I’d get a kick out of working the winner’s circle, victory lane… after the two winning cars (one for each class) just spent nearly 3 hours going flat out around the 3+ mile circuit, the chances of something sparking up were there… and luckily I was standing there with a fire bottle… keeping out of the reach of cameras to not end up on TV unnecessarily. It was great!

working pit fire marshal for gt challenge at vir pit lane 10

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Can’t wait to do this again! (somewhere)

vir fire rescue imsa gt challenge weekend in pit lane as pit fire marshal