Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix 2016 the debrief

This year’s Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was a blast!

I had such a tremendously great time I can’t express my gratitude enough to all the people that make the event possible.

There were some hiccups, as there always are, but things worked out perfectly. I was in good spirits from day 1, although it was hard to overcome my displeasure with the state of the roads in Michigan. Many of the highways and roadways in suburban Detroit suffer from incredible neglect and my Miata was the wrong vehicle to navigate these streets. Specifically Interstate 75, Chrysler Freeway and parts of Ford Freeway (Interstate 94) had such big pot holes I’m surprised I didn’t suffer a blowout. My GPS didn’t help me either, sending me along Mound Road or Metro Parkway (Metropolitan Pkwy) which had pot holes so big they had their own pot holes within them, it was so rough I cringed every time I found myself falling into one. And with the car being so low most of the time I couldn’t see it coming until I was in it…. So with that off my chest, to the positive.

Or at least sort of positive. My GP experience I found out, is what I make it… and on the first day of the event I found out I was flagging at Turn 11 which is along the Detroit River on the back straight just past a few sharp turns from Turn 7, 8, 9 and 10. Turn 11 was spectacular both with the views of Canada across the river, Windsor Ontario hustle and bustle can be seen and heard quite easily. But also because once the cars come out of the turn they come so close to the concrete barrier which we flag from, sometimes they brush up against it. Often times I had to yank my Blue flag back after displaying it because it was possible for the cars to rip it out of my hands and take it along for the ride… the rush was incredible!

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 4 turn 11

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detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 6 turn 11

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Yet… Turn 11 has the identical views I’ve seen before from Turn 7 which I worked the last time I went to Detroit Grand Prix in 2013. And that bummed me out…. I was hoping to experience something new, something unique… even if it wasn’t the best view I wanted for it to be different…. so after contemplating whether or not I’d be a pain-in-the-ass for asking, I reached out to my corner captain and asked if I could be switched. He told me “NO”, the assignments were set in stone… Hmm. I asked a few more people on the ride back to the dinner tent after the day’s events were finished, and they said if I feel it is a legitimate reason I should go ahead and make the request, but it would be better if I present the Flag Chief with a solution, otherwise find someone from a different station to switch with me.

While I knew some people at the event, I didn’t know enough to have this conversation about switching so I went straight to the Flag Chief. I presented him with my dilemma and suggested that he could even put me on a “Shitty” station but my goal is to have a different view. He kind of “whoah’ed!” at my “Shitty” comment, as if there’s no such thing at the track and all stations are “good” but then after some thought told me he’d take care of it. I told him no pressure with the decision, I’m quite impressed with the views of Turn 11 and I had a great time working with all the people on there, but honestly I’d prefer a different view, and left it at that.

During dinner the flag chief asked one of the corner captains if he wouldn’t mind trading people, he agreed… and I found out I’m going to work Turn 1 for the rest of the weekend… Holly Fucking Batman! Turn 1!!!!  WHOA… that was very surprising and not at all expected.

I couldn’t wait to come back Saturday and Sunday because I knew Turn 1 would be awesome… the switch totally made my day!

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The team on Turn 1 welcomed me even if they probably thought I was a jerk for even requesting this move. I can’t say I was terribly concerned what other people thought, I noticed that as long as I look out for my own interest, I have a great time. But we all had an amazing time working together. I tried to share with the team what I learned working a few IndyCar, IMSA and Trans Am events this year… possibly even too much info. But I thought it was helpful. We had a great rotation, I got to do what I wanted. I even said it would be a nice thing to have an incident at Turn 1 so we could all learn from it, and sure enough we had quite a tangle on the very first lap of the IndyCar race on Sunday. Nobody got hurt except some pride maybe, but we learned a lot… Especially from our Holmatro Safety Team crew that scolded us for blocking their exit with the truck. Sadly, their exit coincided with our escape route in case an incident such as this happened. So no matter how much they think they’re doing Godly work with their God-like attitude towards the volunteers who stand between a moving concrete barrier and the swing of their open door as they rush out to the scene. I wouldn’t have changed anything about the way we reacted to the multi-car crash that moved our station a few inches in making the truck exit hole even smaller.

Post race we had a great photo op with the cars that couldn’t continue:

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 13 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 12 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 11 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 14 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat Not a lot of wiggle room where we stand to flag from. All the personnel on our post was essential, blue and yellow flaggers faced each other while the communicator relayed race control traffic and the captain served as a safety to respond to incidents (which technically we weren’t allowed to do because Holmatro Safety Team was there)

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 10 holmatro safety team

The views from Turn 1 were pretty awesome, we could see almost everything that went on in that part of Pit Lane, including penalties and all vehicles exiting onto the track. Prior to the IndyCar incident we had a few scuffles and spins in Trans Am, while IMSA was pretty well behaved and civil through our corner.

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 15 pit lane sunoco official fuel of indycar

Every night Detroit SCCA Region treated us to a tasty dinner, which was so appreciated!

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 8 detroit region scca dinner

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 9 detroit region scca dinner

The food was excellent, from sign-on/registration throughout the event… I especially like the Thursday night welcome party at Sindbads, for all the bad things being said about Detroit, this was an excellent view of what Detroit is really like, and that there are multiple experiences to be had in the D, not just bad ones like people assume every time. Sindbads is great!

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 2 sindbads

Believe it or not, this is Detroit!

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 3 sindbads

The other thing I’m a big fan of is the Michigan State Police cars with their traditional light bubble and the stop sign on the hood… What in the world is that still all about?

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 7 michigan state police

Anyway I had such a great time I can’t wait to return again and again! I will marshal another Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix if I have the money to do it. Next time I’ll rent a car though!