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!