What a great, great, great! weekend the Lone Star Le Mans turned out to be. Not that things didn’t go awry, weather was a bit miserable and I ended up in the Medical Center at COTA. But it’s how all the issues along the way were resolved that left a very pleasant memory from this trip and I want to share my experience with you to encourage your participation at future COTA events including the return of WEC and TUSC series next year.
Post event I am completely exhausted. Beyond that actually, I was exhausted on the first day of practice, and combining the extra long days, bad weather and the way I booked my travel my ass was thoroughly whipped this weekend. But it was awesome. As everyone knows I love putting together a great deal, and this was a steal. I took a 3.5 hour bus from NYC to Boston overnight to take an early morning direct flight to Austin. Set up my tent so I didn’t have any transportation or accommodation expenses over the race weekend. COTA provided all the food and drinks I would ever need. And I left my tent with one of the marshals I worked with in Austin to use it again for the F1 weekend. On the way back the trip got even more convoluded because I took a 3.5 hour bus ride down to Houston. Had an amazing lunch at Pappas BBQ before heading to Hobby airport and taking a 3.5 hour flight to Boston, then a 3.5 hour bus ride to NYC which meant I spent more time travelling on the return that I did coming back from the Singapore GP the past few years. But boy did I have a great time! And I saved a ton of money.
That aspect out of the way, I will focus on some health issues that I had to overcome which did at times interfere with my performance over the race weekend. Mainly, I went through a bout of food poisoning the day before leaving for this trip. And even though I spent the day in bed with severe puking every few hours in a sequence of many hours. I felt confident I’ll get over it once I get to COTA. That assessment was mainly wrong. I arrived at the track with a serious pain in my stomach, more than that… my entire rib cage hurt. I had to be careful what I eat and when I eat it to avoid any issues while on station from 6am to 11pm and beyond some days. But I soldiered thru. It amazed me that I had such difficulty sometimes being at my best, but there were people older than me who were expected to stand on their feet at attention for the duration of the event with little or no relief. Sure the flag chiefs offered to give some time off, but one of the flaggers on my post used a cane for support, I didn’t understand how he could be so strong throughout the event. Things shouldn’t be this way. It’s not safe and in a country where OSHA has so much say in the business world I don’t know how the volunteering world gets away without providing the bare minimum number of personnel to work such a demanding race weekend. Since I was the turn captain I tried to take one for the team and give my guys as much rest as possible with short 30 minute stints including breaks after every hour.
But since I wasn’t in top shape myself as soon as the contractor fired up the flood light compressor with it’s exhaust pipe pointed directly at our station from about 10 feet away, I felt ill right away. Ultimately, after some arguments and few calls to race control we made it through the night. But my work day ended in the Medical Center with an IV drip in my vein, and a stack of pills to bring my temperature down. It was a hell of an experience and since I had gone to a medical center before at Silverstone, this time I walked in asking specifically for pills to help with nausea.
The visit to the doctors was as important to get something done on station as it was to help me with my well being. We heard someone on the radio calling for help in a similar situation the day before. One of the flag chiefs made some demands to rearrange the flood light system to avoid CO2 blasting the hard station (the flood lights were on wheels and could be moved, while the hard flag stations could not) But in our case nothing was done and the contractor responsible for the lights wouldn’t talk to us reasonably or in a polite fashion to be frank. So doctor intervention demanded the track takes action, and I’m so thankful they did.
Now to the racing… WoW!
For a sports car fan like myself this was heaven. Not one but two world class sports car series that is WEC (World Endurance Championship from FIA / ACO / Le Mans) and TUSC (Tudor United Sports Car Championship) from IMSA with it’s supporting series of Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge and the Porsche Carrera Cup. The action on track was fantastic. I had a ton of blue flag I indulged myself with on Friday when I was the turn captain there on Thursday. While Friday and Saturday I had to compete for blue flag with the two newbies that really seemed to like this role. I taught them what I knew about best blue flag practices and throughout the actual race they were right on the money, doing an excellent job. I felt soooo proud of myself and yet jealous I didn’t get as much blue flag as I was hoping for myself.
I didn’t get any opportunity to shoot Marshal Cam interviews over the weekend which was a bummer. But since it was raining a lot and we had ridiculously long days on station with minimal group down time (except for this one evacuation drill where we were herded off stations and into one of the tunnels hiding from lightning) I didn’t interview anyone that I was hoping to get a video of. Oh well, until next time. The highlight of my trip was the pit and paddock walk on Wednesday, especially having the opportunity to take the photo of team Porsche and all their celebrity drivers. Loved the event and I’m glad I chose to do it vs. Singapore GP.