Baltimore GP ALMS crash at Turn 1

I started the race on yellow flag for the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge presented by SRT, and as you can see from the video I didn’t have to wait long to start waiving it. What a clusterfuck! Having watched the race on web site, the TV coverage didn’t do the incident justice! Not even close. But the spectators in the VIP box behind our station did a fantastic job capturing the traffic jam that resembled the rest of Baltimore downtown when I arrived to collect my credentials on sign on. Judge for yourself:

Five wide on what otherwise is a three lane Pratt Street in Baltimore is insane! No other incident after in any of the support series including Indycar replicated the excitement. Ironically all of us on station 1 that morning were watching the big F1 crash at turn 1 of Belgian GP involving Alonso, Hamilton, Grosjean et al.
The backstory on the incident: during the traditional American LeMans fan pit walk prior to the race, some idiot spectator pulled the fire extinguisher pin on the #20 prototype setting it off. Even though he was arrested, and the team cleaned the car, obviously they missed a spot because the Dyson LMP1 clearly failed to turn sparking a chain reaction and a pile up.

Baltimore Grand Prix Indycar & ALMS

What an awkwardly weird experience it was, the Baltimore Grand Prix. For whatever reason nothing seemed to click and I have a bit of sour taste in my mouth as a result even though it seems everything went smoothly, with fewer issues than I think I was afraid of running into… so let me explain. I was really looking forward to this event, having gone to Summit Point several times to make sure the Washington D.C. region of SCCA would take my application into serious consideration. They did. I was confident I’d find a convenient place to stay through Couch Surfing… I did. So what’s the problem?

Its hard to put my finger on it but I think it was a combination of things. For one, the communication about the event wasn’t too forthcoming. Details of the final meeting place for credentials collection was only e-mailed about a week before. While its not the end of the world it was making me antsy while planning things to do. Once I arrived in Baltimore, sign on process was a bit demoralizing. As always volunteer marshals got little in the way of appreciation while many temporary employees of the event got nice gear upfront which seemed unfair, though that’s how it was in Detroit GP and others from memory, still put me in an unappreciated mood.

Surfing during the event I wanted to be more social with my host so I came a day early and spend a few nights hanging out with her, but it was somewhat awkward. I must remember that just because people are polite offering a couch to crash on they are not automatically friends. That too put me in a weird mood though the location was absolutely perfect, literally walking distance from my station which ironically was located on the same street as my host!!!

For the event I was assigned track marshal role at turn 1, which is a fantastic opportunity regardless what track one goes to. However as I arrived on station it was clear that there wouldn’t be much response happening as we were nicely fenced in and going on a hot track was going to be unnecessary with all the paid IMSA and INDY official marshals. It was a  bit of a downer so I made efforts to be nice to the blue flag guy so he can share his duties and thankfully he did, which totally made my day for the ALMS race.

During one of the morning meetings, the local Washington DC chief invited interested marshals to attend the MARRS club racing at Summit Point on Monday – Labor Day. Which I did and that was a fantastic experience as they were running on a skeleton crew and needed the help. The most interesting incident of the weekend actually happened at Summit Point on Monday where a driver of a Radical lost it and flipped the car after smashing it into a grassy embankment. He walked away from the incident, luckily.

Enjoy the pix on facebook:

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PS. thinking more about my feelings post event I think much of my worries came from the fact that I’ve gained some weight. Not so noticeable on a racetrack where there is plenty of room to move around, but on a street circuit working from behind the fence it makes a big deal. Climbing through a small window opening in the fence is extremely difficult when you lack flexibility or weigh too much to pull yourself up the cage. I’m worried for Singapore GP

Korean F1 Grand Prix gangnam style

Ever since PSY gone viral with his Gangnam Style K-pop/rap video it seems everyone started posting parodies on YouTube, including this rendition from the Korean F1 marshals

What a freaking great idea 🙂 and very nicely done I must add. I’ve met a bunch of Korean marshals at Singapore GP, Australian GP and Canadian GP (some for the second or third time now) and even considered visiting South Korea for the first time to participate myself, but it didn’t seem very viable. Maybe I should?

Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix rejection

I have been riding a wave of good luck, participating in some exciting racing around the world though I have been rejected for a number of events. Chiefly among them the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates at the Yas Marina Circuit. While I thought the Malaysian F1 GP was nearly impossible to get into, after applying a great deal of persistence and seeking the right people I managed to participate, and to me it was one of the best F1 experience’s I’ve ever had. Abu Dhabi unfortunately seems like a bust.

Ironically I didn’t plan on volunteering in the middle east until I met a British expat at the Malaysian GP who suggested I should join him in Abu Dhabi where he’s a starter. I thought with such an invitation its a done deal, but boy was I wrong. My contact was a bit too diplomatic about not breaking the news to me that they refuse new international entries. So of course when faced with rejection I step up my aggressiveness and researched all the folks responsible for running this event. In the case of Abu Dhabi the Automotive and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates or ATCUAE they even have a  marshal site that seems to be under construction:

Well after a few e-mails back and forth with Sheik Mohammed Ben Sulayem I am still un-accepted which is a shame, I was really looking forward to this event. I had some communication with another official – Tanya Kutsenko, a Ukrainian project manager who informed me that they don’t have enough tabards to have me join them, what a terribly lame excuse. Perhaps I’ll do the Bahrain F1 GP next year instead to think of it I should have flown home via Bahrain and participated in the LeMans / World Endurance Championship  the weekend after Singapore GP but I’m already signed up for Rolex Grand Am at the Lime Rock Park.

Enjoy some pix from the Malaysian F1 GP one of my favorite thus far:

Singapore F1 Grand Prix final planning

One month to go before the 2012 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix on the Marina Bay Circuit and I’m making the final touches to my Asia plans. The neat thing about this visit is I’ll also be visiting Malaysia and Thailand on the same trip. My plans have changed a bunch of times already, mainly I was meant to fly from New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur this September before Air Asia X stopped serving the route. Because I was able to cancel this trip without penalty I ended up leaving Auckland much earlier than planned, yet it turned out to be a good thing since I’ve done more than a dozen automotive events in USA and Canada thanks to that move.

For the first time I will fly Singapore Airlines. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, and though I lived in Singapore for a better half of a year in 2011 it was never possible to try them out opting instead for their low cost arm Tiger Airways, as well as the regional competitors Air Asia and JetStar Asia. This time around not only will I try Singapore Airlines but also Japan Air Lines as well, making it a truly round the world trip going from New York to Frankfurt to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo and back to New York.

I will be using CouchSurfing for the trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as well as Phuket and Bangkok in Thailand. Haven’t found a host yet but I am confident I will. If it doesn’t work out Asia is known for its great selection of inexpensive hotels that make the trip affordable. The one thing I’m looking forward to the most is having locals show me around town and take me to amazing local food places. I love Asian restaurants and can’t wait for some local Thai and Malay cuisine, not to mention Singaporean, Indonesian and Indian to boot.

This will be a fantastic trip, oh and there will be some amazing racing too: Formula 1, GP2, Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and Ferrari Trofeo Challenge Asia 🙂


Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix – MotoGP

With both Grand Am racing in Montreal and ALMS at Road America I find myself in Indianapolis for the MotoGP Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. The atmosphere seemed fantastic, there were tons and tons of bikes throughout the city, and especially at the race track. Because the inner circuit was used, parts of the oval served as parking areas for thousands of bikers.

On track too there was a slew of motorcycle enthusiasts, many of whom were volunteering as flaggers for the first time. It was not your typical SCCA corner worker experience. Granted USAC ran the event and as always I enjoy their hospitality more so than at any other event so far outside of IMS, the experience was just different. Unlike the last time I was volunteering at IMS the course was run in the opposite direction, I found myself on the same station I was last time except it’s changed from turn 10 to turn 7. We were actually on grass, with three flag marshals (two guys from Colorado besides me) and three track marshals who were all employed by IMS. Unlike cars, the crashes were far more spectacular though not much happened at our corner. For Moto2 rider of bike #9 laid his bike down for all three practices over a three day period. Other than that it was just amazing to see how low the bikes go in the turn with the rider hanging over the side.

In terms of getting to the event, I finally flew. After a few month hiatus from flying it was nice to be up in the air again. In the true Flyer Talk spirit instead of paying more to fly direct I booked a cheaper flight from LaGuardia in NYC to Detroit. Initially I thought I made a mistake because fuel prices spiked significantly since the last time I visited Michigan and Indiana, but I lucked out on the car rental. While my original booking was more than $40 a day I managed to reduce it to $17 a day before my flight by booking a Hotwire special. Very happy with that experience as it saved me over $100 just on car rental alone. Anyway, enjoy the facebook pix:

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Electric Race Cars

There have been a number of discussions about electric race cars in the media and on various motorsport bulletin boards. And while wearing three pairs of gloves on the hot F1 circuit isn’t the most pleasant experience for most marshals (especially when you barely have feeling in your hands to pick up debris while responding to incidents) I’m all for electric race cars.

Not that long ago I had the privilege of test driving an all electric Mini Cooper E through work and that was a fantastic machine. Quick and nimble, with what seemed like an unlimited amount of power for the public roads I drove it on. I even took the car to a local Saturday night cruise night though I doubt anyone knew what it was.

One observation about the car, besides the NYC Subway noise it made while driving, it pulled hard with every push of the gas pedal, however there’s no such thing as cruising in the vehicle because as soon as you lift the car starts regeneratively braking. The electric power you gain from this style of driving isn’t noticeable and is somewhat hard to get used to, but I guess its the way of the future. Of course with race cars it wouldn’t be a problem as there are very clear moments for full throttle and full braking.

I just watched an old documentary on Williams F1 KERS system being used in Porsche 911 Hybrid racing and am seriously looking forward to watching it in action, perhaps as a race marshal at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year.

NASCAR and Grand AM at Watkins Glen International

Volunteered my first NASCAR event this weekend at Watkins Glen International… Surprisingly entertaining 🙂 Though the Internet forums are abuzz about the Sprint Cup race being one of the best in recent motorsport history. Really?

Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to watch Nationwide and Sprint Cup NASCAR series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where I’m heading this weekend again for MotoGP, but I decided to pass the tickets to my CouchSufing host and nurse my car back to Michigan which wasn’t feeling too well and I wasn’t really feeling like a spectator. However this time around I actually got to flag the race so it was uber cool.

On Saturday night I thought the highlight of my weekend would be a very exciting Rolex Grand Am race, the second time I worked this series at Watkins Glen though this weekend Continental Tire Challenge were not racing. But Sunday proved me wrong. We only used two flags on each station (with four/five marshals manning each station, pretty unusual sight at WGI) and NASCAR didn’t want to hear many calls we would have normally made for other series like metal to metal contact or four wheels off the track. We couldn’t, even if we wanted to warn the drivers of oil on track or slow moving vehicle as a result, but it all made for an exciting finish. Check it out on YouTube, this french commentary makes it sound that much more interesting: click here.

I should add that the sound NASCAR makes is about as loud as F1 though more to the tune of Formula 5000. A few laps in I found my Comms set was not enough to stop my ears from ringing, every time the pack would pass I felt like there was a helicopter hovering overhead. Luckily I had a set of ear buds ready to use in conjunction with the Comms cans.

Check out my pix on facebook and stay tuned for my first MotoGP at Indy Red Bull GP soon:

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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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Flights booked for MotoGP at Indy

Spending a week in Detroit with a sick car and no particular place to go sightseeing as I’ve pretty much done it already on my last two visits here in the past two months I had plenty of time to research my options for the trip to the Red Bull Indianapolis GP / Moto GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a few weeks. I’m happy to say I’ll be flying. I’m also quite happy I found a nice deal on American Airlines though not directly to IND – Indianapolis International Airport, still cheaper than flying there direct. Some may find it crazy but with the savings on different route options out there I’ll instead fly to DTW – Detroit Wayne County International. Rent a car, and drive 4 hours down to Indy. I’ve done the drive before, spent about $60 on fuel round trip, so it should work out in the end. Car rentals in Detroit have been reasonable of late, in fact I paid something along the lines of $17 a day during my last visit here in May for the Detroit Belle Isle GP. Granted checking it today the cheapest rental is $42 a day but I’ll keep checking and searching for discounts. No matter what the car I’ll have won’t have a coolant leaking problem like my personal car does at the moment which was driving me crazy all the way on my last road trip there.

A few more trips left to book for the future include NYC-ATL for Petit LeMans in October which would also involve a rental car, and NYC-AUS for United States F1 GP in November.

Some other flights I have booked already, though using frequent flyer miles, include the NYC-SIN trip on Singapore Airlines A380 for the Singapore F1 GP. Which are actually JFK-FRA-SIN-KUL a positioning flight after a 10 hour layover in Singapore to drop off my luggage. Before proceeding to Kuala Lumpur where I have several flights booked to celebrate my 30th birthday in Thailand while I am back to Southeast Asia. I will be flying KUL-HKT-BKK-SIN, with two days spent in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, two days in Phuket, Thailand and two days in Bangkok, Thailand before returning to Singapore for the Formula 1 race. On the way home I’ll return to Kuala Lumpur for the night on a cheap Air Asia freebie flight where I only paid tax and fuel surcharge (gotta love those quick SIN-KUL flights) then connect to JAL – Japan Air Lines flight KUL-NRT-JFK with another stop over in Tokyo Narita airport (to pick up some more cool Japanese gifts for my folks at home).

Looking forward to some more flying again. I really miss New Zealand and Asia where I was flying at least once every week, sometimes more. (One crazy week this March I spend flying every day on various day trips, with two flights per day from Auckland and back, that was nuts!)

Motorsport Marshal, Miata Driver, Hot Wheels Collector