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!)
The second stop on my two thousand mile road trip over a three week period went rather well though very nerve-racking. Now that I’m back in Detroit, I guess I can say things worked themeselves out though I still have a trip to a mechanic coming up first thing Monday morning.
First the problem stemmed from a slow leak that has upgraded to an alarming leak somewhere between Canada and Michigan. Nursing the car all the way to Indianapolis for the race made me more than nervous for all five hours it took to get there. But I made it, and even though it looked like the coolant was gushing out of the system, I made it back to my friend’s house as well.
The race itself was equally nerve-racking. It was perfectly hot weather when I arrived Thursday. The buffet dinner was a welcoming sight, as well as meeting some big wigs at USAC – United States Auto Club that ran the event at the Speedway. However on race day the wather yo yo’ed from hot sunshine to cooling rain throughout the twelve hour schedule. I had to put my wet weather gear on three times or so. Both Continental Tire Challenge and Rolex Grand Am finished under caution, but racing was close and fun to flag. There was lots of blue flagging which I always enjoy.
My travels from ALMS in Ontario, Canada to Grand Am at Indianapolis have taken me back to Detroit. I’m a huge fan of the Motor City not just for all the automotive history but a few years ago I made some friends through my SRT owners web site and now I have a perfect excuse to visit them time and again. I was last here in May for the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and should return to kill some time between Grand Am at Indy and ALMS/Indycars at Mid Ohio.
Besides all the automotive history there’s good food here… but even that is car related…
The Packard Grill is an institution, located on the old Packard proving grounds it has a fantastic menu with funny automotive names like a hub cap of soup, or a spare tire, spark plugs, lug nuts, etc. All delicious menu items!
Fantastic weekend in Ontario at the beautiful Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for ALMS.
I got invited to do ALMS at Mosport while marshalling in Montreal with some Canadian Motorsports Marshalling Services members. After doing ALMS at Lime Rock I couldn’t wait to follow the series around. A little planning later I realized that after heading up to Canada I can continue moving west to Indianapolis to do Grand Am there and finish the trip with another instalment of ALMS at Mid Ohio… all three tracks I haven’t done before.
So after the first stop in Mosport… I feel content with the way things went though I must say I was off the mark on all four days volunteering here. Nothing came naturally whether it was blue flagging at turn 6 on Thursday or working safety at turn 2A on Sunday for the race. I felt physically sick and things just wouldn’t click.
Putting that aside, it was a unique experience. Canadian marshals are of the younger demographic than those in the USA. They still carry log books which I was asked for but didn’t bring for the sake of looking less suspicious crossing the border when immigration/customs would search my car. This time they didn’t, but I still don’t know what log book I should fill for these professional events.
The racing itself was a bit uneventful except for some Porsche Cup smashups at turn 5 where I was on Saturday. It seems in Canada blue flag is a coveted position so I, as a visitor, was kept well away from it. Not to worry I had a blast.
Spent another excellent weekend in West Virginia 🙂
This time I found a new host in Winchester, Virginia so there was far lesser country feel to it compared to last time, though there was no shortage of country music on the radio, lol
After spending a nice evening hanging out at the Union Jack pub, I hit the Summit Point track bright and early and to my surprise the security guard at the gate started acting up, wanting to charge me $25 admission… cause he never heard anything about “volunteering” what a prick. Anyway, after checking his list, and then another list, and then a third… well you get the idea, I made it in.
I was pleasantly surprised to see some senior corner workers from up north show up and since we were all from the North East we got put on the same corner, at Turn 1. Boy did it not disappoint. Lots of action followed, including a high speed rollover wreck involving an open wheeler formula car. The driver ended up upside down in the gravel with fuel dripping over him… which meant we had to lift it off the ground for him to get out, I was stationed with a fire bottle opposite the gravel trap so that was a quick response running across a hot track to his aid. Luckily there wasn’t need to pull the pin, came very close though.
Had a nice drive home, with another 33mpg run so the car is back to normal on the highway with about 5,000 miles after this trip just in time to change oil for the road trip to Canada.
I was introduced to David Wilkes of RaceShotsResource at NJMP, the guy was really cool coordinating a video shoot for Rally America at the Lightning rallycross course. Well, the Kicker sponsored ambulance of Wilkes was present at Lime Rock Park this weekend, and he captured some decent shots of me in action:
I had no idea what to expect with the American Le Mans Series running the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. I can’t say I get nervous anymore, even with Formula 1 now things are pretty calm and cool, but there was a bit of anxiety… if that’s the right word to use. Le Mans series of course is what I grew up watching in Ukraine as a child. From what I’ve heard before its a more advanced series than the Rolex Grand Am. The reality however was somewhat of mixed feelings.
In the end it was a relatively low key event. Sure it had the celebrity clout and the army of camera people following the action, but the field consisted of only 29 cars. Prototype 1 class or LMP1 only had 3 cars… similar fields for LMP2. The Prototype Challenge or LMPC was about on par speed-wise with the faster GT cars, so blue flagging was interesting but very exciting at that. Getting used to the classes made me guess a few times, but it worked out.
For Friday’s practice I was at station 8 or for the purpose of ALMS “the uphill” where a chicane was used at the bottom of the hill. To my surprise many of the GT and GTC class cars were actually pulling away from the LMPC cars that were nearly side by side with them at the bottom of the hill before the chicane. Luckily on raceday I was at “pit entry” which is Lime Rock station 12… or basically the main straight after the downhill. A station I worked before and a fantastic spot to blue flag from.
The race finished under double-yellow/caution as a Patrón Ferrari smashed into the tire wall at the bottom of the hill. So both days of the event I was at a corner that had lots of action. Great times, some excellent new contacts made like Maurice from the Netherlands and the owner of ORANGEMEN.NL web site… my future source for European marshalling opportunities I expect. Being at pit entry put me smack in the middle of the grid action and great photo ops with the grid girls. Next stop Mosport in Canada. Stay tuned for more. Here are some pix:
PS. almost forgot… got to push Patrick Dempsey’s LMP2 from main straight into the pit lane and down to tech inspection after the prototype ran out of fuel at the end of the race.
WOW! What a freaking weekend. Not only was it long… 4 days, 4 stations, and a 6 hour endurance race, my longest one yet. It was very intense and exciting! I love it.
I was a bit bummed out that I decided to follow Grand Am to Watkins Glen after flagging one of their races at NJMP, especially since ARCA was having a pro event there which paid corner workers for their help. But boy am I glad I came. Not only because ARCA at NJMP experienced a blackout due to the intense heat, but because Grand Am did not disappoint with the level of excitement and intensity.
I became a member of Race Services Incorporated since Watkins Glen doesn’t really use SCCA folks opting for their own special group of volunteers. And after visiting them a few weeks ago for the Porsche Club meeting I was amazed how quickly they trusted me to be on my own. Thursday I was solo at Station 9 at the entrance to the famous Boot. Friday I was at Station 5 the straight at the exit of the Esses, an excellent blue flagging station. Saturday I was corner captain at Station 3 which was supposed to be quiet, but with my fellow flagger getting sick, and several major impacts just before my station that I had to call in because Station 2 had no direct visual of the area thanks to the campers set up on the infield, it was amazing. For race day I was in my favorite location yet, at Station 17 just before the main straight for start/finish. The very last corner with me on blue flag was sweet!
I will definitely head back to the famous Watkins Glen International, it is all its cracked up to be, and then some.
Club events have got to be my least favorite volunteering experiences because they tend to be pretty boring. Granted its not always the case but more often than not its the case. This time I was on my first visit to the Glen. I joined RSI – Race Services Incorporated in order to volunteer the 6hr endurance Rolex Grand Am race, but before I could be considered I had to audition. This was the only weekend I had open to go to Watkins Glen.
I used the opportunity to CouchSurf again and found an amazing host whom I hung out with part of the weekend. There was a neat cardboard regatta held at Seneca Lake of which she was a part so it was very much fun in that respect.
I am however looking forward to the actual race which is just around the corner.