In the past two weeks I had two acute gout attacks, one a few days before departing for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and second the morning after it finished. As lucky as I was that I didn’t have to marshal in the pain of this unfortunate disease, it has hit me before right smack in the middle of a major event and a few of them international at that.
What should one do when that happens?
Well the logical solution is to treat the problem. But what if you’re like me and don’t have medical insurance? My gout was self diagnosed and I have been treating it based on my own research and a few suggestions at various medical centers I visited during my race participation (abroad). The problem is a bit tough to handle, especially when one doesn’t have the money to treat it correctly.
Should a person quit marshaling when they have a disability?
I sure hope that’s things don’t get that bad for me. I would really hate to give up this hobby and more importantly give up eating the delicious food that typically trigger my gout attacks. But there’s got to be a reasonable solution.
Before I self-diagnosed my gout, I had a very painful attack at the British Grand Prix where I made it to the race medical center whom didn’t suggest there was a bigger problem other than confirming a less scary diagnosis that features the same symptoms: a twisted ankle (which was certainly plausible).
What’s worse the Brits didn’t even offer any medication or pain killers to help me deal with the excruciating pain I was experiencing until the second visit to the medical center on the final day of the event. Not only was my foot swollen, I could not sleep a wink for two nights because any kind of movement or even brushing my foot with the sleeping bag while camping would send shocks through the whole body, it was intense. I didn’t want to miss out on the race, even though I couldn’t contribute much to the actual marshaling aspect I got to watch from a shed on my post with ice on my foot to help relieve the swelling and some of the pain.
It took almost two weeks for the pain to go away, long after I returned home to New Jersey. But thinking back on this situation, I know exactly what triggered this gout attack… It was the delicious fish & chips meal I had at Milton Keynes after visiting the Red Bull F1 team offices before proceeding to Silverstone.
Earlier last year sushi triggered a strong gout attack before my trip to Australia and New Zealand. And once again I was marshaling in pain at the Bathurst 12 hour race on Mount Panorama. Luckily I was assigned a position which didn’t require climbing over a tall rail or a wall and one that was accessible by walking over smooth surfaces from our camping area near the paddock.
Even more recently I had a really painful acute gout attack in Germany during the WEC 6 hour of the Nurburgring after sampling delicious herring fish in Amsterdam. This time the pain was so strong I had to go to the medical center… twice. And the Germans doctor took really good care of me offering not only medication that helped relieve the pain and allow me to sleep at the camp site, but also offer meaningful medication which I have since started using at first signs of gout coming on.
The medicine I bought in Germany helped me get over the recent gout symptoms in just two days… unfortunately they came right back after the Daytona 24 event. But once I arrived home I started the treatment again and it’s working well. It’s a shame though that this keeps on happening.
I suspect I am not the only one that suffers from some sort of ailment when it comes to Motorsport and it would be very interesting to hear how other people are handling their medical issues while at a race track.
If you think marshal invitations for Lone Star Le Mans & Petit Le Mans are early, you haven’t gotten an invite for 2017 yet… mine showed up a few days ago from Australia. The Bathurst 12 hour race is in February of 2017 but V8 Supercars or just Supercars are already recruiting!
Having done it twice, I highly recommend this event!
What is it; Bathurst 12h
When is it: February 3-5, 2017
Where is it:Mount Panorama Circuit, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Who’s recruiting: Supercars
Who will be there: Australian GT + multiple international entries. Typical support races include production cars which are 1970’s style HQ Holden taxis, Northern Muscle Club from Australia bring their vintage Trans Am cars, etc.
How to get there? Fly into Sydney (SYD) and take the 4 hour drive to Bathurst. Public transport is possible with train connections in Lithgow, but I’d recommend hiring a car instead. Alternatively you can probably go on Flag Marshals of the World and bum a ride from a local… I’ve rented a car in 2013 and mooched a ride in 2016.
Where to stay? The cheapest place: Mt Panorama campground. The camping is shared with spectators but is pretty close to the Marshal Mustering tent, with convenient access to the track and stations. In the past I also used CouchSurfing to stay in the surrounding area. But camping is convenient (as much as I dislike it).
Hey remember that new Intercontinental GT Challenge series?
After volunteering Spa 24 hour in Belgium I’ve been obsessing about all things SRO, for a variety of reasons. One of the better ones being the quality of race cars participating in their events. This was true at Sepang 12 hour a few months ago, another event SRO decided to work together with SIC to put together and bring to the world. The SRO partnership with V8 Supercars, the new owners of Australian GT that runs the Bathurst 12 hour race around Mount Panorama was officially the season opener of the new series.
The event didn’t disappoint.
While the fields were smaller than the previous few years, the quality of racing improved in my opinion. There were fewer incidents including major ones at the top of the mountain like last year’s massive Nissan GT-R impact. The few incidents that did occur were relatively minor and many of them happened to happen right in front of me at Post 23, the very last corner before the main straight. I was so lucky to be assigned this spot, words can’t describe. The race set several records, including the fastest time for a GT3 car as well as the most laps done in 12 hours with fewer safety car periods compared to previous years.
Another lucky thing for me was the fact that a Kiwi driver took the victory in a Kiwi car: Shane Van Gisbergen driving the #59 McLaren. Coincidentally the next stop on my road trip was New Zealand.
The views from my post were absolutely awesome, both looking upstream and downstream. Though I did find myself having a lot of trouble with the Blue flag. More than once I managed to blue flag the wrong cars and that pissed me off, especially since I thought I knew these cars pretty well. Luckily we had the positioning tower directly across from us in pit lane, so after kicking myself with the first few mistakes I would glance over at the tower to see what order the cars should be running in and if the two were close enough I went ahead and blue flagged for the leaders.
The other disappointment wasn’t so much in the race as with the organizers. V8 Supercars decided not to allow the groups of owners holding a car show on the outside of the track to do a parade lap during the lunch break like they did in previous years. Instead they gave all the track time to a few Ferrari owners that for some unknown reasons thought they were race car drivers. I saw one guy wearing bright red racing gloves in his new Ferrari 488, while also wearing a short sleeve shirt. It was a bit upsetting to me personally because I was eagerly looking forward to jumping into one of the many MX-5’s that showed up to the event specifically with the understanding they were going to do a parade lap, a lap that never happened. Go figure!
Luckily there was a lot going on trackside to let me get over the missed opportunity of riding shotgun in an MX-5 around Mount Panorama. Besides a few spins and beached cars in our sand trap we had a few side to side, metal to metal contacts occur. As well as an exploded engine that happened just before the post as the car proceeded to cruise into our runoff. It was something else really, watching an old V8 Supercars Marlboro livery Holden Commodore blow an engine and a massive fireball coming around the car from the bottom of the front end. It was pretty amazing, something I haven’t seen happen so closely and vividly before.
The true highlight of the event for me was the people I had the pleasure of spending the time with. The team I was paired with at Post 23 was pretty amazing. Our post chief was really down to earth, positive and helpful. When I talked to him about my Gout flare up, he was very understanding. As was the rest of the team. Our communicator Dave runs a Mazda related web site called OZMazda which was cool. And a young girl from Queensland marshaling at Bathurst with her father who was posted at the next station gave me a hand with a bunch of incident reports I had to write as many of them happened on my watch while holding the radio in our rotation. Which by the way was actually an old American landline system using the same exact box we use at most street circuits including Long Beach, Baltimore and Belle Isle. The hum coming out of the headset was unmistakable.
Huge thanks to my friend Paul Kelly from Victoria for organizing my sleeping arrangements at Bathurst by not only providing a tent, sleeping bag and pillows, but also setting it all up for me and helping tear it down in the end. That was such a huge help! Also big thanks to Paul for driving me and the rest of our group to town every evening after track activities were over, all these delicious meals we had were thanks to his initiative to get us some real food (off track).
I got lucky on so many levels working this year’s Bathurst 12 hour. The weather was amazing, it started out a little cool but towards the end of the week I was frying in direct sunlight, it was literally burning thru my jeans. The post assignment was perfect. The team I worked with was super. And all the friends I got to catch up with over the four day visit really makes me miss the whole experience already, can’t wait to return to Australia again… hopefully next time I’ll get to do something completely new like one of the street races around Gold Coast… hmm!
When I decided to volunteer for the Bathurst 12 hour again, it was hard to contain my excitement through every step of the process, from planning to finally travelling there. And I have to admit that everything went exactly as planned, which made the trip that much more perfect.
One of the highlights of being at Bathurst 12h was being able to make the short walk from the campsite in the middle of the track to the paddock area and the pits where all the exotic machinery was being prepped for practice the following day. If you’re a fan of all the amazing GT3 race cars like I am, it was an awesome sight to see: the Bentley’s, the McLaren’s, Ferrari’s and Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS’s, the Porsche’s and some oddities like MARC Cars Australia Ford’s and Mazda’s as well as the new Cayman GT4 and Daytona.
So without further ado, here are some shots:
Even the Safety Car and Course Cars were kitted up Benzes and Lexuses that you don’t normally see trackside.
I had such a blast checking out all the garages, which by the way stayed open to the general public throughout the event. Even some late nights as we were driving back from dinner in town we could see spectators checking out the mechanics hard at work on the cars. Driving along the main straight to get to the campsite was a rather unique experience you don’t get at other circuits.
Another trip of a lifetime is in the books! Although I shouldn’t call it “lifetime” because I know sooner or later I’ll be departing on other one. In fact with an amazing trip of a lifetime just a few months ago to Southeast Asia, I would call this the trip of the year, or at the very least trip of the month: February 2016!
This post will be a brief overview: a debrief, of the trip overall followed by a number of specific posts about the individual events I’ve marshaled, the experiences I had hanging out with the local MX5 clubs and catching some sun in some very exotic places as part of the vacation that tied this trip together. I had such a blast!
To start, I flew to Australia via Hawai’i. And unlike my first visit there a few years ago after Korean Grand Prix, I decided to get off the plane at Honolulu and actually spend the night in Waikiki Beach. The Polynesian theme for the rest of the trip truly began there. Besides enjoying an amazing sunset that I shared with a few folks at home via Facetime, I got to experience some of the local cuisine just outside of the touristy area. I loved it!
Of course an overnight stay in Paradise wasn’t enough, at all! But it was just a start to my South Pacific adventure. I’m kind of glad I broke the trip in half because some of these longer flights of 10+ hours have started getting to me, tiring me out completely. This time I was travelling with an extra handicap I hadn’t encountered on previous trips. I had a flare up of Gout Arthritis just a few days before leaving and my right foot was in terrible pain, something akin to walking on glass. The pain wouldn’t really go away for the entire trip but since I couldn’t do much about it I just learned to live with it.
Next stop: Sydney! The flight arrived in the early evening and after a quick clearance at Immigration I headed to the CBD to get some sleep before heading out for Bathurst early the next morning. Like Waikiki I decided to stay in a hostel near Central station for convenience and it worked out really well for me.
In the morning I managed to arrange a lift with someone from the MX-5 community in Sydney. It’s really nice to see how close the Miata community is to Motorsport and specifically marshaling. The lady who’s car I got to check out on my first day in Australia volunteers as a Steward while her son is a flag marshal, who was kind enough to let me tag along for the two hour drive to Mount Panorama. While I could have taken the train all the way to town, I found it far more interesting to have some company along the way. It was especially interesting when we were on the hunt for Meat Pies for lunch while passing through Lithgow. That’s where I spotted something I really wanted to see on my trip, a Miata trailer. The owner drove past us as we parked up near the bakery and while he was stopped on a red light I tried to snap a fuzzy shot of his car.
I will talk about my experiences at Bathurst 12 hour and Mount Panorama in a separate post but suffice to say it was an interesting experience. While it wasn’t my first visit there, it was definitely a little different from before. For the first time I camped right at the track. A fellow Aussie marshal Paul from Victoria was kind enough to supply me with a comfortable tent, some pillows and a sleeping bag, which helped a lot so I didn’t have to drag all that stuff with me. Not only that he was our designated driver taking a whole group of us out to dinner in town every night, which was fantastic. It was the first time I consistently stuffed my face with proper Australian food including roast lamb and a variety of other local pub dishes.
After the event I headed back to Sydney for a few more nights in a CBD hostel. I had a few things planned but the stay was way too short. Luckily I did manage to squeeze in a lunch at Bondi Beach which I was really looking forward to as well as a nice MX-5 cruise from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach with a meeting spot just under the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was pretty spectacular. So many cars showed up! I was pleasantly surprised and very humbled to see so many owners give up their weeknight for a little cruise along the Northern Sydney suburbs for some fish and chips. Again I will write more about it later but I can’t express my gratitude enough to have had this opportunity!
Next stop: Auckland! A short hop and skip over the ditch (as they refer to the Tasman Sea) and I was in New Zealand. The flight arrived after midnight and I was off to my hostel in the CBD. Early next morning another MX-5 meetup awaited me, and after a short 4 hour sleep I was in a beautiful JDM-import Roadster heading to Papakura for my next adventure which I’ll describe in it’s own post. In a way it was another Fish & Chips run but this one lasted for over 300km visiting some scenic and twisty roads across the entire Northern Island from West (Waihu) to East (Coromandel Peninsula).
As if this incredible two car road trip (as I jumped out from one car to the other at every stop we made), couldn’t get any better – it did! The day ended on a boat in Auckland Harbour where we had a nice dinner joining another MX-5 owner while he and his family celebrated the mum’s birthday. This was my first time on the water on the North Island something I was putting away until later while living in Auckland and never actually following through with, until now. It was really amazing.
Believe it or not I actually got to marshal while in New Zealand. It was only a one day meeting for Auckland Car Club at Hampton Downs but I certainly got my money’s worth with plenty of spins and spills on Turn 2 where I was lucky enough to work. It was such a good pleasure to catch up with a bunch of people whom I started my marshaling with while living in New Zealand a few years ago. And it was nice to see the improvements done and are currently ongoing to Hampton Downs under Tony Quinn’s ownership.
Besides Hampton Downs, Anna Scott – who hosted me for the weekend, took me to Pukekohe Raceway Park and showed me the improvements done there after Aussie V8 Supercars moved to their event there from the streets of Hamilton. I had such an incredible time I’ll have to write more about it in another post.
Although I had already spent two weeks on the road which seemed to have gone by in a flash, I still had one more exotic stop on this incredible journey: Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! I was really looking forward to this visit because it was something I planned to do while living in New Zealand back in 2012. Now the dream came true. I didn’t know what to expect but the reality surprised me in a very pleasant way. The tiny island of Rarotonga was very clean, friendly and welcoming for my visit. The resort I booked (my first stay in a proper hotel on this trip after all the hostels in Hawaii, Sydney and Auckland I decided to splurge and pamper myself) was fantastic. I got to tour the island, sample some delicious Polynesian food and completely relax on the pristine beaches with baby blue water crashing over the corals just off shore. What an experience!
The trip home at the end of this vacation took me back through Auckland where I was a total zombie while shopping for souvenirs to take home. Luckily I was able to meet up with friends for lunch and dinner and that kept me awake long enough for some much needed sleep on my 11 hour flight back to LAX.
Huge thanks to all the people that helped me along on this trip. I couldn’t have done this without you!