Tag Archives: Bathurst 12h

California 8 hour at Laguna Seca Debut of Intercontinental GT Challenge in America

Welcome to the California 8h the debrief.

Man was I looking forward to this event… not so much because I thought it was going to be a thriller (it was good, but in a genetic GT racing kind of way, fairly predictable) but because I wasn’t sure it was actually going to happen… even a week before race day!

Why do I say that? Because this is SRO’s second attempt at bringing the Intercontinental GT Challenge to America… I specifically signed up to volunteer the PWC season opener at COTA last year just for the Circuit of the America’s 6 hour race… that never happened.

I am glad however that this event took place, and most importantly that it was a success! We only had 19 cars on grid, which is a low number. But the racing was good. One brand dominated… Nobody could keep up with the pace of the Audi’s… not McLaren. Not Acura. And definitely not Porsche whose very reliable 911 GT3 RSR’s started falling lap down first… at one point there was only four cars on the lead lap, which is silly.

Luckily the battles for first were good. Team Land Audi lead for most of the event. Belgian Team WRT took over briefly and then spun out into the kitty litter, going down a few laps by the time it was recovered. And Magnus racing saved the best for last and won. McLaren ran Okay… went down a few times but finished on the lead lap. And Acura didn’t fare so well either. One of the cars DNF’ed… the other finished in fourth or so. I think all of the Porsche 911’s finished a lap down. In GT4 field the Ginetta, Aston Martin and Porsche Cayman had a great battle. And the Invitational Mazda3 V8’s finished a strong 9th and 10th. Which is pretty cool! Those cars were very neat… one was left hand drive, one right hand drive. And featured two shades of the Mazda famous red paint. (while being powered by a Ford Coyote 5.0 liter V8)

So what’s the verdict for this event?

If it happens again, I think it would be tremendously better if more cars show up. That of course could be said about any other event, but in this case it would have made a huge difference.

Anything else they could change?

YES! I hope and pray that SRO or USAC/PWC/SFR SCCA spring up a few bucks to buy some “SC” – Safety Car boards. It was absolutely absurd waving double yellows every time there was full course caution. Who made that decision? It’s Stupid! Any kind of waving yellow flag for no good reason (absent an SC board) waters down/diluted the importance of the safety aspect of waving yellow flags. How much could the boards possibly cost? Can’t SRO just bring their own… I mean they already bring containers full of equipment. Bring the pink Code 60 flag along too! If I could change one thing I would have changed that first…

Bathurst 12 Hour Marshal Invite, Mount Panorama February 3-5, 2017

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!

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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).

Good Luck!

Have Fun!

Bathurst 12h around Mount Panorama, Intercontinental GT Challenge Season Opener Debrief

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.

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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.

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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.

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Sahra’s (from Gold Coast, Queensland) patch collection… somehow I think we would never get away with having Bikini chicks on patches for US events.
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The beauty of being at Post 23 was the ability to sneak away for an MX-5 parade lap which unfortunately never happened. Luckily one of the MX-5 owners spectating was able to come up right to our flag point and have a little chat during our down time.
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The view down the front straight is as good as it gets from this spot! Especially for the start and  all the re-starts.
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For all incidents that required a Safety Car one of these Medical cars went out and returned the driver to the Medical centre across from us, keeping our team in the loop of what’s happening.
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Track Map and Posts of all the Marshal stations around Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst.
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pure deliciousness… Aussie Beef with salad and chips… Yumm!

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).

Read more about the event from Paul’s perspective on his marshaling blog: kellyflag.blogspot.com/bathurst-12hr-2016.html

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One of the many delicious pub meals we got to share with fellow Marshals after track activities were over. The town of Bathurst has a number of pubs and an RSL to choose from to have proper Australian food like this Roast Lamb dish.
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Post event drink: Queensland’s XXXX beer… I got to do a brewery tour when I lived in Brisbane back in 2009.

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!

Postcard from Bathurst 12 Hour

G’day Australia!

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:

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Even the Safety Car and Course Cars were kitted up Benzes and Lexuses that you don’t normally see trackside.

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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.

Fun in the South Pacific: the Debrief – Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands

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!

ono hawaiian foods poipoi taro pork dried fish
A traditional meal from Ono Hawaiian Foods just minutes walking distance from Waikiki Beach… the dish featured some pork wrapped in taro leaves and poi poi along with dried fish and all the fixing’s.

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.

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First order of business while in Australia: meeting an MX-5 owner from the Club of NSW, Sydney Chapter. What an incredible experience!

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.

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one of Paul Byers creations… an MX-5 trailer made from the rear quarters of an actual MX-5… looks bloody awesome!

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.

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Paul Kelly driving us around every night after the end of track activities.
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Australia’s finest pub food in Bathurst.
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Every year there’s a team promoting tourism NSW and Australia, this year there was a Terra Australis Audi complete with an aboriginal photo shoot that we stumbled upon in pit lane.

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!

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Tuesday night Fish & Chips run from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach, with a meeting spot under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney CBD and Opera House in the background.

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).

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MX-5 Club of New Zealand MX-5 members Lloyd and Ralph took me around on a day trip showing me the twisty parts of the North Island heading towards Coromandel for fish & chips.

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.

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A sunset dinner cruise with a bunch of MX-5 owners celebrating a birthday. What a way to end my Kiwi MX-5 road trip!

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.

visit to pukekohe raceway park the new home of aussie v8 supercars in new zealand
Anna Scott the flag chief for the Motorsport Club of NZ taking me on a private tour of the upgraded Pukekohe Raceway Park including a visit to Race Control and a few laps around the circuit.

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!

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Kia Orana Cook Islands! I arrived on a rainy day in a cyclone season thinking that my trip would be rained out but the weather was perfect during my stay on Rarotonga.
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I was very impressed at how clean and organized Rarotonga was, it was very exotic!
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The beaches were amazing! The water crystal clear. I had such a great time relaxing.
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Of course I managed to spot a bunch of MX-5’s, mostly NA and NB’s.

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!

Bathurst 12 Hour Race Weekend for Miata Owners in the MX-5 Club of NSW

All of my hobbies are bound to converge when I arrive in Australia in a few weeks. I love to travel, and I’m getting an opportunity to do so flying to Sydney via Hawaii. I love Motorsport and the Bathurst 12h race is giving me an excuse to go to Australia. I love local foodie experiences and there will be plenty of them at the track. And I love meeting other MX-5 owners, and to my surprise there’s a good number of them in Sydney area and NSW at large.

I was lucky to come across a post from the local MX-5 Club in NSW inviting it’s members to come out and enjoy a weekend of racing at Mount Panorama for the Bathurst 12h…. what a coincidence that I’ll be there? Now I could plan my schedule so my free time is spent chasing after the local Miata owners and making new friends!

If you are local to NSW and for some weird reason not a member of their community yet (what? come on… how could that be?) consider joining the group and making your way to Bathurst to watch some cool cars go racing as well as a big group of fellow MX-5 owners hang out together. I know I’m looking forward to this the most!

Quoted from the MX-5 Club of NSW web site:

http://nsw.mx5.com.au/events/bathurst-12-hour-race-weekend2

Date
Sat 06 February 2016
Duration
2 days (06 February – 07 February)
Meet
McDonalds Panthers Club Mulgoa Rd, Penrith
Time
6:00am for a 6:20am start
Organiser
Joe Kovacic, 0403 106 012, jkovacic@netspace.net.au
Cost
$70 per car for weekend pass for two people

RSVP

Hello Fellow Race Enthusiasts!

The time has come around again where we need to register your interest to the upcoming Bathurst 12hr Production Car Race weekend of 6th to 7th Feb 2016.

Please note you have the option of attending this event for …

  1. All three days or
  2. Just Saturday or
  3. Saturday & Sunday

This year there will a Show & Shine event organised by Raceline Events with Judging and Trophies. There will also be an opportunity of participating in a Parade lap on Saturday.

Please find attached the event entry application form. Fill out and email a copy to myself and Raceline Events asap. A minimum of 10 MX-5s is required for this event to proceed.

Please note that early registration is vital and you need to book your own accommodation asap.

Any questions please feel free to email or call me.

Itinerary

Click here for a PDF of the itinerary.

Saturday
6:00am Meet at McDonalds Panthers Club Mulgoa Rd, Penrith
6:20am Depart Panthers Club for Mt Panorama, Bathurst
8:30am Arrive at Mt Panorama Harris Car Park, Bathurst
12:00pm Meet at Harris Car Park for parade lap briefing
12:30pm Car clubs parade lap behind pace car
5:25pm Racing concludes
7:00pm Meet at Kings Hotel, 60 George St for bistro dinner
Sunday
5:30am Meet at Mt Panorama Harris Car Park for club cars
5:55am 12hr Production Race starts
11:00am Meet at Harris Car Park for lunchtime tour to Orange
2:30pm Return to Mt Panorama for 12hr Race conclusion
3:00pm Raceline Show & Shine event Trophy Presentations
6:00pm Racing concludes

– See more at: http://nsw.mx5.com.au/events/bathurst-12-hour-race-weekend2#sthash.w2Q5S0tZ.dpuf

Buy a #MarshalCam Patch. American or Australian Versions. Or Both!

A few things to accomplish in this post:

1st: I wish to express my gratitude to my buddy Joey in Singapore for designing the Marshal Cam patches which I have recently re-ordered to distribute to marshals that participate in my interviews about their volunteering experiences.

2nd: I will have both versions of the patch with me at the following events to distribute to marshals that wish to participate in my interviews:

  • WEC 6h of the Americas at COTA in September
  • Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October
  • Sepang 12h – Malaysia in December
  • Bathurst 12h – Australia in February
  • Auckland Car Club – New Zealand in February

3rd: If I am not at an event near you and you’d really like to get a patch for your collection, you are welcome to buy one or many. Just get in touch about pricing and shipping charges and we could set up a package for you in no time.

The patches cost me $400 USD for 400 pieces. My break even point is to sell 100 patches at $4 USD apiece (or more at a cheaper price). Plus shipping and handling charges which killed me the last time I mailed out a ton of the original Marshal Cam patches, paying for everything out of my own pocket.

I am going through serious withdrawal right now, my last event was NASCAR at Watkins Glen in early August and it’s been a month without any volunteering whatsoever. So I’m eager to get back to the race track. I’m also very much looking forward to traveling again. Especially to my trip back to Southeast Asia!

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For any of you on the list of stops above I’ll be sure to have patches with me if you’d like to meet over lunch or dinner and catch up about marshaling in your neck of the woods. I’m sure that besides my right hand drive Miata exploits in Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur I’ll be hanging out with some marshal friends too.

Again, huge thanks to Joey in Singapore for designing these awesome patches, they look fantastic!

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The original Red, White and Blue design resembles the American Interstate system sign. While the Green and Yellow design resembles the Australian Interstate system sign. They were designed specifically for my trip to Bathurst in February of next year, and I’m very much looking forward to that journey.

Stay tuned for more, and get in touch if you want one, or a bunch!

#MarshalCam

Booked a Flight to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

I know… most people reading this will probably ask: “where the hell is Rarotonga?” or “where are the Cook Islands?” sound familiar, don’t they… Well, this is just the first piece in the puzzle for my 2016 marshaling trip down to Australia and New Zealand.

While the flight was only the equivalent of $21 US dollars after using some Air New Zealand Airpoints that were about to expire, I think it will be the most important trip on this whole adventure to marshal the Bathurst 12h race at Mount Panorama in Australia. Mainly because I’ll be enjoying the peak of southern hemisphere’s summer when my poor little MX-5 at home will likely be covered in snow like the picture below. And so be it! The trip to Saint Lucia earlier this year was the best trip I’ve taken all year so far. It was completely relaxing and very much enjoyable. I suspect the visit to the Cook Islands will be a similar experience.

The beauty of this trip, if things go as planned, is that it’s actually cheaper to fly home from the Cook Islands than it is from New Zealand. And the kicker is, you actually fly to the US via Auckland. So my plan is to use less miles and enjoy an extra day in Auckland on the layover home… or a few days in the Cook Islands before leaving NZ… (depends on how people look at the situation). Either way, it will be awesome.

When I lived in New Zealand in 2012 my goal was to collect enough AirNZ Airpoints to go to Tonga or Samoa as a tourist. Those trips never materialized. The other goal was to find my way to Tahiti, Bora Bora… French Polynesia. But that too was way too expensive. For some reason I didn’t know much about the Cook Islands. But they are situated right next to French Polynesia, a few hours flight directly south of Hawai’i and to the East of both Tonga/Samoa and Fiji, where I have been before during my time living in Australia.

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Check out the Cook Island official tourism web site: cookislands.travel

I love island hopping… who doesn’t? So this would be a fantastic opportunity to add a new dot on a map, and a new flag to the countries I’ve been to. I’ve started researching more about Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, and as a New Zealand associated country it uses the NZ dollar, so that should be very convenient. There are also a great deal of hostels on the island so I don’t foresee breaking the bank like on St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

Looking forward to another safe Air New Zealand flight.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is the first of a series of flights that I plan to book for this adventure, and in a way it’s the keystone flight. Now that it’s booked I have to go through with the trip, and continue researching the rest of the itinerary… like the flight home via NZ, the flight to AU and the flight between AU and NZ. I’m hoping to spend a few days in Sydney CBD this time, or Melbourne CBD depending on which city offers cheaper flights. It should be absolutely awesome!

the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper
the trip should look something like this, image from Great Circle Mapper

 

Stay tuned…

Here are a few more gratuitous photos of the MX-5 covered in snow:

miata in snow

mx-5 in snow
poor Miata will have to sit snow covered in the driveway for a few weeks while Im gone.

The logistics behind planning a trip to Australia & New Zealand

2016 is going to be a great year. To start I’d like to do a couple of international events that I haven’t done in a long time. Bathurst 12h is perhaps the biggest one of them all.  But getting to Australia and New Zealand is a bit of a challenge. For one it’s on the other side of the world, and it literally takes days to get there. Which means I need more time off from work. But it’s also costly even when redeeming frequent flyer miles to pay for the trip.

The purpose of this post is to collect information on what my options are, and to seek advice from other frequent flyers to optimize my redemptions and get the best deal possible.

Virgin Australia booked through the use of Virgin America elevate points seems to be the best deal. It would take only 40,000 points and $140 tax to fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) round trip. Unfortunately I would still have to find my own way to LAX from NYC, and I don’t actually have 40,000 elevate points in my account which is currently at just 26k or so. Luckily one way redemptions start at 25,000 elevate points either LAX-SYD or SYD-LAX and $90 tax.

virgin australia using virgin america points

American Airlines AAdvantage redemption is the second best choice. It would require 75,000 miles and $114.50 in tax to fly from New York City (JFK) to Sydney (SYD) with a layover in Los Angeles (LAX). A bonus of redeeming miles with American as their credit card holder I would also get 10% rebate back on the mileage spend. So it would only take 67,500 miles to fly this route. I have flown Qantas on this route before a few times, using both their Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 birds, and it was a very enjoyable experience.

qantas using american airlines milesThe downside of course is that this year I have already used up 8,000 of the 10,000 rebate allowance with my two trips to Europe for Nurburgring 24h and Spa 24h. So the most I would actually get back is the remaining 2,000, which would result in 5,500 miles wasted. So I’m not too eager to redeem my AAdvantage miles on this trip. And I haven’t even gotten to the part of visiting New Zealand yet.

United Airlines Mileage Plus is also a valid option on this routing. At this point there are a lot of redemption opportunities both on UA metal and on their partners like Asiana Airlines or Air New Zealand. And best of all there is opportunity to book open jaw flights to arrive Australia and leave from New Zealand. However availability is non-existent to arrive NZ in the heart of their summer at the end of January so the only option is to fly to Australia first and leave from New Zealand after the race at Bathurst.

My ideal redemption would be to fly to Sydney (SYD) on a partner airline like Asiana with a connection in Seoul Icheon (ICN) using 40,000 UA miles and $36.40 in tax.

asiana using united miles

Or I could fly on United metal directly from Newark, NJ (EWR) with a layover in Los Angeles (LAX) with a minimal connection of 45 minutes which would definitely get me to Australia in the least amount of time and money using 40,000 UA miles and $27.40 in tax.

united mileage plus redemption to australiaOn the way back I could fly United’s partner Air New Zealand from Auckland (AKL) to Newark, NJ (EWR) with a connection in LA (LAX) and I would actually plan a trip in such a way that would give me a 13 hour layover in California so I can go do stuff in Los Angeles, have an In-n-Out burger at LAX or something. It would take 40,000 UA miles and $45.90 in tax to do this.

united mileage plus redemption from new zealand

The problem of course is I don’t have 80,000 UA miles to book this trip. I don’t even have 40,000 UA miles at this point, I’ve spent most of my savings flying Singapore Airlines in 2013 to get to Singapore GP and the Korean GP. But there was a UA credit card offer that I signed up and expect to earn the 40k necessary in the next few months.

So my real dilemma is how to mix and match the miles I have to make this trip a reality.

There is also a final option, and that is to buy the trip outright. However, at this point I’m looking at at least $1,200 to $1,400 investment, possibly more as I am dealing with arriving in Australia and traveling back through New Zealand. That’s a lot of money to spend on a Motorsport event. I remember Qantas put on a sale a few years ago offering NYC-SYD for just $700 USD. But that was back in the days of V Australia creating competition between Qantas, United and Delta AirLines which had started flying to Australia. Since then, Virgin Australia and Delta codeshare on the route eliminating some of the previous cutthroat competition. I will be keeping my eye out on The Flight Deal and similar web sites between now and the end of the year to see if any new sales or mistake fares pop up.

The sure plan though is to use frequent flyer miles. So if anyone has any suggestions or best routing tricks I could implement to make this trip a reality without breaking the bank, I would love to hear form you!

I haven’t mentioned how I’d get from Australia to New Zealand or vice-versa should things materialize that way. Since I lived in Kiwi land in 2012 I have saved up 300 AirNZ dollars that have been impossible to redeem for anything of value. They are best spent on purchasing tickets with AirNZ where 1 AirNZ dollar = $1 NZD. So my plan is to use one of the many AirNZ flights across the ditch from Sydney (SYD) to Auckland (AKL) and paying a premium for it just to use up the points. In the past I’ve purchased a flight round trip from Australia to NZ for less than $300, but now I just don’t want them to expire, so I’ll use them as necessary. While living in NZ my goal was to use those points to fly to some place exotic like Tonga, Samoa or the Cook Islands… but just like a job that never materialized there, neither did the dreams to go to a beautiful Pacific island for vacation… Boo freaking hoo!

air new zealand flight between sydney and auckland

Ironically, $300 NZD seems to be the sweet spot for booking the flight outright so many months out from my travel dates. While using Airpoints – the AirNZ currency, only a certain amount of points can be used with the rest paid in cash, which makes this trip ridiculously overpriced. Also ironic is the partnership between Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia to compete with Qantas and their low cost carrier JetStar on the route. The sub $300 round trip I mentioned before was booked on JetStar.

 

Registration is Open for the Liqui Moly Bathrust 12h at Mount Panorama

My fingers are now crossed on both hands as I submitted my registration for the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 hour race in February of 2016 taking place along the public street of Mount Panorama in New South Wales, Australia.

I registered, and you should too!

Why is this event so awesome?

Because… it is the biggest event on the Australian racing calendar. It is bigger than the recently popular Australian V8 Supercars races on the same circuit. It is bigger than Formula One in Melbourne. It’s huge!

I had the privilege to marshal the Bathurst 12h race at the start of the 2013 season and the event has only grown bigger since then. So I really look forward to coming back. Back then I marshaled on the very top of the mountain (above the famous Mount Panorama sign) but now have requested something closer to the paddock/pits area so I can wander on our off time to check out the amazing machinery on display, most of it from overseas. (New Zealand, Asia, Europe, US)

Some photos from my last trip:

mount panorama bathurst

bathurst mount panorama

Register here:

www.bathurst12hour.com.au

michele kid bathurst 12h registration