Tag Archives: Blancpain Endurance Series

Total 24 Hours of Spa Blancpain GT Feature Race of Intercontinental GT Challenge at the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps

What a way to end an amazing month in Europe by volunteering the best endurance race in the world: the Total 24 hours of Spa at Circuit Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

I was looking forward to Spa 24h for the whole year since I have worked last year’s event. This year the race did not disappoint. My Belgian or rather Flemish friend Pol was kind enough to chauffeur me around for the past few weeks, and Spa-Francorchamp visit was the last stop on our journey. The first order of business was to go to Spa city center for the driver’s parade and autograph session. To me that’s the most amazing thing the series does, instead of bringing spectators to the circuit they bring the cars and drivers to the people. It was super packed, as usual, and the cars were amazing.

At the track we were assigned Posts 11 and 12 at the exit of Double Gauche (Double Left) turns about in the middle of the course. It was a super active section of the track with the first red flag popping out as a result of a smash of Piquet Jr. into our station. We had a few more major crashes, several big fires. It was nuts.

My favorite part as always was making it out to the Pits to check out the cars up close and personal (even though I got very close in town also during the parade).

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It was nice to finally see the new Mercedes-AMG SLS GT3’s which cheated during qualifying grabbing spots one to six… they were penalized and started from the back with a five minute penalty… the nice thing many of them still finished in the top ten at the end of the 24 hours.

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I love this place… can’t wait to return to Spa-Francorchamps!

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Planning a Return to Southeast Asia for the Sepang 12 hour

It has been nearly two years since my last trip to Southeast Asia, and I really miss the place! So while browsing online articles about racing I noticed a schedule change for the Sepang 12 hour event, which I’ve yet to do. Not only that, the SRO of the Blancpain Endurance Series has become involved in promoting the event. And judging by the success of the amazing Spa 24 hour race I recently returned from I think it would give a much needed boost to the GT race in Asia.

So I’m going to sign up as a marshal.

For one getting out of the NYC area in December is an awesome thing just to get away from the snow and cold weather. And there’s no better place to go than Southeast Asia. I miss the food. I miss the people. And I do miss the racing at the Sepang International Circuit.

I will also use this opportunity to plan a side trip to either Singapore or Thailand, or both. It would be great to lounge on a beach for a few days and stuff myself with amazing cuisine.

But the racing will be wonderful also. The news reports from earlier this year suggested that the recently re-structured Asian Le Mans Series which I’ve done in December of 2013 would be held just a week after the SRO Sepang 12h event, but more recent articles suggest the dates have been changed to either November of this year or January of next year. Either way, if there is something interesting happening immediately before or immediately after the Sepang 12h race I’d love to spend another weekend in the region.

It is worth noting that the Sepang 12h this year will fall on the same dates as the Gulf 12h at the Abu Dhabi Circuit in UAE. I’ve done the Gulf 12h two years ago before flying to Sepang for the Asian Le Mans Sereies 3h race, and it was a spectacular event on an amazing circuit. Hopefully both events will see good participation among the global and regional teams. I suspect that some Aussies would choose Sepang over Yas Marina, and possibly more Asian teams would participate there, while European participation would be diluted among both, I think. Either way, it’s nice to have options!

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This news has gotten me really excited. And I can’t wait to plan the trip out using frequent flyer miles I must scramble together from different programs because I don’t have enough in any individual one of them at this point (most were used for the trip to Australia Pacific in February). So stay tuned for more!

Spa 24h Blancpain GT at Spa-Francorchamps the Debrief

Have you ever done an event for the first time but felt like you’ve been there a million times? My first Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchamps felt that way. I was full of confidence, had a sense of familiarity with things and most of the events that took place felt predictable. Maybe I had done my homework in advance, or maybe it was just a natural place for me to get quickly acclimatized and integrate into the flow of things with the local Belgian marshals on Team 31.

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We were based on station 4 for the weekend. The home pod was at 4B and it was a place where we initially started flagging on Thursday, but the visibility was much better from 4A which was about 100 meters down track towards the famous Radillion at the top of Eau Rouge. The flagging from that point was perfect, and yet another 50 meters down towards Radillion was the track marshal station 4, as it was written on the rail in permanent marker. This spot was the launching point for marshals doing recoveries on track after a crash at Radillion, a place where I watched Pol respond to a wrecked Lamborghini Huracan in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo support race, and later during the 24 hour Mike and Jelle responded to a crashed Ferrari 458 Italia in the middle of the night.

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The position of our post, while close walking distance to the famous Radillion was a world apart in that we were more sheltered from the huge crowd of spectators that flocked to the Radillion. And yet, we could see the turn (at least the very top of it) perfectly. Which means the marshal team at Radillion got all the action, we got to spectate it and wave the occasional Green flag, or display the SC board. For me personally it was a fantastic station because it was ideal for Blue flag. Cars don’t generally pass through Radillion, but they get positioned nicely to make passes right after it, which is where we were. In addition, the pit exit blend line was just before our station, so for this reason we got to display plenty of Blue flag for cars coming out of the Pits. I was in Blue flag heaven!

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I have to say I was super happy with my station assignment because in addition to the wonderful opportunity to use the Blue flag, we were also very close distance to the paddock, and ultimately to the grid walk which was one of the more fantastic things I experienced that weekend. But enough talk about how lucky I got, let me share some tidbits about marshaling at Spa.

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Having worked with Belgian marshals before the learning curve to adjust to the way things were done at their home track wasn’t long. The neat thing I found on station was the digi board controller which unlike many others I used around the world was fully touch screen. It was cool and challenging at the same time, because for anyone having experienced how frustrating an iPhone could be sometimes I had the same issues using this system. The scariest moment came during one of the night practices where I pushed the Blue button and watched cars came slowing down like there was something happening behind me. I quickly looked back and noticed that the Debris / Lack of Adhesion flag was displaying, which was not the button I thought I pushed. So I immediately corrected myself and everything was back to normal, but it made me think that obviously whomever designed the system didn’t get much useful marshal input because this seems like a pretty silly design flaw. I mean you’ve got to account for marshals with fat fingers, right? Though I assumed pressing the button on an angle confused the system.

The unique thing about working Spa 24h from my experience was seeing how the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium (RACB) assigned stations by teams. I was on Marshal Team 31 which most of the time either work together on the same track, or break up events over the same weekend and have part of the team work at Spa-Francorchamps and another at Zolder. Long story short, the team was assigned the turn. Throughout the four day weekend of the event, different members rotated into and out of working shifts based on their availability. Some were only available for race day, while others were able to work two days. I was super happy to be able to work all of the days we were needed as Pol managed to get vacation the week of the event.

The thing that surprised me the most about watching Belgian marshals work is how they just jump out on track when an incident happens… no delay whatsoever reporting to and asking Race Control for permission to go trackside. As soon as a car bounced into the tire wall at the top of Radillion the marshals behind the tire walk climbed over towards the stricken car, helped get the driver out, and waited for the wrecker to pull around the tire wall to drag the car off the track. Even at the incident that happened at our turn, Pol responded to a crashed Lamborghini Huracan, got the driver out and then assisted in getting the car straightened out and onto the flat bed truck once it showed up. Things seemed to go really quickly and smoothly and we didn’t have huge safety car periods or full course yellows like I’ve become accustomed to with some of the domestic series in the US.

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The other thing that surprised me was the close proximity of the marshal campsite to the track. We had some of the best views there are at Spa-Francorchamps just feet from our tents and campers. Just look at the picture above. With the elevated views you could see a huge part of the track all the way down to the paddock. The ring road going through the campsite was open to spectators to pass through and at times it was pretty crowded with people watching the race right from the road, which made driving to and from station a bit slow. But it was cool nonetheless. Spa provided very modern bathrooms and shower facilities, so I was very comfortable marshaling this event with all the creature comforts imaginable. Being able to quickly access the track meant we left several times to go into town and enjoy our foodie experiences which I’ve already covered in a separate post.

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The most familiar experience for me was having the predictable amount of rain cause havoc during the race. We had a wet race. Very wet at times. I got lucky in a sense that it didn’t rain for a few days leading up to race day which meant I got to experience both extremes of the weather at Spa. Having watched the /Drive video with Leo Parente and John Hindy from Radio Le Mans interview talking about this situation, I was thrilled that I got to live it. During the race itself we had so many Safety Car (SC) periods in the opening hours that I think they resorted to using to Full Course Yellows (FCY) to balance out the number of caution periods. At one point we even upgraded from FCY to SC when it was determined rail repair had to be made after a single car incident into the barrier. There were a lot of caution periods, and some spectacular crashes, many of which we were able to see from our post looking down at Radillion.

All in all, I am really thrilled with this whole experience and cannot wait to return to Spa-Francorchamps for another amazing event. Everything went perfectly on this trip. From the few hours I got to sightsee in Rome, to the excellent culinary experiences eating delicious local food and drinking tasty cherry beer. To the trip home via Helsinki sampling their famous Salmon at the airport, and then spending a night in Chicago while sightseeing around the Loop area downtown and stuffing my face with more delicious food like the Chicago deep dish pizza and hot dogs. I mean, it was perfect!

I’d highly recommend for anyone to do what I did, and I hope this post and all the pictures encourage people to at least consider it!

Post Card from Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchamps

I just returned from one of my most incredible trips marshaling anywhere, ever! What an amazing experience Spa 24h proved to be. Here I’ll share a preview of the posts to come describing my participation as a marshal at Spa-Francorchamps on the Belgian Marshal Team 31 working the top of the Radillion after the famous Eau Rouge.

If I got your attention with the corner names I’m sure you’re going to enjoy reading about the famous Belgian hospitality I received working this event. The various procedures Belgian marshals used when marshaling, and all the marshal toys available to them at the circuit.

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I will also talk about the side trips I made on this journey. First visiting Rome for a couple of hours during my layover in Italy. And concluding with the stopover in Chicago on my flight home back to USA. It was an incredible sightseeing and foodie tour, to be sure.

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I’ll write about meeting Teddy the marshal mascot from the Netherlands and what role I think these things play in the world of Motorsports. And I will be sure to share many pictures from the event and the trip overall.

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Please stay tuned, much goodness is to come after this incredible event!

Spa 24 hour Spotter Guide Blancpain Endurance Series in Belgium at the Spa-Francorchamps

To say I’m super excited about my next race would be an understatement. I’m simply thrilled. Next week I’m off to Belgium to marshal my first Spa 24 hour event at the world famous Belgian circuit Spa-Francorchamps. So in preparation for the trip I’d like to share some information about the event to help me get prepped for the race. Sadly Andy Blackmore hasn’t come up with a handy spotter guide for this race, and the only one I’ve found so far is from 2013 on DailySportsCar.com http://www.dailysportscar.com/Uploads/BES/2013/SPA/BES_Spa_Francorchamps_Spotter_Guide.pdf 2013 coincidentally was the last year that Team Ukraine Racing with Ferrari participated in this event with their #123 Ferrari 458 Italia pictured above.

IF ANYONE HAS A SPOTTER GUIDE PLEASE SHARE A LINK HERE

The official Blancpain Endurance Series Spa 24 hour entry list can be found here: http://www.24hoursofspa.com/entry-list and it includes some of the finest and most exotic European GT3 machinery (all 60+ of them) including:

  • Audi R8 LMS and Audi R8 LMS Ultra
  • Bentley Continental GT3
  • BMW Z4 GT3
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3
  • Lamborghini Huracan and Gallardo
  • Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3
  • McLaren 650S GT3 and MP4-12C
  • Ferrari 458 Italia GT3
  • Emil Frey G3 Jaguar
  • Aston-Martin Vantage GT3
  • Porsche 997 GT3 R

According to the official provisional timetable, found here:  http://www.blancpain-gt-series.com/ there will be some interesting support races for this enduro, including:

  • Formula Renault 2.0 NEC
  • Porsche Carrera Cup
  • Lamborghini Super Trofeo
  • Trofeo Abarth Europe
  • SPA 24H

Oh and there will also be great entertainment besides all the events on track. Martin Solveig will be the headlining DJ for Saturday night’s concert according to the official event poster, found here: http://www.24hoursofspa.com/posters

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And so with that, I don’t know what I should look forward to more. The concert? The different racing? All the exotics on track going flat out? Or maybe an amazing marshal post… there’s so many options:

  • La Source
  • Eau Rouge
  • Raidillon
  • Kemmel Straight
  • Les Combes
  • Bruxelles
  • Pouhon
  • Campus
  • Stavelot
  • Courbe Paul Frere
  • Blanchimont
  • Chicane

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I think I would just be happy being there!

The trip over will take me via Rome, Italy on Alitalia so I’ll get to have some pizza in the motherland. And then fly home again on Finnair via Helsinki, through Chicago.

I’m so looking forward to this trip, I just can’t wait to be there!

A little history. I have visited Spa-Francorchamps in the French part of Belgium and Zolder in the Flemish/Dutch part of Belgium on my 2013 road trip from Le Mans 24h to Nurburgring 24h with Pol. Pol has been an amazing organizer for all of my European events and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for all the help. Belgium will be my 14th country to marshal, and Spa-Francorchamps 30+ track, which is absolutely positively awesome. I love Belgium!

European GT Endurance Series

If there is one series I would really want to get more involved with its the European GT Endurance Series. Whether FIA GT1, ADAC GT Masters or the Blancpain Enduros. The vehicle line up is incredible, you got:

  • Mercedes-Benz SLS
  • BMW Z4
  • Audi R8
  • McLaren MP4-12C
  • Lambourghini Gallardo
  • Ferrari 458
  • Porsche 911
  • Aston Martin DB9
  • Ford GT

Though there are only a handful of races on the calendar for each series, there’s plenty of potential to squeeze in a few F1 events and DTM if I were to end up in Europe in the near future. Check it out:

FIA GT1 Series web site: http://gt1world.com/ and video:

Blancpain Endurance Series web site: http://blancpain-endurance-series.com/ video:

ADAC GT Masters web site: http://www.adac-gt-masters.de/ video:

Europeans are spoiled for choice with fantastic racing opportunities, our equivalent of the Rolex Grand-Am series is stuck in the stone age in comparison. Of course gives me something to look forward to marshal in the future, if I suddenly get a job in Europe.

In this recession its highly unlikely, but one can dream.