Tag Archives: Brent McNaul

Grand Prix of Texas, Pirelli World Challenge Season Opener at CoTA

If there was one word to describe this race weekend it would be: VARIETY! There was excellent variety of cars in each class of the series. My station assignments gave me a good variety of action from different parts of the track. And there was a great variety of fellow marshals I got to work with as a corner captain. In this post I’ll share some of the experiences I had and some of my lessons learned.

First, the cars!

World Challenge Vision organization sanctioned by SCCA PRO has opened the field up to GT3 and GT4 cars from around the world (mostly Europe) to participate in the event, which really spiced up the field compared to previous years. I remember when the top battle in PWC was between the Cadillac’s and the Volvo’s. Not anymore! This time around there was an excellent representation of the best sports cars in the world right now. The GT3 field featured McLaren MP4-12C’s, Nissan GT-R’s, Audi R8 LM’s and LMS’s, Porsche 911’s and 911 R’s, new Cadillac’s, old BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, new Acura RL’s, Aston Martin’s, Bentley Continental GT’s, etc. And a very competitive field of Porsche 911 GT3-Cup cars. The GT4 field featured the whacky cars that haven’t been previously really visible stateside, like the KTM X-bow’s, SIN R1 GT4’s, Maserati Gran Turismo’s, a couple of older Lotus Evora’s, some relics of the past like Ford Mustang’s and Chevy Camaro’s, Aston Martin DB7’s, Ginetta G55’s, and others. Even the TC field was full of surprises. Turns out that with the introduction of the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup, the previous models had no place to go racing, so they ended up in both TC and TCA fields. Sporting a 2.5L motor and a big wing in TC and the standard 2.0 and the lip Mazdaspeed spoiler in TCA.

I loved all the variety!

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I already mentioned all my awesome station assignments in my post card thread. But it was truly fantastic to work Turn 1 for the first race of the season in the TC/TCA/TCB class. To my great surprise we went through the whole thing without a full course yellow! Both of the TC/(A)/(B) events went off without safety car periods even when there were plenty of incidents and some amazing hard racing, but the more professional drivers in the GTS and GT/GTA/GT-Cup were far more messy and up to their usual tricks. I think we started more than one of the GT/(A)/(Cup) events with a full course on the first lap. There were some heavy hits too, especially in the GTS races and practices. Both Sin R1 GT4’s were taken out on stations within a my view from Turn 9. It was such a shame to see that, but by the same token it was hard racing.

And finally to the lessons learned. I was lucky enough to be the corner captain for all of my station assignments, which was great because it taught me how to better work with people especially those with less experience than me. It’s always a fine line to try to teach others to work to your expectations without offending someone or giving them information that is contrary to what they have had learned before. I had this sort of issue at Turn 1 and 9 where I let the guys make their mistakes during practice believing that by the time a race came around we’d be on the ball. But it surprised even me how mistakes were made that I was not anticipating. This included waving double-yellow flags like in Formula 1 where this series only relies on a single-yellow. Or debating whether a yellow should have been waved over green when a car spun just prior and directly across form our station (since I was on flags I waved green, but my rookie coworker suggested he’d wave yellow in that instance… and he would be wrong to do so (I have already blogged about a similar situation from the IMSA race at Watkins Glen last year)).  All in all we were incredibly lucky to have stuff happen right in front of us. Plenty of spins, some of them quite dramatic. Some light contacts between cars and smashes into the barrier, etc. I think we all walked away from this weekend with a little more experience than we started with, which is an excellent opportunity! I don’t think anyone was bored the entire weekend.

And so it was a great start to my American racing calendar. I’m really grateful to everyone that made my experience an outstanding one. And of course I’m very much looking forward to more of the same (excitement) starting with my next trip tomorrow when I’ll be driving down to Florida for two back to back Pro events: Grand Prix of St. Pete and Sebring 12 hour. Wish me luck!

PS. It would have been even more variety if the Intercontinental GT Challenge had made it’s scheduled debut this weekend. However, even though it never materialized it was neat to see Mr. SRO himself wandering around the paddock… yep, I saw Stéphane Ratel at CoTA!

Postcard from the Grand Prix of Texas: PWC at COTA

Howdy from another fantastic weekend trackside.

What an amazing experience the Grand Prix of Texas, or officially Nissan Grand Prix of Texas presented by VP Race Fuels, was… I had such a blast it’s hard to describe quickly… I’ll do a more comprehensive debrief when I get home to Jersey, but for the time being I’d like to share a few pictures from the event.

Keyword for the event: VARIETY!

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#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain 😉

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Some awesome looking MX-5 Racecars that raced in two classes, TCA – the standard MX-5 Cup Cars and the upper TC class that ran big wings and 2.5L engines which were on par with much larger Mustang V6’s and Nissan Z…whatever has the 6 cylinder in it…

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And of course the food was absolutely amazing, as always! Barbecue + Mexican + Tex-Mex, it was sooooo delicious!

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As usual big thanks to my buddy Joaquin for hosting me for this week, and chauffeuring me around to the track and all the restaurants. Big thanks to Brent McNaul the Flag Chief of the Lone Star SCCA Region for making my trip awesome with amazing station assignments each day… I got to do Turn 3 for the first time, Turn 1 and Turn 9… and all saw some great action there. Thank you so much! And a huge thanks to Jeanie Caulfield for taking care of the marshals with all the breakfasts, lunches and swag at the end. This is much appreciated and encouraging to come back again and again!

I’m very grateful for how everything went down during this event.

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Turn 3

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Turn 1

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Turn 9

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Yep… Have Flags and Will Travel!

Pre-Race Praise to the Lone Star Le Mans Flag Chief Brent McNaul for his Work Organizing Marshals at COTA

I have high praise to the Lone Star Le Mans flag chief Brent McNaul for the way he has been organizing the marshals for the upcoming event at the Circuit of the Americas. I want to recognize his efforts in this post because often I blog about people doing things wrong and how much I don’t agree with their approach, and it’s too easy to be critical. In this situation the man deserves high accolades long before the event has even started because he’s been doing everything right. And I really appreciate it!

For those of you reading this you may remember the post I made a while back about the perfect registration page set up for Lone Star Le Mans on MotorsportReg.com It was detailed, thorough, and intuitive. It communicated well what’s involved with the event and encouraged you to be a part of something big, a PRO event, something to be proud of. That attention to detail has continued in the months that followed leading up to this weekend. Brent has been communicating constantly with frequent e-mail blasts keeping the registered marshals abrest of important details pertaining to the race weekend, flag rules, new procedures, etc.

What I liked most about Brent’s e-mail communications:

  • Acknowledgement that the days would be long, as they tend to be on such a race weekend where cars are on track from dawn to dusk, and beyond. In early July Brent sent out info about working in shifts to break up the work load. Personally I can’t get enough of endurance events so I volunteered to work both shifts.
  • Marshal evacuation plan. Who thinks about that right? We had a simulated evacuation a year or two ago at COTA. We were loaded onto the “train” shuttle and taken to the safety of an underpass to wait out a storm. Nobody knew really what was going on, it seemed as the shuttle drivers were following instructions from whomever came on their hand held radios. Now we have a detailed plan of action direct from COTA management.
  • Detailed schedule of the event and the confirmed race entries were provided for those of us interested in the participants of the event in late August.
  • Specific flagging rules were provided as the IMSA rules differ from the FIA rules used during WEC. Specific instructions were provided about the use of boards including NEXT SLOW, SLOW zone, and FCY – Full Course Yellow. While the boards appeared at last year’s event they were not used. The information provided in Brent’s e-mail prepares us as marshals to know what to expect if Race Control calls for a specific board or a series of boards like the progression of NEXT SLOW to SLOW zone, and FCY.
  • Captain prep e-mail was sent out to those of us expected to carry out the captain roles during the event. I was fortunate enough to be selected and am looking forward to fulfilling my duties. I am especially looking forward to incidents happening in my sector so that I could put my training to good use with execution and learn from my response for future incidents.
  • Information about registration, morning sign-on and even early registration times and locations was sent out. This is especially useful since I will be without a personal vehicle being a pedestrian sucks, but allows me to rely on friends to go and register early so that the morning of the event I could go straight to the morning meeting.
  • Station assignments. This one was my favorite especially since last year I left COTA with a sour taste after getting stuck in the same part of the track for several consecutive events. Well, not anymore. I am thrilled with my station assignments thanks to Brent because I will be working some new portions of the track that I haven’t done yet and I am very much looking forward to this experience!

So major props to Brent McNaul for his efforts to keep the Lone Star Le Mans a well oiled machine of an event that I’m sure it will be. The work he’s doing is greatly appreciated not just by me but everyone else, and that’s important. Furthermore I wish more people would learn from Brent to put this amount of effort into their events that they flag chief. He is certainly setting a good example, and I thank him for it!

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source: swiped from the e-mail signature of Jeanie at COTA