After compiling a list of all of my recent MX-5 Miata Road Trips I realized there’s one event I really must add to my bucket list: the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca happening this October.
Why is this an important event?
I could think of a bunch of reasons… for one, Laguna Seca is a fantastic facility and a home of Mazda Motorsports and Mazdaspeed activities. The Global MX-5 Cup championship opened at Laguna Seca last weekend. California is perhaps the best place to own a Miata or at the very least a very appropriate place to visit, cruising to Big Sur along the PCH with the top down. And the best part there would be hundreds if not thousands of fellow MX-5 nuts in attendance many of whom would drive their cars there while others like me would be able to fly in and possibly rent one.
I’m seriously considering doing this event one year!
Here’s the promo pitch:
Miatas at Mazda Raceway has established itself as one of the must-do events on the Miata calendar. Don’t miss out.
The event will take place on October 1-2, 2016. Registration for the hot laps will open at 9 am PDT on May 21st.
We’re still working on details, but here’s what you can probably expect.
2 days of track time at world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Hundreds of Miatas and Miata enthusiasts of all types
Parade laps on Saturday and Sunday
Vendors on hand with displays and demos and product specials
This year’s Grand Prix of Long Beach gave me the opportunity to see a lot of action at Turn 8. I got to flag some pretty massive impacts from several McLarens in the PWC race hitting the wall. Alexander Rossi in the #98 IndyCar was our first customer with a major whammy into the concrete barrier just past the tire wall exiting Turn 8. Several Stadium Super Trucks went in as well, but all drivers left the turn unhurt… except for one of our guys, a fellow marshal.
The incident during the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race was absolutely absurd and completely avoidable. Yet we had one of our marshals leave the track in an ambulance because of injuries sustained as a result of “drivers” completely ignoring Yellow flags.
Now the marshal was released quickly and returned to the track to carry on his duties for the rest of the weekend. But it was thanks to dumb luck that things ended the way they did, it could have been much worse and potentially fatal.
Well, have a watch for yourself:
The video (courtesy of Gazette Sports) shows the replay of the incident as well as the post-race driver’s interview, which is especially chilling showing how little regard for human life (other than the driver’s own selfish well being) there is on display.
I don’t really know who this celebrity is, but he certainly isn’t a race car driver. Worse, the “real” or “pro” race car drivers that this douche was following, aren’t much better than him either. For the whole group to so blatantly disregard the waving Yellow flags (and believe me, I was waving mine frantically being the closest person to the incident working Turn 8 Apex station, and basically waving the hell out of that flag right in the face of the drivers as they turned in) is pretty disheartening and very much appalling.
The only reason racing works worldwide is because there are rules in place that most racers follow. If you disregard the rules you can injure or kill someone on the track, including yourself. Disregarding yellow flags is about as bad as it gets because you willingly put someone in danger by not following the rules.
To me, the pro’s in this situation were as guilty as the celebrity that nearly chopped the legs off of a marshal against the tow truck. Nobody in that final group lifted when going into the turn. The dumbass causing the final crash was only following the “pro’s” going flat out through the turn, just like he admitted in the interview. And things shouldn’t be that way. He’s thankful he had a sturdy car like a Toyota with it’s five point harness and all, but the marshal standing on track he sent flying over the hood of the car only had the fucking Yellow flag for protection, a yellow flag that everyone ignored.
This…. is tremendously disappointing!
The screen grabs above show the final incident in detail. Certainly no laughing matter when the camera captures the whole incident so clearly. I know we, as volunteers, accept a certain level of risk when marshaling because being in dangerous situations is inevitable, but finding yourself faced with blatant disregard for the only thing that is designed to keep you “safer” is pretty bad.
The first time I heard about Racing Beat as a Mazda tuner was when I was searching for my Miata to buy and a guy in Connecticut was selling one with the Racing Beat exhaust. (He was also selling the car with two sets of wheels for summer/winter which I ended up doing myself so maybe the guy was onto something).
Having some time to kill before my flight home to the East Coast post-Long Beach Grand Prix I decided to pay Racing Beat a visit, and check out their facility and products. And to my surprise the guys behind the counter were more than willing to show me around, both in the sales office and the manufacturing facility a few buildings down the street.
Racing Beat specializes in Mazda rotary performance parts but is also one of the few American tuners to offer stuff for the MX-5, and for that I support them.
Check out the pix;
Oh and while in Anaheim do visit Roscoe’s Fried Chicken n’ Waffles restaurant about 10 minute drive from the shop. The food was pretty fantastic…. and much like Racing Beat I learned about it thanks to Motorsport advertising… the #54 Dodge Viper in PWC had a very colorful paint scheme advertising Roscoe’s during the Long Beach Grand Prix race… what a place!
So the highlight of my trip to Southern California wasn’t marshaling Long Beach Grand Prix, it was instead a side trip further south to Irvine, Orange County to visit the North American HQ of Mazda.
I can’t say I planned the trip there in advance, it sort of just happened. I was hoping to meet up with some local SoCal MX-5 Miata owners during the event but for some reason that meetup never materialized, and since I had some time to kill on Monday before the flight home I decided to do a few Miata related things. After a quick Google search I had a list of three places to try to check out if the California traffic would allow it. Mazda HQ was stop #1 (a visit to Racing Beat and Roadster Tuner followed).
While I tried not to get my hopes up for the actual visit, I was excited. I kept my expectations low because having both Mercedes-Benz of North America and BMW of North America Headquarters just minutes away from me in New Jersey I knew there wasn’t much to see there for random visitors other than an office building. But what’s the worst that could happen? Right…? I figured at the very least I’ll get to check out the lobby. And so it went, the lady at reception confirmed my speculation that there wasn’t much to see and nothing to buy in a gift shop because there wasn’t one. So I mozzied on out, took a few shots of the building, many more shots of the countless MX-5’s in the parking lot and was ready to leave.
And then as if a God-sent, I see three pristine red MX-5’s of various vintage rolling into the parking lot and heading straight for the Visitor Center… I later found out that the NA Miata in the group was the original car unveiled at the Chicago? auto show when the car was first introduced in America in 1989. There was a gorgeous Mazdaspeed NB that followed it, not sure about it’s history. But the red NC in the group was the 25th Anniversary edition of which there were only 1,000 made. I started chatting with the Mazda guys driving the cars into the building and the fella tried to stress the importance of the rarity of the NC… while I countered that I saw three or four of them show up to my little Sydney MX-5 fish & chips run just a few months ago…. how rare could they be? Ha!
It was by dumb luck that I stumbled upon these cars and the guys working there. But boy did that make my day! I shamelessly asked for some Mazda swag referring to the Long Beach Grand Prix Mazda Owner’s Lounge running out of hats by the time I was able to make it there on Sunday as an excuse, and the guy come through… big time! I got a whole swag bag full of key chains, lanyards, a Zoom Zoom magazine and some other trinkets and knick-knacks. Not that I actually need more of that stuff, but bringing home souvenirs like that was pretty awesome. I’m really grateful for the opportunity!
Of course I couldn’t help myself and took a million pictures:
So for all you Mazda / Miata fans out there visiting Orange County, California thinking about a visit to the North American HQ… is it worth it? Hell yeah! Granted unless you luck out and stumble upon something similar to what I did, you’ll have a blast… on any other day though the visit may be slightly more mundane… but you never know until you go for it!
PS. after visiting Racing Beat the fella there suggested to check out the Mazda R&D facility where they store all kinds of goodies like the 787B race car…. that would have been nice to know about had I had more time to kill (and not rush for a flight!)
PPS. a few days after I got home pictures and videos surfaced on facebook from the same lobby I visited featuring a fourth vehicle… one I would have been really keen on seeing had I had the time (which I didn’t) the vehicle was the ND MX-5 RF targa prototype… D’oh!!!!
With the excitement from the trip to the South Pacific barely starting to wear out I’m keeping the momentum going by planning 3 massive domestic trips to marshal around the country.
What’s on the agenda?
Pirelli World Challenge season opener at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas immediately followed by a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida for a few events. I plan to drive down to Florida in my MX-5 the day after I fly home from Texas. The trip will put at least 3,000 miles on the car while volunteering my first St. Pete Grand Prix tagged along to another exciting Sebring 12 hour enduro with the IMSA WeatherTech United SportsCar Series Championship race. After a few weeks of recovery I’ll depart on a trip to California for another IndyCar Grand Prix on the streets of Long Beach.
I could hardly contain my excitement about these trips, and am currently wrecking my brains trying to organize all the travel arrangements. In a way, the flights are the easiest part of the equation. The costs to marshal are tremendous especially when the volunteers compete for the same accommodation that drivers and fans use during a race weekend. I’ve found this to be especially true in the case of St. Pete where even the cheapest hell-hole hotels are pushing $100/night. But it’s a challenge I’m happy to accept, I find the planning part almost as exciting as being trackside for the event.
PWC at COTA
For the Pirelli World Challenge season opener at the Circuit of the Americas I’ve frankensteined a trip together using a $36 AA flight from LGA to DFW and then $2.50 bus from Dallas to Austin with Megabus. On the way home it’ll be another $2.50 Megabus ride back to Dallas to connect to a $49 UA flight back to LaGuardia via Houston: DFW-IAH-LGA. I’m looking forward to my buddy Joaquin helping me out in Austin again with his monster Chevy dually.
St. Pete GP & Sebring 12h
The IndyCar season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida will be a two day drive in the MX-5 from New Jersey. I will probably break up the trip into a 12 hour and an 8 hour drive with a rest stop overnight in Columbia, SC. I am a little concerned about parking for the MX-5 while in Florida especially if I do stay at a cheapo motel, which tend to be in bad parts of town and therefore prone to crime. But fingers are crossed everything works out. I plan to camp at Sebring, as much as I dislike the idea of camping you can’t beat the price. Although my camping gear, sleeping bag, pillows, etc. will completely pack the poor little convertible.
Long Beach GP
For this trip I frankensteined a few flights to bring the price down. Because it’s a busy Motorsport weekend in the LA area the flights are priced higher than normal. My goal was to book something for under $200 round trip and I just managed to do it by booking a number of separate reservations with United. The one way NY-LA was about $150 but I cut that cost in half by booking NY-Chicago and Chicago-LA separately… $35 for LGA-ORD and $35 ORD-LAX with favorable departure times and plenty of room between the two separate bookings in case there is major travel disruption on the day of travel. The flights back home were the pricey ones and in fact I paid almost double of the cost to get there. I chose to fly out on the Monday after the race, and the cheapest option was a $132 flight from Burbank to Newark via San Francisco: BUR-SFO-EWR. I think I am pretty happy with these bookings considering the alternative was at least $75 to $100 more, or I would have had to rely on wasting an award which I would rather save up on a flight to Europe.
In the next few days I’ll continue researching accommodation for these three trips and trying to decide whether to stick to public transport in California or rent a cheapo car to get around.
PS. I am especially looking forward to the lengthy trip in the Miata, after a beautiful Road Trip in New Zealand I want to appreciate driving my own car as much as the owners I met love driving theirs.
The two week road trip to California and Texas went off without a glitch, I got to volunteer for two amazing racing series, all while sticking to a shoestring budget.
First, the American Le Mans series at Mazda Laguna Seca was one of the most amazing experiences ever, especially since I got to work the famous Corkscrew turn. I was stationed atop turn 8 leading into the Corkscrew which meant I had plenty of opportunity to blue flag, especially the fast approaching Prototypes and equally exciting GT class. While we had no major incidents, there were a number of spins and some tight passes, few spraying us with gravel as the cars went extra close to the station.
Second, the V8Supercars at the Circuit of the Americas was the inaugural weekend for the Australian series making its debut in the US. I was stationed at turn 19 one of the last corners before chequered flag and we had a ton of great passing happening. Got to call in a hard impact with fire for one of the support races, where one Porsche GT3 Cup got rammed by another setting it in flames. Got to finally visit the Austin 360 tower overlooking the whole of COTA.
Excellent two weeks that I wished wouldn’t end so quickly.
Some costs involved since everyone always asks… flights from Newark, NJ to San Jose, CA; San Francisco, CA to Austin, TX and back to Newark, NJ were approximately 20k Southwest points plus $15 tax… five car rentals, three in California costing $31 for the first day Ford Fiesta at Thrifty SJC, $70 for 4 days in a Kia Rio at Hertz SJC; $47 for the last day in a Ford Focus at Thrifty SJC (would have been $26 if I didn’t pay extra to drop it off at SFO). $89 for the first two days in Austin for a Nissan Versa followed by $70 for four days in a VW Passat at Hertz HLE. Cost me more for car rentals than I anticipated, but it was a necessary evil.
PS. CALTEX road trip not to be confused with CALTEX petroleum common in Asia Pacific
Talk about managing expectations… the 39th annual TOYOTA Grand Prix of Long Beach had the potential to be a fantastic event, yet it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the race atmosphere and the overall scenery were quite exotic and unique. I was immensely impressed, however the role assignments on my station ruined things for me from the get go, and it never really recovered throughout the weekend. I’ve mentioned the blue flag fiasco in the previous post so I won’t go any further in bitching about it, other than to make an observation of how big of a difference such a simple thing makes. People often criticize events for not providing decent lunches – no big deal for me, I often bring my own. Others complain of the event when it rains – again no biggie as I carry my wet weather gear. But when you get assigned to a role, like say “yellow flag” and you’re stuck on it for two hours starring at a space where typically nothing happens, while the “blue flag” person is enjoying an exciting workout, it got to me. With the designated role of “blue flagger” and all, it has not stopped people from rotating even for just a few minutes to let the “yellow flagger” do something. The selfish arrogance displayed at Long Beach reminds me why I dislike SCCA so much.
(yeah! that close…)
All the pouting and whining aside, I did in fact have a great time. And would probably like to return considering the alternative this year was Bahrain F1 Grand Prix and I’m not sure I’ll have enough frequent flyer miles left next year to make it happen. I enjoy California in general, everything from the In-n-Out restaurant near LAX to the beautiful palm tree lined streets you see overlooking the beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean.
I am very much looking forward to the next trip to California next month for ALMS at Laguna Seca… hopefully I can do a little blue flagging this time!
I would really like to participate in more North American events both because it is cheaper to travel here (now that I’ve signed up for some generous bonuses through US-based domestic airline frequent flyer programs) and it takes less time to get there. I have yet to marshal an event in California though I have worked with several marshals from there, last one being my post chief from the USGP at Austin, and before that another post chief at MotoGP in Indianapolis. The Grand Prix of Long Beach is a major event for Indycar, ALMS and Formula Drift which I haven’t participated in yet, so there’s a lot to look forward to.
Hope I can swing it 🙂
Motorsport Marshal, Miata Driver, Hot Wheels Collector