Tag Archives: Continental Tire Challenge

Grand-Am at Laguna Seca debrief

I like it when things go well, no… I love it! And this trip to Laguna Seca went exceptionally well from start to finish. So allow me to outline the successes and give encouragement to others hopefully reading this post that such a thing is possible.

This trip was one of the first events I booked upon returning from Asia Pacific… and what a hell of a deal that was. $120/round trip to fly one of my favorite airlines: JetBlue from Newark, NJ to San Francisco, CA via Boston, MA. The connection times were a bit lengthy but at such a rate I would have been happy to visit downtown Boston for a bowl of clam chowder, but with JetBlue I didn’t have to – because they allowed me to go stand-by on a previous flight… twice! Because of this amazing capability I arrived San Fran at least four hours ahead of schedule, which meant I was there at a reasonable hour, and not around midnight like I had booked. So without giving it much thought I checked the car rental deals to see if I can do something about picking up the rental that was originally booked for next morning. Lo and behold I managed to get an even better rate for half an hour past my arrival. Sweeet! I didn’t have to spend the night at the airport, or have to go find a hotel in the city… I got into my car and headed out towards the Monterey Peninsula.

Once in Monterey I first went to check out Laguna Seca, thinking I could register early, but with Grand-Am in town there was very little happening… so I cruised around, checked out the beautiful ocean scenery and had some amazing food. The action on track finally started Friday, but not until late morning and almost noon-time. The support series that got to hit the track early were tame, but with decent fields it was fun to watch. Similarly for practice, qualifying and race day, the main attraction: Grand-Am did not disappoint. As I mentioned earlier I had the best seat in the house, working turn 8A at the bottom of the Corkscrew. I am amazed and honored with the trust the SF SCCA region put in me by letting me work that station alone for most of the weekend… they have figured out something other regions are still working on… when I’m busy I hardly take any pictures, haha!

So besides one little incident with a Continental Tire Challenge Camaro flying across the Corskcrew we were pretty quiet. I had a nice trip back up to SF to return the rental, and spend the next two nights in a hostel, which was a first. But it allowed for a perfect location to explore the city, which I was very much looking forward to do utilizing the Cable Car system… I think I managed to try every line! I also revisited Chinatown, and this time really really really enjoyed my meal. The secret to good food in that place is second story restaurants… and avoiding Dim Sum, which apparently I’m not a big fan of, it turns out.

The flight home was again excellent. I managed to credit the JetBlue miles to my AAdvantage account which I could later use for international flights. And once I reached Boston I again went stand-by on an earlier flight arriving home at a much more reasonable hour than I was scheduled. So that’s that. Great trip, great fun… good memories!

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AMA Superbikes at NJMP is next. Turns out my Dickies whites are only good for less than two seasons because three out of the four pairs have shredded in the crotch area, go figure! But I’m going to frankenstein a solution in time for Millville, where I’m looking forward to seeing my good friends whom I haven’t seen in a while. Singapore will follow shortly after.

Can’t believe this year is almost over!

Rolex 24 Daytona debrief

With the live “post card” tweets from the track it seems like I’ve given this particular race, the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona a lot of attention. Yet, as an opening event of the 2013 season it fully deserves it. As my first 24 hour endurance race, and a very eventful race as well, it deserves it even more.

So what did I like about this event so much? Well, first it was at an incredible track. My mom told my dentist I went to a racing event in Florida and her first comment was: “Dayonta?” … sure its not the same event she’s probably thinking of, but hell close enough. Second, it was interesting to see how I could handle such a long endurance race, and to my amazement I held up pretty well. Like the last 6 hour race for Grand-Am at Watkins Glen, with only two of us on station or the ten hours of Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta with six of us on station, it seems these endurance races don’t draw “too many” marshals. Ironically there’s almost always many more marshals for local SCCA events on each station than for these Pro-Events. And somehow we manage. Nobody forced me to work double or triple shift, but with so few people it made sense to stay on.

Time went by quickly particularly because we were in a direct impact zone for any car coming out of turn 4 and getting a wheel caught on the sand beyond the rumble strip. Four cars smashed directly into the station over a two day period I was there. Six in total over the Rolex 24 weekend. That doesn’t normally happen, but I’m glad we escaped unscathed.

Navigating my way thru Florida was fun. I always wanted to live there and after visiting Orlando and Daytona Beach (as well as a side trip to Cocoa Beach) I can totally see myself doing that in the future. Couch Surfing also came through with excellent accommodation near the track and near the airport, so I couldn’t be happier with that.

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Photo courtesy of APR: http://www.onehotlap.com/2013/01/are-pro-drivers-eternal-optimists.html

Ironically, unlike at other events here we were encouraged to take pictures. And wouldn’t you know it that instead of the hundreds of shots I normally take, I only had a few. Luckily my buddy Tim Stoll took a bunch high-quality professional shots that he was kind enough to share, so check them out:┬áhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/91832184@N04/

Next year’s Daytona is a must!

Rolex Grand Am season finale @ Lime Rock

A few days ago I was totally complaining it was too hot, and suddenly I was shivering cold standing out in the rain all day watching some of the most exciting racing I’ve seen in ages. The Continental Tire Challenge which was ran in the rain on Friday. It is normally full of action and very exciting, but when it’s pouring rain and the whole front straight was flooded, the racing seemed that much more interesting. Amazingly the guys behaved much better than they normally do in the dry, though the few incidents we had at our sector were hard racing impacts nonetheless.

On Saturday – the main day of racing at Lime Rock as they don’t race on Sunday, was also action packed. The weather was better, no precipitation at all though the threat was there. But the actual Rolex Grand Am series did not disappoint. For this track – the bull rink as a lot of racers call it, the Continental Tire Challenge was broken down in two races as the fields were far too great for the short length of the track. So naturally Saturday saw the Grand Sport race before the feature Rolex Grand Am – Daytona Prototypes and Grand Touring mix. Both races were fantastic. I was stationed at 4 + 4A and we had several direct impacts throughout the nearly 3 hour races. It was indeed outstanding, especially since I got to blue flag most of the races ­čÖé

Some pix:

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Brickyard 400 Grand Am at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The second stop on my two thousand mile road trip over a three week period went rather well though very nerve-racking. Now that I’m back in Detroit, I guess I can say things worked themeselves out though I still have a trip to a mechanic coming up first thing Monday morning.

First the problem stemmed from a slow leak that has upgraded to an alarming leak somewhere between Canada and Michigan. Nursing the car all the way to Indianapolis for the race made me more than nervous for all five hours it took to get there. But I made it, and even though it looked like the coolant was gushing out of the system, I made it back to my friend’s house as well.

The race itself was equally nerve-racking. It was perfectly hot weather when I arrived Thursday. The buffet dinner was a welcoming sight, as well as meeting some big wigs at USAC – United States Auto Club that ran the event at the Speedway. However on race day the wather yo yo’ed from hot sunshine to cooling rain throughout the twelve hour schedule. I had to put my wet weather gear on three times or so. Both Continental Tire Challenge and Rolex Grand Am finished under caution, but racing was close and fun to flag. There was lots of blue flagging which I always enjoy.

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Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix in Detroit

I’ve been blessed with good luck the past few months because even after realizing I had missed registration by several weeks I was graciously accepted to participate in the Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix. It was a great deal of fun not just for the racing, but specifically because of the type of series represented in the races as well as an opportunity for me to do some flying which I absolutely love.

The pieces slowly fell into place after I got my acceptance e-mail. As luck would have it an email from Southwest Airways followed with a neat 35% discount coupon and the dates of travel I selected were actually the cheapest in that week! A quick e-mail to a Michigan buddy that I haven’t seen since Woodward Dream Cruise many years ago took care of the accommodation and some hocus pocus with Hertz allowed me to have a rental for the duration of my stay in Detroit for a fraction of what it normally costs. I love when things just happen right.

Upon arrival things continued smoothly, got a nice Chevy Sonic to test drive for a few days, collected my credentials, got some new SCCA patches, etc. Friday’s practice was wet but with my New Zealand wet weather gear I was fully prepared. Saturday was perhaps the best day, sunny and warm and Grand Am kicked ass. It was the main attraction for me and as far as I was concerned that was the feature race, though I realized later that IndyCar was meant to trump it. But it didn’t. On race day Sunday track started falling apart especially after the World Challenger cars had their way with it (and boy did they rip it apart, I and my fellow flaggies were pelted with tiny rocks from the asphalt all weekend) that wasn’t much fun getting hit in the face all the time.

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Meeting some new marshals was one of the highlights of my trip, especially the internationals from Canada. But hanging out with my friends was even better. The day after the races I had an opportunity to finally visit the Henry Ford museum, it was neat. Shortly after I drove across the tunnel into Canada to take a closer look at Windsor, Ontario and had an excellent time. Quick flight home, had my father do a tune up on the Impala and now I’m all ready for Montreal. Here we go!

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It rained a lot, so here’s the obligatory wet weather gear pic.