Tag Archives: Corvette Racing

Rolex 24 hours at Daytona the debrief

Endurance racing is my favorite form of Motorsport. This year’s Rolex 24 had the potential to be very special because in the middle of last season one of my Canadian colleagues put me in touch with an IMSA official and a prospect of a real job (even if it was on a part-time basis) to work events that I really love as a race official. I had my fingers and toes crossed even as December rolled around but the job did not materialize… The 2018 season though seemed to be off to an exciting start with lots of “new” cars/teams/drivers joining the series, so I scrambled to book my flights and went as a volunteer instead.

For the race I got my pit lane assignment directly across from folks whose team I was hoping to join. But instead of doing something important with a real impact on the competition, I spent five days trackside spectating. It was excellent entertainment being so close until the race rolled around when it became pretty obvious that much of the previous year will repeat itself and Cadillacs will dominate. The excitement wore off.

The most interesting racing was in the GT Daytona field so I paid special attention to that battle. In prototypes the lead car was several laps ahead of second place at one point. And in GT Le Mans Fords ran away with pace Corvette couldn’t match, they too were several laps ahead. It was sad to watch the BMW M8’s be so uncompetitive. And the Porsche RSR team didn’t seem to have it’s kamikaze pilots from last year. Oh well!

At the end of the race records were broken, champions were crowned, and Rolex watches handed out as prizes. Who cares though? The predictability of the outcome made things boring. Hey, at least the weather was good!

Luckily, the 24h wasn’t the only race of the weekend. I feel like I got my money’s worth going on this trip from the two support series. The Ferrari Challenge folks put on a grand battle, and with 40+ cars on the grid it was awesome to see the series alive and well after seeing it’s sorry state in Connecticut last time I volunteered for it at Lime Rock.

Similarly Continental Tire Challenge rocked! I loved the battles there in all the classes. Nice to see TC R cars slide in so well into the grid, though a little sad not to see Miatas in ST class.

So in conclusion it was a good trip for a good clean race. A bit disapointing because of lack of excitement but I departed satisfied. And since I’m having trouble finding paid work, it’s likely this event will be one of my last times volunteering until I get the means to afford it again in the future. Too bad I wasn’t good enough to be hired by the series so I could continue doing what I really like to do, but such is life…

65th Running of the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring the Debrief

My third consecutive Florida event comes to a close, rounding up an excellent run with Central Florida Region working as a pit marshal.

A lot to talk about this event, many pictures to share in addition to the individual posts I’ve already made from this event, so bear with me and hopefully I don’t leave any details out.

First things first, I can’t say enough how fantastic it was to work on the Pit Marshal crew. What a rush and a privilege it was to be there. Completely different atmosphere and experience to Turns 13 and 15 that I worked at my past Sebring events.

That said the days were extremely long, with the shortest being just under 12 hours and the longest being something like 15 or 16 hours, it was thoroughly exhausting.

But there was lots to see and I was in the prime location to see it. There was lots of downtime also, and a crew that encouraged me to take breaks which was really nice. Even the club allowed us to take pictures as long as we don’t offer them for sale in the end, so the atmosphere was extremely welcoming and positive.

I couldn’t believe just how close I could be to cars and teams, working closely with the IMSA officials, doing whatever overflow work they threw our way. It was simply awesome.

My position in Pit In. The concern was cars coming out of the paddock and jumping out on pit lane, our job was to make sure we gave them a clear lane, or held them up if another car was coming into pit lane from the track, at speed. There were times when teams brought out cars way early ahead of their practice sessions, which was neat because I could snap a shot or two before we were on duty.

This is the Pit Out post. Compared to Pit In, it was far more relaxing. Less work to do, and a far less crowded spot overall. No spectators to deal with. No speeding cars competing for the same real estate. The Sebring weekend started out super cold, temps were in the upper 30’s in the morning, which was a shocker compared to St. Pete GP the previous week. But luckily I was prepared having left a bag full of clothes in Florida after the freezing times at Daytona 24h and the Roar before the 24.

One of the IMSA guys allowed me to go on the grid some time before the practice session started to get some close-ups o the Mazda RT24-P

At the end of the session, there was significant downtime… and an opportunity for a few shots of cars exiting to the paddock.

Some shots from the Porsche GT3 Cup

Notice the visible design difference between the First generation 991 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car and the Second gen models… The lower grill design was \…./ like this on the 1st gen, and /…..\ like so on the 2nd gen. The running lights and tail lights are also different.

Since our bathrooms for Pit Out were on the end of the paddock, on my break I wondered down to see some of the set ups there.

A lovely Mazda MX-5 RF outside the Mazda Motorsports rigs, unfortunately team Mazda were very stingy this time with their swag. There was no Mazda Owners Lounge at this race, and the few people I asked said that Mazda is taking a different direction now, without going into detail.

Has Mazda pulled back on their previously generous owner appreciation efforts?  No more hats, t-shirts, etc. for those Mazda fans rooting for the Mazda DPi?

It was a bit weird, to say the least… the only Mazda swag I did manage to snag came from the lower Mazda racing series in the Mazda Prototype Challenge running the old IMSA Lites cars and the not-Mazda engined 5 liter V8 LMP3 cars.

Anyway…

Mazda RT24-P performance was sad to watch this event. The #70 car brought out our first caution of the race plowing into the tire wall at Turn 17… but all LMP2 cars struggled including the other DPi cars based on the LMP2 like the #2 and #22 Nissan Nismo Patron cars. The #52 Oreca and even the Multimatic sister car of the Mazda’s, the #90 Visit Florida car spend a lot of time in the garages during the race. They really should consider renaming the series Cadillac Sports Car Championship.

The other disappointing thing came from CFR and their pitiful attempts at food services. Some of it absolutely sucked. I can’t believe I ate ham for three days in a row, same meat masked with different bread each time, but essentially the same thing over and over. The worst was a serving of some mystery soup that hardened by the time it was served. I wanted to give it a chance, but a few spoonfuls later I realized the chemical taste wasn’t going to do my body any good, and like the rest of the people on my team threw it away…. luckily though the Patron VIP Suites nearby were very generous with their leftovers and threw the crew at turn 17 a bone, bringing tray fulls of delicious gourmet food, from steak to fish, to pasta and sausages… we pigged out on the good stuff!

WTF?!?!

MMmmmmmmmm…….sooo tasty!

Why can’t CFR hire the same catering crew?

Is it the money? Come on, put my hefty $95 annual membership fee to a better use, eh?…

Thank you Patron for your generous scraps! For such long days on track good food sure made it more enjoyable to participate.

And by long days I really mean very long days… from dawn to dusk and beyond, with night practices and eventually the night race.

I was so tired most of the time I crashed as soon as I got to the camp site… luckily again I have my tent that lives in Florida now, with a comfy sleeping bag, an air mattress and an extra comforter so despite the cold I managed to sleep like a baby every night. The next day started the same as it finished, with more beautiful race cars roaring on track.

I had enough downtime to wander down to turn 17 as the grid was popullating for the Conti race.

Oh look… Miata!

Oh look… more delicious food from Patron!

Park Ferme, and the Dekra scruitineering set up near Turn 17.

Friday night dinner with the CFR was a bit low key… not much in a way of swag, but I got a good keepsake, a CFR Race Official hat! And of course some much desired Mazda lanyards.

And so another race in the books… thanks to all that made this one a memorable one for me. I totally appreciate the opportunity!

Lone Star Le Mans 2016 WEC & IMSA at COTA debrief

This weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans was outstanding!

My third trip to COTA this year and one of the best experiences yet following PWC in the spring and MotoGP in the summer. Ironically the September trip was the hottest temperature wise, but I’m super happy it didn’t rain at all on this trip.

For this event I got teased with my station assignments a little bit. I got the awesome Alpha station for the first day on Thursday which got me very excited but then Station 4 in the Esses brought the mood down a bit on Friday and Saturday because I could not make a much desired trip to pit lane from across the track, even though technically it was pretty close distance wise (if only we could cross the track). I wasn’t too thrilled with Station 4 until I got to do a whole bunch of Blue flag there and cars started bouncing off the curbs and orange turtles which send them flying off the racing line. During the WEC race one of the Ford GT’s got punted into our gravel trap so we got all sorts of action and my view of Turn 4 changed dramatically. I’m very thankful I got a chance to work this station now.

To get to the event I booked a cheapo flight to Dallas. This time on Southwest into Dallas Love Field, my first time flying there, and for $39 one way, a pretty reasonable way to do it. The flight home was a bit more expensive but the costs were offset by my buddy offering to drive me from Dallas to Austin and back. We had a few nice dinners together sampling some of Austin’s finest BBQ joints and some delicious Tex Mex too with a big bowl of Margarita’s.

Next year apparently IMSA and WEC will run COTA on separate weekends which sucks, but it is what it is. There has been an announcement that Creventic will run a 24 hour race in November which I’m really looking forward to participate in, so hopefully things will pan out nicely.

I love Texas and can’t wait to come back again and again.

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The highlight of the COTA experience this year was my finally test driving the new Mazda MX-5 Miata ND model on an autocross circuit. The car didn’t feel much different from my NC miata, and if anything more sluggish but that could have been the result of 95+F temps and the thick humidity. I enjoyed the experience, although it’s a bit of a shame the Petty Driving Experience dude that went on the ride with me didn’t let me do another lap… no other people were waiting in line, we were having a good chat about my previous Petty Experiences with the SRT model like from Chrysler, but after the five minute ride around he told me to park it and that was that. Maybe I’ll get another opportunity at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next month. Or elsewhere for that matter.

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See you next time Austin!

Post Card from Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway

I’m not sure if there’s an event in the US I wanted to do more than the IMSA race at VIR… now I’ve gone and done it!

And I’m really proud of the opportunity I had to participate in this amazing event at a really fantastic facility. I went from being treated like a reject to feeling like a VIP with the snap of the fingers. And I loved every minute of my experience there, including the full paddock access upon my arrival on Thursday, where I took a million pix of the various spec racers as well as the feature event machines.

Enjoy!

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And of course lots of Miata stuff!

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This was a weekend full of spec racers, from the Global MX-5 Cup to the Porsche GT3 Cup USA to Blancpain Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

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more to follow…

When a car crashes at the foot of your flag point, What flag do you wave?

The Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen this weekend was a wonderful event through and through. Absolutely everything went perfectly, I was super pleased. We even had one incident at the start of the feature race, however my response to that incident made me question how I handled it. So here’s some food for thought.

I even posted the scenario for discussion on the Flag Marshals of the World facebook group and the answers were exactly as I anticipated them to be… torn right down the middle it’s either one thing or the other: Green or Yellow flag.

What would you do when a car crashes right at your flag point?

It is stopped with part of the car on racing line… do you wave the Yellow or do you wave the Green flag?

I waved Yellow knowing that I’m shutting down the long straight between Station 12 and Station 13 for racing. Station 11 backed us up with another waving Yellow at our request because the drivers were coming around a hairpin turn and going uphill into a blind spot. The incident was over in less than a minute. Race Control advised us that next time we should wave Green. And after that we heard one of the cars get penalized for passing under our Yellow flag. We did not see the pass happen because it must have happened closer to Station 13 and we did not actually have a direct line of sight to the next station.

The video of the incident would make an excellent training piece if any of the marshal schools decided to use it. I’m certainly saving it for my own reference in the future. The YouTube clip from TUSC and screen shots from the video are attached below:

Fast forward to minute marker: 14 and 15 minutes into the broadcast. Screen Shot images are from Fox broadcast and used for educational/non-for-profit purposes.

 

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Corvette GTLM in traffic among GTD class cars sliding sideways

Corvette GTLM started losing it on the straight from 11 to 12

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Corvette GTLM hits the ARMCO with the left front and bounces off

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Corvette GTLM hits the ARMCO with the left rear sliding to a stop

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Corvette GTLM finally comes to rest facing wrong way, counter race

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Corvette GTLM proceeds to cross track trying to turn around

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Corvette GTLM unable to complete the U-turn has to back up a little

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Oliver Gavin (Le Mans 24h champion) comes up the hill in the toe of the boot (hairpin) at Watkins Glen and loses it in the straight… 6 minutes and 57 seconds into the 6 hour race, causing him to spin and hit the ARMCO. He is facing counter race on driver’s right. He waits for the pack to pass and proceeds across the track driver’s left where he is unable to complete the turn and leaves the back of his car on  the racing line. He waits again for the leaders of the Prototype class to go by, backs up and continues on. No big deal, minor incident with minimal damage to the car.

Seeing him lose it, when the car was sideways, I put out a waved Green flag. My communicator Robbie called Race Control to tell Station 11 to go waving Yellow. The car slid past our station and I changed my flag to waving Yellow. I saw him attempt to turn around so I continued waving while he was inching forward with at least part of the car still on track. Once he stopped under our feet I was contemplating to start waving Green again to allow the rest of the field to resume racing, but I didn’t. I continued waving Yellow flag until Oliver backed up enough so he could straighten the car out, and drove off. I switched to waving the White flag as he continued well off pace, and other cars had to pass him on the right. He was back up to speed at the next station, and the incident was over.

Why did I contemplate waving the Green flag as he was clearly at our station? (something Race Control suggested after watching the video)

Because procedurally  speaking, any incident before the station requires a waved Green flag, any incident after the station requires a waved Yellow flag but any incident at station requires discretion. I obviously thought that having part of the car exposed on racing line could result into flying debris in the form of small or big chunks of carbon fiber or worse, hot fluids resulting from a crash. The drivers are not supposed to accelerate until they see a Green flag. But being that the car was right under the waved point (station), and the track condition was wet and getting wetter, it seemed like a dangerous option.  Most cars started the race on slicks and it wouldn’t be uncommon to see cars go slight sideways as they hit the accelerator (had they seen the Green flag at our station).

I like the responses I got in the discussion on facebook because plenty of people feel the same way I felt. However, there were just as many people that suggested Green flag was the correct choice, and obviously based on the video Race Control agreed. I was faced with a very similar situation a few years ago at Laguna Seca in California. During the MX-5 Cup race I had a car pull off track and stop right at my station leaving part of the car right at the apex of the turn… the very famous turn: the Corkscrew. Since the car was nose-first facing the piece of concrete slab I was standing on, and the driver got out and quickly got behind my station, I did not show any flag. The flag point behind me went Yellow, and the next flag point down the hill went Green. I was concerned showing the Green flag because if anyone lost control and hit the car in the apex of the turn, the car would hit me directly. If I waved Yellow, then the cars wouldn’t be able to race all the way until the next point, which was relatively close, but still shut down a part of the track. And so I have been debating this situation ever since. The only difference between the Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen incidents is that I was working alone at Laguna… luckily at Watkins Glen I asked Robbie for his opinion and he agreed with me to continue displaying the waved Yellow.

There was a joke with the SCCA… when flagging an incident that happens at your station, take a step away from the incident and now you don’t have to show the flag any more, it’s the flag point prior to your’s concern. Since the SCCA does not use the Green flag past an incident, and the drivers know to resume racing once they clear an incident, this isn’t much of an issue but with IMSA using modified FIA rules where Green flag is required, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to take a step away from the incident to wave my Green. Perhaps I should have. Perhaps I chickened out at the prospect of having a relatively minor incident escalate into a major incident.

I don’t know.

I would like to learn from this…. but honestly, if I’m faced with the exact same set of circumstances I would probably wave Yellow again.