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…
I noticed a Mazda3 in traffic on our way to the Rolex 24 at Daytona one of the five days volunteering there, sporting a cool Daytona Mazda license plate frame. I instantly decided I must get one for my Miata. I plan to cut back on my volunteering and I know that Mazda RT24-P Multimatic DPi of Team Joest will be successful at a future Rolex 24 event, so this frame would be my tribute to that future day.
Well today on our way to Daytona International Airport my buddy John and I stopped by at Daytona Mazda to see if we manage to score such a license plate frame… we did! And I took some MX-5 RF for sale pics in the process…
There were only two on the lot among dozens of Mazda SUV’s but they were sure pretty. John especially admired the red one, soul red, I believe similar color to the Daytona prototypes.
Thanks to the salesman that ran out to greet us when we walked into the lot, and offered to get me as many frames as I requested. What a nice fellow!
We had a look-see around the lot, behind the building where we only spotted more Mazda SUV’s and again the red one caught John’s eye. I don’t blame him, it sure looks pretty!
After a bunch of selfies we were on our way to the airport. Unfortunately we didn’t stop at the Daytona Fiat which we zoomed past on the way to the Mazda store. It would have been nice to see what Fiata’ s they had on offer. Next door they also had a Maserati Alfa Romeo dealer which would have been nice to visit to see what they got.
Ironically the only place that had an NC Miata on the lot was the BMW dealership a few hundred yards down. Too bad I didn’t snap some shots of it.
So yeah, if you’re in the market for a new or used Miata or Fiata check out the many stores of the Daytona Auto Mall.
I have to say that booking flights this year instead of driving down to Florida was a brilliant idea… boy am I glad I did that. The night I was flying out to Orlando flights at Newark were beginning to get cancelled for the next day. After I arrived in Daytona, NYC was getting 12 inches of snow, a storm that already dumped a ton on Savannah, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. There was even snow in the panhandle of Florida. No snow in Daytona Beach for the weekend but it was absolutely freezing. I brought a ton of warm winter clothing but I was still freezing cold.
Anyway… main reason for signing up to volunter this event was to see the new cars for the 2018 season. There was a lot new. The Acuras of Team Penske were quite ugly to look at but fast right out of the box. The Cadillac Dallaras were predictably the quickest. Mazda was still predictably slow, even under Team Joest management.
I love the fact there were so many prototypes. Seems like more than I remember in previous years. The GT Daytona collection had amazing variety again. Very nice to see both BMW M6 and M8 side by side in naked carbon fiber form.
In Continental Tire series it was near to see the fleet of TCR cars. Volksvagen Golf GTi especially was impressive to watch as it spun a few times in the bus stop where I was flagging for a few days.
Mercedes and Audi GT4 cars were a surprise especially when I realized that the R8 was a V10!
I got a chance to flag from Turn 4 as well and worked Turn 3 on Monday for Ferrari Challenge which looked revived with the Ferrari 488 Evo spec racers.
It was a great weekend despite the cold. Looking forward to the Rolex 24 next week.
Great way to spend Monday at the race track. The temperature is warmest it has been for the whole week down in Florida. Today was in the 70’s and misty. But despite the light rain it was enjoyable flagging at Turn 3.
I thought Ferrari Challenge was dying out based on the low attendance at Line Rock, but this field was impressive.
Back to reality tomorrow… great trip to Daytona! Can’t wait to return in two weeks.
Whenever I travel to volunteer overseas most people enquire not about our American sports car or open wheel racing series… but instead about NASCAR. More often than not people ask about how they too could come to America and work a NASCAR event… and often times I have to give them the bad news that marshals (volunteers like us) aren’t actually used by the series on ovals.
I have worked NASCAR events on a road course for many years, in fact NASCAR at Watkins Glen International is one of my favorite trips Upstate New York year after year. I even go to the Motorsport Safety Seminar put on by NASCAR and Race Services, Inc. at Watkins Glen to get properly trained to work NASCAR events.
So imagine my surprise when reviewing my calendar for events I wish to participate in this season (2017) the majority of the events I wish to work are NASCAR events. How in the world?
Will I actually work all those events I have pencilled in?
Probably not, but wouldn’t it be cool?
I have begun a habit of making notes (memo’s) of events I wish to do in order to inspire myself to follow through with those plans. So I’ll list the events below in order to reflect back at a later time to see how many of those races I actually participated in:
April 1-2: Watkins Glen International – MSS (w/ RSI)
May 19-21: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Pinty’s Series – Can Am 200 (w/ MMS)
June 9-11: Pocono Raceway – Monster Enegery / Xfinity / ARCA – Pocono 400 (w/ Team Pocono)
July 28-30: Pocono Raceway – Monster Energy / Camping World Trucks / ARCA – Pennsylvania 400 (w/ Team Pocono)
August 3-6: Watkins Glen International – Monster Energy / Xfinity / K&N Pro East – Zippo 355 (w/ RSI)
August 11-13: Mid Ohio Sports Car Course – Xfinity Series – Mid Ohio 200 (w/ Lake Erie Communicators)
September 1-3: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Camping World Trucks / Pinty’s Series – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (w/ MMS)
September 16: New Jersey Motorsports Park – K&N Pro East – Just Drive 125 (w/ NJMP)
I’m very excited about the possibility of any of these events… we’ll see how many I can actually participate in…!
Every Road Trip presents an opportunity to try something new and delicious. My Motorsport Foodie Tours are a highlight of my volunteering career and this Spring Break trip to Florida was no exception… I discovered a new food I love: Watermelon Rind Pickles!
Ironically I was so busy stuffing my face with delicious seafood and the endless salad bar, I didn’t really take any close up shots of this tasty goodness…
The whole atmosphere of the dinner where this new food was sampled might have contributed to the pleasant experience. While staying in Daytona Beach my host John Gamble and I met up with our CFR flagging friend Captain Morgan who I had the privilege of working with the previous year both at St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour. He’s an amazing person and someone I really admire and truly respect. Even when our political views differ 😉
The restaurant, Aunt Catfish’s on the River is a really happening spot even on a weekly night for dinner. There was wait time to get a table. But we used the opportunity to get a mason jar or beer and shoot the breeze on the dock. It was pretty awesome and very relaxing.
Once inside, the main attraction is the unlimited salad bar. Both cold and hot versions, where you can help yourself to a serving of the Watermelon Rind Pickles… the first time I missed this altogether trying not to overload my plate with other delicious food. But at recommendation of Captain Morgan I went back and stocked up.
I didn’t take any close-up pix of the watermelon rind, but you can see the little green cubes in the picture above, all the way to the right of the plate… they are amazing!
I felt like licking the plate when dinner was done, it was so good!
But then Captain Morgan recommended desert:
I literally had to wobble out of the place… I was so full. But happy!
Thanks to Captain Morgan for introducing me to Watermelon Rind Pickles, so now I could promote the food to others. Do add it to your Foodie Tour experiences next time you visit Florida or South in general. You’ll probably love it too!
Second New Jersey to Florida Road Trip is now in the books. This trip in March over Spring Break was my second year in a row volunteering for St. Pete GP and Sebring 12 hour. It was also my second drive down to Florida this year (first one being for the Roar before the 24). All in all I put 3,440 miles on the car. Burned 102 gallons of 93/Premium fuel. Spent $268 dollars on gas using BP, ExxonMobil and Sunoco gas cards (which with the 7% discount that I paid for them, I actually only spent $250 on fuel). Averaged 34mpg which was an improvement of 1mpg over last year, and got my best fuel economy yet with 38mpg’s over two consecutive fuel ups on the drive down… Yay! I noticed gas prices were almost a dollar per gallon more than last year… And in all I did about 500 miles more since I based myself in Daytona Beach during this trip and took multiple drives out of the Daytona area for various events, from a Miata meet in Jacksonville, to St. Pete GP in the Tampa Bay area, to Sebring in Lake Placid area, and to Orlando Miata meet much like last year. It was a fantastic trip!
Interesting option of No-Ethanol fuel in South Carolina…
When leaving for the trip I couldn’t sleep the night before so instead of tossing and turning I jumped in the car at 1am and headed down. The night drive was great because there was hardly anyone else on the road, which meant I could take it nice and slow. Driving in the 60’s rather than 70’s the gas mileage improved tremendously… so averaging 36mpg vs. 31mpg meant that on the 3 tanks that it took to get to Florida from New Jersey I extended my range by 150 miles! Or basically had to refuel less often.
Much like last year I used the Gas Buddy App to check fuel prices to strategise my drive. Virginia and South Carolina had the lowest gas prices for premium fuel. While Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and even Florida were the priciest. The most I paid for gas was $2.86 in Florida and the least was $2.39 both in South Carolina and Virginia. There’s a Sunoco I really like in St. George, South Carolina that always has low prices and a few BP’s in the stretch of i81/i66 where for some reason the prices for premium gas are 50 cents less per gallon than anywhere else in Virginia. (Greenville area)
My first order of business when arriving in Daytona was mounting my eBay lip spoiler… which turned out really great. Not sure if this thing contributed to my great gas mileage, but I’m glad that it certainly didn’t hurt!
I decided to get to Florida a day early because of some severe weather moving into the Northeast, which worked out really well because it allowed me an opportunity to “discover” Daytona more than I’ve done in the past while volunteering there. So I visited a race team based in Holly Hill, a few miles from the Speedway: BSI Racing.
Next day I was off to St. Pete… I left early enough so I can volunteer for the half day in the afternoon right after registration.
This year’s PWC racing was outstanding! IndyCar wasn’t so bad either and I especially enjoyed it from my new position in pit lane.
I CouchSurfed while in St. Pete and my host was awesome. Just a few blocks north of the track which getting there early in the morning was a breeze. Literally took me less than 10 minutes to drive down, and that’s because I had to stop at a few traffic lights.
Got some real IndyCar goodies for my Miata in pit lane… the official Firestone tire caps… No idea what team they came from but I picked up a bunch to give out as souvenirs when I travel. They sure are a lot lighter than the bag of NASCAR lug nuts I took to Australia and NZ.
Mailed my Miata buddies in Southeast Asia some #MRTI goodies from St. Pete GP.
I headed back to Daytona Beach right after the race, and the next morning left on a scenic drive along A1A towards Jax Beaches, on my Minorcan Clam Chowder foodie tour. I’m in love with my newly discovered attraction of St. Augustine (America’s oldest city!) the scenery was great and the food was delicious.
Lots of Spanish influence in this area, including the Minorcan Clam Chowder… Minorca of course is the smallest of the three Spanish Islands in the Mediterranean with the larger ones being the much better known Majorca as in Palma de Majorca and Ibiza.
I ran into a Lancia – Martini Racing photoshoot while on the trip where a Brit photographer basically booted me from taking pix:
From there I rushed to join the First Coast Miata club at their monthly meeting at yet another seafood place.
Was so good to see my friend Arved there who inspired me to buy the eBay lip spoiler to begin with. It’s nice to go to Miata events like this because they inspire you to do mods to your car.
Next day I was off to Sebring!
Lots of Mazda’s there. Absolutely awesome event. I had a blast working in pit lane there. One of my best experiences of Sebring yet!
Right after the race I headed back to Daytona Beach… but much like last year returned to the Orlando area for an Orlando Roadsters monthly meet at Tijuana Flats in Winter Park (near University of Central Florida). For a Monday night meet it was a big one, about 30 cars showed up over the course of the event… it was super enjoyable!
And so my time in Florida came to a close… the two weeks flew quick, I would really want to come back and stay for good. Staying in Daytona Beach area was very cool because I got to hang out with a few marshaling buddies I really respect, including visiting some fine dining establishments with them…
Florida is really the best place to go for fresh seafood…
On the drive home I stopped at my favorite South Carolina BBQ place in Rock Hill called Dixie Pig to pick up a couple of orders of their famous Pig Wings in parm & garlic sauce. Brought it all the way home to share with my parents and nephew… they loved it too!
I’ll be doing another one of these Southern trips next month hopefully with another two week volunteering tour of Barber Motorsports Park for IndyCar and VIR for PWC. Stay tuned…