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…
As is usually the case, I started writing several looooong paragraphs took a deep breath and deleted them because many things I said there would get me in trouble. So instead I’ll just tone it down to this: I had a generally great experience this Independence Day/Fourth of July Weekend at Watkins Glen.
The Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen proved to be everything I expected it to be and then some. The weather could have put a damper (? not sure if that’s the right word here) on things but it didn’t. Tent stayed relatively dry. Racing was relatively good. And people I was hanging out with were super friendly. I would say I got the VIP treatment from RSI but that would imply that they somehow treated me better than they treat others, which isn’t accurate. I’m genuinely satisfied with the way everyone behaves at RSI that I come in contact with and for me that’s a huge plus, I appreciate the positive vibes and positive attitudes.
We did have a few massive smash ups that I personally got a chance to respond to. A driver left in a Medevac unit which nobody ever wants to see, several others ended up in the hospital also, and the race was red flagged. It was an incredible experience and one I will definitely learn from.
There were moments I really liked. Like all the star and stripe and patriotic liveries many cars were wearing. Some things I didn’t like… the weather – mainly. But also the performance of the Mazda prototype team which keeps playing this underdog role that they really don’t deserve anymore. It was nice to see one of the cars end up on the podium, but that happened only because so many cars didn’t finish, including the other Mazda prototype. So that’s that.
Favorite little car that was an actual underdog was this yellow NC:
It still uses NC1 tail lights… just like my car.
Interestingly enough the #25 car had a smashup this weekend running it’s traditional Freedom Autosport livery, and suddenly it re-emerged wearing #25 under Murillo Racing orange livery. Wish I had snapped a photo of it. But my station was too far to the grid so I had to boogey down in order to make the start of the race.
Here’s the previously mentioned 4th of July liveries I did manage to get a snap of:
And here’s a few cool NC Miata’s I ran across in town at Watkins Glen and at the track:
There was a convoy of about five of various vintage Miata’s parading around Watkins Glen on Wednesday that I waved to while driving in the opposite direction, but I’m not sure what club they were from or what group it was that organized that cruise… it would have been nice to join them but I saw nothing about this event posted online.
Back to the track..
I got to flag from Station 3 on Thursday which is at the top of the Esses. Station 4 on Friday which is the next station after the bridge leading up to the Bus Stop… and Station 9A at the exit of the Boot on Saturday and Sunday.
The major smash up I experienced was Porsche GT3 Cup behaving very NASCAR-like… in fact I had worked an event for NASCAR when we had an identical full-track-blockage incident on the same station. This one however was far scarier. One of the Porsche’s completely lost it’s front end… wheels, suspension, frunk… everything!
On GTD qualifying I had a weird experience with the two Lexuses. They had back to back, identical incidents within seconds of each other, where one vehicle recovered the spin with damage and the other planted it into the guard rail causing a small engine fire.
So all in all it was a pretty active weekend. Lots to see. Lots to do.
I loved it!
Thank you Watkins Glen, and I hope to see you next year.
I got pretty excited about this event because there was an RSI e-mail sent to all the persons that hadn’t worked an event at Watkins Glen this year (which I have not) stating that as form of punishment instead of flagging on regular stations we’ll be required to work in the paddock… SWEET! I thought, that’s like the best punishment ever… but alas, I was put on station all four days of the event. And as luck would have it the station (9A – exit of the boot) was just close enough to take a sneak peak at the Grid, but not really long enough to take many pictures. In fact for the Conti race I only got as far as the very last car on the grid, and then had to run back to get to my post in time for the start of the race (and buy lunch on the way back so I could wolf it down during the sighting lap)… it’s like that time I bitched about Lime Rock where you got one of two options during lunch either take pix of cars or eat lunch, but not both… well this was the same scenario. But I got to have my cake and eat it too… check out all the awesome pix I took for my private collection:
I lied, I snuck a shot or the second-to-last car on the grid too…
How I wished I would have worked paddock for this event 😉
After the first day of racing on Saturday, we went in town for some tasty seafood dinner at the Marina… what a view!
looked like someone took a chunk out of my fish before it got to my table… hmmmm!?
And of course nice to spy a Niseko Miata in the parking lot.
Next morning back to station, sadly couldn’t drive trackside to get to it but was able to cross the actual track at Turn 5… going counter.
Same story on Race Day! We were technically not allowed to leave station because it wasn’t fair to every other marshal on other stations. But I was busting to use the bathroom and I had to buy lunch, so off to the paddock area I went, which was right next to the Grid… so I snuck in real quick:
As usual the grid was very crowded… and whatdyakno… there were other flaggers there taking pictures like me. But also lots and lots of kids which is really awesome to see. The Prototype area was super crowded but the GT field, especially GTD was nearly empty, and in my view it had the most variety. Acura, Audi, BMW, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche, holly-cow is that field awesome!
Also lucky for me Mazda qualified like shit… taking the very last spots on the Prototype grid… which meant I could get some shots without a bunch of people crowding two inches from the cars.
and back to my post I ran… (taking more pictures on the go)
the parking area was interesting too, not just the grid…
Greetings from the Independence Day Weekend at Watkins Glen… The Sahlen’s 6 hour at the Glen paddock filled up slowly. I arrived Wednesday afternoon, went for a wonder around the paddock and only saw some Porsche GT3 Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo Huracan’s and LMP3/Mazda Prototype Challenge cars unloaded. But as the weekend went on and more trailers moved in there was a lot to look at. Especially all those cars with patriotic wraps on them…
I hate camping, especially with the threat of severe weather, luckily my tent only took on a little bit of water.
This 911 put on quite a smoke show when I approached… got oil?
I love the fact they mixed the US and Canadian series for this weekend. It had some crazy side affects due to a crash that I got to witness on their Race 1 but still nice to see a 40 car field of GT3’s.
The weirdest thing for me with these pace cars was that a Porsche started the Platinum group during the GT3 race, but an Audi started the Gold group… couldn’t they source another 911 somewhere?
At least the Mazda started their Prototype Challenge races.
…and it’s a pretty RF model with Global MX-5 Cup wheels!
Anybody wanna buy a Norma LMP3?
My usual cruise to Jerlando’s in Montour Falls for some faux-Italian:
New sign: Welcome to Watkins Glen!
Top of the Esses selfie, day one working solo.
And as the paddock filled in, more IMSA stuff to check out:
Love that bucket of fries I got a chance to lunch on one of the days…
One of my favorite things to do at a race event is to browse through the pre-race grid and take some photos (legally since we as marshals are not allowed to otherwise most of the time). It’s a great opportunity to see the cars assembled fully ready to race. It’s also a chance to mingle with the crowds of spectators doing the same thing you are and trying not to get their shadows into your shots (which is almost impossible in a sunny place like Sebring).
But here they are, and it was an exhilarating experience to be a part of. I’m so glad the crowds were huge, and that the weather cooperated fully. It was much warmer on race day, very sunny and very good for some close racing (in GTLM and GTD fields anyway).
The beauty of working in Pit Lane was the close proximity I had to walk to start my shift during the race. Super convenient and truly enjoyable experience once the race started. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and hope there will be more to come in the future.
Good News! I signed up to volunteer for St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour with the Central Florida Region SCCA.
I had a blast last year. I had a great time at Daytona this year. So it was natural to want to return to sunny Florida this March.
Like last year I’ll be driving my Miata down for two weeks on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I’ll do a stop over in Daytona Beach on the way down and hopefully on the way back home. All of this I am very much looking forward to. New for this year will hopefully be my role at the event. I asked to work Pit & Grid so hopefully I’ll get to see more at St. Pete than just a remote corner of the track. Although I think Sebring will indeed be the more busy of the two races for me.
We shall see…
Looking forward to watching the pelicans land into Tampa Bay while in St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach area.
Rolex 24 at Daytona is my first major event of the 2017 season. The race itself was the second trip to Florida this year because I decided to participate earlier in the month of January for the “Roar before the 24” pre-race which was super exciting. The difference for the race for me was my role: I worked as pit & grid marshal.
Pit & Grid is an exciting position which I had first experienced while in New Zealand working a V8 Supercars race on the streets of Hamilton before they moved it to the Pukekohe permanent circuit. It was fun because it was so different, and because of the general proximity I had to the cars. There we were warned to watch our toes because the V8’s drivers would totally run over us on their way to their grid position. For the Daytona 24 hour event our services were not needed on the grid, or in the pits for that matter. I worked on the cold side of things in the paddock, making sure cars could leave the garages and enter or exit pit lane without running over someone else’s toes. So our job was really to be a spectator marshal. And after serving in this role at Pocono Raceway last year for an IndyCar event with Team Pocono, a race that doens’t normally use marshals, it was a preview into a role I totally would love to work more often.
I have made a ton of other posts already showing off the photos I took during some ad hoc grid walks (runs) and the up-close-and-personal look at the Mazda DPi cars which I really wanted to do. Or the acute gout attack that I got post-race that I am still recovering from more than two weeks later. So I’m not going to babble on about that. But I want to reinforce just how much this race was enjoyable this year, partly because of my assignment I think. The amount of cars was great. The amount of brand new cars was fascinating. And the crowds of spectators that came out to celebrate this event was very much impressive. I loved every moment of it!
I think this experience will effect my desire to work IMSA events again this season… perhaps as soon as March with a return trip to Florida to work St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour.
So stay tuned….
I’m also eager to come up with another international trip for this season, my goal is to marshal in a country where I haven’t marshaled before. This would be the big #16 and as always Asia is at the top of my list, I’d love to do Macau Grand Prix for the first time. But also Azerbaijan with Baku Grand Prix isn’t out of the question. But perhaps Latin America will finally make a list. I’d love to go to Brasil to to a Grand Prix there… or even better one of their Supercars events. Stay tuned for sure.
John Gamble and I worked the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway, where he was my corner captain and took a load of pictures of me in pit lane while we tried to chase down the new Mazda DPi prototypes.
We really enjoyed watching the Cadillac DPi machines, all the new GT machinery including the Mercedes-AMG SLS, mid-engine Porsche 911 RSR, Acura NSX, Lexus IS-F, etc.
Besides Daytona we talked a lot about Watkins Glen International since this is where we first met and where we worked together for many years now.
John and his wife Jeree are not just Motorsport volunteers but big Racing fans as well. They travel a lot to follow the NASCAR racing series and many of it’s famous drivers.
I thoroughly enjoyed having this chat with John and hope I could do more in the future!
It’s not always that I’m in a position to take some pictures at an event. I used to get in trouble for it all the time (often facing myself having to choose whether to eat lunch or try to get into the paddock to take some pictures), then I realized if I showed up a day early and wandered around the paddock I could get lucky, which has been working out really well for me lately. But every once in a while I get a station assignment that gives me an opportunity to legally take pictures without getting in trouble (no cars on track).
This Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen during Independence Day weekend was one of those weekends, where all stars aligned. I was no longer limited to the confines of the paddock, where cars aren’t always in one piece or there’s a line of spectators either blocking or placing shadows on the cars I wanted to take a pic of. This time around the cars came to me right past the station, off the track and at a slow enough speed so I could take some awesome shots.
This year’s Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was a blast!
I had such a tremendously great time I can’t express my gratitude enough to all the people that make the event possible.
There were some hiccups, as there always are, but things worked out perfectly. I was in good spirits from day 1, although it was hard to overcome my displeasure with the state of the roads in Michigan. Many of the highways and roadways in suburban Detroit suffer from incredible neglect and my Miata was the wrong vehicle to navigate these streets. Specifically Interstate 75, Chrysler Freeway and parts of Ford Freeway (Interstate 94) had such big pot holes I’m surprised I didn’t suffer a blowout. My GPS didn’t help me either, sending me along Mound Road or Metro Parkway (Metropolitan Pkwy) which had pot holes so big they had their own pot holes within them, it was so rough I cringed every time I found myself falling into one. And with the car being so low most of the time I couldn’t see it coming until I was in it…. So with that off my chest, to the positive.
Or at least sort of positive. My GP experience I found out, is what I make it… and on the first day of the event I found out I was flagging at Turn 11 which is along the Detroit River on the back straight just past a few sharp turns from Turn 7, 8, 9 and 10. Turn 11 was spectacular both with the views of Canada across the river, Windsor Ontario hustle and bustle can be seen and heard quite easily. But also because once the cars come out of the turn they come so close to the concrete barrier which we flag from, sometimes they brush up against it. Often times I had to yank my Blue flag back after displaying it because it was possible for the cars to rip it out of my hands and take it along for the ride… the rush was incredible!
Yet… Turn 11 has the identical views I’ve seen before from Turn 7 which I worked the last time I went to Detroit Grand Prix in 2013. And that bummed me out…. I was hoping to experience something new, something unique… even if it wasn’t the best view I wanted for it to be different…. so after contemplating whether or not I’d be a pain-in-the-ass for asking, I reached out to my corner captain and asked if I could be switched. He told me “NO”, the assignments were set in stone… Hmm. I asked a few more people on the ride back to the dinner tent after the day’s events were finished, and they said if I feel it is a legitimate reason I should go ahead and make the request, but it would be better if I present the Flag Chief with a solution, otherwise find someone from a different station to switch with me.
While I knew some people at the event, I didn’t know enough to have this conversation about switching so I went straight to the Flag Chief. I presented him with my dilemma and suggested that he could even put me on a “Shitty” station but my goal is to have a different view. He kind of “whoah’ed!” at my “Shitty” comment, as if there’s no such thing at the track and all stations are “good” but then after some thought told me he’d take care of it. I told him no pressure with the decision, I’m quite impressed with the views of Turn 11 and I had a great time working with all the people on there, but honestly I’d prefer a different view, and left it at that.
During dinner the flag chief asked one of the corner captains if he wouldn’t mind trading people, he agreed… and I found out I’m going to work Turn 1 for the rest of the weekend… Holly Fucking Batman! Turn 1!!!! WHOA… that was very surprising and not at all expected.
I couldn’t wait to come back Saturday and Sunday because I knew Turn 1 would be awesome… the switch totally made my day!
The team on Turn 1 welcomed me even if they probably thought I was a jerk for even requesting this move. I can’t say I was terribly concerned what other people thought, I noticed that as long as I look out for my own interest, I have a great time. But we all had an amazing time working together. I tried to share with the team what I learned working a few IndyCar, IMSA and Trans Am events this year… possibly even too much info. But I thought it was helpful. We had a great rotation, I got to do what I wanted. I even said it would be a nice thing to have an incident at Turn 1 so we could all learn from it, and sure enough we had quite a tangle on the very first lap of the IndyCar race on Sunday. Nobody got hurt except some pride maybe, but we learned a lot… Especially from our Holmatro Safety Team crew that scolded us for blocking their exit with the truck. Sadly, their exit coincided with our escape route in case an incident such as this happened. So no matter how much they think they’re doing Godly work with their God-like attitude towards the volunteers who stand between a moving concrete barrier and the swing of their open door as they rush out to the scene. I wouldn’t have changed anything about the way we reacted to the multi-car crash that moved our station a few inches in making the truck exit hole even smaller.
Post race we had a great photo op with the cars that couldn’t continue:
The views from Turn 1 were pretty awesome, we could see almost everything that went on in that part of Pit Lane, including penalties and all vehicles exiting onto the track. Prior to the IndyCar incident we had a few scuffles and spins in Trans Am, while IMSA was pretty well behaved and civil through our corner.
Every night Detroit SCCA Region treated us to a tasty dinner, which was so appreciated!
The food was excellent, from sign-on/registration throughout the event… I especially like the Thursday night welcome party at Sindbads, for all the bad things being said about Detroit, this was an excellent view of what Detroit is really like, and that there are multiple experiences to be had in the D, not just bad ones like people assume every time. Sindbads is great!
Believe it or not, this is Detroit!
The other thing I’m a big fan of is the Michigan State Police cars with their traditional light bubble and the stop sign on the hood… What in the world is that still all about?
Anyway I had such a great time I can’t wait to return again and again! I will marshal another Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix if I have the money to do it. Next time I’ll rent a car though!
Motorsport Marshal, Miata Driver, Hot Wheels Collector