Tag Archives: Detroit Belle Isle GP

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix 2016 the debrief

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!

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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!

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detroit grand prix 2016 belle isle indycar imsa trans am 1

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:

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 13 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 12 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 11 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat
detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 14 turn 1 incident
photo courtesy of Pat Not a lot of wiggle room where we stand to flag from. All the personnel on our post was essential, blue and yellow flaggers faced each other while the communicator relayed race control traffic and the captain served as a safety to respond to incidents (which technically we weren’t allowed to do because Holmatro Safety Team was there)

detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 10 holmatro safety team

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.

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Every night Detroit SCCA Region treated us to a tasty dinner, which was so appreciated!

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detroit belle isle grand prix 2016 indycar imsa trans am 9 detroit region scca dinner

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!

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Believe it or not, this is Detroit!

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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?

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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!

Mazda MX-5: 1,500+ Mile Road Trip from New Jersey to Detroit, Michigan

1,758 mile Road Trip to be exact in my 2007 MX-5 Miata GT PRHT.

In all I burned 53.445 gallons and spent $157.81 dollars doing it. Average fuel price turned out to be $2.93/gal for 93 Premium gas which I bought from several brand name stations including Exxon, Mobil, Shell, BP and Sunoco. I used the GasBuddy app to hunt for cheaper prices which typically worked, except in Detroit, and was also inaccurate for Sunoco stations because Premium there is 91 and I was looking for Ultra 93 which is about 10 cents/gal pricier. The situation in Detroit pissed me off because fuel prices went up by 60 cents/gal the day I arrived. The price hike was so sudden that I was the first person reporting the prices on GasBuddy and even the app was asking me if I was correct because it seemed high to them. I estimate that I spent between $10 and $13 more on fuel in Michigan than I had planned to based on my research. Prices went up from $2.69 – $2.89 which I thought was normal to $3.09 – $3.29 which is what I actually paid there. In all, the cheapest gas on the trip was in New Jersey at $2.459/gal for Sunoco Ulta 93 and the most expensive was in Michigan at $3.299/gal at Mobil for Supreme+ 93.

Sadly after I had put about $20 in the tank at Mobil because the low fuel light was already on, I noticed the Speedway across the street was still at $2.89/gal for premium. Unfortunately I had already used up all of my Speedway gas cards and only had Exxon-Mobil, Shell, BP and Sunoco at my disposal. Because I bought the gas cards at a 10% discount I wanted to use them up instead of paying for cash out of pocket… thinking back at this point I should have gone to Speedway.

I did not bother calculating individual gas mileages when I filled up because I tended not to top off the tank (especially at the Detroit prices) so instead I am calculating the total to be 33MPG or 1,758.6 miles traveled divided by 53.445 gallons burned = 32.90. I was really happy that several times I got way more than I typically get out of a full tank of gas because the trip meter went well past the 300 mile mark. For example arriving in Detroit I was at 350 miles on the trip when the low fuel light came on. Similarly I was at 330 miles heading back home in Pennsylvania when I got the low fuel light… Ironically when I arrived at the Du Bois, PA Exxon where gas was 25 cents/gal cheaper than everywhere else in the area, they had run out of their Premium fuel, the only thing available was Regular, so I left.

I noticed on this trip that the car felt peppier with Sunoco Ultra 93 than any other fuel, so I think I’ll be using that option when available from now on. I also noticed that where the roads were flatter like Ohio and Michigan, the mileage was stretched out beyond what I normally experience. On the trip back the mileage dropped significantly once I hit the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania.

That’s all I’m going to say about the gas mileage.

My next and biggest complaint of the whole trip is with the state of the roads, especially in Michigan. Holly Fucking Batman are the roads bad. As soon as you drive into Michigan from Ohio on Interstate 75 you better brace yourself for impact. The concrete road had multiple cracks, uneven levels and massive pot holes that as much as I tried I couldn’t avoid. Worst were the ones that I didn’t see until it was too late and hit so hard my teeth clinched. Driving around suburban Detroit was even worse. My GPS had sent me up Mound Road onto Metropolitan Parkway and both of those roads are absolute SHIT! Its such a shame that Chrysler, GM and Ford all have plants or offices and numerous suppliers in that general area and neither one of them give two fucks about the condition of the roads they drive on. Why bother with proving grounds when you can send cars around the neighborhood and destroy the shit out of them? I was so grossly disappointed and upset with this situation I can’t express it in words. Clearly some work is being done. The construction along Van Dyke / Michigan Rt 53 has improved that road tremendously, but it doesn’t matter when 90% of the roads are great, that last 10% that does damage to your car leaves a big impression. I have to say I’ll never drive my Miata to Michigan again, that state is best experienced in a rental car where you don’t really care what condition you leave the vehicle in when  you return it.

And yet on this trip I managed to spot a few MX-5 Miata’s around. Most notably a marshal friend of mine from Ontario with her NC3 PRHT:

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That car is a beaut. And knowing how roads are in Ontario from my visit to Mosport earlier in the month I’d say she’s very lucky living on the other side of the Detroit River.

While I was on the hunt for the Fiata I burned a full tank of gas driving around (very much pointlessly as my search didn’t amount to much in the end). But I was successful at spotting one so at least it wasn’t a total failure.

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On the same Fiata trip I did a foodie tour of the D… and while I’m not the biggest fan of hot dogs, I did like the idea of checking out what is considered popular in Detroit… they call them coney islands there.

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I drove the entire length of the famous Woodward Avenue from Pontiac to Downtown and then back, eating coney’s along the way.

I even went to the FIAT dealership to see maybe I’d spy a Fiata there, but except for the one I saw leaving FCA, Auburn Hills I had no luck.

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A visit to the GM Renaissance Center was about the coolest thing I did while in Detroit. That and a visit to the Detroit Historical Museum on Woodward which was really neat!

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Of course the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was a blast this year!

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Luckily, and thank GOD for that, I didn’t experience any troubles along the way there or back. No blowouts like I was afraid of, no bubbles in the tires, etc. My plan now that I’m back in NJ is to rotate the tires and have a better inspection of the wheels in general and various suspension components, brakes, etc. This trip was a hell of a workout for the car and I’m hoping not too damaging. I’ll also check the oil now that I’m at 5,000 miles to see how Pennzoil Platinum compares to Mobil 1. If it’s dark I’ll replace it and if not, I’ll use it for a few more thousand miles.

Looking forward to the next road trip!


Post Card from Belle Isle Detroit, Pre-Grand Prix Paddock Tour

Knowing full well how stringent the organizers get giving us (volunteers) paddock and pit access during the event, I went a day early to walk around and get some shots of the unpacking in progress.

I had to sneak onto the island. Our credentials were not to be distributed until later on in the afternoon and since dinner was provided by Detroit Region SCCA it was unlikely that I’d return to Belle Isle Park or even more unlikely that I’d actually see anything there. So having arrived for the event a day early and getting some much needed rest at my friend’s house I ventured down to Detroit downtown bright and early. First stop was visiting the GM Renaissance Center, something I always wanted to do… there on the second floor I found the Detroit Grand Prix offices, with big glass windows showing you what’s going on behind the scenes with all the maps and track plans on display to anyone that walks by.

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I also spotted a cool looking Chevy Caprice Detroit PD car… on the way back to my car I managed to snap a few shots… turns out these cars (about 100 of them) were donated to the city of Detroit, and therefore sport a cool wrap of the city skyline.

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detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 27 chevy caprice detroit pd

It was a very beautiful day and an awesome chance to walk along the waterfront of the Detroit River, checking out the views of Windsor, Ontario on the other side. Next Stop: Belle Isle Park.

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I managed to get into the parking lot that I obviously had no legitimate access to, but as security was slack, I got away with it.

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I’ve always been fascinated by the old-school look of Michigan statie’s cars, like this Ford Explorer Police Interceptor.

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And then I spotted a Miata a fellow marshal owns it from Canada eh?

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Lots of Chevy’s everywhere…

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detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 9 chevy corvette

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And then my favorite… the SpeedSource Mazda Prototype Team:

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detroit grand prix paddock walk belle isle 13 mazda lola lmp2

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More from the event soon…

Planning another 1,500 mile Road Trip to Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

I’ve been on the fence about returning to marshal the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix for a while, and with only a day left to register and just a week before the actual event I have pulled the trigger… I will be heading on this 1,500+ mile Road Trip to marshal DGP again!

I love Detroit!

How many people can say that? I really do… it’s a nice city despite all of it’s problems. One thing that made me hesitant just a bit was all the damn pot holes I know I’m going to hit driving up there and driving around there… but what the hell, it’ll be an excuse to upgrade the Miata’s suspension once it’s shot.

The thing I’m looking forward to the most is checking out the cars on track… this year Pirelli World Challenge is out but another SCCA Pro group is taking it’s place: Trans Am racing. With the fields I saw at Watkins Glen International a few weeks ago, I know it’s going to be a blast to watch them race on a street circuit.

I’m looking forward to the food also… especially if I find the time to either sneak into Canada at Windsor, Ontario crossing or decide to drive to my destination through Canada to begin with… apparently I could shave 20 miles and avoid a lot of the crappy roads of Pennsylvania and Ohio by going via the 401 and 402 in Ontario. Would be my second trip to Canada in a month. Love it!

There’s only a day left to sign up, so if anyone else is interested in joining me in this adventure… hurry up and register on MotorsportReg.com

See ya Detroit!

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Oh yeah, among other groups we’ll see IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship big guns as well as IndyCar open wheelers.

Motorsport Safety Foundation: Safety Car Deployment Survey

The Motorsport Safety Foundation  [a non-profit organization founded by Henrique Cisneros of the TRG Porsche fame to honor the memory of his colleague Sean Edwards who was tragically killed in a crash in Queensland, Australia while instructing an amateur driver (www.motorsport-safety.org/)], is conducting a public survey about safety car deployment at various Motorsport events. The survey is targeted at Fans, Drivers and Race Officials (safety marshals):   www.surveymonkey.com/r/safetycars

motorsport safety foundation survey


I filled out my opinion and when hitting “Done” it took me right back to the survey page. Not sure if the survey is broken, so I’ll just share my opinion here instead.

As a safety worker that has received formal training to be a flag marshal, track marshal, fire marshal, recovery marshal, communications marshal, etc. I think it is acceptable to have safety vehicles including wreckers/tow trucks/manitou cranes etc. to respond to incidents under local yellow conditions.

I think a Virtual Safety Car or the traditional Safety Car should only be deployed in circumstances where the incident obstructs a large percentage of the track making incident response dangerous under a local yellow condition. I think circumstances should dictate what percentage of the track blockage should call for a safety car, it will of course depend on the part of the track, the visibility at the corner, weather conditions, etc.

The drivers of course have to buy into the concept of safety respecting Yellow flags shown and not trying to push their luck gaining advantage while testing the marshal’s observation skills (getting called in for passing under yellow) or dismissing yellow flag warnings and carrying on at unreasonable speeds through the incidents.

But the most important suggestion I have that I wrote in the comments section is to call for universal and professional training for all marshals that participate at pro level events. If the fans, the drivers and people responsible for organizing safety marshals truly care about safety at the event, they must provide the training to the people that marshal… all of them. Period!

I’ve written a number of blog posts over the years criticizing the lack of training and all that got me was a lot of hatred, malicious treatment at the track and vicious rumors spread about me because I was going against the club or the racing series that I volunteered for. I have cut back my participation and obviously the series continue to race, nobody gives a fuck whether I participate or not. Marshals are dime a dozen, whenever one drops off someone else will take their place. Whether a marshal drops off as a result of negative treatment, injury as a result of the poor training or even death, doesn’t matter. The show will go on. And with the millions if not billions of dollars slushing around in the Motorsport world to put on races, paying for safety training would be such a detrimental thing to the people with money there’s just no debating about it. Volunteers better offer their services for FREE or else the racing series will suffer from the tremendous costs of properly training the volunteers… and we can’t have that. Right?

Well, I certainly don’t think so.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It is the job of the FIA to recruit marshals for F1 events and to provide sufficient training to meet the FIA standards. It is the job of IMSA to recruit marshals for TUSC events and provide sufficient training to meet the IMSA safety standards. Are they doing it? Hardly… the FIA outsources this job to local ASN’s and some do a spectacular job like the Singapore GP organization, while others don’t (the US – because there is no F1 specific training, at all). IMSA does indeed offer marshal training through the NASCAR track services program, but who is that program available to? Not too many marshals I know. I was lucky enough to participate through my membership with RSI at Watkins Glen but I suspect the majority of the people working the Detroit GP at Belle Isle didn’t. And a marshal got seriously hurt in that race suffering broken bones and significant injury to a number of vital organs. Is that good? No, it is not! I’m sure some will argue that the injured marshal had to have received NASCAR training being one of the recovery personnel assuming that’s who got injured – I don’t think the identity of the injured marshal was made public. But I’m willing to bet a cookie that the flag marshals covering the incident did not. And that resulted in the waving of blue and yellow flag simultaneously… Blue to hurry up and finish the race at competition speed, and Yellow to be sure to slow down in time for the incident at Turn 1 after the Checkered flag. It’s absurd scenario but we’ve had a series of absurd scenarios where people that “Mean Well” totally fucked up putting lives in danger.

It should be noted that when I volunteer I expect a certain element of danger. I know I could die while marshaling, there’s always that risk. But I don’t volunteer so I can get injured or die because some fool makes a poor decision “meaning well” but placing my life in unnecessary or avoidable danger.

So no matter how much I will continue to get shunned by people that don’t like my criticism of their incompetence whether intentional or unintentional. I will continue to demand training for marshals. Whether I marshal myself, or get banned from doing it as a result of my opinions.

If some of these  dedicated safety officials, fellow marshals, could enforce the “no-photo!” rule so vigorously (though very selectively), the same idiots could focus on providing the necessary training. If only they truly focus on the important aspect to facilitate the “safety” in our job as marshals, I think good things will happen.

I hope the Motorsport Safety Foundation gets some results out of their efforts. Even if it’s a non-profit, it’s still a business and they look out for their business interests in the business of Motorsport safety. But looking from my perspective as a non-paid volunteer, I think they should pick up the ball on training where IMSA and FIA have dropped it, and offer a valuable service that would undoubtedly make the sport safer and therefore better. Because if they don’t, who will?


And for the record, the training I call for should include some or all of the following:

  • Pro Training Manual – at the very minimum
  • Online Training – to teach concepts/theory and videos of incidents
  • On Site Training – around the country to draw more marshals
  • Specialty Training – pre-event morning meeting refreshers
  • Recruit more marshals so we don’t work with skeleton crews
  • Have a mentoring program or apprenticeship
  • Make sure trainers are capable of teaching (aren’t assholes)
  • Open feedback loop so that grievances aren’t kept secret
  • Training and re-training for people/areas that require it
  • Frequent and open communication about training opportunities
  • Good record keeping of training received/grading system
  • Regular training every year to cover new technology
  • Multiple training opportunities to accommodate schedule issues
  • Focus on training and professionalism (when people buy into this concept there would be no need for “no-photo” enforcement, marshals will embrace it and self police themselves and others).
  • Safety should be Priority #1!


PS. The Motorsport Safety Foundation should recognize that “years of experience” is a very unreliable metric. If I volunteer for one F1 event per year, my experience level is very different compared to someone who volunteers six F1 events per year, or a mix of thirtysix pro/club events per year.


Spotter guide for IndyCar Baltimore Grand Prix

While I normally post links to the very useful spotter guides designed by Andy Blackmore, there are series that he doesn’t cover. IndyCar is one of them, however Andy does link to the IndyCar spotter guides created by Ryan Long ( https://twitter.com/ryan_long_01 ) Those spotter guides are usually distributed free of charge at the various events like Baltimore GP, Detroit Belle Isle GP, or Long Beach GP, all events that I worked. However I learned they could also be downloaded directly from IZOD IndyCar Series web site at: IndyCar.com

So enjoy the download and share with your motorsport enthusiast friends!

spotter guide indycar

Media from Detroit Belle Isle GP 2013

Paul Kania is a photographer from Michigan that for few years now has captured some great memories at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. I’m a big fan of the guy because, well you guessed it, he took some awesome shots of me 🙂 Check out Paul’s web site for more beautiful racing pictures: http://www.pointepics.com/Sports/Detroit-Grand-Prix-2013

Check them out:

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See also the photos from Detroit Belle Isle GP 2012: http://myroadtrip.net/?p=317

Detroit Grand Prix debrief

From the spectator point of view the 2013 Detroit Grand Prix did not disappoint. Every race started with a full-course yellow on the very first lap. Some crashes were more spectacular than others, including a ten car pile up during the Indycar race… what was even more spectacular was the fact that a number of those cars that crashed out actually came back and finished the race after a quick repair in the pits. I had two crashes on the turn past me at 8, which I completely missed flagging having only glanced at those cars as they went by to focus on what I thought was a higher priority, watching as the cars were coming at me, often sideways from turn 7. But even then I missed a piece of debris fly off one car that found its way creeping closer and closer to my station as the cars drove over it.

I wasn’t too impressed with my flagging because it seemed nothing went my way on race day, it would have really been nice to have another set of eyes next to me to at least watch my back. But I had an exciting time, especially when we changed stations between 7 and 7a. Mainly because there was a significant change in temperatures at each. 7a was completely exposed and therefore very warm in direct sunlight, while 7 was in the shade under some trees on the banks of Detroit River, so it was very windy and cold.

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All in all, a great time. Got to visit a good friend in Michigan who has recently had the same operation as my mother which is a very unfortunate thing. Also unfortunate was my decision to go on this trip both via NYC and Chicago. First it cost me a small fortune just to get to LaGuardia Airport, giving me a shock when George Washington Bridge was closed as I was driving, already late, on my way to the early morning flight. Similarly, driving from Chicago to Detroit took much longer than I had imagined it to be, and therefore way too costly, especially since its one of the few parts of the country where fuel is over $4/gallon. Once again though I had a little Ford Fiesta so I felt very Ken Block’ish throwing that thing around the corners.

On the flight home via Nashville, it turns out I sat next to a Firestone Racing exec who also went to the race. And when I responded to her question with “I volunteered” for the race, she had no idea who the corner workers/marshals were. Go figure!

Lets do this all over again this weekend in Canada!

Media from Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

UPDATE: I never gave credit to the photographer that took these photos because I had initially found them on facebook… but here’s his direct link: http://www.pointepics.com/Sports/Racing/Detroit-Grand-Prix-2012-Corner/23388439_TRsPtx#!i=1888965061&k=QqRg9Mm

An interesting sight at the Detroit GP… SCCA Detroit region hired a photographer to capture the work of the corner workers, luckily the guy was always around our post and took some awesome shots.

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