I’ve been riding a wave of really outstanding events… one better than the next, and so far the NARRA / Trans Am / MX-5 Cup weekend at Watkins Glen has topped them all… I just wanted to check out the Miata’s race but instead I got so much more out of it… got to drive the track on the newly repaved circuit and most importantly got to wave the Checkered flag on the Starter stand.
So to start at the beginning, Watkins Glen is 250 miles from where I live, which Google says should take about 4 hours with no traffic, but with all the construction along the way and pee stops at Sheetz in Pennsylvania (where I also pick up some delicious chicken wings or burger sliders with delicious Dr.Pepper BBQ sauce) it’s a 5 hour trip. My goal was to get good gas mileage on this trip… unfortunately the best I got was 29mpg which is well short of 36mpg’s I got on the trip to Florida… but arriving at the Glen got me excited for other reasons.
Lots and lots of awesome looking cars. I was able to wander around the Mazda MX-5 Cup paddock and take a million pictures of the cars. From there I watched the Vipers roll into the NARRA padock, and the Trans Am cars getting assembled. It was freaking awesome.
My buddy Pat Fuller hosted me for the weekend in his spare camper which was very convenient and comfortable because the temperature dropped from 70’s on Thursday to 30’s on Sunday. Plus it rained Friday and Saturday. I had my wet weather gear so the rain was bearable but a lot of cars suffered major smashups because of the track conditions, which was sad to see.
I was impressed though how quick the MX-5 cup cars were able to handle the repaved track in wet conditions. On Saturday while working Turn 7 the cars were taking a sharp right hander at a pretty high rate of speed without much effort it seemed, and in the wet. Pretty cool! I was impressed with my BFGoodrich Sport Comps 2 in the rain while driving on track also, tires made me feel very comfortable even where I thought the conditions would be slippery.
Because RSI, the club that provides marshals for events at WGI didn’t supply us with lunches for this event, I went to Jerlando’s Pizzeria in Montour Falls and stocked up on some pizza, which tasted pretty good for the next few days for lunch. What’s better than cold pizza? (well probably hot pizza, but that wasn’t feasible).
The highlight of the weekend for me was of course the total surprise of working the Starter Stand. I did not expect that in a million years and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. It was an amazing educational experience and a perfect viewing spot for the races. The MX-5 Cup race was impressive, the Trans Am races were sweet… the whole stand shook when the field of cars went by. The NARRA field was pretty small, but the support races made up for the boredom. I really enjoyed the Formula Atlantic races, even though I couldn’t figure out whether they were SCCA PRO or SCCA CLUB event.
The main take-away for me from this event was how well the event ran, even when faced with difficulties. The weather didn’t help… rain caused havoc with the cars, and freezing cold caused pain to the marshals. The redeeming feature of large fields was the fact that despite the big attrition there was still exciting racing to be had. Although at times it did feel like there were a few long stretches of full course caution interrupted by a few quick laps under green flag. The MX-5 field suffered the most losses, but I’m sure it’s good for business for Mazda Motorsports and Long Road Racing. Trans Am too had a few serious smash ups that will undoubtedly hit the pocket book of the private teams that run in that event. My favorite thing was to see cars from various series repurposed to run in this weekend. I mentioned earlier the former Grand-Am and Conti Tire Sports Car Series cars running in Trans Am as well as a current Pirelli World Challenge Miata running with NARRA. That was way cool!
I don’t know what my next event at Watkins Glen International will be but I’m certainly looking forward to that experience… I’ll be sure to request to work Start/Finish again, who knows maybe it’ll work!
Thanks to James Wilbur at RSI for the opportunity.