Tag Archives: Ferrari 458 Italia

Grid Walk at Spa 24h

One of the coolest things I did at Spa 24 hour was the grid walk. The experience allowed me to take a shit ton of pictures of cars up close which meant I didn’t bother trying to use the phone at any other time which has historically gotten me in a lot of trouble for sneaking a shot here and there.

I had such a blast and took so many shots I would love to share them here for everyone else to enjoy. The weather was a bit soggy which was great because all the cars came out in perfect focus with no shadows. And there’s something inherently beautiful about cars that have good contrast against the background. So here we go:

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Does anyone know what an Australian Holden Special Vehicle (HSV) sticker is doing on a British entered Nissan Nismo GT-R? GodZiller…

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Huge thanks to my Belgian friend Pol for all the awesome photos!

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Two huge thumbs up for the SRO, the Spa 24h organizers and Spa-Francorchamps circuit for allowing marshals like me to have fun!

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Driver Parade to the center of Spa, Belgium

Most race tracks out there want racing fans to come to the circuit to check out the beautiful machinery racing there. Not Spa 24h. At 4pm on the Wednesday leading up to the big endurance race a number of race cars leave Spa-Francorchamps under their own steam to drive a few kilometers to the center of Spa along roads lined with spectators taking pictures and admiring the incredible GT3 machinery. Instead of having people come to the track, Spa 24h organizers bring the cars to the people and the city center gets pretty crowded as a result.

I was one of the spectators in the center of Spa eagerly awaiting the arrival of the race cars. My friend Pol and I had just arrived from Flanders and this was going to be the first glimpse of the race cars I’d get for this event. Spa was abuzz with excited people like me. We sat down at one of the outdoor bars for an ice cold Kriek beer surrounded by race fans, members of the crew from various teams, and even drivers. It became obvious we were surrounded by drivers when a fan with a thick stack of pictures of race cars started walking around asking for autographs from young kids wearing team t-shirts.

I asked Pol to snap a few shots of me with the famous background, and then the cars rolled in, parked and the huge crowd of people quickly started swarming them with their cameras clicking away.

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Big thumbs up to the SRO, the RACB and Spa for doing this parade!

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Spa 24 hour Spotter Guide Blancpain Endurance Series in Belgium at the Spa-Francorchamps

To say I’m super excited about my next race would be an understatement. I’m simply thrilled. Next week I’m off to Belgium to marshal my first Spa 24 hour event at the world famous Belgian circuit Spa-Francorchamps. So in preparation for the trip I’d like to share some information about the event to help me get prepped for the race. Sadly Andy Blackmore hasn’t come up with a handy spotter guide for this race, and the only one I’ve found so far is from 2013 on DailySportsCar.com http://www.dailysportscar.com/Uploads/BES/2013/SPA/BES_Spa_Francorchamps_Spotter_Guide.pdf 2013 coincidentally was the last year that Team Ukraine Racing with Ferrari participated in this event with their #123 Ferrari 458 Italia pictured above.

IF ANYONE HAS A SPOTTER GUIDE PLEASE SHARE A LINK HERE

The official Blancpain Endurance Series Spa 24 hour entry list can be found here: http://www.24hoursofspa.com/entry-list and it includes some of the finest and most exotic European GT3 machinery (all 60+ of them) including:

  • Audi R8 LMS and Audi R8 LMS Ultra
  • Bentley Continental GT3
  • BMW Z4 GT3
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3
  • Lamborghini Huracan and Gallardo
  • Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3
  • McLaren 650S GT3 and MP4-12C
  • Ferrari 458 Italia GT3
  • Emil Frey G3 Jaguar
  • Aston-Martin Vantage GT3
  • Porsche 997 GT3 R

According to the official provisional timetable, found here:  http://www.blancpain-gt-series.com/ there will be some interesting support races for this enduro, including:

  • Formula Renault 2.0 NEC
  • Porsche Carrera Cup
  • Lamborghini Super Trofeo
  • Trofeo Abarth Europe
  • SPA 24H

Oh and there will also be great entertainment besides all the events on track. Martin Solveig will be the headlining DJ for Saturday night’s concert according to the official event poster, found here: http://www.24hoursofspa.com/posters

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And so with that, I don’t know what I should look forward to more. The concert? The different racing? All the exotics on track going flat out? Or maybe an amazing marshal post… there’s so many options:

  • La Source
  • Eau Rouge
  • Raidillon
  • Kemmel Straight
  • Les Combes
  • Bruxelles
  • Pouhon
  • Campus
  • Stavelot
  • Courbe Paul Frere
  • Blanchimont
  • Chicane

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I think I would just be happy being there!

The trip over will take me via Rome, Italy on Alitalia so I’ll get to have some pizza in the motherland. And then fly home again on Finnair via Helsinki, through Chicago.

I’m so looking forward to this trip, I just can’t wait to be there!

A little history. I have visited Spa-Francorchamps in the French part of Belgium and Zolder in the Flemish/Dutch part of Belgium on my 2013 road trip from Le Mans 24h to Nurburgring 24h with Pol. Pol has been an amazing organizer for all of my European events and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for all the help. Belgium will be my 14th country to marshal, and Spa-Francorchamps 30+ track, which is absolutely positively awesome. I love Belgium!

Cars & Caffe Bergen County hosted by a Maserati dealer

This sunny Sunday morning I was late for work because of a local car show I decided to take a sneak peek at. The Maserati of Bergen County dealership in Upper Saddle River, NJ hosted a monthly Cars and Caffe event (I guess it’s like Cars and Coffee of Orange County fame only slightly different to avoid a legal challenge for the naming rights or something, sounds better than Cars & Carburetors in Connecticut ). It was a nice day to go cruising around “topless” in the Miata and check out some gorgeous exotic cars.

While merging onto Route 17 driving up to the venue I got passed by a grey NC1 Miata with NY plates… Awesome! I figured that person was also going to the same event, but it was just a fellow MX-5 owner enjoying a drive with the top down going about his business, when I exited the road he continued towards Upstate New York.

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When I pulled into the lot it was fairly full, so I followed a McLaren MP4-12C (it says so on his custom license plate) around the lot looking for a spot to tuck in. And I found it between a Bentley Continental GT convertible and a Maserati Gran Turismo looking thing with fake Italian plates. (assuming they’re fake, Italian plates are typically white)

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The overflow parking lot was full of cars of all makes and models. From your typical variety of Chevy Corvettes, to Ford SVT Lightning, Jeep Wranglers, BMW’s, Porsches, Ferraris of various vintage, some old school Alfa Romeos, a really old SAAB in amazing shape, and of course my Miata.

The main lot in front of the dealership had three (3) yes… three P1 McLarens… the ultra rare specimens that you’d only find on the streets of Monaco or Singapore… yep, we got plenty of them here in Bergen County, New Jersey. I loved to see the McLaren-Mercedes SLR there though it was a bit gaudy with massive aftermarket wheels.

And so a few minutes of walking around, a few snaps and I was back on the highway rushing to the office… back to work. Enjoy the pix:

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So plastic… I appreciate BMW i8 for what it is but not sure if I like it.

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I think the McLaren owners were taking hot chicks for joy rides.

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And some classics:

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I was thinking why don’t the younger kids volunteer in Motorsports from this area of New Jersey and New York City metropolitan area and it’s probably because of events like these. Parents take their kids to one of these cars and coffee events, they get a free brunch sponsored by the dealer hosting the event. The kids pretend to be Shmee 150 of YouTube fame chasing around the parking lot taking snaps of McLaren P1’s and Lamborghini Aventadors, encouraging the owners to rev them up so they see flames shooting out the exhaust and then they go home and do whatever people do on a normal weekend. The event only takes 3 hours of their time, it’s held on a sun shining day and everyone’s happy. Who would want to marshal on the side of the track in the sun and heat for 12 hours a day with the possibility of getting soaked in a random shower, hoping to catch a glimpse of a car you like… but you are explicitly forbidden taking pictures of it or otherwise admiring it because you have a job to do… standing stiff and holding that yellow flag at the ready.

There’s got to be a good way of encouraging people to marshal.

United States F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin, TX

As with any other motorsport weekend, this one went by too quickly. But what a great weekend it was. I usually get excited about events as they’re in progress and then looking back think perhaps I was overly enthusiastic. This wasn’t the case at all at COTA as I was mad as hell from the moment I saw my station assignment and the location of the digi board. I was spewing mad that the track in the US was much like the track in Singapore, or the track in Canada, or elsewhere I worked where there is so much talk about Safety but so little of it is actually put in practice when it comes to the marshals. And this was precisely the case at turn 12 at the Circuit of the Americas. The light board was in a perfect spot, but there was no hole in the fence for the operator to see the oncoming traffic! I had no vision of what was flying my way at the fastest point of the track, and therefore as a result had little chance or hope to actually do any blue flagging. What a shame?!

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Now at that point people would say: “Well focus on yellow flag” … Sure being near the apex of the turn, it was easy to see through the fence. But what about all this “Safety” talk… if I have my back to the traffic and someone comes crashing into the fence Dario Franchitti style – I am toast!  So “safety” as you can see was not a major concern at COTA for F1.

It wasn’t just me who wasn’t given much consideration. The one and only retirement during the actual race occurred just meters away from where I was standing and the good folks responding to the mangled car had no clue what to do when they got to it. The intervention marshals, the flat bed driver, the Manitou operator, all did their own thing and none contributed to each other’s safety. Its easy to criticise in hindsight but I wouldn’t be saying a word if any of us in the US actually got some fucking training for this! For example, the marshals responding to the car should stay behind the ARMCO as much as possible before entering hot track to respond to the incident, our guys ran out on the track and were running with their backs to traffic for a good 100 meters. The flat bed driver arrived on scene and parked past the stricken vehicle, not before it to protect the marshals responding. (sure he would have been in the way of the Manitou once it finally showed up two laps later, but the driver could have stayed in the truck and moved it when the Manitou made it on scene). The hooker had no clue where to thread the strap to connect the vehicle to the Manitou. And finally when all the people on foot near the vehicle being lifted thought it would go on the flat bed that had been waiting all this time, the Manitou driver proceeded to reverse with the vehicle dangling in the air because none of the marshals there were stabilizing it. I was across track behind the fence cringing at the potential accident that was waiting to happen over a multitude of scenarios that could have gone terribly wrong. We got lucky…. But we cannot depend on luck alone for Safety!

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Now that I got that off my chest, there were a number of very positive events that took place that made this race weekend one of the most pleasant ones I worked all year. And once again the people I worked with were a great contributing factor to my happiness. For starters no one on the team projected the negative vibe of being better than anyone else. We all had our levels of experience and I think each respected that notion. The post chief was kind enough to share his duties which I thought was unique, especially when it was my turn at the helm and I  had some Ferrari debris to pick up under safety car conditions. That was a rush as always, and the crowd cheering resulted in a constant thought running across my mind: “don’t trip and fall on your face… don’t trip and fall on your face.” Similarly the boss allowed me to adjust the digi board location to my liking, which was quite helpful… though again without a hole in the fence it was very difficult to see anything. I did manage to rig a somewhat tolerable set-up that included a rear-view mirror, though I was not impressed with my blue flag because it was still very difficult to see and I didn’t want to use the flag incorrectly. I did get the blue flagging out of my system when I was on actual manual flags for the Historics race, that was fun!

Hanging out in Ausin and San Antonio before it was better than any of the previous times I had visited Texas. Things went well all around, from car rental, to hotel, to CouchSurfing. In fact I spent a great deal of time hanging out with my hosts, even got a chance to introduce some marshal buddies with the CS’ers which was a great experience. Food was sublime, with all the Tex Mex, BBQ, biscuits and gravy, and other local cuisines that made the whole trip memorable. I had a great time and feel good about it.

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Texas BBQ at Salt Lick outside of town…. finger lickin’ good!

12 hours of Bathurst debrief

So my first marshalling event at Mount Panorama for the LiquiMoly 12 hours of Bathurst went exceptionally well. There were some hicups, like for example: having arrived with a bit of a cold/flu bug, some jetleg and pure exhaustion from 14-16 hour days on my feet, I was not in top form at all. Besides being sick I had a wardrobe malfunction when my brand new Sketchers melted off their soles on the first day I wore them. I’m sure I should write a letter to someone for that. But in terms of racing it was a fantastic event at a fantastic track.

I was stationed at flag point #11 for the weekend, which is on the Brock Skyline just before the “Dippah” which is a fast and curvy way down the mountain. For a short time I went to help out on flag point #13 directly below us to let the guys go on break, but where we were it was an excellent spot for blue flag and to watch the race overall, as you can very clearly see all the way down the mountain including the main straight and the paddock area. 

We had no major incidents throughout the weekend though the station before and the station after us had a few visitors. I managed to snag some pics of cars going past us on my break, which was a nice thing encouraged by the local sector chief (something they normally advise you against, the usual no camera/picture taking routine).

Would love to be back for another event here! Though this time without the cold/flu!

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Photo courtesy of Narra Photography (official photog of the officials): http://www.narraphotography.com.au/p905204173

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(notice the skyppy along the fence trying to escape)

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