Tag Archives: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg the debrief

What an amazing experience this year’s Firestone Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg was. I had a blast!

I signed up to volunteer as a pit & grid marshal and spend the entire event in pit lane near pit out. Occasionally during my off time I went to spectate at Turns 2 and Turn 10 as well as do a little bit of flagging from the amazing Turn 12. My favorite events of the race weekend were everything but IndyCar but since they were the big boys in town I did enjoy spectating their time on track. We didn’t have much to do during the IndyCar sessions because that series brings their own Pit people to work the event, so instead I took some pix…

So for this event the role I was assigned was more of an observer in nature than anything else. Having worked the Indy race at Pocono Raceway with Team Pocono, the paddock at Daytona for the 24 and as pit fire at VIR for IMSA, the pit lane observer role was familiar for me. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to do where I was stationed at pit out. It seems the St. Pete GP folks contracted the event “volunteers” – a separate group from CFR SCCA folks that I was part of, to do the crowd control duties. But I noticed the people were a bit timid and didn’t really stop anyone from crowding various pit boxes, or assisting much for teams bringing cars onto the pit lane from the paddock. The time went by slow because of the lack of duties, but there couldn’t be a better spot to watch what’s happening in pit lane other than maybe watching it on TV. I enjoyed the experience.

Post race we were right in the thick of things as the winning drivers walked past us towards the podium.

As we wrapped up and walked towards our worker shuttles I noticed this little Disney jem… a Mickey Mouse race car and boy do I think it looks sooooo much better than the massive billboards the actual Indy Cars have become. I’m not a big fan of the series. To me IndyCar feels a lot like the open wheel version of NASCAR where good drivers go to retire. And I’m sure the series could be improved greatly if it aspired to be more Formula 1 rather than NASCAR. Instead of one chassis supplier Dallara, there should be more variety. Optimize the wings and things for aero more than advertising space, and things would improve. Watching the crowds at this event though I can see they are not exactly struggling, so let them ride a wave of success and ignore my difference in taste of the outward appearances.

Besides the actual event, I am absolutely in love with St. Petersburg and the Gulf Coast of Florida in general. I would totally love to move to the Tampa Bay area, Clearwater, St. Pete Beach, or even Brandenton… it’s far more laid back than South Florida/Miami area and just as exotic. I’m sure there are tourism and motorsport based businesses I could make a living at. And check out some of the murals and street graffiti around downtown St. Pete, it’s simply uplifting… I want to live here!

One final highlight of the trip. I had booked a cheap motel about 10 miles north of the track. It had horrible reviews and I was cringing at the idea of staying there. After much thought I decided to change my plans and reach out to people on CouchSurfing to host me. The fella that accepted my request turned out to be awesome and I had an absolute blast staying there… just a few blocks from the track. Before heading back to Daytona after the race I offered to buy my host dinner for his troubles and he chose a really tasty option, burgers at Engine 9 downtown. It was a great experience!

… another Florida event is next on my calendar: Sebring 12 hour!

Grand Prix of St. Pete, IndyCar Season Opener – Streets of St. Petersburg

What an outstanding weekend on the streets of beautiful St Pete on the Gulf Coast of Florida waving flags for the season opener of the IndyCar racing series and all the supporting classes that run with it.

This post will act as a debrief for the event and some of the things I liked and disliked about my first GP of St Peterstburg weekend.

First, the things I really liked. The drive down to Florida was pretty freaking awesome. I had just flown home from Texas doing the PWC season opener at COTA which was fine… but the fact that I was being cheap about travel didn’t help with the road trip. I spent almost two days traveling from TX to NJ leaving Austin around 7pm for Dallas by bus and departing to NYC via Houston at 6am the next morning. By the time I got home I was shot. Very early the next morning, at 4am, I was on the road driving South. The drive took me two days because I felt like spending a night of rest about half way. So a good 13 hours after leaving home I arrived at my motel in Columbia, South Carolina to rest. Early the next morning, another 4am departure I was ready for the final leg, which instead of taking me 7 hours to complete actually took about an hour and a half longer for some reason. I wasn’t stuck in any traffic and didn’t take any detours but it took me longer than expected to arrive in St. Pete to make registration and to go out on track to marshal the first half day of the event.

Along the way on my Road Trip I kept track of my fuel mileage and noticed some interesting things. Fuel seems to be better quality up north than it is further south. I got much better gas mileage on my first two fill ups than the following ones. But instead of following my previous strategy of limiting the amount of stops to optimise my timing, I ended up stopping more than I planned as my fuel stops didn’t align with my food stops and pee stops. Long story short, I stopped too many times because the places I wanted to eat weren’t the places I wanted to fill up. All in all I got 36mpg early on, which dropped to 35mpg later on and down to 31mpg towards the end of the drive. The only other factor that I think significantly contributed to the pitiful fuel mileage was that I increased my speed once the roads got better. Leaving NJ and PA where I was putting along at 60 to 65mph I started keeping up with the speed limit in VA and further south doing 70 to 80mph. I think increasing speed really killed the gas mileage. But this was still the good thing.

The bad thing was, in large part, the schedule of the event. There was no breaks allotted for us to do anything other than be ready for the next support track activity or the feature track activity. I took advantage of our first half day delays to snap some pictures in the support paddock, and those are the only pictures I got from the event. There was no opportunity to visit the paddock or pit lane throughout the weekend, which kind of sucks. I hope the event organisers consider that volunteers are also fans.

Back to the good things… my station assignments were awesome. And best of all I was paired with a local guy that really made my time at the event enjoyable. Dave told me off the bat that he wasn’t interested in blue flagging which made me like him right away. And from that first moment forward we worked together really well, looking out for each other’s safety as well as BS’ing enough to make the time go by really quickly. On the first day Dave even made the local paper waving the flag for the USF2000’s first time on track. It was really an awesome experience and I’m surprised to see in practice how one positive person can make such a big difference between having a good event and having a miserable time like the last time I worked Daytona and got booted off my station.

The racing was fairly good, more or less. This being a street circuit had it’s typical incidents of cars running out of room to pass resulting in some interesting incidents. Few of them happened within sight of our station, which was nice to have. Turn 8 was especially busy and that meant I got to wave a lot of green flag. As far as blue goes it was difficult to see, so that flag had minimal use.

I think the highlight of the event was the Stadium Super Trucks “race” or exhibition, whatever is the appropriate term to use. We had ramps set up directly across from our station meaning we could see the jumps closer than anyone else really, right from our station. The crowds behind us grew as soon as SST’s were about to come out, much more so than they were present for IndyCar or PWC events, which makes me wonder… why bother holding an IndyCar race when they could just hold an event for Robbie Gordon’s SST’s?

The crowd loved these things:

st pete grand prix stadium super trucks robbie gordon 3

st pete grand prix stadium super trucks robbie gordon 2

st pete grand prix stadium super trucks robbie gordon 1

And while I adhered to the rules of not taking pictures with cars on track, since our participation was very limited for SST’s I took a few snaps… and our CFR SCCA buddy Dave Green caught me in action by taking his pro shots from across the track from our station:

st pete grand prix stadium super trucks dave green

Image by Dave Green from flagtoflagphotography.com 

And finally, the last really awesome thing about this event was the fact that I couldn’t find cheap accommodation while looking for hotels to book for this race. Everything was either booked solid or really expensive. And even at the cheap places prices were thru the roof, I can’t imagine paying over $100+/night for a Motel 6 or Rodeway Inn, but that’s the type of prices I was dealing with. So instead I chose to pay nothing and relied completely on CouchSurfing.org My host lives less than 2 miles from the track and it was a very convenient place to stay for the event with the trip taking me just under 10 minutes to complete (from house to the morning meeting). Probably the closest place I’ve ever stayed to the temp circuit for a street race.

Next stop, Sebring!

But I will spend a few more days exploring St. Pete….

Postcard from the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Greetings from the Sunshine State!

The very Sunshine City: St. Petersburg, Florida where I’m volunteering my first Grand Prix of St. Pete.

What a fantastic opportunity to flag another street course. I really missed the closeness of the action you get at city courses like this, and this trip didn’t disappoint. I was paired with an awesome partner who right off the bat offered to let me stay on blue flag for as much as I wanted to, so I was in the top mood for the entire weekend. We spent three and a half days trackside, first half being on Thursday working in the afternoon for the PWC test session (much reduced field from last week’s appearance at COTA), but it was a lot of fun!

For the duration of the rest of the weekend we were stationed at 9R which is a mirror station for Turn 9 located driver’s right half way between Turn 8 and 9. Lots of visibility of action at Turn 8, quite a few cars went into the run off, a bunch crashed into the tire wall, and a few brushed the wall as they passed by us. It kept us busy.

St. Pete is probably my favourite city in Florida right now edging out Ft. Lauderdale and even Miami Beach. I would love to move here.

Weather was great. Company was great. Racing was a bit amateur but also pretty great. No complaints from me.

Oh yeah, there were IndyCars on track too…

Some pix:

st pete grand prix turn 2 indycar pwc 1

First half day on track working Turn 2, which has the exit to pit lane right under our noses. With the track being so green we got pelted by sand and asphalt as the cars entered track and picked up all that debris towards us.

welcome to florida mazda mx-5 miata

For a moment I thought I may not make the opportunity to go trackside because my 7 hour trip from Columbia, South Carolina turned into an 8.5 hour ride. But luckily PWC was running behind schedule which was just fine by me.

st pete grand prix turn 9r indycar pwc 1

The view from 9R looking towards Turn 8.

st pete grand prix flag to flag photography dave green

Big thanks to Dave Green from CFR SCCA for this professional shot, check out his web site www.flagtoflagphotography.com

st pete grand prix paddock usf2000

The only opportunity we had to see some cars in the paddock was on the first half day when there was delay in getting marshals to stations, luckily we pulled in thru the support paddock where we saw a few of these USF2000 cars getting shuttled around.

st pete grand prix paddock pwc lotus 1

st pete grand prix paddock pwc lotus 2

Of course I was most interested in the PWC GT cars, and there were some beautiful models on display getting ready to start their session.

st pete grand prix paddock pwc audi tt 1

st pete grand prix paddock pwc maserati 1

st pete grand prix paddock pwc maserati 2

st pete grand prix paddock pwc roush mustang 1

st pete grand prix paddock mazda road to indy usf2000

The shuttle bus ride along the track gave me an opportunity to snap some shots. It looked pretty tight and challenging which resulted in some messy races over the weekend. But I’m a big fan of this setup.

st pete grand prix indycar pwc airport runway turn 1

Oh yeah, and the front straight is an actual airport runway… cool!

I’m surprised I haven’t done this event before, with the experience from this weekend I would love to come back again.

IndyCar Spotter Guide 2015 Grand Prix of St. Pete

IndyCar designer Ryan Long has released the latest IndyCar spotter guide for the 2015 season, in time for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida this weekend. Thanks to Andy Blackmore Design for the heads up on the FREE download:

indycar spotter guide 2015

Download Link: https://d1b8ufspcmikd1.cloudfront.net/~/media/Files/2015/IndyCarSeries/02-STP/indycar_spotterguide.pdf?vs=1&d=20150323T152844

You could also view detailed driver/car info on the IndyCar web site: http://www.indycar.com/Drivers and there’s even a page for the Holmatro Safety Team that travels around following the IndyCar circus: http://www.indycar.com/Fan-Info/INDYCAR-101/Safety/Holmatro-Safety-Team

There doesn’t appear to be any links to pages about the ordinary Flag & Track Marshals or how to volunteer in those roles on the site, too bad!

I’m hoping to make an IndyCar event this season.

Florida Pro-Events Registration Open Now!

Hey! You want to marshal in Florida in 2015?

Like say… Daytona 24h in January, Sebring 12h in March or the Grand Prix of St. Pete in March? You are invited to register now with the Central Florida SCCA Region (thanks for heads up Mr. Gunn).

The application is here: http://www.cfrscca.org/?page_id=1762

The dates for the events are as follows:

f-usaDaytona 24h (Daytona Beach, FL) January 22 – 25, 2015

f-usaSebring 12h (Sebring, FL) March 18 – 21, 2015

f-usaGP of St. Pete (St. Petersburg, FL) March 27 – 29, 2015

More info:
Daytona 24h:  daytonainternationalspeedway.com/
Sebring 12h: sebringraceway.com/
GP of St. Pete: gpstpete.com/

i heart florida

Now a little piece of advice for those of you thinking of doing any of these events for the first time. I love Florida! IF I had an opportunity to move there and live there, I’d be living in Florida right now. But… a clarification must be made. I love South Florida… Miami-Dade (Miami Beach), Broward (Ft. Lauderdale), Palm Beach Counties (West Palm Beach), etc. Daytona Beach and Sebring to some extent can be another world. Especially Daytona in January. The last two years volunteering for the Daytona 24h have been cold, freezing cold. Sebring in March wasn’t much better either. But St. Petersburg was very pleasant as I spent a few days there flying home from Tampa airport after Sebring 12 hour race.

So if I were to sign up for any of the events next year, it would probably be the GP of St. Pete for the first time. Because when I think of Florida, I think of warm and pleasant weather. Not freezing cold… So best of luck to you all considering registering. Have fun!