You can’t volunteer an event in Australia without coming over and marshaling in New Zealand. So since I was in the neighborhood I decided to pop up for one of the Kiwi racedays at Hampton Downs.
I have been planning to come back to New Zealand for ages, and I’m really glad this opportunity presented itself. Anna Scott the flag chief for the Motorsport Club of NZ invited me to spend the weekend with her family and I couldn’t be in better hands on my visit. It was a bit sad to see fewer marshals at the track than the last time I was there. Even the race day itself was shorter than usual, instead of the full weekend of racing Auckland Car Club crammed all of their practices and races into one Saturday. But the action was still there and thanks to an awesome post assignment I was having a hell of a good time.
I was paired to work with Peter for the weekend who was really great and welcoming to a “newbie” which made my day. We were pretty lucky to have a few incidents including minor spins, cars coming to a stop suffering mechanical failures as well as a side to side metal to metal impact resulting in a spin which I had to write a report on. All in all we were kept busy the whole day.
I asked Tom and Anna to make a pit stop on the way to the track so I can get some of my favorite track food to go: the Kiwi Meat Pies, which were especially delicious once I worked up some appetite working trackside.
Once lunch came around, Peter and I were picked up by the Porsche Cheyenne Course Car and brought into the paddock area where I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the race cars and all the improvements done to the track since my last visit. The garages have really been build up, adding a second level. Race control was completed. And one of the most visible additions was the actual expansion of the track adding quite a few more corners for Anna to staff once the track is fully finished.
I was really happy to see a few MX-5’s racing with the other Japanese cars in their class. Mazda’s are very popular in New Zealand although in the past it was the RX-7’s and RX-8’s that dominated the car scene. Still nice to see Miatas race everywhere I go to marshal.
Happy to also be served L&P – my favorite Kiwi drink at the end of day party for the marshals.
After lunch it was back to the office at Post 2. My favorite tool to use was the Hampton Downs lighting system. A very simple controller tethered to the Light Panel via a cable. The functionality is simple and intuitive. You push and hold the switch into the direction of the flag you wish to display and it stays on while you’re holding the switch. Upon release the light turns off. Yellow flag up, Double yellow down. Blue flag up and White flag down. Using Yellow forces a Green at the next post automatically. Debris flag can be switched on and left to display, though the way it shows on the pane is by alternating flashing lights of Yellow and Red which some drivers apparently found rather confusing. For a few incidents where the track was more than 50% blocked I found it a bit clumsy to try to wave a both yellow flags and hold the double yellow button simultaneously. But I would imagine as simple as this system is it would cost a fraction of what the F1 light system cost, and I have a feeling this one is far more efficient.
One of the coolest things I saw on this visit was during a recovery. The tow truck driver that had already freed one car from the gravel trap, pulled up to the second disabled car by our post and hooked it to the bumper of the first car. He then proceeded to drive the train of stricken cars back to the paddock. I thought that was rather efficient making due with what they have and not wasting time waiting for another tow truck to free up to do the recovery.
As the day was getting hotter and marshals were getting tired, the Motorsport Club did an ice cream run to cool us off. And it really worked wonders. Tip Top the kiwi ice cream brand is actually quite creamy and milky, much better than the water based ice creams we typically get in the US.
And so another wonderful weekend spend at a race track was in the books. I was super happy to have had this opportunity to marshal even if just for one day. It totally made my visit to NZ worthwhile!
My next trip to New Zealand will hopefully involve a visit to a new circuit down on the South Island – Highlands Motorsport Park.
Another year and another massive MX-5 Road Trip… this time to the South Pacific. I had the pleasure and privilege to visit the Mazda Roadster community in Australia, New Zealand and kinda sorta in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands.
In this post I will share my experience from this trip including the contact info for the local clubs in each country as well as a few rental facilities that have MX-5’s to rent (or hire) on your next trip to paradise that is the Cook Islands. As with my Southeast Asia MX-5 Road Trip last year I will break down this post into individual threads that cover each experience separately:
There’s no way I could possibly share all 500+ photos from this adventure but many of them are available for viewing on my facebook page. Some of the best shots are shared here with my commentary. I had such a blast on this trip I am extremely eager to start planning the next one.
So how did I go about arranging all the meets and events?
Simple. I researched the individual MX-5 groups and clubs through the Miata.net forum and Facebook.
In Australia I reached out to the MX-5 Club of New South Wales and specifically the Sydney Chapter which is a very active community of owners that meet up regularly for various club activities from dinners, cruises, racing and skidpads/drifting as well as major events like 50+ car meets and cruises around the country.
I met Jean Cook on my first day in Australia while traveling to Bathurst and just a few days later she embarked on a rather long journey down to Tasmania for a National MX-5 meet there that featured over 100 cars.
Special thanks to Jean Cook for giving me the opportunity to take some photos of her beautiful ND MX-5:
The next thanks I want to give is to Cameron from Blue Mountains Mazda who sold Jean her ND. Cameron was nice enough to show me around the dealership on my way back to Sydney from Bathurst, I even brought an Aussie spec brochure back home from this visit:
Huge thanks to Guy Cole for organizing the MX-5 cruise from Kirribilli to Balmoral where I got to meet the owners of at least 20 MX-5’s that showed up to this event. What a great experience that was. By the same token I would like to thank Chris Stacey for giving me a ride during the cruise in his beautiful red ND MX-5.
In New Zealand I reached out to the MX-5 Club of New Zealand through the Miata.net forum and facebook. Their club also has major events around the North and South Islands. The last get together at the Auckland area Mazda dealer saw over 50 MX-5’s show up.
For my little event only two owners came along for the ride: Ralph and Lloyd, with Lloyd organizing the whole trip for me including a nice sunset dinner cruise with a fellow MX-5 owner from the Auckland harbour.
Thank you Ralph and Lloyd!
In Rarotonga, Cook Islands I didn’t get a chance to actualy chat with any Miata owners. But I did source out a few places to rent one. Avis in Avarua apparently had a Green NC to rent but they wouldn’t let me see it before forking out $80/day to rent it. Too bad!
This was definitely a trip of a lifetime and I’m totally looking forward to more trips like this in the future…
Another trip of a lifetime is in the books! Although I shouldn’t call it “lifetime” because I know sooner or later I’ll be departing on other one. In fact with an amazing trip of a lifetime just a few months ago to Southeast Asia, I would call this the trip of the year, or at the very least trip of the month: February 2016!
This post will be a brief overview: a debrief, of the trip overall followed by a number of specific posts about the individual events I’ve marshaled, the experiences I had hanging out with the local MX5 clubs and catching some sun in some very exotic places as part of the vacation that tied this trip together. I had such a blast!
To start, I flew to Australia via Hawai’i. And unlike my first visit there a few years ago after Korean Grand Prix, I decided to get off the plane at Honolulu and actually spend the night in Waikiki Beach. The Polynesian theme for the rest of the trip truly began there. Besides enjoying an amazing sunset that I shared with a few folks at home via Facetime, I got to experience some of the local cuisine just outside of the touristy area. I loved it!
Of course an overnight stay in Paradise wasn’t enough, at all! But it was just a start to my South Pacific adventure. I’m kind of glad I broke the trip in half because some of these longer flights of 10+ hours have started getting to me, tiring me out completely. This time I was travelling with an extra handicap I hadn’t encountered on previous trips. I had a flare up of Gout Arthritis just a few days before leaving and my right foot was in terrible pain, something akin to walking on glass. The pain wouldn’t really go away for the entire trip but since I couldn’t do much about it I just learned to live with it.
Next stop: Sydney! The flight arrived in the early evening and after a quick clearance at Immigration I headed to the CBD to get some sleep before heading out for Bathurst early the next morning. Like Waikiki I decided to stay in a hostel near Central station for convenience and it worked out really well for me.
In the morning I managed to arrange a lift with someone from the MX-5 community in Sydney. It’s really nice to see how close the Miata community is to Motorsport and specifically marshaling. The lady who’s car I got to check out on my first day in Australia volunteers as a Steward while her son is a flag marshal, who was kind enough to let me tag along for the two hour drive to Mount Panorama. While I could have taken the train all the way to town, I found it far more interesting to have some company along the way. It was especially interesting when we were on the hunt for Meat Pies for lunch while passing through Lithgow. That’s where I spotted something I really wanted to see on my trip, a Miata trailer. The owner drove past us as we parked up near the bakery and while he was stopped on a red light I tried to snap a fuzzy shot of his car.
I will talk about my experiences at Bathurst 12 hour and Mount Panorama in a separate post but suffice to say it was an interesting experience. While it wasn’t my first visit there, it was definitely a little different from before. For the first time I camped right at the track. A fellow Aussie marshal Paul from Victoria was kind enough to supply me with a comfortable tent, some pillows and a sleeping bag, which helped a lot so I didn’t have to drag all that stuff with me. Not only that he was our designated driver taking a whole group of us out to dinner in town every night, which was fantastic. It was the first time I consistently stuffed my face with proper Australian food including roast lamb and a variety of other local pub dishes.
After the event I headed back to Sydney for a few more nights in a CBD hostel. I had a few things planned but the stay was way too short. Luckily I did manage to squeeze in a lunch at Bondi Beach which I was really looking forward to as well as a nice MX-5 cruise from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach with a meeting spot just under the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was pretty spectacular. So many cars showed up! I was pleasantly surprised and very humbled to see so many owners give up their weeknight for a little cruise along the Northern Sydney suburbs for some fish and chips. Again I will write more about it later but I can’t express my gratitude enough to have had this opportunity!
Next stop: Auckland! A short hop and skip over the ditch (as they refer to the Tasman Sea) and I was in New Zealand. The flight arrived after midnight and I was off to my hostel in the CBD. Early next morning another MX-5 meetup awaited me, and after a short 4 hour sleep I was in a beautiful JDM-import Roadster heading to Papakura for my next adventure which I’ll describe in it’s own post. In a way it was another Fish & Chips run but this one lasted for over 300km visiting some scenic and twisty roads across the entire Northern Island from West (Waihu) to East (Coromandel Peninsula).
As if this incredible two car road trip (as I jumped out from one car to the other at every stop we made), couldn’t get any better – it did! The day ended on a boat in Auckland Harbour where we had a nice dinner joining another MX-5 owner while he and his family celebrated the mum’s birthday. This was my first time on the water on the North Island something I was putting away until later while living in Auckland and never actually following through with, until now. It was really amazing.
Believe it or not I actually got to marshal while in New Zealand. It was only a one day meeting for Auckland Car Club at Hampton Downs but I certainly got my money’s worth with plenty of spins and spills on Turn 2 where I was lucky enough to work. It was such a good pleasure to catch up with a bunch of people whom I started my marshaling with while living in New Zealand a few years ago. And it was nice to see the improvements done and are currently ongoing to Hampton Downs under Tony Quinn’s ownership.
Besides Hampton Downs, Anna Scott – who hosted me for the weekend, took me to Pukekohe Raceway Park and showed me the improvements done there after Aussie V8 Supercars moved to their event there from the streets of Hamilton. I had such an incredible time I’ll have to write more about it in another post.
Although I had already spent two weeks on the road which seemed to have gone by in a flash, I still had one more exotic stop on this incredible journey: Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! I was really looking forward to this visit because it was something I planned to do while living in New Zealand back in 2012. Now the dream came true. I didn’t know what to expect but the reality surprised me in a very pleasant way. The tiny island of Rarotonga was very clean, friendly and welcoming for my visit. The resort I booked (my first stay in a proper hotel on this trip after all the hostels in Hawaii, Sydney and Auckland I decided to splurge and pamper myself) was fantastic. I got to tour the island, sample some delicious Polynesian food and completely relax on the pristine beaches with baby blue water crashing over the corals just off shore. What an experience!
The trip home at the end of this vacation took me back through Auckland where I was a total zombie while shopping for souvenirs to take home. Luckily I was able to meet up with friends for lunch and dinner and that kept me awake long enough for some much needed sleep on my 11 hour flight back to LAX.
Huge thanks to all the people that helped me along on this trip. I couldn’t have done this without you!
As soon as I posted the Aussie video, Kiwis wanted one of their own… so I made it twice as long, and possibly twice as good. Getting to ride in a Fire One – chase vehicle for the V8 Utes race as a fire marshal was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done in my life. Not to say that doing flag marshalling or working rescue wasn’t short of amazing either. New Zealand provided me with my education when it comes to marshalling, and over one racing season I took full advantage of all the racing series there to absorb as much as I could. I participated in such racing series as Tasman Revival, Formula 5000, New Zealand Festival of Speed Celebrating BMW /M Motorsports, Toyota Racing Series, NZV8’s, V8 Utes, V8 Supertourers, V8 Supercars, a variety of classic Mini series, Central Muscle Club, Auckland and Taupo car club racing, etc. I’ve even done the New Zealand Grand Prix
I’m looking forward to going back there… again and again!
It’s my third weekend home without motor sports and it really is a damn shame there’s nothing happening locally at Lime Rock, NJMP or Poconos (besides the Indycar test for which they didn’t require marshals) so I wanted to reflect on the 7 back-to-back weekends in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia that opened this year. I often get asked how I’m able to afford this travel, etc. So I’ll share the schedule and costs below, to prove that anyone can do it, if they chose to.
My schedule went as follows:
FEB 8-10: 12 hours of Bathurst at Mount Panorama in NSW, Australia
FEB 16-17: BNT V8 Supertourers at Hampton Downs, New Zealand
FEB 22-24: SBK Superbikes at Phillip Island, VIC Australia
FEB 28 – MAR 3: Clipsal 500, V8 Supercars at Adelaide, SA Australia
MAR 8-10: Shannon’s Historics CAN-AM at Phillip Island VIC Australia
MAR 14-17: Australian F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park, VIC Australia
MAR 22-24: Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit, Malaysia
I also did the following non-motorsport trips on this journey:
MAR 11-13: Went to visit the old office North of Sydney NSW Australia
MAR 19: Day trip to Penang to visit a friend for lunch Penang, Malaysia
MAR 20-21: Overnight trip to Phnom Penh first time in Cambodia
Mar 26-29: Flight home via Clark and Manila, the Philippines
Mar 29: A quick dinner with friends on a short few connection in Singapore
To book all these trips I used a combination of frequent flyer miles and low cost airlines, for example the trip to Australia was via American Airlines AAdvantage 32,500 miles + tax to fly Qantas from NYC to SYD via LAX. The flight back was on United Airlines Mileage Plus 32,500 miles + tax from MNL to JFK via SIN on Singapore Airlines. Both AA and UA miles were accrued through credit car sign up bonuses. Meanwhile, the flight from MEL to KUL was on AirAsia X with a mere $139 one way price tag ($189 after taxes, luggage and even a nasi lemak on board) still cheap comparing the alternatives. Similarly, within Australia I used Tiger Airways to fly from MEL to ADL and MEL to SYD, for far less what Qantas or even Virgin Australia charged. In Asia I jumped on a bunch of zero dollar / tax only deals, that would explain the $18 trip to Penang, or $36 trip to Cambodia… and finally $24 trip to Clark. This is about as cheap as it gets, and it was nice enough for a number of hosts to put me up for a few nights here and there thanks to CouchSurfing.org
I was also very grateful to a few motorsport marshals that put me up in both Melbourne and Auckalnd. Nothing went to plan from the start of the trip, but somehow it all worked out in the end, and I had an absolute blast over the two month journey.
Finally, let me share some photos from each one of the stops along the way:
(this is not my collection of CAMS patches, my Melbourne host was nice enough to share his stash of Motorsport memorabilia, very impressive collection!)
A fantastic trip and one I hope to repeat again, though a trip to Europe will be my next big trip this summer followed by one more visit to Singapore for their Grand Prix. Many more photos are posted on facebook.
2012 has been my most adventurous season to date… As much as I’d love to out-do it next year the reality will be some sort of a toned down version. Luckily I have signed up for the 12 hours of Bathurst which promises to be a very exciting GT endurance race in Australia, however between that event in February and the Australian F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park in March, there’s a huge amount of time to kill. So I’ve made a decision to revisit Auckland for a few weeks. Call it New Zealand part II.
The plan as of now is of course to do the V8 Supertourers who should have their season opening at Hampton Downs just a week after the Bathurst event. I’m really looking forward to another Air New Zealand 12 days of Christmas sale so I can fill my days in Kiwi land with quick trip around the country, especially with a visit to the South Island – something I missed out on earlier this year. I would really like to visit Dunedin and Queenstown. Perhaps another trip to Manfeild for Toyota Racing Series, and definitely Taupo. 2013 will be great!
2013 is already promising to be an incredible year. I’m particularly excited about the planning process of my next big trip this February and March. I’m not sure what I’m thrilled about the most… maybe its the prospect of flying again. Sure, I love flying! Or perhaps its the prospect of doing some more racing events in the Pacific. Yes, I love Australia and New Zealand racing series a lot, that’s where I got my education. Or maybe I’m just craving a double double with fries animal style? Hmm…
For anyone not familiar with the west coast chain In-n-Out, you don’t know what you’re missing. Well, maybe it doesn’t matter. To be honest, the fast food chain isn’t ridiculously different from any other fast food chains we have on the east coast, like Five Guys Burgers. But they do offer a secret menu and have a cult-like following so every time I get a chance I pay a visit to their establishments. (I think last time was in Las Vegas when I went for the SEMA show). I specifically arranged my flights to LAX in a way that would allow me to have enough time to visit their South Sepulveda location for a nice juicy burger, fries and some half-strawberry half-chocolate milk shake. I do plan to walk to and fro the restaurant to burn off some of the calories.
After I’m properly stuffed with the So Cal experience, I’ll be taking my comfy Qantas A380 flight off to Sydney. Its been a while since I’ve been there, save for of course the quick transit at SYD airport I did on my way home from New Zealand earlier this year. I will be visiting the Blue Mountains in NSW for my first race there. The 12 hours of Bathurst enduro series featuring some Mercedes-Benz SLS, Lambourghini Gallardo, Ferrari 458 Italias and a bunch of others including some Fords and Holdens that will have a GT race within the race running only for the first hour of the event. How cool?
Immediately after the race I plan to make my way over to Auckland for the opening season of New Zealand V8 SuperTourers at Hampton Downs. This would be the second year in a row I’ve volunteered for this event, so I’m especially looking forward to seeing all the folks I’ve worked with earlier this year. Whilst in NZ I plan to do a few trips to the South Island, an experience I missed out on while living there in 2012. Hopefully with the December 12 days of Christmas special I’ll be able to book some cheapo flights to Dunedin or Queenstown on Air New Zealand to make it happen. A visit to Taupo or Manfeild may be in the cards also.
Kiwi land may be the place where I will finally and possibly tragically run out of my savings. But it will not stop me from going. On the way back I plan to return to Australia for the Formula 1 race at Albert Park in Melbourne. A week before there will be another event at a track I’ve been wanting to work since the first time I visited Philip Island. Visiting some friends in Victoria should make an experience memorable as usual.
Retracing my F1 calendar of this year I plan to take a cheap Air Asia X flight to Malaysia for another amazing Formula 1 race at the Sepang Circuit. The flights have already been booked but the confirmation has yet to come, fingers crossed I won’t have any trouble like I did this year. Any visit to Southeast Asia turns out to be a fantastic experience and it would be a great way to end this two month journey.
The excitement will keep me going through the cold Northeast winter we’ll be having in the NYC / New Jersey area, where we just had our first snow not even a week after the superstorm Sandy had her way with us… yikes!
PS. No return flight has been booked yet. It may turn into another epic adventure of a trip!
Motorsport Marshal, Miata Driver, Hot Wheels Collector