Greetings from Lime Rock!
Here’s some pix taken over the two day Northeast Grand Prix event:
One of the more exciting additions to the program at Sebring 12h this year was a brand new class: Mazda Prototype Challenge.
And as with many other IMSA race cars, the new series incorporates a little bit of the old with a lot of brand new. Mainly, IMSA took a “Meh!” series that was IMSA Lites and turned it into Mazda Prototype Challenge that features the same 2 liter 4 cyliner IMSA Lites open top L1’s (renamed MPC’s) in the lower class and the brand new Le Mans Prototype LMP3 machines with massive 5 liter V8’s (that are not powered by Mazda… technically Nissan engines, but not branded as such).
I think now it’s going to be an awesome addition to the support classes. I think IMSA did a dry run testing this idea last year running the little IMSA Lites alongside the Prototype Challenge PC cars from the IMSA WeatherTech series, obviously it worked well. It’s my understanding that the LMP3’s will replace PC cars next year.
I was lucky enough to be on break at the end of the MPC practice session to snap a few close ups:
and some more in the paddock:
and a few more before the grid was populated:
What was most impressive was how the little Mazda Lites were able to keep up with the LMP3 leaders. The Ligiers and the sole Norma ran best, while the Ginetta was a back marker. The ugly Riley ran OK but was mid-pack at best.
I’m excited about this series!
Just two weeks after an excellent time at Lone Star Le Mans I headed down for my third Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
It was a good experience, things were up and down, but overall I had an incredible time…. all things considered it was a nice way to end my year of Motorsport marshaling in the United States. I have of course still a few trips left including one International event in December one in January and one in February, but I’ll talk about that later.
To start the debrief I have to mention that I was not impressed with my luck this year when it came to booking flights and other travel related expenses. I had pretty much screwed myself with the trip to Austin booking expensive flights through remote connecting cities when a cheaper option popped up just days later on direct flights. Well, the same situation repeated itself with Atlanta. I booked a flight from Philadelphia which I thought was cheap, and 25 hours later it went down in price. Had it happened 24 hours later I could have cancelled and rebooked but that wasn’t my luck. Philadelphia played host to Pope Francis visit the weekend leading up to my flight on Monday, so getting to Philly wasn’t cheap either, and I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t make my flight if the blocked off zones of the city weren’t opened up in time. But I made it. Upon arrival into Atlanta I had overpaid for the rental car too. Unlike the previous two years the prices were thru the roof, and the option I chose was the more expensive one because instead of tenting it in the campground I decided to use the SUV I rented. At least I lucked out with a large enough vehicle (this wasn’t of course without a fight, Thrifty refused to give me a larger car so I went with Advantage and even they tried to squeeze me into a Mitsubishi Outlander which is small, but eventually I got into a Toyota Rav4 which was just right).
Leaving the airport I headed south, not north where the track is located. I had ordered a sleeping bag from Sears to be available for pick up upon my arrival so I didn’t have to drag it with me thru NJ into Philly and then down to Georgia on my flight. It was meant to arrive the Southlake Mall about 9 miles from the airport by the time my flight got in, of course that wasn’t the case, the bag arrived a few days after my arrival so I ended up canceling the order. Instead I took advantage of the opportunity to search some local places to eat and stumbled upon Sonny’s BBQ just about a mile away from the mall. Little did I know it was the same Sonny’s that have a booth set up in the vendor village at Road Atlanta every year. I made friends with a great lady that took my order named Leslie and made sure to visit her during the race where she surprised me with a complementary sammich! It was the most amazing food I’ve had all week… thank you Leslie!
Big thanks to the crew at Turn 7 for inviting me to sample some of their spectator’s BBQ from the Appalachian mountains of Georgia. What an excellent tasting pulled pork they let me have a taste.
The organizers of marshals for Petit Le Mans: Atlanta Region SCCA, fulfilled my request to work “Alpha” at the pit exit area of the main straight, just after the Starter stand and before Turn 1. That was awesome. But for some reason the corner captain at Turn 1 didn’t want to acknowledge that my station was a legitimate station. I got a sense that she was sort of belittling it’s role and by extension my role being there, when it came to flagging. I didn’t appreciate that at all. Not sure what sort of threat she felt from my flagging as it would relate to her station, but I certainly didn’t look at it that way. I treated Alpha as an independent station and flagged my heart out because it’s an incredible Blue flag spot. Of course for every incident at Turn 1 we mirrored their flags which are a bit hard to see with the way the station is situated. I even caught myself displaying a Yellow flag before Turn 1 flaggers had a chance to put their’s out because I saw the incident happening before they did. That was cool.
My reputation preceded me when it came to working with the chief of Start. The only thing he wanted to advise me of when we met is not to take any pictures. Which I didn’t. I did find it pretty ironic that others on the Start stand had no problem tacking pictures and sharing them on facebook. So my reputation seems to be a bit unfounded, I certainly don’t do things that nobody else does. But whatever. Here are some pictures that I did take:
The racing was pretty interesting, especially where I was stationed. Though it seems most incidents seem to have been repeatedly happening in the Turn 5 region, we had some great spins and even hits along the front straight and down at Turn 1. I got to witness several PC cars bin it. I also saw the Ligier P2 smash at night time in the rain. I later got to sign the nose cone of that P2 which had my name, the message: “Go for the Win!” and “#MarshalCam” clearly visible on race day. That was pretty neat.
Though it rained on race day, I was pretty comfortable because the flag chief set up a canopy over our station which did a great job keeping is fairly dry. I also used the new wet weather gear I recently bought which kept me exceptionally dry even when I was walking around in the rain, and more importantly it was breathing enough that I wasn’t drenched from sweating inside of it. I did somehow manage to put a hole through one of the pant legs, which makes me pretty mad at myself. I always tend to damage my gear when marshaling.
Others, including the media were complaining about the treacherous conditions during the event. But I thought they were fairly predictable. We did have the hurricane Joaquin moving up the coast in the Atlantic, and while it rained in Georgia for a week leading up to the event, I can’t help but wonder if the hurricane had any contribution especially as the event progressed to race day. What was happening on race day wasn’t really racing. Most cars were taking it slow, especially those in the PC field. The Daytona Prototypes tried hard, but like the Trans Am races I attended in the wet at Lime Rock where T1 cars were blown away by quicker (in the rain) T2, the same phenomenon happened at Road Atlanta. DP’s, P2’s, and PC’s were slow. GTLM were absolutely quick, yet GTD cars were not. So I wonder if the Michelin tire had anything to do with the quickness compared to Continental Tires on everything else.
We were told in the morning briefing that the race has to last only five hours and a second to be called as a full race. But just after five hours came about, the race director called for Red Flag and we were advised to seek shelter. Luckily I had parked the Toyota SUV on pit lane across from my station, so I quickly turned on the heat on full blast, took off my damp shoes and let the sox dry out. It was so cool. I found the radio station that had IMSA broadcast and listened to the speculation of what’s going to happen next, just like everybody else. A very short time later we were back on station, preparing to go Green. But after the restart we seemed to have Full Course Yellow about every five laps or so when someone would go hydroplaning into the tire barriers or a concrete wall. A few incidents happened at Turn 1, many more happened around Turn 5 area and finally at 7pm the race director called it a race and Checkered Flag was shown. It wasn’t without controversy, I’m sure. Even I thought to myself that they must have had to re-position cars for the finish to their liking, because at 5pm the order clearly wasn’t favorable. But who knows what really happened. I would imagine this historic race with it’s shortened schedule and a GTLM car taking overall win was completely manufactured, and most fans could see right thru it. I don’t think IMSA did itself any favors with doing something so blatant. We all know it isn’t right for competitors to cheat, I don’t think the series as a whole should resort to cheating either.
So that was that. The last race of the IMSA season. And my last American race down at an amazing track that is Road Atlanta. I had a good time. I had tasted some great food, which is always a plus. But I don’t know if I have a burning desire to come back next year. Throughout the event I couldn’t help but think how much Motorsport advertising actually works, because every time I saw the Spirit of Daytona car with it’s Visit Florida livery I just pictured myself in Miami… that trip is next, and a little time swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach is just what I need after this!
All ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what happened. Well, maybe you will, but here’s my little preview of the “season finale” at Road Atlanta during the 2015 Petit Le Mans presented by Mazda (the presented by Mazda bit is obviously a joke, while accurate, it was repetitively used by the flag chief in a NASCAR-style shout-out to the sponsors). I like Mazda even though their booth babe tricked me into taking a survey without actually giving me the hat I was promised for my participation. So screw Mazda! or at least the people they outsourced the marketing duties to during the event.
On a positive note, when Corvette Racing advertises a FREE t-shirt for completing their survey, they actually give you a t-shirt… get it Mazda?
I will make a few posts about each of the topics I wanted to share from Petit Le Mans, but this entry will act like a snapshot of things to come accompanied by some teaser pictures.
This year’s Petit Le Mans was wet… so wet it was cut short, thanks to Hurricane Joaquin stirring shit up in the Atlantic. But I was well prepared. I had a great station assignment that I actually requested, and as luck would have it, I stayed pretty dry throughout this soaker of a week(end).
The saddest part of the trip was catching a glimpse of the MX-5 Cup graveyard near the Skip Barber facility at Road Atlanta. I took some pix, they aren’t pretty:
The action on track cheered me up a bit. I was close to the action and close to the pits, which means I was super close to cars. I love being this close to cars! Like this close:
This is the view from station, with flags in the foreground.
I got a chance to meet up with some great people that fed me well. I love southern BBQ. I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m also glad to see some European friends that I last met in Belgium during Spa 24h.
I had some fun in my rental vehicle which I probably overpaid for, just like the flight, and like the cost of the way to get to the flight… I flew out of Philly International the day after Pope Francis left town. But the rental was worth every penny in the flood that literally took over the camp site. I was dry. I was comfortable. And I was happy! I even got a chance to sit in the truck during the red flag period of the race, with the heat on full blast pointed at my sox… shoes off, getting some much needed rest and warmth from the heater and IMSA radio called by John Hindy from Radio Le Mans thru the car’s stereo!
Yep… I got to park on the pit lane for the main event!
All in all an excellent weekend. There were some people that went out of their way to sort of shut me down and rain on my parade, and I wasn’t really in a position to ignore them, but shit like that happens. I was just happy that the good moments outnumbered the bad.
I don’t hate Teddy!
PS. I got to win another “Mazda” hat during the marshal party! So thanks but no thanks Mazda booth! But I’m happy I got to take some pix with an ND Miata, both the safety cars and the display models.
I also got a chance to sign the nose on the #60 Ligier P2 prototype, they didn’t win and crashed often… but a GTLM car won. A Porsche… which I suspect was done for publicity, both for IMSA and for Porsche in their North American headquarters home of Georgia. Hmm…
This was the most amazing event I’ve ever done at Watkins Glen!
The Sahlen’s Six Hour At the Glen 2015 was my first US event of the season, and only second event after the Nurburgring 24h in May. I had the most incredible time and I’ll share the story in this debrief.
I think everything went relatively perfectly throughout this trip. The drive up was on a nice sunny day, I enjoyed the drive with the softer tire/wheel combo on the Miata, got great gas mileage. My name was actually on the registration list which I think was the first time that has happened in my four years with RSI. And I got to hang out with a fellow marshal from Colorado visiting WGI for the first time for this event. It was excellent.
Over the four day weekend I got assigned four excellent station assignments, many took me quite by surprise. I worked Station 10 at the toe of the boot on Thursday, all by myself. Then got moved to Station 1 in Turn 1 for Friday where I worked with one of the WGI employees who said she loved to blue flag, so I got an opportunity to share some of the things I learned over the years working IMSA, and she shared with me some videos from her Twitter feed. She said she follows a bunch of the drivers, especially those from Upstate New York. The weather changed on Saturday and Sunday where we saw two days of rain. It wasn’t heavy rain or stormy weather, but it was fine and consistent which had a similar effect, parts of the schedule were abandoned. Saturday I worked Station 4 at the top of the Esses and Sunday I worked Station 12 at the exit to the hairpin in the toe of the Boot. My schedule was quite similar to the IMSA race I worked last year, I remember working Station 10 alone during the week and Station 12 on race day. I don’t really remember where I was in the middle. But I do remember that I nearly had a heartattack at Station 10 when I stepped on something that was moving under my feet, looked down and it was a small snake a few feet long that scurried away… Yikes!
Unlike last year, I pitched a tent this year. And since I got a very positive experience at Nurburgring using an air mattress, I made sure to bring one with me to New York. The Miata was full to the max with all the gear, both trunk space and the passenger seat. The tent held up pretty well in the weather we had, although I got awoken a few times during the night when the walls were caving in from the wind.
As far as racing goes, the weekend was pretty predictable. While a P2 Prototype posted good numbers in practice it was the Daytona Prototypes that lead the pace of the race… which was kind of Meh! The DeltaWing and diesel Mazda Skyactive P2 were also predictably slow and mostly broken… The best battles were in the GTLM and GTD fields, which was great. I was happy to see the Falken Porsche team do well knowing that they’ve pulled out of IMSA for next year.
I was really happy that I got the opportunity to drive the circuit a few times to get to station and then to get back to the RSI campsite. That’s such an amazing perk that Watkins Glen does for their marshals that is really appreciated, even when I drove the track relatively slowly. It was very cool. I was also thrilled to go walk around the paddock as the teams were getting ready to do qualifying which never actually happened. Because of the rain that was increasing in volume of water getting dumped on the circuit, the day was cut short… you can actually see the rain in my pictures that I shared in the Media post earlier.
Every night of this trip I ended up going out to dine in town. Someone at RSI recommended Jerlando’s at Montour Falls. I’ve tried their calzone and a chicken parm and it was quite tasty, especially having a nice warm meal after a long day at the track. I also got to visit Seneca Lodge pretty much every night. First with Christy from Colorado who has heard about it and had to see it for herself, and then with Jessie from SponsorAFlagger.com It was pretty funny with Jessie when one of the IMSA driver’s came up to her and told her how he follows her marshaling adventures on facebook…. No one has ever done that with me, especially not a race car driver. Go blondie, Go!
While at the RSI compound I was really happy with the way everyone treated me. People were really friendly and welcoming and I really appreciate that when volunteering. I was amazed and thankful for my station assignments every day. The IMSA folks were just as pleased as I was. Even when some of the lingo during communications is uniquely Watkins Glen compared to the rest of the circuits they visit, they spoke very positively at the level of professionalism extended to the series. Calls were concise, precise and accurate. I was lucky enough to make a few of those important calls when two separate cars came to a stop right at my station (Station 10) resulting in practice stoppage. During the race we had a Corvette spin and again stop right at the foot of our station (Station 12) check out my earlier post about that incident. I was very proud to be a member of RSI when things just went right over the weekend. No fighting or bickering, no yelling or screaming. Just business as usual, and everything was done by the book. I loved it!
And so I’m looking forward to my next visit to Watkins Glen in August for the NASCAR Sprint Championship series. Can’t wait…
PS. I was very happy to see tons and tons of MX-5 Miatas at WGI
This is post 1 of a few that I’ll write about my visit to WGI to marshal the Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen with RSI. I had an absolute blast. The following topics will be addressed individually:
It’s almost midnight, I just arrived home from a five hour road trip from Watkins Glen, NY covering 250+ miles in mostly wet weather, and so I’ll just give a brief description of each topic now.
1. The Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen went especially good for me this year. In fact it went from good to better, to best and then to a predictable conclusion. It rained so the racing was cut short and some support series cancelled. But RSI was extra good to me this season allowing me to work Stations 10, 1, 4 and 12 over the four day weekend.
2. I made a quick pit stop at Heinlein Racing Development shop in Northwestern New Jersey on my way to Watkins Glen. That was an awesome visit with Tivador Heinlein to check out his new shop and all the amazing cars that he’s working on. I was in a Candy Shop!
3. I’ve completed another 500+ mile road trip in my MX-5 Miata, and this trip went even better than the last one. The 16″ inch wheels made a big difference resulting in a softer, more pleasant ride. And I got awesome gas mileage to boot!
4. One of the absolute best perks of volunteering with RSI at WGI is the ability to get to station trackside! I got to do a few laps around the whole of Watkins Glen circuit (albeit at 40mph) this weekend, and I loved it!
5. Unlike the past few times I ended up going out every night instead of staying in the campground. The famous Seneca Lodge in the outskirts of Watkins Glen and Jerlandos in Montour Falls.
6. There was a ton of MX-5 Miatas at the Glen and I was busy snapping away with my phone…. It’s not like I’ve never seen Miatas at WGI before, but now as an owner it was more personal.
I’ll be publishing the individual posts in the next few days. Stay tuned.