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Victoria Day Speedfest the debrief

WOW! What a fantastic weekend!

Victoria Day Speedfest was my first International event volunteering this year. As such I was really looking forward to the experience and the racing didn’t disappoint. It certainly helped too that everyone was super friendly and welcoming and I took this opportunity to sign up with the local club MMS to finally become one of their members. Motorsport Marshalling Services is a CASC-OR member. Canadian Automobile Sports Car Association – Ontario Region is an FIA accredited ASN. My plan is not to renew my SCCA membership next year and rely solely on the CASM membership to volunteer future international events. We’ll see how that goes.

So having done this event before meant I knew what to expect and took advantage of most of the opportunities which presented themselves. First I took lots of pictures on arrival on Thursday so that I don’t get in trouble (or even the urge) to take any pictures the rest of the weekend.

I had my usual run to get some delicious poutine, and I was set for whatever came my way over the course of the weekend.

Every morning I would stop at Tim Horton’s to get a box of Timbits (Munchkins for those that prefer Dunkin Donuts) two XL French Vanilla Cappuccino’s and a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast.

The Timbits of course were a big hit with the local marshals, as expected. I was happy to share. Right around 3pm though I really needed a Timbit or two for a sugar rush, otherwise I’d get tired.

I CouchSurfed on this trip, so every evening I would rush back to Bowmanville to have dinner with my host… and what a dinner it was:

They spoiled me rotten with amazing home cooked meals, yumm!

The morning meetings were clearly communicated in advance. Details of the day’s events were laid out concisely and precisely. It was fun and every day a new station was assigned.

Day 1: Turn 2A

We were short so I was rotating on Yellow/Green flag. Good thing I wasn’t on Blue flag because we had a massive impact with a roll over right in the area where the Blue flagger normally stands. That would have turned ugly real quickly. That was also the first of two massive roll-overs of my weekend.

Day 2: Turn 9

This time I was on Blue flag working closely with the mirror station for Yellow/Green flags. This time we were a little less lucky as two Micra Cup Nissan’s smashed into the tire wall at our feet basically sending a ton of debris our way as they rolled. It was nuts!

I walked along the spectator fence to use a porta-potty near Turn 8 and the Canadian fans were a jovial bunch. Until someone caught some debris from our rolling car. I assume a drunk person started screaming for help when rescue services arrived by the rolled car. Weird people would do that instead of reaching out to the medical services available for spectators. I guess there ought to be more education available for spectators about what to do in case of injury without heckling the track services on a hot track.

Day 3, Race Day, Turn 6

Turn 6 isn’t really a Turn, it’s a straight away with elevation change preventing Station 5C from seeing Station 7. It is a fantastic role for a Blue Flagger because the cars go their fastest on this part of the back stretch. Unfortunately someone from Race Control wasn’t happy with us standing next to the catch fencing and instructed us to go behind it… which predictably completely obscured our view of the track. I wish the people at Race Control would come out and work a race or two behind the catch fence and see how much they value their life after that. I would much rather see an incident coming and make moves in reaction to that. Rather than stand behind obstructive barriers that block you from seeing approaching danger and wouldn’t help all that much in case a crash occurs and sends small debris and hot fluids through the fence into you by complete surprise (because you can’t see the fucking crash coming). It just makes me angry when people make decisions that affect your personal safety (negatively I might add).

But enough about that… I joined the MMS… it only cost $10 bux for the membership, so I spend another $10 to invest in some warm clothing for the cold weather… a toque:

Hopefully this membership works well overseas!

Happy Anniversary Canada!

Hopefully I can come back this year again for the Labor Day weekend… to work the NASCAR Trucks around a proper circuit.

Post Card from the Victoria Day Speedfest paddock at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

The best part about arriving to a race track on Thursday is your ability to see all the teams unload, unpack and participate in the unofficial test day… which means you can take lots of pictures!

I certainly did just that!

My favorite were the PWC cars of course, but also the Canadian CTCC touring cars… especially stuff we don’t get in the US like the Euro-Spec Honda Civic Type R… enjoy the pix:

The field of Porsche’s was significantly smaller than I remember it from previous years. There was also a majority of Platinum class cars, with only a handful of Gold class… but the racing was relatively clean with minimal incidents.

Many of these GT3 Cup Canada cars also run in the US version of the GT3 Cup North America, and they are extremely competitive winning some of the races I’ve been to at Watkins Glen and Sebring.

The GT3 Cup series sponsor Petro-Canada Ultra 94 has an interesting story. It was a Sunoco branded fuel until Petro-Canada took over keeping the Ultra 94 top tier which in the US was discontinued and reverted back to Ultra 93 (some claims were made that were not met). I use Ultra 94 in my Miata while in Canada (along with Ultra 93 from Sunoco in the US) and can’t complain about it’s performance at all. Good fuel!

The new Bimmer 235M completely dominate the TC class in PWC

Team M&S started out with this Canadian-spec Civic Si but switched to the Euro-spec Civic Type R for the final day of the weekend (running number 66)

And there’s the Euro-spec Civic Type R run by  a team of brothers that run different flags of convenience… some race with a Canadian flag on the side window, others with the flag of Hong Kong

A bit sad with this feature PWC series. Ever since Sprint X was introduced they reduced running the normal GT class stand alone. And with the weather on Sunday at Mosport the race was cancelled.

Started mid pack and finished on the podium for the first race!

more to come soon…

Thank You Faynisha for Amazing Alabama Grand Prix Experience

A huge thank you goes out to Faynisha from Flagging by Faynisha and her entire crew that made my experience feel really special.

I really think I got VIP treatment this year because of the awesome station assignments over the weekend.

Day 1: Turn 8 which reminded me a little of the Corkscrew at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Though not as dramatic of a drop, it is still quite an elevation change after a blind apex going into the corner.

(the Ambulance flag wasn’t used this weekend but as this is a very Motorcycle friendly course it was only appropriate to pose with it).

Day 2: Turn 13 and another blind corner that saw a ton of action of cars overcooking it and losing control in our corner.

An elevated station with good views out towards the front straight, the straight between 4 and 6 and 6 and 7, and of course 10 to us.

Day 3: Race Day: Turn 6 the cherry on top station. It’s the hairpin corner that saw a ton of excitement over the weekend. And we too got some opportunities to wave the yellow flag. Nothing too crazy, but exciting nonetheless.

I had a wonderful time and I appreciate this opportunity more than anything. Events like this make you want to come back over and over again and tell everyone I know how great Southern hospitality is.

Alabama Grand Prix (IndyCar) the Debrief

I had an incredible time at this year’s Alabama Grand Prix.

Not really much to say other than everything about this trip has been awesome. Under the circumstances I had an absolutely awesome event! Getting sick before the trip put a little hindrance on the mood and well being, but that’s just how it goes.

Here’s some pictures from the weekend:

I was surprised to see IMSA trailers in the paddock. Then I realized that both Porsche GT3 Cup and the Mazda Prototype Challenge were participating. And since everything else was a spec series, including IndyCar’s with their identical Dallara bodies. The USF2000, the Mazda MX-5 Cup and the IndyLights. Only the Prototype Challenge offered some variety.

The Ginetta LMP3 didn’t make an appearance but there were more than one Norma’s (even if just on display).

So glad I came on Thursday during the promoter’s test day so I could snap these shots in the paddock. Otherwise there would have been no opportunities to visit pit lane/paddock during the rest of the event. We were in a perfect spot on Race Day to see the driver’s parade:

And that’s a wrap!

Would love to come back another year for another awesome experience at Barber Motorsports Park!

Mazda MX-5: 3,500 Mile Spring Break Road Trip South in a Miata, from New Jersey to Florida

Second New Jersey to Florida Road Trip is now in the books. This trip in March over Spring Break was my second year in a row volunteering for St. Pete GP and Sebring 12 hour. It was also my second drive down to Florida this year (first one being for the Roar before the 24). All in all I put 3,440 miles on the car. Burned 102 gallons of 93/Premium fuel. Spent $268 dollars on gas using BP, ExxonMobil and Sunoco gas cards (which with the 7% discount that I paid for them, I actually only spent $250 on fuel). Averaged 34mpg which was an improvement of 1mpg over last year, and got my best fuel economy yet with 38mpg’s over two consecutive fuel ups on the drive down… Yay! I noticed gas prices were almost a dollar per gallon more than last year… And in all I did about 500 miles more since I based myself in Daytona Beach during this trip and took multiple drives out of the Daytona area for various events, from a Miata meet in Jacksonville, to St. Pete GP in the Tampa Bay area, to Sebring in Lake Placid area, and to Orlando Miata meet much like last year. It was a fantastic trip!

Interesting option of No-Ethanol fuel in South Carolina…

Hit a 60k milestone on this Road Trip

When leaving for the trip I couldn’t sleep the night before so instead of tossing and turning I jumped in the car at 1am and headed down. The night drive was great because there was hardly anyone else on the road, which meant I could take it nice and slow. Driving in the 60’s rather than 70’s the gas mileage improved tremendously… so averaging 36mpg vs. 31mpg meant that on the 3 tanks that it took to get to Florida from New Jersey I extended my range by 150 miles! Or basically had to refuel less often.

Much like last year I used the Gas Buddy App to check fuel prices to strategise my drive. Virginia and South Carolina had the lowest gas prices for premium fuel. While Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and even Florida were the priciest. The most I paid for gas was $2.86 in Florida and the least was $2.39 both in South Carolina and Virginia. There’s a Sunoco I really like in St. George, South Carolina that always has low prices and a few BP’s in the stretch of i81/i66 where for some reason the prices for premium gas are 50 cents less per gallon than anywhere else in Virginia. (Greenville area)

I want to live in a place that has Palm Trees!

My first order of business when arriving in Daytona was mounting my eBay lip spoiler… which turned out really great. Not sure if this thing contributed to my great gas mileage, but I’m glad that it certainly didn’t hurt!

I decided to get to Florida a day early because of some severe weather moving into the Northeast, which worked out really well because it allowed me an opportunity to “discover” Daytona more than I’ve done in the past while volunteering there. So I visited a race team based in Holly Hill, a few miles from the Speedway: BSI Racing.

Next day I was off to St. Pete… I left early enough so I can volunteer for the half day in the afternoon right after registration.

This year’s PWC racing was outstanding! IndyCar wasn’t so bad either and I especially enjoyed it from my new position in pit lane.

I CouchSurfed while in St. Pete and my host was awesome. Just a few blocks north of the track which getting there early in the morning was a breeze. Literally took me less than 10 minutes to drive down, and that’s because I had to stop at a few traffic lights.

Got some real IndyCar goodies for my Miata in pit lane… the official Firestone tire caps… No idea what team they came from but I picked up a bunch to give out as souvenirs when I travel. They sure are a lot lighter than the bag of NASCAR lug nuts I took to Australia and NZ.

Mailed my Miata buddies in Southeast Asia some #MRTI goodies from St. Pete GP.

I headed back to Daytona Beach right after the race, and the next morning left on a scenic drive along A1A towards Jax Beaches, on my Minorcan Clam Chowder foodie tour. I’m in love with my newly discovered attraction of St. Augustine (America’s oldest city!) the scenery was great and the food was delicious.

Lots of Spanish influence in this area, including the Minorcan Clam Chowder… Minorca of course is the smallest of the three Spanish Islands in the Mediterranean with the larger ones being the much better known Majorca as in Palma de Majorca and Ibiza.

I ran into a Lancia – Martini Racing photoshoot while on the trip where a Brit photographer basically booted me from taking pix:

From there I rushed to join the First Coast Miata club at their monthly meeting at yet another seafood place.

Was so good to see my friend Arved there who inspired me to buy the eBay lip spoiler to begin with. It’s nice to go to Miata events like this because they inspire you to do mods to your car.

Next day I was off to Sebring!

Lots of Mazda’s there. Absolutely awesome event. I had a blast working in pit lane there. One of my best experiences of Sebring yet!

Right after the race I headed back to Daytona Beach… but much like last year returned to the Orlando area for an Orlando Roadsters monthly meet at Tijuana Flats in Winter Park (near University of Central Florida). For a Monday night meet it was a big one, about 30 cars showed up over the course of the event… it was super enjoyable!

And so my time in Florida came to a close… the two weeks flew quick, I would really want to come back and stay for good. Staying in Daytona Beach area was very cool because I got to hang out with a few marshaling buddies I really respect, including visiting some fine dining establishments with them…

Florida is really the best place to go for fresh seafood…

On the drive home I stopped at my favorite South Carolina BBQ place in Rock Hill called Dixie Pig to pick up a couple of orders of their famous Pig Wings in parm & garlic sauce. Brought it all the way home to share with my parents and nephew… they loved it too!

I’ll be doing another one of these Southern trips next month hopefully with another two week volunteering tour of Barber Motorsports Park for IndyCar and VIR for PWC. Stay tuned…

Marshal Radio: Episode 3 Sebring 12 Hour Debrief with Guest John Gamble Talking IMSA DPi’s, LMP2 and LMP3’s

It’s been a while since our last episode, but John Gamble and I decided to do a follow up post-Sebring 12 hour. Have a listen:


Marshal Radio – 12 hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway

Summary:

First let me apologize for the poor audio quality for my guest John. I made a rookie mistake… since recording the last Miata Fiata Radio episode I forgot to adjust my Blue Yeti mic to adjust again from 360 degree area, instead it was turned directly towards me and John was sitting opposite me… Sorry!

That said, he’s a soft-spoken man and that’s how he generally sounds anyway… so turn your volume up and listen.

We talked about marshaling at Sebring 12 hour this year and how much we liked the new selection of prototypes especially in the new support series: Mazda Prototype Challenge and the LMP3 cars (which ironically aren’t Mazda powered at all).

We also talked briefly about the St. Pete Grand Prix where I volunteered. Barber Motorsports Park and VIR where I plan to volunteer soon. And Watkins Glen International where John and I will probably record another episode.

I’m really enjoying doing these episodes with John Gamble, big thanks to him and Jeree for letting me stay in their house while in Florida… I had based myself in Daytona Beach for both St. Pete and Sebring along with two Miata events in Jacksonville and Orlando.

Thanks John and see you next time.

Thank You Scott Lucas and the Pit Crew for the VIP Treatment at Daytona 24, St. Pete GP & Sebring 12

I want to express my gratitude to the men and women I worked with over the past three consecutive Florida races, two of them back-to-back and especially our Chief of Pit & Grid Marshals Scott Lucas. Thank you sir!

What an incredible opportunity this has been. It’s definitely a first in my seven years of marshaling that I found a team that welcomed me as well as these folks. I am so grateful!

Needless to say I would love to be back and work with them again, and I hope they will extend more opportunities to me in the future.

What a great bunch of people to volunteer with!

I can’t say enough good things… except:

Thank you for Daytona 24 hour!

Thank you for St. Pete Grand Prix

And thank you very much for Sebring 12 hour!

See you next time….

65th Running of the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring the Debrief

My third consecutive Florida event comes to a close, rounding up an excellent run with Central Florida Region working as a pit marshal.

A lot to talk about this event, many pictures to share in addition to the individual posts I’ve already made from this event, so bear with me and hopefully I don’t leave any details out.

First things first, I can’t say enough how fantastic it was to work on the Pit Marshal crew. What a rush and a privilege it was to be there. Completely different atmosphere and experience to Turns 13 and 15 that I worked at my past Sebring events.

That said the days were extremely long, with the shortest being just under 12 hours and the longest being something like 15 or 16 hours, it was thoroughly exhausting.

But there was lots to see and I was in the prime location to see it. There was lots of downtime also, and a crew that encouraged me to take breaks which was really nice. Even the club allowed us to take pictures as long as we don’t offer them for sale in the end, so the atmosphere was extremely welcoming and positive.

I couldn’t believe just how close I could be to cars and teams, working closely with the IMSA officials, doing whatever overflow work they threw our way. It was simply awesome.

My position in Pit In. The concern was cars coming out of the paddock and jumping out on pit lane, our job was to make sure we gave them a clear lane, or held them up if another car was coming into pit lane from the track, at speed. There were times when teams brought out cars way early ahead of their practice sessions, which was neat because I could snap a shot or two before we were on duty.

This is the Pit Out post. Compared to Pit In, it was far more relaxing. Less work to do, and a far less crowded spot overall. No spectators to deal with. No speeding cars competing for the same real estate. The Sebring weekend started out super cold, temps were in the upper 30’s in the morning, which was a shocker compared to St. Pete GP the previous week. But luckily I was prepared having left a bag full of clothes in Florida after the freezing times at Daytona 24h and the Roar before the 24.

One of the IMSA guys allowed me to go on the grid some time before the practice session started to get some close-ups o the Mazda RT24-P

At the end of the session, there was significant downtime… and an opportunity for a few shots of cars exiting to the paddock.

Some shots from the Porsche GT3 Cup

Notice the visible design difference between the First generation 991 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car and the Second gen models… The lower grill design was \…./ like this on the 1st gen, and /…..\ like so on the 2nd gen. The running lights and tail lights are also different.

Since our bathrooms for Pit Out were on the end of the paddock, on my break I wondered down to see some of the set ups there.

A lovely Mazda MX-5 RF outside the Mazda Motorsports rigs, unfortunately team Mazda were very stingy this time with their swag. There was no Mazda Owners Lounge at this race, and the few people I asked said that Mazda is taking a different direction now, without going into detail.

Has Mazda pulled back on their previously generous owner appreciation efforts?  No more hats, t-shirts, etc. for those Mazda fans rooting for the Mazda DPi?

It was a bit weird, to say the least… the only Mazda swag I did manage to snag came from the lower Mazda racing series in the Mazda Prototype Challenge running the old IMSA Lites cars and the not-Mazda engined 5 liter V8 LMP3 cars.

Anyway…

Mazda RT24-P performance was sad to watch this event. The #70 car brought out our first caution of the race plowing into the tire wall at Turn 17… but all LMP2 cars struggled including the other DPi cars based on the LMP2 like the #2 and #22 Nissan Nismo Patron cars. The #52 Oreca and even the Multimatic sister car of the Mazda’s, the #90 Visit Florida car spend a lot of time in the garages during the race. They really should consider renaming the series Cadillac Sports Car Championship.

The other disappointing thing came from CFR and their pitiful attempts at food services. Some of it absolutely sucked. I can’t believe I ate ham for three days in a row, same meat masked with different bread each time, but essentially the same thing over and over. The worst was a serving of some mystery soup that hardened by the time it was served. I wanted to give it a chance, but a few spoonfuls later I realized the chemical taste wasn’t going to do my body any good, and like the rest of the people on my team threw it away…. luckily though the Patron VIP Suites nearby were very generous with their leftovers and threw the crew at turn 17 a bone, bringing tray fulls of delicious gourmet food, from steak to fish, to pasta and sausages… we pigged out on the good stuff!

WTF?!?!

MMmmmmmmmm…….sooo tasty!

Why can’t CFR hire the same catering crew?

Is it the money? Come on, put my hefty $95 annual membership fee to a better use, eh?…

Thank you Patron for your generous scraps! For such long days on track good food sure made it more enjoyable to participate.

And by long days I really mean very long days… from dawn to dusk and beyond, with night practices and eventually the night race.

I was so tired most of the time I crashed as soon as I got to the camp site… luckily again I have my tent that lives in Florida now, with a comfy sleeping bag, an air mattress and an extra comforter so despite the cold I managed to sleep like a baby every night. The next day started the same as it finished, with more beautiful race cars roaring on track.

I had enough downtime to wander down to turn 17 as the grid was popullating for the Conti race.

Oh look… Miata!

Oh look… more delicious food from Patron!

Park Ferme, and the Dekra scruitineering set up near Turn 17.

Friday night dinner with the CFR was a bit low key… not much in a way of swag, but I got a good keepsake, a CFR Race Official hat! And of course some much desired Mazda lanyards.

And so another race in the books… thanks to all that made this one a memorable one for me. I totally appreciate the opportunity!

Post Card from the Sebring 12 Hour Grid for the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Series

One of my favorite things to do at a race event is to browse through the pre-race grid and take some photos (legally since we as marshals are not allowed to otherwise most of the time). It’s a great opportunity to see the cars assembled fully ready to race. It’s also a chance to mingle with the crowds of spectators doing the same thing you are and trying not to get their shadows into your shots (which is almost impossible in a sunny place like Sebring).

But here they are, and it was an exhilarating experience to be a part of. I’m so glad the crowds were huge, and that the weather cooperated fully. It was much warmer on race day, very sunny and very good for some close racing (in GTLM and GTD fields anyway).

The beauty of working in Pit Lane was the close proximity I had to walk to start my shift during the race. Super convenient and truly enjoyable experience once the race started. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and hope there will be more to come in the future.

Old Stuff at Sebring 12h: Conti Challenge Miatas

One thing that hasn’t changed in ages about IMSA is the NC Miatas racing in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge… in fact the cars precede IMSA’s current Continental Tire Challenge altogether since they used to run and kick ass in the Grand Am Conti Tire Series.

As someone that likes new and shiny things I’d complain about something so clearly stale and out of date. But since these cars look exactly the same as my own Miata, I love seeing them race. In fact I’m glad to see the NC Miata’s still racing in such high profile series, probably the best, the top, sports car racing series in America.

Again I was lucky enough to take some shots on my break from working in the pits…

and again on the grid prior to their race:

The cars were a bit off pace from the leaders. The Murillo Miata acted as a Piñata with multiple GS class cars smashing into it from the very beginning of the race onwards. The Freedom Autosport Miata once again acted as a hero and pushed an ST class Cayman over the finish line (much like pushing his teammate at COTA).

Also the #34 Murillo Racing is obviously the restickered #34 of Alara Racing Miata from last season. Funny how cars change hands. And another peculiar thing about this race car, notice the parts car in their paddock space… despite the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge stickers, that is a TCA car from the competing Pirelli World Challenge series…