Tag Archives: Japan

Aloha! Hawai’i

I often rant and rave about how much I love South Florida. After spending more than a week in Honolulu however, I’m afraid I’ve found my new favorite domestic destination.

O’ahu, Hawai’i is da business!

Sure it’s far. And it’s quite expensive. But man is it amazing!!!

My trip wasn’t exactly a fairytale vacation, as much as I tried, but I’m happy how the things I planned out actually worked. And therefore I’m excited to share the experience with others. If you are travelling with small children like I was, this is some advice you may be interested in (I know when I searched it wasn’t terribly straightforward to figure out best things to do and see, but here it goes from my point of view).

First things first… to pay for the flight I burned some airline miles. The cost: 20,000 each way, per person with American Airlines. Kids younger than two may fly free as a lap child. Older than 2 pay the full adult rate. It’s a long freaking flight, and in my case we had a connection in Dallas which was frustratingly tight. For some reason on our Dallas – Honolulu flight AA served sandwiches in addition to typical domestic freebies like chips and soda. I mention this because typically domestic flights don’t offer free food. But it seems AA matched what Hawaiian Airlines offers. I flew Hawaiian Airlines to Honolulu twice before, both on AAdvantage miles. First time I didn’t get to even leave the HNL airport transiting on a flight from South Korea to US, and second time I had an overnight layover (less than 24 hours in paradise) transiting from US to Australia, again flying Hawaiian Airlines.

Upon arrival we were determined to take a taxi to the hotel because it was cheaper than renting a car or booking some kind of shuttle. However, once we got our luggage I noticed the 10 mile ride to the city was to take over an hour because of rush-hour traffic, we ended up taking the $16/person shuttle bus. The last time I visited Honolulu and took a shuttle to my hostel I remember it costing more, but for whatever reason things have changed and now there are full size Roberts Hawaii buses running every 15 minutes serving the airport. As an aside there was a $7/person shuttle van stationed outside Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel but I wasn’t quite sure how they operated. Our bus was super convenient. Generally I would recommend the shuttle for convenience sake.

Another aside, we did rent a car. Twice! But I chose to do individual one-day rentals. Once in the middle of the trip to take a ride around O’ahu (North Shore) and another on our last day, to sightsee and drive back to the airport for our late night flight. The car rentals were expensive. First I booked a $50 van from Thrifty on Saturday (and a $60 SUV from Hertz on same day as a backup which I cancelled), and then a large SUV for $123 bux from Hertz which included two car seats on Friday the day of departure.

More about sightseeing later. But more importantly about our hotel choice. As mentioned previously Hawaii is expensive, very expensive! In 2016 when I overnighted in Honolulu on my flight to the Pacific I paid over  $30 for a bed in a hostel. The hotel we chose for this trip was almost ten times as much! We chose Hyatt Place for three reasons: 1. Location was perfect, a block from Kuhio Beach and Honolulu Zoo, 2. Free breakfast which was delicious for the first three days but then it was repeated over and over which lost its appeal and 3. No $25/daily resort fee which most other hotels charged… which is very expensive!

Forgot to mention I booked the Hyatt thru Hotels.com and not directly. Why? Because it was cheaper and there were more perks. Hotels.com Rewards program offers One night free after Ten night stay. Which means after 10 nights at $275/night you get $275 credit towards another future Hotels.com booking. You don’t need to spend it on a single night, it goes towards your future hotel bill for that value which could obviously be multiple night booking. I bought Hotels.com gift cards to pay for our stay saving roughly 10% or almost $300 bux on the final bill. And used BeFrugal.com rebate site to buy gift cards and book the hotel, which yielded almost another $100 off. In all we saved roughly $700 on our pricey hotel. Was it worth it? The savings, yes! But the hotel could have cost less for what it was. That said all Waikiki hotels are overpriced.

Best part of the Hyatt Place it was convenient in many ways and I would highly recommend it. Of the 10 day vacation we only had 1 full day of rain which happened the day before we left so we got extremely lucky. But everything was walking distance from where we stayed and that was super convenient. The Zoo was close and we did it on a cloudy day until it cleared up and then kids went back to the beach. In fact most days we went to the beach twice a day. Kuhio Beach is amazing with perfectly still clear water because of a man made breaker, it was so awesome for me and the kids to go swimming in.

Food was amazing outside of the free hotel breakfast. Lots of Asian options. Plenty of American fast food too. Lots of different price points for food. I preferred the cheaper truck food options which were between $10 to $15 a plate. While the restaurants, like one of the Sushi places, or the traditional Hawaiian place Da Ono dishes were over $20 for anything bigger than pu pu’s  (small tapas like plates). I’ll add some restaurant and food truck recommendations later on to this post.

Sightseeing wise, Waikiki Beach is totally walkable and we tried to walk a lot. For lunches and dinners and for shopping. There’s lots of luxurious stores and malls, much like a long Orchard Road in Singapore. But also some good hole in a wall places too. We walked as far as Ala Moana mall for its court, but also to get discounted supplies at Walgreens because closer supermarkets were not cheap for stuff like diapers.

Long distance sightseeing, I quite enjoyed our Saturday single day car rental to go the long way around to the North Shore. I took the cheap city bus to the airport, it was  $2.75/each way or $5.50/day pass.. it took about an hour. Best part I didn’t have to worry about parking overnight, which again wasn’t cheap. The route we followed was simple, counter-clockwise around the island going east, northeast and then back the same way when we ran out of daylight. We saw the blowhole, the lighthouse, the Chinamans hat, macadamia nut farm, horse farm, green turtle beach, etc. Only the Dole plantation was missed out so we left it and the waterfall to the last day. Traffic was bad around rush-hour because of single lane traffic when not on the highway, but overall it was manageable. Speed limits are quite low around the island. Most highway speeds are limited to 45mph and I almost got caught speeding by motorcycle cops near the airport on our way back to catch the flight, that took me by surprise (the bike cops) so be careful.

I’ll fill this post in with details over time with more recommendations, but I definitely want to encourage others to consider Hawaii as a destination because it really is such an amazing place. I want to go back for sure…

PS. It snowed 6+ inches the day after we got home, so yeah… I wish we stayed longer.

Hawaii Monthly Miata Meet at Pearlridge Center

The stars aligned just right to allow me to check out the monthly Thursday night meet-up of Hawaii Miata owners on O’ahu on my Waikiki vacation…

It’s my young nephews first Hawaii vacation, and for a moment I was thinking of bringing the older boy along, but if I did I wouldn’t have gotten a lift back to the hotel in a gorgeous low mileage Miata driven by a kind Aussie fellow who was recently posted to the islands and clearly missed his own NA back home in Australia

The fellow that sold him the American Miata – Avery, has a fleet of Miatas in Hawaii… is one of the original members of the Hawaii club and a very active SCCA solo and Rallycross member, and for me was the person that invited me to this meet up. For which I’m really grateful.

The meet happens the second Thursday of the month at Pearlridge mall not too far from Pearl Harbor… And if you’re like me trying to get there by public transport from Waikiki Beach, it’s an hour long ride on the bus, that is well worth it.

Here’s some pics from the Hawaii Miata car scene:

That wang…

Very happy to have seen the NC show up… that was sort of my goal for the night.

Also thrilled to experience this altogether, the Japanese car culture is strong in Hawaii. Besides the Miatas there were a bunch of Subies present, and a Trueno-esque Toyota… not sure if real but cool nonetheless.

Mazda Badge Engineering or… Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM)

Leaving the restaurant after celebrating my dad’s birthday my sister noticed a new Fiat 124 Spider in the parking lot and commented: “Hey, that’s a nice Miata!”

Funny that…

I explained the concept of Fiata to her and thought it would be an excellent topic to research and share in this blog. I like Mazda’s. I like their badge engineering efforts with other major companies. And having lived in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia I’ve been exposed to some of their other popular OEM agreements with Ford primarily, but also Suzuki, Nissan and most currently Toyota.

So here’s my attempt at explaining some of the “shared” platforms between Mazda and others.


Mazda & Fiat

Mazda Roadster / Mazda MX-5 – Fiat 124 Spider / Abarth 124 Spider

This is my favorite tie up because obviously the MX-5 started my relationship with Mazda and at some point I would love to buy a Fiat just for variety’s sake.


Mazda & Ford

Mazda BT-50 – Mazda B-series – Ford Ranger

Mazda Tribute – Ford Escape

I almost bought a Ford Escape once to replace our family’s aging Ford Explorer. Tribute would have been an option before I decided to focus my search on CX-7 & CX-5

Ford owned a big chunk of Mazda so there were lots of badge engineered vehicles. They go so far back I can’t even find pretty pictures to display here, so I’ll just list them all:

  • Ford Escape – Mazda Tribute
  • Ford Explorer – Mazda Navajo
  • Ford Courier – Mazda B-series
  • Ford Ranger – Mazda BT-50
  • Ford Probe – Mazda MX-6
  • Ford Fiesta – Mazda Soho (Africa)
  • Ford Fiesta – Mazda 121 (Europe)
  • Ford Fiesta – Mazda 2
  • Ford Fiesta – Mazda Demio
  • Ford i-MAX – Mazda 5
  • Ford i-MAX – Mazda Premacy
  • Ford Ixion – Mazda Premacy
  • Ford MAV – Mazda Premacy

 

Mazda Demio – Mazda2 – Ford Fiesta

Mazda Premacy – Mazda5 – Ford Ixion – Ford MAV

Mazda Premacy – Mazda5 – Ford i-MAX

It’s worth noting that Mazda uses different model names based on the market. Therefore a Demio is also Mazda2 which replaced Mazda 121 of the past.


Mazda & Toyota

Mazda Demio – Mazda2  – Scion iA – Toyota Yaris iA

This is the most recent relationship with the world’s largest car manufacturer which started off as a Scion brand that Toyota decided to fold into the parent company and now it’s the Yaris replacement. An odd scenario considering how many Yaris & Echo’s Toyota sold on it’s own over the past many years of making the little cars. Why outsource this production to Mazda now?


Mazda & Suzuki

Mazda AZ-1 / Autozam AZ-1 / Suzuki Cara

The Suzuki – Mazda relationship stretches back many generations. Including their famous AZ-1 / Cara project which was marketed under Mazda’s Autozam nameplate. Besides Autozam Mazda also launched Eunos which was originally one to market the Roadster in Japan known as MX-5 Miata everywhere else. Amati and efini brands which were meant to be the luxury divisions of Mazda much like Lexus was to Toyota, Acura to Honda or Infiniti to Nissan. Ford had it’s Lincoln brand and Cadillac did the trick for GM long before.

The list of Mazda – Suzuki mini-micro kei car collaborations:

  • Suzuki Every Wagon – Autozam Scrum – Mazda Scrum
  • Suzuki  Carry – Autozam Scrum – Mazda Scrum
  • Suzuki Wagon R – Autozam AZ Wagon – Mazda AZ Wagon
  • Suzuki Kei – Mazda Laputa
  • Suzuki Alto – Mazda Carol
  • Suzuki Lapin – Mazda Spiano
  • Suzuki Jimmy – Mazda AZ Offroad
  • Suzuki Vitara – Mazda Proceed Levante
  • Suzuki Ertiga – Proton Ertiga – Mazda VX-1

 

Autozam Scrum – Mazda Scrum – Suzuki Every Wagon

Autozam Scrum – Mazda Scrum – Suzuki Carry

Autozam AZ Wagon – Mazda AZ Wagon – Suzuki Wagon R

Mazda Laputa – Suzuki Kei 

Mazda Carol – Suzuki Alto

Mazda Carol – Suzuki Alto

Mazda Spiano – Suzuki Lapin

Mazda Spiano – Suzuki Lapin

Mazda AZ Offroad – Suzuki Jimmy

Mazda Proceed Levante – Suzuki Vitara

Mazda Proceed Levante – Suzuki Vitara

Mazda VX-1 ~ Suzuki Ertiga ~ Proton Ertiga

I could be wrong but it seems to me that Mazda rebadged every Suzuki made on the Japanese market. Which is interesting…


Mazda & Nissan

 Mazda Premacy – Mazda5 – Nissan Lafesta Highway STAR

Mazda Bongo – Nissan Vanette

Mazda Bongo – Nissan Vanette Truck

Mazda Familia Van – Nissan AD Expert

The Mazda Nissan relationship seems very interesting in that Mazda builds the Lafesta minivan for Nissan, along with the commercial Bongo rebadged to Nissan’s Vanette models. But Nissan provides the rebadged AD Expert marketed by Mazda as a Familia Van… Mazda’s Familia in Japan is marketed as Mazda 323, Mazda Protegé and more recently Mazda3 or Mazda Axela and none of the Mazda models look anything like the Nissan version… but, whatever works!


Mazda & Kia

Mazda Sentia – Kia Enterprise

This luxobarge was a rebadged Mazda for the Korean market before Kia/Huyndai started getting all fancy with their own big car designs.

Besides this product there was also Kia Pride which was a rebadged Ford Festiva just like Mazda 121 and Mazda Soho.


Mazda & Holden

This is going way back but Mazda used to sell Australian Holden’s in Japan as Mazda Roadpacer – rebadged from Holden Premier. Apparently Holden shipped the whole car minus an engine where Mazda shoved a rotary under the hood and put it on the market. It was not terribly successful.

 


Mazda & Isuzu

The next Mazda pick-up truck will be a rebadged Isuzu. Currently Isuzu and GM have a partnership where Isuzu’s rebadged D-Max trucks sell as Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon.

 

I will update this page as I find more Mazda collaborations out there.

What Should My 15th Country To Marshal Be?

As I’m soaking in the sunshine in South Beach, Miami admiring all these beautiful people from all over the world, I can’t help but wonder what should the Fifteenth country for me to marshal be?

It’s quite the anniversary and an accomplishment in my book, but it’s also frustrating to figure out what to do. The best course of action, so to speak.

So what are my options?

I’ll start with what I’d like my options to be, and it’s something I’ve written about before. And they are the most unlikely places that I’d really like to marshal but that haven’t allowed me to marshal there yet. And they include Macau and Japan. Macau or Macao would be amazing to experience the Guia Circuit (which I’ve visited as a tourist before) during the Macau Grand Prix where all sorts of Motorsport takes to the street course over the same weekend, including Open wheel cars, Touring cars, and Motorcycles. That would be fantastic, but unlikely because 1. I don’t speak Cantonese to work there, 2. I don’t live in Hong Kong or Macau and don’t have the appropriate work visa to volunteer and 3. I cannot make any of their training sessions to qualify as a local volunteer, and they’re not open to visiting marshals which is a shame. It’s a similar situation in Japan to volunteer for the SuperGT series at Suzuka for example for Pokka 1000 which I thought would be a really cool event. Main issue there is I don’t speak Japanese and none of the locals are keen to babysit a foreign marshal even though there are Japanese marshals that travel to other countries to volunteer, they don’t reciprocate.

I have considered reaching out to the Bahraini marshals to see if I could join them for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. That seems like a destination that would be quite memorable to visit. But I don’t know how likely they are to accept me as a volunteer.

Recently I considered Mexico as a convenient place to go to next. I’ve worked with a number of Mexican officials at the Long Beach GP, the Canadian and US GP’s and other events in the US. But when I reached out to my Mexican contacts I was made to understand that it was “impossible” to volunteer in Mexico because they were oversubscribed on marshals as soon as their GP was announced. Bummer!

Perhaps Brazil would be a logical choice? Well, the only thing that has stopped me from going to Latin America so far is the outrageous VISA fees. I can’t imagine paying $160 or $180 dollars for a visa when I normally don’t spend that much on flights. So that’s not really at the top of my list thus far.

So the logical choices that I’m left with are the Netherlands or Austria which both host a series I am extremely interested in: DTM. I would love to do the German touring car series in either one of the countries because I’ve already made contacts with both organizers and have worked with plenty of Dutch and some Austrian marshals to know I would be able to manage my volunteering trip there quite easily and conveniently. But which one should I focus on?

That’s the dilemma I’m faced with before I walk a few steps to the amazingly warm waters of the Atlantic and float around for another hour enjoying the opportunity I jumped on to book a cheap flight. Note to self, I ought to sign up for the Miami ePrix to have a better excuse to come back to South Florida to marshal Formula E, although last year that opportunity seemed quite hush hush, because only select few were invited, treated well with hotels that the organizers provided and payment for their work, which is pretty unusual in US volunteering…. maybe that’s why I wasn’t invited?

Flights Booked to a Wedding in Bangkok and Sepang 12h Piggybacked on That Trip

Just a few days ago I was day dreaming how nice it would be to go back to Southeast Asia after almost two years of being away, and I found a perfect excuse to commit to it: my FlyerTalker friend Brian is marrying a beautiful Thai girl in Bangkok a week before Sepang 12h.

Score!

This is going to be such an amazing journey I can’t find words.

This is also the first time I’ve paid for a flight to Southeast Asia, all of my previous trips, and there were plenty of them, were booked using frequent flyer miles. But with two Euro Trips this year and a trip to the Pacific next year I’ve blown through my frequent flyer / loyalty program budgets, on most airlines.

Luckily “The Flight Deal” facebook group alerted me to a reasonable deal on United Airlines to fly between Newark, NJ and Bangkok for just $684 bux. I figured getting from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur shouldn’t be too pricey but just for giggles I checked open jaw flights arriving Bangkok on this deal and leaving from KL, the price was only $27 bux difference which is less than what a low-cost airline would charge on that route, so I booked directly with United EWR-NRT-BKK and KUL-NRT-EWR for the trip back. The stop over in Tokyo introduces a new airline and a new aircraft I haven’t flown before: ANA Airlines and the Beoing 787 Dreamliner. Very cool!

great circle mapper ewr-nrt-bkk kul-nrt-ewr
original route: EWR-NRT-BKK and KUL-NRT-EWR  | map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper: http://www.gcmap.com/

UPDATE (8/16): by the time I got home from work other (cheaper) options opened up. So I cancelled my booking, since it was within the 24 hour period that a customer is able to change his/her mind, and re-booked my flight to go ANA from JFK-NRT-BKK and then Shanghai Air from KUL-PVG my first visit to Shanghai. I will have a 9 hour layover there and fly United back to Newark PVG-EWR. All in all pretty happy with the ability to visit three of Asia’s most amazing cities: Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai for $707! Of course I’ll be sure to add Singapore to the mix with one of the low-cost carriers.


great circle mapper jfk-nrt-bkk kul-pvg-ewr
new route: JFK-NRT-BKK and KUL-PVG-EWR | map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper: http://www.gcmap.com/

Now I’m left to determine what to do in Bangkok for about four days before the wedding, find my way down to Kuala Lumpur the week after, and squeeze a side trip into Singapore for a day or two. Easy!

I’m amazed with all the low-cost airline options that are now available on the route from BKK to KUL/SIN. Air Asia and Thai Air Asia fly it. Jetstar Asia, Tigerair, and Scoot from Singapore fly it. Indonesian airline Lion Air (probably operating as Malindo Air) and Thai Lion Air fly it. And the prices are reasonable from Don Mueng Airport DMK which is a new airport for me, I’ve never used it when in Bangkok. On the legacy front there’s Bangkok Air which is an option. But most interestingly Malaysian Airlines have decent flights for cheap because of their battered reputation, I just may give them a go.

So I’m just thrilled with this development, even though I have no idea how I’m going to fork out all this money especially with flights to Texas for WEC and Georgia for Petit Le Mans area already booked, as well as the Dubai 24h trip planned, and the Pacific trip booked and paid for. I’ll have to work extra hard this summer just to stay afloat.

I’ve also posted on the Miata.net forums if any of the local MX-5 owners in Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore would like to meet up. I’d be so interested in checking out and possibly test driving a right hand drive Miata.

Stay tuned for more updates on this and other trips!

thailand

I love Southeast Asia…

A Challenge to the SuperGT Organizers to Accept a non-Japanese Marshal for One of Their Events

Why don’t some countries allow foreign marshals to participate in their events, when they clearly allow and promote foreign driver participation in the same events?

I want to marshal a SuperGT race in Japan.

And yet, the few contacts I’ve made in Japan at various circuits seem set against it to allow foreigners to marshal with the Japanese.

The photo above came from an article where the SuperGT (GTA) boss Masaaki Bandoh issued a challenge to WEC organizers to have three teams race their GT500 cars at the Fuji 6 hour event. The GT500 cars from SuperGT look far more GT-like than the LMP1 and LMP2 prototypes in the Word Endurance Championship series. According to the article the GT500’s are quicker than the pace set by the Audi R18 eTron, though slower than the Toyota or Porsche hybrids, but faster than the privateer teams like Rebellion LMP1’s. Anyhow, the quickness of the GT500 cars is irrelevant to the fact that the Japanese circuits I contacted only allow Japanese speakers to participate/volunteer in their events. Why not? Surely the multitude of foreign drivers many of them English speakers (but others whether French or German are still more likely to speak English then Japanese) don’t actually speak Japanese should they crash and need to interact with the local marshals.

Mr. Bandoh apparently didn’t stop with the challenges there, he issued another challenge to the German manufacturers to step up their game in the GT500 field (they currently participate in the GT300 field with GT3-spec machinery like the Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS, BMW Z4 GT3 or the Porsche 911 GT3). And the manufacturers are expected to comply, according to the article. Why not open up the doors to the opportunity for foreign travelling marshals to volunteer at Suzuka, or Montegi, or Fuji? It’d make perfect sense to me and plenty of other people too. I’m sure we’d all take the Japanese Automobile Federation up on their offer to work with our Japanese colleagues like we do with our German colleagues, or our French colleagues, or our Australian colleagues, etc.

I don’t speak many languages of the countries I’ve volunteered at. In Belgium French is the official language of the circuit, but many of the marshals, including many Belgians, speak Flemish. There were plenty of Dutch marshals there too. Plenty of Brits. Plenty of Czech’s, etc. I’m sure most of them don’t speak French but we all got along nicely and worked professionally as expected. I didn’t speak French working at Le Mans. I didn’t speak German working at the Nurburgring. French was one of the official languages in Canada even though the other official language was English. I didn’t speak fluent Singlish to work the Singapore GP. Definitely didn’t speak Bahasa Malaysia working at the Sepang Circuit. Or Korean working in South Korea. Point being, I don’t speak most of the foreign languages at places I have volunteered successfully. But I did my job the way I was supposed to, and I would love to return to work there again and again.

The excuse that the local language is required to work an event isn’t valid, and it’s a shame that the Japanese circuits I contacted use. Surely there are some marshals there who speak some English and I would partner up with to work under their supervision and some translation when necessary.

I suspect that the reason we get rejected as foreign marshals is that the Japanese organizers don’t want to babysit a foreigner. It’s a lot easier to say “NO!” than to accept a marshal and than have to worry about a myriad of questions like where that person should stay (lodging), how he should get to the track (transportation), what that person must eat and how prepared he should be (food). Communication in general. Following the dress code. Having a helmet that fits. etc. It’s much harder to say “YES!”

But I wish they would.

If there is anyone in Japan that would help me facilitate my wish to volunteer at one of the SuperGT events at Fuji, Montegi, Suzuka or any other track, please get in touch. I would probably need your help translating the application (and the whole process indeed). Some advice about transportation getting to the track, on time. Where to eat, where to sleep, etc. It would be most helpful!

One day I will do SuperGT… it’s at the top of my wish list,  like DTM!

 

Link to the quoted article: http://www.racecar-engineering.com/news/super-gt-challenges-lmp1-dtm-to-fuji-showdown/

The Wishlist

With a crappy station assignment for the upcoming USGP in Austin the thoughts of “is it still worth it?” loom as I’m about to depart for Texas early next week. Of course it is! One potentially disappointing trip will not deter me from continuing to volunteer. Especially when there is something better to look forward to. This post therefore is my “Wishlist” – the events and places I would really like to marshal in the near future, in no particular order.

I believe I have narrowed the list down to just five (5) items. However before I proceed to list them, I should cover a few places and events that, while I’d love to volunteer I probably most definitely could. And some that I have lost interest in for a variety of reasons. This should illustrate the way I look on volunteering at this point in time, which would be an interesting concept to revisit at a later date especially to compare how feelings change with time and experience.

kirribilli australia sydney

To start, there are a few places I’d really really really like to marshal. High atop that list is the Spa 24 hour race – the feature event of the Blancpain Endurance Series (BEC) at the famous Spa-Francochamps circuit in Belgium. I can totally see myself going there if only I could get all the ducks in correct order. Malaysia Merdeka 12 hour endurance is definitely high on that list of races I “could” marshal also. I love Malaysia! I love everything about it and cannot wait to work with my friends again in Sepang. And to visit Thailand or Singapore on the way over there. The Bathurst 1000 would be nice to do, because it too is the pinnacle of Australian V8 Supercars series. I have yet to do the Dubai 24 hour race, my first visit to the UAE made a great impression and I genuinely look forward to returning one day.

The “would be nice” list:

f-belgium Spa 24 hour Blancpain Series at Circuit Spa-Francochamps

f-malaysia Malaysia Merdeka Asian GT at Sepang International Circuit

f-australia Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars at Mount Panorama

f-uae Dubai 24 hour at the Dubai Autodrome

f-hungary Hungarian Grand Prix F1 at Hungaroring

There are also events which I would NOT bother pursuing. Chiefly among them is Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I feel that way not just because it was a total pain in the ass experience the last time I attempted to put my name on the volunteer list there. But mainly because there are much better events at the Yas Marina Circuits that I would focus on. And to be honest I would return to do the Gulf 12 hour in a heartbeat, because I really enjoyed the circuit and the racing the last time I worked there. Monaco Grand Prix is also not on my list at all, even though everyone suggests it as a “dream” destination. I wouldn’t event attempt it, not just because it would require to learn French, lose a lot of weight and have to audition through a very physical obstacle course with a heavy fire bottle on my shoulders. That actually sounds like fun. But more importantly because of the arrogant atmosphere surrounding the recruitment process and the perceived recruitment processes spread like fire word of mouth at events I’ve participated at already. I have found myself enjoying Sports Car events far more than I do Formula 1. I would however, totally do a new (to me) F1 circuit like the Hungaroring especially since I was invited directly to participate there. Similarly, I would love to volunteer at the Virginia International Raceway (VIR) since I’ve been invited to marshal there many times now. But the one event I would like to start with isn’t actually open  to volunteers like me and instead is handled by VIR employees which bumps this track off my wishlist.

The “no thanks” list:

f-uae Abu Dhabi Grand Prix F1 at Yas Marina Circuit

f-monaco Monaco Grand Prix F1 at the Monaco Street Circuit

f-usa Oak Tree Grand Prix TUSC at Virginia Int’l Raceway

singapore

I think since I started my marshaling hobby in Singapore, there are two prominent places on “The Wishlist” in Asia and both have rejected me. But, I will not be deterred and aspiring to volunteer there will hopefully get me a more welcoming result in the future. As I’ve mentioned before since Western teams eagerly participate in the series there, there’s no reason for a non-local to marshal there either. So without further ado, I present to you…

The Wishlist:

f-macau The Macau Grand Prix – Guia Street Circuit is a very desirable destination for me personally. I have visited, driven on (albeit on a shuttle bus) and walked the actual street circuit used for this fantastic event. It is one of two country Grand Prix in the world that are not affiliated with Formula 1. And I have done the other one already, which just happens to be New Zealand Grand Prix. It is also one of the few events in the world featuring both car and bike races over the same weekend. Not only that but you have sports cars, open wheelers and motorcycles using the same circuit to compete. Talk about variety!

f-japan Pokka 1000 – Suzuka Circuit also turned me down because I don’t speak a lick of Japanese. Boo Hoo… Despite a very international field of drivers participating in this SuperGT endurance race who like me, probably don’t speak a lick of Japanese either. But what a fantastic event it is. You’ve got the best of Japanese technology on display with the GT500 field and a healthy mix of European and Asian tech in the GT300 field. Would totally love to be there one day wearing orange overalls and a white helmet with a big smile on my face.

f-germany DTM! The German spec supercar series is like a dream to marshal even though everyone I have spoken with about it, suggests that the atmosphere is reduced to Formula 1 style dictatorship where everything is controlled and mostly forbidden by the organizers. The good news, my not speaking German would not be a deal breaker. So there’s a shimmer of hope and a strong desire to volunteer for a DTM race in it’s current glory before it is completely changed… (like the upcoming races for the Australian V8 Supercars series). Worst case scenario I could probably marshal DTM without a language barrier at the Moscow Raceway. But I’d prefer Germany.

f-brazil Stockcar! The Brazilian Stockcar is no NASCAR of South America. While a Chevy Sonic or a Peugeot 206 stuffed with a big V8 obviously differentiates it from the American Toyota Camry, watching clips of the Brazilian races on YouTube makes me want to participate. Sure the language would be a problem, but much like Germany I think the locals would be welcoming and allow me to play. The location doesn’t particularly matter to me, though Interlagos in São Paulo would be an obvious choice for a number of sentimental reasons. One day I shall make it happen.

f-southafrica The African 6 hour. There’s something about South Africa that really intrigues me. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a bunch of people from there at various Australian, New Zealand and British events (and by British I will lump the Gulf 12 hour into this experience as the busload of Brits were imported to marshal at Yas Marina circuit specifically for that event). And I can’t wait to visit the actual country and some of their famous circuits. There was a time when even Formula 1 ran there, but with current level of competition between Asian, Middle East and American circuits… it seems SA has been forgotten. The African 6 hour keeps the legacy alive, featuring a good grassroots level machines from Sports Cars to Prototypes in a form of I guess Radicals and home grown variety. I really want to go there and join the team in orange at least once in the near future.

Singapore F1 Grand Prix & Southeast Asia

I am absolutely exhausted, not sure whether its from the 20+ hour flight home from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia via Tokyo, Japan… or from the two weeks of non-stop travelling around Southeast Asia visiting Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket, Bangkok and Tokyo. I did have fun however, especially at Singtel Singapore F1 GP.

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I have to say that not everything went absolutely honkey dorey, but things ran like clockwork and I am extremely proud of that achievement. I’ll share the ups and downs below:

1. The day trip to Singapore went super well, I got a chance to drop off my carry-on at my host David’s house, take a refreshing shower, and visit my best friend Vivian on this trip.

2. Two day visit to Kuala Lumpur went extremely well. My host was a wonderful person near Batu Caves, and a number of other Couch Surfers showed up for my foodie night.

3. Two days in Phuket, Thailand went exceptionally well. I loved my rental car, as much as I loved the villa I stayed in with another Couch Surfer.

4. Two days in Bangkok, Thailand went OKAY. Not fantastic but by no means bad either. My hosts were great European expats, shame I missed an opportunity to meet locals.

5. Singapore F1 GP went exceptionally well also, though I was a bit frustrated that for some reason this year I was treated more like an outsider compared to last year.

6. Final day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was an absolute blast. Another sightseeing foodie tour saw a number of people come join and we had a hell of a time together.

7. I decided to clear customs and immigration to get some sushi at Narita Airport in Tokyo Though after a little while I felt like a zombie, so sleepy.

Overall, it was a memorable trip. Though obviously things could have gone better.

There’s always next year 🙂

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Flights booked for MotoGP at Indy

Spending a week in Detroit with a sick car and no particular place to go sightseeing as I’ve pretty much done it already on my last two visits here in the past two months I had plenty of time to research my options for the trip to the Red Bull Indianapolis GP / Moto GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a few weeks. I’m happy to say I’ll be flying. I’m also quite happy I found a nice deal on American Airlines though not directly to IND – Indianapolis International Airport, still cheaper than flying there direct. Some may find it crazy but with the savings on different route options out there I’ll instead fly to DTW – Detroit Wayne County International. Rent a car, and drive 4 hours down to Indy. I’ve done the drive before, spent about $60 on fuel round trip, so it should work out in the end. Car rentals in Detroit have been reasonable of late, in fact I paid something along the lines of $17 a day during my last visit here in May for the Detroit Belle Isle GP. Granted checking it today the cheapest rental is $42 a day but I’ll keep checking and searching for discounts. No matter what the car I’ll have won’t have a coolant leaking problem like my personal car does at the moment which was driving me crazy all the way on my last road trip there.

A few more trips left to book for the future include NYC-ATL for Petit LeMans in October which would also involve a rental car, and NYC-AUS for United States F1 GP in November.

Some other flights I have booked already, though using frequent flyer miles, include the NYC-SIN trip on Singapore Airlines A380 for the Singapore F1 GP. Which are actually JFK-FRA-SIN-KUL a positioning flight after a 10 hour layover in Singapore to drop off my luggage. Before proceeding to Kuala Lumpur where I have several flights booked to celebrate my 30th birthday in Thailand while I am back to Southeast Asia. I will be flying KUL-HKT-BKK-SIN, with two days spent in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, two days in Phuket, Thailand and two days in Bangkok, Thailand before returning to Singapore for the Formula 1 race. On the way home I’ll return to Kuala Lumpur for the night on a cheap Air Asia freebie flight where I only paid tax and fuel surcharge (gotta love those quick SIN-KUL flights) then connect to JAL – Japan Air Lines flight KUL-NRT-JFK with another stop over in Tokyo Narita airport (to pick up some more cool Japanese gifts for my folks at home).

Looking forward to some more flying again. I really miss New Zealand and Asia where I was flying at least once every week, sometimes more. (One crazy week this March I spend flying every day on various day trips, with two flights per day from Auckland and back, that was nuts!)