Tag Archives: Lexus

Rolex 24 hours at Daytona the debrief

Endurance racing is my favorite form of Motorsport. This year’s Rolex 24 had the potential to be very special because in the middle of last season one of my Canadian colleagues put me in touch with an IMSA official and a prospect of a real job (even if it was on a part-time basis) to work events that I really love as a race official. I had my fingers and toes crossed even as December rolled around but the job did not materialize… The 2018 season though seemed to be off to an exciting start with lots of “new” cars/teams/drivers joining the series, so I scrambled to book my flights and went as a volunteer instead.

For the race I got my pit lane assignment directly across from folks whose team I was hoping to join. But instead of doing something important with a real impact on the competition, I spent five days trackside spectating. It was excellent entertainment being so close until the race rolled around when it became pretty obvious that much of the previous year will repeat itself and Cadillacs will dominate. The excitement wore off.

The most interesting racing was in the GT Daytona field so I paid special attention to that battle. In prototypes the lead car was several laps ahead of second place at one point. And in GT Le Mans Fords ran away with pace Corvette couldn’t match, they too were several laps ahead. It was sad to watch the BMW M8’s be so uncompetitive. And the Porsche RSR team didn’t seem to have it’s kamikaze pilots from last year. Oh well!

At the end of the race records were broken, champions were crowned, and Rolex watches handed out as prizes. Who cares though? The predictability of the outcome made things boring. Hey, at least the weather was good!

Luckily, the 24h wasn’t the only race of the weekend. I feel like I got my money’s worth going on this trip from the two support series. The Ferrari Challenge folks put on a grand battle, and with 40+ cars on the grid it was awesome to see the series alive and well after seeing it’s sorry state in Connecticut last time I volunteered for it at Lime Rock.

Similarly Continental Tire Challenge rocked! I loved the battles there in all the classes. Nice to see TC R cars slide in so well into the grid, though a little sad not to see Miatas in ST class.

So in conclusion it was a good trip for a good clean race. A bit disapointing because of lack of excitement but I departed satisfied. And since I’m having trouble finding paid work, it’s likely this event will be one of my last times volunteering until I get the means to afford it again in the future. Too bad I wasn’t good enough to be hired by the series so I could continue doing what I really like to do, but such is life…

Grid Walk Post Card from Michelin GT Challenge Biscuitville Grand Prix IMSA at VIR

There was one car that caught my eye this race weekend at VIR: the burgundy red Acura NSX GT3 of Michael Shank Racing. I’m not a huge Honda fan or an NSX fan in general, I liked their patriotic Fourth of July liveries too, but this red wrap really stood out… and I found myself always checking up on that car… checking it out. I was lucky that since I got to work as pit fire marshal one of my responsibilities was the Acura pit box, and their hauler was parked directly across from their pit box in the paddock… so there were many glimpses of that car. But of course other cars shined bright, and while the Mazda Miata’s are showing their age, I was very happy to see them race and do fairly well over the weekend.

Lots of pix of course:

I love when they send out the ice cream lady up and down pit lane, all the crews from each pit box run to her to get cooled down lol

For a little while there exotica had taken over the GS class of IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge… now with both Mustang and Camaro in GT4 form however, they are back to dominating… beating Porsche’s, McLaren’s, et al.

My other favorite car of the weekend…. sadly it didn’t do so well either, just like the NSX

and a few uniform pix working with VIR Fire Rescue:

more to come soon…

Post Card from the Northeast Grand Prix IMSA GT’s at Lime Rock

Greetings from Lime Rock!

Here’s some pix taken over the two day Northeast Grand Prix event:

Sahlen’s 6 hour at the Glen 2017 the debrief

As is usually the case, I started writing several looooong paragraphs took a deep breath and deleted them because many things I said there would get me in trouble. So instead I’ll just tone it down to this: I had a generally great experience this Independence Day/Fourth of July Weekend at Watkins Glen.

The Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen proved to be everything I expected it to be and then some. The weather could have put a damper (? not sure if that’s the right word here) on things but it didn’t. Tent stayed relatively dry. Racing was relatively good. And people I was hanging out with were super friendly. I would say I got the VIP treatment from RSI but that would imply that they somehow treated me better than they treat others, which isn’t accurate. I’m genuinely satisfied with the way everyone behaves at RSI that I come in contact with and for me that’s a huge plus, I appreciate the positive vibes and positive attitudes.

We did have a few massive smash ups that I personally got a chance to respond to. A driver left in a Medevac unit which nobody ever wants to see, several others ended up in the hospital also, and the race was red flagged. It was an incredible experience and one I will definitely learn from.

There were moments I really liked. Like all the star and stripe and patriotic liveries many cars were wearing. Some things I didn’t like… the weather – mainly. But also the performance of the Mazda prototype team which keeps playing this underdog role that they really don’t deserve anymore. It was nice to see one of the cars end up on the podium, but that happened only because so many cars didn’t finish, including the other Mazda prototype. So that’s that.

Favorite little car that was an actual underdog was this yellow NC:

It still uses NC1 tail lights… just like my car.

Interestingly enough the #25 car had a smashup this weekend running it’s traditional Freedom Autosport livery, and suddenly it re-emerged wearing #25 under Murillo Racing orange livery. Wish I had snapped a photo of it. But my station was too far to the grid so I had to boogey down in order to make the start of the race.

Here’s the previously mentioned 4th of July liveries I did manage to get a snap of:

And here’s a few cool NC Miata’s I ran across in town at Watkins Glen and at the track:

There was a convoy of about five of various vintage Miata’s parading around Watkins Glen on Wednesday that I waved to while driving in the opposite direction, but I’m not sure what club they were from or what group it was that organized that cruise… it would have been nice to join them but I saw nothing about this event posted online.

Back to the track..

I got to flag from Station 3 on Thursday which is at the top of the Esses. Station 4 on Friday which is the next station after the bridge leading up to the Bus Stop… and Station 9A at the exit of the Boot on Saturday and Sunday.

The major smash up I experienced was Porsche GT3 Cup behaving very NASCAR-like… in fact I had worked an event for NASCAR when we had an identical full-track-blockage incident on the same station. This one however was far scarier. One of the Porsche’s completely lost it’s front end… wheels, suspension, frunk… everything!

On GTD qualifying I had a weird experience with the two Lexuses. They had back to back, identical incidents within seconds of each other, where one vehicle recovered the spin with damage and the other planted it into the guard rail causing a small engine fire.

So all in all it was a pretty active weekend. Lots to see. Lots to do.

I loved it!

Thank you Watkins Glen, and I hope to see you next year.

 

Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway the debrief

This was my first Roar before the 24 at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

For a motorsport event this was an interesting one because officially there wasn’t actually any racing taking place, it was all practice sessions over a three day period. The reason for my participation is my desire to check out several of the brand new race cars making their debut this IMSA racing season. Among them of course is the Mazda DPi car. As well as the Cadillac DPi’s, and the Nissan Ligiers, and the Oreca’s and Riley’s. As well as Acura NSX GT3’s, the Lexus IS-F RC-F GT3’s (I previously referred to the Lexus as IS-F it’s actually RC-F), the new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR GTE’s, Mercedes-AMG SLS GT3’s finally debuting in America. McLaren 570S GT4’s debuting in the support series alongside Porsche Cayman GT4’s.

This post will be all the good, the bad and the ugly opinions.

The good.

Lots of cars in attendance. I’m very pleased with the Acura’s, the Lexus, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche’s, Mazda and Cadillac DPi’s and the LMP2’s from Oreca, Ligier and Riley. All those cars… it was great to see them on track shaking things down.

I’m really glad I got a few opportunities to take some pictures. It was important to me to have some good memories I can share with friends, and I call it mission accomplished. It was very good to work with my friend John all weekend, who took some awesome pix for me also. He let me crash at his house and even let me catch a ride to the track with him every day. Definitely appreciate that! CFR SCCA was excellent. We received $25 Gas Cards for every day of participation and $50 hotel credit (IOU’s) for future CFR events. (Which I think I may actually cash in during Sebring or St. Pete)

Also really happy to run into other flag marshals that drive Miatas

The bad.

Weather was cold. Like stupid cold. I was prepared to a degree… since I drove my Miata down I loaded it up with multiple pairs of clothes. I had 4 white t-shirts, 3 white hoodies, 2 pairs of white pants, 1 white jacket, 1 non-white jacket, and a whole bunch of undershirts…. not to mention a few bandanas which came very useful to block the arctic wind from hitting my face. But it was still stupid cold! I was thinking I could handle 59F in the evening and 65F during the day. We dropped down to 35F on Sunday, and had most of the day raining on Saturday with the temperatures dropping. The wind was especially killer!

This was how bundled up I was, and still cold:

That said, Friday… the first day of the event was T-shirt weather. I think it was in the high 70’s and I got a nice sunburn on my face!

There was a lot of opportunities to take some awesome shots of race cars while Media vans were shooting their official photos on track (while we were off-duty) unfortunately our station was way too far from the track to get a decent shot.

The ugly.

I like most BMW Art Cars… except this year’s. I think this year’s model with the polka-dots on the front, and roof is stupid! The word “FAST” on driver’s side and an actual picture of that race car stickered on the passenger door is just dumb…. I don’t understand the attraction other than the stupidity of it and for that reason I find it very ugly!

The other ugly news during the event was another shooting in FLL – Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport in Florida… one of my favorite airports to fly into when going to Miami and South Florida. That was not good news… in fact that was ugly news, and it ran right under the news about the Roar before the 24 in the paper:

For an event that I thought I would never do again, I would totally do this again. Both the Roar before the 24 and the Daytona 24h race.

It was a blast!

Good people though made this experience possible for me.

Post Card from the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway

Did not think I’d go back to Daytona, until I saw all the entries for the 2017 IMSA season… wow! The new DPi programs are in full effect. There are several GTE and GT3 machines with new manufacturers. I had to be here. Not once but twice… Not just for the 24 hour race at the end of January… but the Roar before the 24 in the beginning of the month.

Here are some pix from Turn 4, working with my good friend John Gamble:

Pretty impressive line up in the GT field:

  • Aston Martin Vantage (GTD)
  • Acura NSX (GTD)
  • BMW M6 (GTLM & GTD)
  • Corvette C7.R (GTLM)
  • Ferrari 488 (GTLM & GTD)
  • Ford GT (GTLM)
  • Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (GTD)
  • Lexus IS-F (GTD)
  • Mercedes-AMG SLS (GTD)
  • Porsche 911 GT3 R (GTD)
  • Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GTLM)

The prototype field is also expanded with new Cadillac DPi replacing the familiar Corvette Daytona Prototypes. Mazda has a new skin, but a very similar engine sound to the old Lola. Lots of Orecas, a few Ligier Nissans, etc.

In the Continental Tire support group the McLaren GT4 is really balancing out the Porsche Cayman GT4 dominance.

More pix from the pit walk:

And some shots from Station 4:

And a delicious pizza dinner with the Gambles Friday night:

Looking forward to the rest of the weekend even if Saturday is supposed to be very wet…. more to come!

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/