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NARRA, Trans Am, Global MX-5 Cup at Watkins Glen International Race Weekend Debrief

I’ve been riding a wave of really outstanding events… one better than the next, and so far the NARRA / Trans Am / MX-5 Cup weekend at Watkins Glen has topped them all… I just wanted to check out the Miata’s race but instead I got so much more out of it… got to drive the track on the newly repaved circuit and most importantly got to wave the Checkered flag on the Starter stand.

So to start at the beginning, Watkins Glen is 250 miles from where I live, which Google says should take about 4 hours with no traffic, but with all the construction along the way and pee stops at Sheetz in Pennsylvania (where I also pick up some delicious chicken wings or burger sliders with delicious Dr.Pepper BBQ sauce) it’s a 5 hour trip. My goal was to get good gas mileage on this trip… unfortunately the best I got was 29mpg which is well short of 36mpg’s I got on the trip to Florida… but arriving at the Glen got me excited for other reasons.

Cars!

Lots and lots of awesome looking cars. I was able to wander around the Mazda MX-5 Cup paddock and take a million pictures of the cars. From there I watched the Vipers roll into the NARRA padock, and the Trans Am cars getting assembled. It was freaking awesome.

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My buddy Pat Fuller hosted me for the weekend in his spare camper which was very convenient and comfortable because the temperature dropped from 70’s on Thursday to 30’s on Sunday. Plus it rained Friday and Saturday. I had my wet weather gear so the rain was bearable but a lot of cars suffered major smashups because of the track conditions, which was sad to see.

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 24 challenger

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 20 trans am corvette

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 4 formula 1600

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I was impressed though how quick the MX-5 cup cars were able to handle the repaved track in wet conditions. On Saturday while working Turn 7 the cars were taking a sharp right hander at a pretty high rate of speed without much effort it seemed, and in the wet. Pretty cool! I was impressed with my BFGoodrich Sport Comps 2 in the rain while driving on track also, tires made me feel very comfortable even where I thought the conditions would be slippery.

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Because RSI, the club that provides marshals for events at WGI didn’t supply us with lunches for this event, I went to Jerlando’s Pizzeria in Montour Falls and stocked up on some pizza, which tasted pretty good for the next few days for lunch. What’s better than cold pizza? (well probably hot pizza, but that wasn’t feasible).

The highlight of the weekend for me was of course the total surprise of working the Starter Stand. I did not expect that in a million years and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. It was an amazing educational experience and a perfect viewing spot for the races. The MX-5 Cup race was impressive, the Trans Am races were sweet… the whole stand shook when the field of cars went by. The NARRA field was pretty small, but the support races made up for the boredom. I really enjoyed the Formula Atlantic races, even though I couldn’t figure out whether they were SCCA PRO or SCCA CLUB event.

Oh well…

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The main take-away for me from this event was how well the event ran, even when faced with difficulties. The weather didn’t help… rain caused havoc with the cars, and freezing cold caused pain to the marshals. The redeeming feature of large fields was the fact that despite the big attrition there was still exciting racing to be had. Although at times it did feel like there were a few long stretches of full course caution interrupted by a few quick laps under green flag. The MX-5 field suffered the most losses, but I’m sure it’s good for business for Mazda Motorsports and Long Road Racing. Trans Am too had a few serious smash ups that will undoubtedly hit the pocket book of the private teams that run in that event. My favorite thing was to see cars from various series repurposed to run in this weekend. I mentioned earlier the former Grand-Am and Conti Tire Sports Car Series cars running in Trans Am as well as a current Pirelli World Challenge Miata running with NARRA. That was way cool!

I don’t know what my next event at Watkins Glen International will be but I’m certainly looking forward to that experience… I’ll be sure to request to work Start/Finish again, who knows maybe it’ll work!

Thanks to James Wilbur at RSI for the opportunity.

Postcard from SCCA Pro Trans Am, F1600, F2000 & Formula Atlantic at Watkins Glen Int’l

One of the most fun weekends I’ve had volunteering at Watkins Glen International was this weekend working the Trans Am race and all the support series that came along, including one I was most interested to see, the Global MX-5 Cup (I’ll write about it separately)

The HUUUUUGE fields of Trans Am cars was really surprising and very much impressive. I remember the last Trans Am race I did at Lime Rock a few years ago… we had maybe a dozen cars with most of them being TA2 Camaros and Mustangs and just a few TA1 Corvettes which couldn’t put any power down due to rain. This time around there was a huge field of TA1’s… and even a bigger TA2 field. So big that TA2 had a race of their own with about 20+ cars participating… there was a similar size field with the rest of Trans Am pairing TA cars with TA3 BMW’s, TA4 Porsches and even TA5 cars. How incredibly cool!!!

The support series were SCCA Pro or maybe Club Racing: Formula 1600, Formula 2000 and Formula Atlantics open wheelers. To me the Formula Atlantic cars is exactly what formula cars should look like, I wish IndyCar still resembled that look without all the silly bumpers and billboard size front wings.

But enough talk, here’s the pix:

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 4 formula 1600

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 7 formula 1600

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 8 formula 1600

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 10 trans am

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 14 formula atlantic

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 14a formula atlantic

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 15 formula continental

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 16 formula continental

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 17 forula 2000

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 18 engines

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 19 trans am corvette

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 20 trans am corvette

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 21 trans am corvette

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 22 trans am mustang

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 23 camaro

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 24 challenger

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 24a challenger

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 25 challenger

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 26 cadillac

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 27 cadillac

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 28 camaro

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 29 mustang

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 30 mustang

I was so impressed with the Trans Am cars I cannot rant and rave more about them… the whole Starter stand rumbled and shook when the big field of cars came full blast under us… What a feeling!

PS. the Trans Am field is as American as apple pie, with TA2 Mustang, Camaro and Challenger dominating the fields with a big battle between Ford, Chevy and Dodge… but I was also happy to see Trans Am BMW and Porsche kicking ass… the cars were former Grand Am and IMSA Continental Tire Series cars refurbished for this purpose and they fit in quite nicely.

Worked my First “Pro” Event as a Starter at NARRA / Trans Am / Global MX-5 Cup Weekend at Watkins Glen Int’l

Woo Hoo! I still can’t believe it but I was lucky enough to work the starter stand for my first pro event weekend at Watkins Glen Int’l.

My goal for this weekend was just to watch the Global MX-5 Cup race for their second stop on the 2016 calendar after Laguna Seca last week. I knew I would have fun flagging but I couldn’t even imagine they would allow me to work the Starter stand… but they did and a big thanks to Jim Wilbur for giving me the opportunity. I certainly greatly appreciate it!

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I have to say I was a bit nervous because my only prior experience was working some club racing at Thompson Speedway and I had made a few hiccups during that day. But this time I was ready to learn on the go and it was a lot of fun doing it. The atmosphere was a lot more relaxed to my surprise. Things went pretty naturally and my training from Thompson Speedway paid dividends. I was in good hands on Friday and thought that was going to be it… I figured the locals would not want to see an outsider taking such a spot away from one of them and that I’d be put back on F&C roster the next day… which is exactly what happened. I got to work Turn 7 which was a blast in itself because it allowed me the opportunity to do a few laps around the newly repaved circuit while getting to my post. But on Sunday I got a surprise of a lifetime… I was back on Start! Woo Hoo!!!

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Friday was a very wet and rainy day… I went from wearing shorts driving up to the track on Thursday to wearing few layers plus my rain gear on Friday but it was still bearable. On Sunday though the weather took a turn for the worse… the temps were in the 30’s! The four layers I had on were insufficient, I was absolutely frozen, and for the end of the Trans Am race at the end of the day we had snow flurries coming in waves… it was absolutely nuts!

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I was thrilled with the opportunity to work on the Start / Finish stand, so much so I would love to do it again in the future. The view of the pit lane across from us gave you a good vision of what was happening throughout the race. We had to keep track of incidents around the track also and display the appropriate penalty flags, etc. I loved it!

The best thing about working start was going up to use the race control bathroom which felt like a steam room being either heated too much or it was just that cold outside. The views from Race Control were amazing, you could see most of the track up there. Parking under the front straight grand stand was convenient also, sure didn’t worry much about getting stuck in the grass like at turn 7. What a tremendous experience this was!

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Postcard from the North American Road Racing Association Weekend at Watkins Glen Int’l

What a trip… I was really looking forward to this visit to Watkins Glen International for a brand new-to-me series: NARRA – North American Road Racing Association:  USGT racing which shared the weekend with some SCCA Pro big guns including Trans Am, Formula 1600, Formula 2000, Formula Atlantic, and Global MX-5 Cup (the one series I really wanted to see, and will post about separately).

I’ll try to write a little debrief later, but for now I’d like to share some pictures from my paddock walk on Thursday… what an amazing experience that was! Really happy I got a chance to see all those awesome cars, lots of Dodge Viper ACR’s (American Club Racers), Ford Mustangs, Aston Martin DB9, Chevy Corvette, and even a few MX-5 Miatas including a NB and a NC.

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The curious thing about the Mazda MX-5 Miata (NC) racing with this group it was labeled as “GT3” class. Which I thought was very optimistic… until I saw it passing the Chevy Corvette and a Dodge Viper during the race…. which made me say “DAAAAMMM!” The car itself still had the door number stickers form the series it normally runs in which is SCCA Pro: Pirelli World Challenge TCA class… and I always thought that TCA class were moderately stock 2.0 Liter Miata’s with some heavy-duty upgrades like race suspension, roll cage, exhaust, etc. To see it blow away a Vette and a Viper into Turn 7 was amazing!

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As hard as it tried it was unable to catch the Gulf livery Aston Martin

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The Viper ACR’s running in GT1 and GTX class were impressive too!