Tag Archives: NY

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.

 

Formula E is Coming to NYC Racing on a Pier in Brooklyn. Can’t Wait for New York City e-Prix

If I get to volunteer for only one Motorsport event next year, I want it to be this: the inaugural New York City ePrix featuring the FIA Formula E racing series.

All the major media outlets broke the news today about it. And not just places like Motorsport.com and Road & Track but even the New York Times is promoting this sporting event as something very unique. I should certainly hope so. While Formula E is hardly new to the US with feature races taking place in Miami, South Florida in 2015 and Long Beach, Southern California for the past two years (which I missed) the New York City race will be something different.

Here’s a little promo clip:

And here’s the proposed track map:

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Man… I can hardly wait for this! Of all the events I’ve done in the past the only one I regret not doing so far was the ePrix in Miami or Cybejaya in Malaysia… now I may actually have a chance. The races on next year’s calendar in Hong Kong and Singapore are proof that this thing is getting really good! I hope to see a lot of success in this form of racing and most definitely want to be a part of it as a marshal.

Woo Hoo!

Post Card from IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen

Greetings from the Not-Boston Grand Prix! Or rather Ferrari Club of American track rental that guested IndyCar at Watkins Glen. This Labor Day weekend was spent flagging some of the (probably “the”) fastest cars ever to take on Watkins Glen to date… at least the ones I got to see. IndyCars flying around the bus stop where I worked on Friday and the last turn before Start/Finish were amazing, it didn’t even look like they used brakes or downshifted for that matter, cars stuck to the surface like glue.

Some pix from this weekend:

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New front wing design, with very aeroplane style winglet on the edges…

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More to come soon…

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SCCA Majors Super Tour at the Glen the debrief

This is weekend 8 out of 9 in a row (second month straight) volunteering for a Motorsport event around the US where I’ve driven to the circuit. Watkins Glen International was playing host to Majors Super Tour for SCCA Club Racing. On paper it was supposed to be a spectacular event, but in reality things were brought down a few pegs real quick. I’ll share the good the bad and the ugly in this post.

First the good. And there was a lot of good happening. The weather was good! That’s always a plus. The car turn out was good, there were tons of cars in each field, and by tons I mean high twenties were the smallest field. I counted upwards of forty cars in some fields. The station assignments were good. I got to work some of the best stations there are at WGI and it was really enjoyable. The food was good. SCCA Glen Region offered tasty lunches and some finger foods at dinner time which was very much appreciated. My car got good gas mileage using Sunoco Ultra 93, that was good.

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Next, the bad. While I enjoyed my assignments very much it wasn’t really what I requested. I was hoping to practice working Start a bit more and it didn’t seem like that request was even up for consideration. But I guess it pays to be persistent. Another bad thing was the fact that despite advertising (pictures included) some amazing cars that were supposed to be at the track this weekend, they didn’t actually show up. That’s not good at all. But both of these bad things I could live with.

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And finally, the ugly! Some of the racing was pretty ugly. I don’t know what it was that made so many people have so many avoidable incidents. In fact for club racing it was very much uncharacteristic to have so many bad wrecks, but I think people were encouraged a bit too much to set new track records on the newly re-paved racing surface so they pushed their cars way beyond their driving abilities. We had multiple incidents where cars were destroyed badly, whether in single car incidents or multi car incidents. The crashes started happening on Test day Thursday long before any official racing could take place on Friday. It was so unnecessary. At one point a piece of ARMCO had to be replaced delaying one race group for a whole day because of the severity of the impact. There were several cars going airborne. One flipped over, another flew over second car. The racing was dirty, and at some points dangerous… especially when drivers involved ran on the track to scold the other driver. Luckily nobody got seriously hurt but a lot of private cars will have to undergo major reconstruction to be in a position to race again.

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I’m sure people would think that crashes are good for spectators and to make time fly faster for the marshals because something exciting is happening. But in reality all that contributed to was shorter racing, way too much downtime and reduced fields of cars per group. The attrition rate was atrocious. And that’s no fun.

But anyway. Both Glen Region SCCA and RSI folks did an awesome job of making me feel welcome. We had a visitor from San Fran Region in California that felt very welcome too. I got to use my tent to camp at the RSI compound which was very convenient.

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I also got to drive on track to get to my station assignment on Saturday, that is always enjoyable!

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Got to see a ton of Miata’s though I’m most interested in the NC – 3rd Gen model, and there were only a few of those, including this car with PA plates that must have belonged to one of the SCCA Stewards. (NC3 Club Edition)

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The last time I saw this NC racer it was a decomissioned IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge car, now it has gone some serious upgrades:

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All in all an awesome weekend, and I was definitely missing out by not volunteering Club events in the past. Though I wish there would be a little more consistency in the future. The only thing that was consistent this weekend, was the great food!

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After 500 miles put on my car this weekend I’ll be repeating the trip again next weekend to do the IMSA Six Hour at the Glen.

Post Card from SCCA Majors at the Glen

This weekend had the potential to go to shit but I’m so glad it didn’t and everything went as smoothly as possible turning into quite an enjoyable few days at an iconic track flagging awesome race cars.

The reason I signed up for this event was because I was anticipating a few interesting Miata’s to be racing this weekend. Cars that actually didn’t turn up. Specifically, I saw on the MotorsportReg registration page several NC (third generation) MX-5 race cars, ones without a front windshield and a huge roll cage sticking out over the area where the driver sits. None of the NC’s of this type showed up. There were however several NA’s and NB’s racing in this spec so I got to see at least some Miata’s as well as BMW Z3 and a few other cars, but not what I was hoping for.

Having worked Start for an SCCA event at Lime Rock the weekend before I figured I’d be slick about it, and since the Glen Region SCCA was recruiting marshals through MotorsportReg, I signed up that way (instead of going through RSI like I normally would to work at WGI) ticking off Start as my desired role. But I don’t think anyone at the Glen Region paid any attention to what I actually signed up for, because I didn’t make it anywhere near the Starter stand.

Luckily for me though the assignments I got were kick-ass! Jim Wheeler the new flag chief of the Glen Region did an awesome job. I was very satisfied with what I got considering there were at least 6 starters on the starter stand this weekend. So competing with all of them would have been far less fun… plus at least all of my station assignments had shade over the gazebo we worked from, so it worked out in my favor. I got to work Station 7B (which is in the boot and is a black flag station) for Friday, Station 6 which is at the entry to the Book on Saturday and Station 3 which is at the top of the Esses for Race Day on Sunday.

I’m as happy as could be!  (got good station assignments, had awesome coworkers for the weekend, enjoyed the company off track, and there was great variety of cars in huge fields racing).

Here’s some pix:

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View from the Top of the Esses, new Turn #3

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The Spec Miata Post-Race:

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More to come later…

Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Race at Watkins Glen International May 2016

Once I saw the schedule for the brand spanking new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup I quickly signed up to marshal it. Immediately following the debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last week, the Series tracked across the country to Upstate New York for their second race of the season at Watkins Glen playing a support role to the NARRA and Trans Am series.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Playboy MX-5 Cup which I credit with the reason for my buying an NC Miata of my own. Since I’ve been using my car as a marshaling rig to travel to various circuits including Watkins Glen International, Thompson Speedway in New England and even a trip down to Florida for St. Pete GP and Sebring 12 hour earlier this year where I visited Long Road Racing on the way home in North Carolina. The reason I mention LRR is because they make all the cars (hand built) that participate in this Global MX-5 Cup series and those parallel ones that happen around the world. Who’d thunk it?

The new Global MX-5 Cup cars are incredible and the field is huge pushing over 40 cars on the grid which almost guarantees incidents and accidents. Thanks also to the rain that blessed us this weekend there was a ton of cars that crashed including a major smash-up right under the start stand when the green flag was thrown. I was super privileged to work as a Starter this weekend and was amazed to see all the cars on pit lane staging for their race. I also got to work turn 7 where the cars were taking the fairly sharp turn at over 60mph which seems incredible to me.

Enough talking and here’s some photos from the paddock walk I did on Thursday as the cars were unloaded… the hardest part was selecting the pictures to share as I took hundreds of them…

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The first car I saw was plain vanilla… body in white.

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But the rest were like Skittles, all colors of the rainbow!

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Check facebook for more pictures from this event. Amazing event!!!

I loved it!

PS. Even the Pace Car was a new ND MX-5 Miata:

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Mazda Road to 24 – #MRT24

NASCAR Cheez-It 355 at the Glen the debrief

I think the only person that had more fun than I did at this weekend’s NASCAR races at Watkins Glen International was Joey Logano who won both the Xfinity Series race on Saturday and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday. Well, maybe he had more fun, his lengthy burn-out at the end of the race almost burned the racecar down. But I got to watch the whole thing while marshaling, and that was neat!

The coolest thing about working with RSI at WGI is you get rotate stations every day you volunteer, so that’s three opportunities to check out different views every day. I got to work Station 9 short on Friday for the K&N race, Station 6 on Saturday for the Xfinity race, and be one of the flaggers at Station 16 for the Srpint Cup race on Sunday.

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Friday I was a bit unprepared, forgot my lucky orange hat at home, and my bandana did a horrible job protecting my face from the sun. I got a very unique tan line for the rest of the weekend as a result.

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We had plenty of shade on Saturday, but I still managed to make a goofy mistake. It is RSI protocol to call “heads-up” from Station 6 to Station 7 for any car that decides to skip the bus stop. While working Station 9 the previous day I heard race control mention that heads-up weren’t necessary because there were so many of them. So I assumed that was the case for Saturday. I was wrong. My buddy Pat worked Station 7 and said he would have liked a few heads up because they nearly missed their calls when the cars blew the stop as required before rejoining the track after the bus stop. Oops!

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Not much really happened on Sunday. But since we had a grand stand directly behind us (the Jackie Stewart Grand Stand) we had a big jumbotron directly in front of us. So we got to watch the entire race which included seeing the run-away wheel that rolled from pit lane all the way down the track and back up towards the Esses stopping after Station 2. And the car that caught on fire after Joey Logano celebrated with a huge burnout winning his second race of the weekend. We saw the car ahead of him run out of fuel directly in front of us, that was neat. To my surprise the race finished under Green which seems pretty unusual for NASCAR because at times the Green, White, Checkered is almost manufactured…

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Most of the pictures came out pretty dark because the sun was really bright and any pictures in the shade resulted in dark faces.

As far as best station assignment for the weekend, each one offered a unique perspective. I loved watching the cars run beyond track limits full speed at station 9, they came out right by us often spraying us with grass and other small debris.

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For the K&N Pro Series race I noticed a cool sticker job on one of the old Toyotas… the Kobe Toyopet dealership was listed as a sponsor. I had no idea that NASCAR was big in Japan!

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From Station 6 the views were probably the best! We didn’t really get to use the “Loop Closed” sign, but both Blue and Yellow flags got a work out that’s for sure. I had to rush to get Red out also, once.

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The racing line was right under our noses, with the station designed to put us over and close to the track behind the catch fence. Meanwhile station 16 was re-designed recently which eliminated the necessary cutout for the flagger to stand in, and instead they covered it with larger catch fencing and a small hole cut out for us.

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Most of my day on Sunday I spend volunteering at the entry to pit lane. We helped work the crossings so that spectators and some die hard NASCAR fans among them could cross the actual track from Gate 5 towards the Bog. Many of them wandered into the pit lane, and most wanted to take a picture with our checkered or yellow flags. I worked with Pat and Beth who I spend a lot of time with this weekend, and it was a very enjoyable experience. NASCAR fans are some of the most devoted fans I’ve come across, something akin to the European endurance racing fans you meet at Le Mans. Some were, and would happily admit to being rednecks, but not all fans were necessarily in that category, I saw them as die hard racing fans who really celebrated their favorite drivers. For the littlelest fans in that group we had some real NASCAR lug nuts that Dave the pit lane chief scooped up for us the day before, and we were handing them out to the small kids walking through our crossing. I think that really gave them a kick and an experience they weren’t expecting.

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The crossing job went on right to the point of other marshals getting delivered to their stations. So we went straight to our posts skipping the morning meeting, etc. I went to Station 16 while Pat and Beth worked Station 17 which is the last turn before Start/Finish.

I was hungry as ever, luckily there was this nice food stand at the bottom of Jackie Stewart grand stand and for $9 bux I had an enjoyable meal before the race.

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As I mentioned previously the race ended pretty quickly and under Green flag conditions, so it was back to the RSI campsite to pack up. One of my favorite sights at the campsite was this OFF sticker on a few cars, the “Old Farts Flagging” Society. And it’s a sticker I had nothing to do with it’s creating. But I think it’s very funny.

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I am very much looking forward to my next trip to WGI! What an amazing experience this NASCAR weekend was.

 

BTW. there’s an interesting observation about NASCAR. Friday I used the wrong blue flag to work the race. I was always under the impression that the Blue flag with a Yellow stripe was an official NASCAR flag because you can clearly see it on most ISC circuit logos like Daytona for example. But it turns out that was not the case. For Saturday and Sunday I learned that the solid Blue flag must be used. Not only that, much like the FIA, NASCAR uses all waved flags on stations, and we got to wave the Blue, the Yellow and the Red. It’s ironic that typically in the US all flags are displayed stationary, but it seems when it comes to road courses NASCAR is much like the FIA!

Fire Training Completed Thank You RSI, WGI & NASCAR!

I’m wholeheartedly thankful to the good people at Race Services Inc. Watkins Glen International and NASCAR for providing me with fire training. In my five years of volunteering this was the first time I got an opportunity to pull a pin on a fire extinguisher, I was so excited I did it a few times. I learned a few things that I will share in this post.

Obviously over the years I’ve read plenty of manuals, marshal hand books and watched quite a few training videos on how to handle a fire bottle. I’ve been on station where there was a car fire, one incident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway involved a Porsche 911 driving to the nearest cutout near our station and backing up all the way to our station on the access road with it’s tail end on fire. Of course at that moment I was on Comms and one of my colleagues got the privilege to actually squirt it with powder, but until the fire training seminar at WGI I haven’t actually handled an extinguisher.

The interesting thing, at least to me, was the fact that it didn’t quite work the way I thought it would. By the time I got my hands on the bottle several other people had used the extinguisher already so it wasn’t as charged as it should. I went to spray the propane fire on our NASCAR prop car and the powder wouldn’t actually reach the car, there was powder coming out but the pressure was weak. This was a good reminder for a real world scenario, knowing that there’s only so much you can do with a single bottle. I was given a freshly charged extinguisher after that and quickly put out the fire with one swift squeeze on the trigger. Or so I thought… the fire wasn’t completely put out and the propane quickly reignited shooting over the hood of the car. This time I squeezed the trigger a little longer moving the nozzle side to side to cover the whole base of the fire. It was so cool! It also demonstrated that you don’t have to be an inch from the car to effectively put out a fire. WGI used a wooden structure to simulate the height of a typical ARMCO around the track, and the car was a good six feet away, which again simulates a realistic scenario that a car stops on track, some distance from the ARMCO and is on fire. The fully charged fire extinguisher had no propblem putting out a small fire from the location and distance the WGI crew simulated. There was no need to go trackside to do the same job, and more importantly as is procedure when working with RSI our first priority would be to call Race Control to advise them of the fire and actually fighting the fire would be of secondary priority as the Fire Truck would be dispatched quickly, followed by the tow vehicle and other rescue services that typically respond to a vehicle that must be towed off the track anyway after the incident.

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Fire demo by one of the Watkins Glen International Chiefs

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I was so excited to handle the bottle, after the rest of the F&C team took their turns, I went again. As with anything else, practice using the extinguisher. Directing the flow of the powder or chemical mixture. The smell of it, and all the particles that fly in the air. The change of wind direction, etc. It was really educational to finally experience it hands on.

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So thank you again Race Services, Inc. and Watkins Glen International for hosting this event. And thanks to NASCAR for providing the props and standardized training, both online and on-site which I found to be very useful and could only wish it was offered to all volunteers that marshal around the US. This marshal education certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone, and only benefit people in case they are faced with a situation they haven’t faced before.

Because of this experience I will make a commitment this year to come back to Watkins Glen at least once more and try to volunteer for IMSA and/or NASCAR events. Well worth the effort, and I would invite anyone else to join me. The Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is amazing in the summer time, Seneca Lake, downtown Watkins Glen, NY and especially WGI, it is a world class facility.

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