Tag Archives: NYC

Formula E NYC e-Prix the debrief

First, I’d like to express my gratitude to the organizers of the first ever FIA Formula E New York City ePrix for giving me the opportunity to participate in such an amazing event. Thank you!

I could only imagine what it took logistically to put this race on. And it certainly took a lot of different groups to come together and pitch in for the occasion. I saw Jeanie from CoTA running around with a radio looking very official. Walking in Friday morning there was a Pocono Raceway truck prominently parked at the entrance. According to the fire marshal posted at the Finish line they provided 10 of their fire crew for the race. I know that the Northern New Jersey and New England region flag chiefs co-chief’ed the event bringing flag and communications marshals not only from their local regions but from around the country and around the world. I got the pleasure to work with a Pit Lane chief from Arizona, alongside marshals from my home region as well as from Canada (both Ontario and Quebec) and from France (Paul Riccard Circuit!). That was super cool. And even though I didn’t make it onto the Scrutineer team like I was hoping to do, I got to work closely with them in pit lane which was mission accomplished for me. So I was thrilled.

What exactly did I get to do… well everything I wanted to.

  • I got to be in Pit Lane, as pit lane marshal
  • I was posted at Pit Out, working a Radar gun
  • I got to wave the green flag when the lights malfunctioned
  • I got to push some Formula E cars around to Parc Ferme
  • I got to steer one of the FE cars instead of a Scrutineer

What more could I possibly ask for?

There were some awesome perks for working this event. After all it was my local race, just about 30 miles from home. Although using public transport it took me longer to get there than it usually does to go to Lime Rock or Pocono Raceway. The organizers provided two nights hotel stay free of charge. We had an awesome pizza party on Saturday which they generously over-estimated allowing me and probably many others to take a few slices back to the hotel to have cold pizza for breakfast. The shuttle buses were provided to get to the track which was super convenient. It was great, and greatly appreciated too!

The series and the races didn’t disappoint either. First of all it was a big and small atmosphere at the same time. Big because there was a lot of clout for this massive international event. But small enough that the whole pit lane and garages filled a relatively small area. The pit lane set up was unique in that the garages faced each other, and therefore when cars were released they shot out at each other slotting into one lane. Even the safety cars and medical cars were electric, provided by BMW and including i3, i8 and an X5 hybrid electric SUV. It was cool to see i3’s with German plates (from Bavaria) and the North American HQ with American (New Jersey) plates. Cars looked identical and yet unique. I loved the little things that were noticeable about them.

The races were messy, and yet with limited safety car or virtual safety car periods. I managed to sneak a peek at the start on a big screen near pit lane and it was nuts to see all those pieces of body panels flying as cars inevitably bumped into each other on a tight circuit… but they continued. Some cars stopped on track and our fellow F&C marshals got to respond under local yellow to push them into cutouts. Which by the way were awesome. The track set up, including catch fencing and marshal post cutouts were perfect. Nice big holes, marked by orange paint and without sharp fencing edges sticking around. I mean someone did an awesome job designing and executing the set up. It was unlike any other street circuit I’ve done recently for IndyCar or Formula 1 for example. Props to them.

And then there was the view. The views were spectacular. You could see lower Manhattan across the river. You can see various boats and ferries passing by. You could see the Statue of Liberty. And with the weather we had it was a perfect view to take in. I’m even super happy it rained on Friday because it added to the appearance/view of the track with big rooster tails one day, and nice shiny cars the next on a sunny day. It was perfect!

All in all I had a blast. I feel lucky to have had a chance to participate. And I feel very proud of the job the organizers did to put on this event. I think this race was incredible and I am totally looking forward to doing more events for Formula E. It’s a shame it took me this long to volunteer I remember planning to go to Cyber Jaya on the first season or at the very least the Miami race, but never did.

Oh… and for those that say there’s no sound. That’s a tricky one. The sound is deafening. It’s a very high pitch electric/metalic noise that comes through as the cars leave past you at full blast. Coming at you though you can’t hear them at all, which is nuts, but that was the function of our Pit Lane team, whistling every time a vehicle was in pit lane because none of them could be heard at slow speed. But being at Pit Out and seeing them go full throttle you could definitely hear them and maybe even too much. The fact many of them went way too close to the wall on exit, often hitting it, that was another sound that was clearly audible. Body panels bottoming out or smacking the wall make very loud noises that you don’t normally hear over traditional engine noise.

I loved this event! I want to do more…

Roborace… Yay or Nay?

The main question everyone had going into the first New York City ePrix debuting Formula E on the streets of South Brooklyn was whether or not they are the future. In my opinion there’s no question about it, of course electric race cars will be part of our future in Motorsport. But one of the support races called the Roborace, that is a real question whether it’s the future or not?

I do believe it is.

There’s so much opportunity!

We were treated to a display of a traditional LMP3 chassis car with a driver on board doing several learning laps around the Brooklyn Street Circuit to teach the software how to do an ideal lap. Then the pilot gave control over to the computer to do a lap while keeping his hands close to the steering wheel with the ability to take over if the computer did something wrong. And finally the car executed a perfect lap with the driver out of the car…. The car didn’t go particularly fast, but it did what it was supposed to do driving autonomously and speed in my view is a totally adjustable parameter at that point.

So do I think this stripped down prototype replace the flashy Le Mans cars we are used to watching in IMSA or WEC?

No… not at all. But I’m thinking to the old days of Le Mans where there was variety. And with this series I think the opportunity for “variety” is incredible! Remember when formula cars raced alongside sports cars on the same track… we have the prototypes and GT cars racing together now, having multi-class competitions each competing for the top step on the podium at their own speed, depending on the class. I think it would be awesome to see humans compete against Robocars on the same track in the same race, at the same time.

It would be incredible!

I love the look of this driver-less Robocar:

I will be watching eagerly to see how this plays out in the near future! I for one would love to see more of these cars at the tracks I go to volunteer around the world.

Registration for the NYC ePrix in Brooklyn is Open!

It’s important to set goals… my goal earlier in the year was to work the NYC Formula E race in Red Hook Brooklyn… if that’s the only race I do in 2017. Well, it’s 2017 and I’ve done a bunch of races already, multiple trips down to Florida for Daytona, St. Pete, Sebring… a trip to Alabama, VIRginia, thinking of Canada next week… there’s a lot already happened, but NYC ePrix is still my goal!

So for any one of you reading this interested, it seems the recruitment process has started. And for a limited amount of spots advertised, there sure seems to be a ton of promotion for this event. A major caveat is that two night hotel accommodation is included based on double occupancy… so you and a friend or a complete stranger can buddy up and work this race!

Interestingly enough I stumbled upon this event invitation after stubbornly attempting to register for the Macau Grand Prix in November… I was rejected but instructed to keep trying with new president involved in the club there. That wasn’t the only rejection of the day. For the NYC ePrix I wanted to do something different than just flagging. What about scrutineering? A fellow Miata owner I met at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca suggested I reach out to the chief scrutineer in the US. A nice lady named Suzanne that handles these duties for most PRO events on the International level, which means FIA and FIM… which in turn means most of the events are at COTA in Texas. She does WEC, Formula 1, MotoGP, etc.

Her web site is www.Scrutineering.net and I reached out to her to see if I would be so lucky to join her team. The reply was predictable and very much expected. With over 100 people interested in PRO events, the positions are already filled, but spots on the wait list were available. So I requested to be put on this waiting list.

Soon after I shared her web site on my facebook, suggestions to register on MotorsportReg.com started pouring in… which isn’t quite the same thing as that avenue was recruiting people for F&C and Pit marshal roles.

But since I’m determined to work the event practically in my back yard (across a river on the other side of a $15 toll)… I registered there also:

So if you are interested in working a very exciting and super scenic NYC Formula E Grand Prix sign up through whatever channel your marshaling role requires. I personally would prefer to be a scrutineer, but being a pit marshal would be cool too if they accept me. Not sure if I will take advantage of the freebie hotel offer, but I’m sure with friends flying in from around the world it would be neat to spend time right in my “home” city!

Can’t wait for this amazing event to come around… and fingers crossed for Macau too (still… have been trying since 2013).

 

Three Trips to Florida in Three Weeks, the debrief

I love Florida!

I love Miami Beach… specifically South Beach or SoBe for short. I like to go every opportunity I get. Last year I got incredibly lucky with some cheap $35 each way flights to Miami International with American Airlines… this year JetBlue had a similar promo flying to Fort Lauderdale in the neighboring Broward County for $39 bux so I jumped on that offer. I booked one two day round trip, followed by another a week later… and then realized that if I book one more flight on JetBlue I’d qualify for the 5,000 point bonus which they award for any 3 round trip flights booked with the airline in the calendar year (I already had 1 JetBlue flight under my belt flying to Oakland, California for the Miatas at Laguna Seca a month earlier).

The Daytona Beach road trip I wrote about a little earlier and the fiasco I got to experience with Hertz and their Black and White VW Beetle’s I was blessed with. It wasn’t a perfect trip because of a few glitches along the way, the most disappointing of them all turned out to be the weather. The seas were especially rough a week or so after Hurricane Matthew blasted through the area.

Miami Beach wasn’t that much better. The first trip was a dud… seas were super rough even when the weather was nice and sunny. I didn’t get a chance to do what I specifically came there to do: swim! Luckily second and final week in SoBe was almost perfect and I swam, and I swam, and I swam.

But there’s only so much swimming one could do in a day so I totally worked the schedule around to optimize my foodie tour opportunities and I didn’t waste any time to enjoy some of the finest cuisine US has to offer… specifically very authentic Latin cuisine from the huge Cuban community in Miami and Little Havana around Calle Ocho. Below are some pix from those visits… and recommendations along with captions:

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I used a different NYC area airport for each one of my trips. Daytona Beach flight arrived at JFK in Jamaica, Queens. The first Ft. Lauderdale flight used LaGuardia in Queens and the final Ft. Laud/Hollywood International flight used Newark Liberty in NJ. Both LaGuardia and Newark departures saw a real traffic jam of flights on departure, we were something like 10th in line to use the runway, so each flight departed about an hour late. Both of the return flights experienced close to an hour delay because of ground holds in Newark. The LaGuardia flight was especially interesting because shortly after leaving South Florida and while I was watching CNN on the JetBlue IFE system, the vice-presidential candidate’s Boeing 737 crashed at LaGuardia… the airport we were flying to. Luckily the only issue was that the plane overshot the runway, so the airport re-opened and we arrived there eventually. For a moment though it was looking pretty hairy… I was wondering where they were going to re-route us to. Upon landing it took the pilot a few attempts to negotiate the landing. I haven’t done an aborted landing before this flight yet.

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Upon arrival in SoBe the red flags were out. And much like in auto racing, red flag means no racing… or in my case no swimming! Boo…

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So on the first trip the alternative was a foodie tour of Calle Ocho in Little Havana… a short bus ride across Miami.

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The cocks are obviously very uniquely cuban “thing” and are running around on the streets pretty freely.

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Sopas at Rey de las Fritas are outstanding!

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And so are the little Cuban Hamburgers with the little fritas sprinkled in… a pretty unique taste and very filling.

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No trip to Calle Ocho could be complete without some Guarapo… or freshly squeezed sugar cane drink. I ordered a whole bucket which was a bit pricey at $7 bucks… but oh so delicious!

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A short drive down 8th Avenue is Brickell Mazda… I got off the bus to check out their ND Miata’s on the lot. While Miami looks amazing in post cards and on TV in shows like CSI Miami, the reality of it is it’s hard to maintain the exotic image, especially with a dark colored car. The mix of dust and recent rain drops made this car look a little neglected…

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Back to the beach…

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and it was still red flagged… so I continued with the foodie tour!

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One of my favorite dishes in South Florida is ceviche… and I got a real nice octopus version on Washington Ave between 2nd and 3rd. It’s a take-out only place next door to a hostel, very tasty!

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Next time give them a try… look up My Ceviche, Miami Beach

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Though I tried to organize a little mini meet with the local Miata community absolutely nothing materialized, which was disappointing especially since this little “Mazdaspeed” gem was parked outside my hostel both weeks I was there.

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So instead I went car spotting along the streets of Miami Beach, and the local PD always had something interesting parked outside their HQ… like this pink CVPI cruiser

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Or this one the next week… Police Car or Taxi?

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Lots of interesting cars driving by also… plenty of Maseratis, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls Royces… the Bugatti was probably one of the few I got to see out in the wild though:

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Funny enough, plenty of exotics are available for rent, even as short as 1 hour period… saw a few beat up Ferraris, Lambos and Rolls’s:

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I went in asking if they had any Mazda Miata’s available, and the answer was NOPE!

So a Mazda Miata is a more rare car in Miami than most exotics!

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For some reason they really love Trump in Florida. kind of surprising!

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For another surprising reason I really drink a lot of Cuban coffee whenever I’m in South Florida… I don’t know what it is, I never drink coffee at home… but whenever I’m in Miami, cafe con leche is a must!

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One of my favorite places to get cafe con leche in Miami Beach is Playa Cafe on Washington Ave between 16th and Espanola Way. The other is Las Olas Cafe on Euclid and 6th Street.

Playa I visited especially frequently, trying many things on their menu:

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Most had some kind of combination of rice and beans as well as beef, pork and chicken. You really can’t go wrong, whether rice or yuca, it’s all finger licking good!

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But after a few days of Cuban I was ready for a change and sampled a few other places… like this Vietnamese on Washington called either Miss Saigon or What the Pho… depending what sign you read. The Pho was outstanding and so were the summer rolls wrapped in a thin condom-like rice pancake and lubricated by peanut sauce… Yum!

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Super delicious!

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More Trumpism!

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A french sandwich place behind a Walgreens on 14th Street was an amazing find. I had a “frenchie” sandwich with french salami and brie and all the fixings and it was a really excellent value. All the green stuff was super fresh, though the baugette was not. I should have come there earlier in the day rather than evening so it was my own fault. I would highly recommend this joint!

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One place that did disappoint me was South Beach Sushi on Washington and 17th. It was basically supermarket sushi quality even when the price was below typical SoBe prices. I was not a fan.

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The night I went for sushi it almost didn’t happen as I got caught out in a bit of a tropical rain storm… I wish I would have missed it!

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But like most rains in South Florida it went as quickly as it came after dumping a whole lot of water on unsuspecting tourists (like me). I waited it out over a coffee at a Mediterranean joint, on second thought I should have ordered a shawarma instead of going for sushi. There’s always next time!

1,000+ mile Road Trip from LaGuardia Airport in NYC to Daytona Beach, Florida in a Hertz VW Beetle

October is an awesome month to go down to Florida, and with the hurricane season travel deals it is probably the cheapest way to go. So I booked three trips to Florida in three consecutive weeks. The first trip required a little bit of driving, which I love… so I’ll share the Road Trip details in this post… perhaps they’ll save someone the trouble of considering such a thing in the future or maybe encourage others to take the trip themselves. My experience of course could be completely different from others…

A few weeks ago JetBlue announced a flash sale… fares as low as $19 bux they advertised, typically from New York to Boston or Long Beach to San Francisco in California. The ones that caught my eye were the ones I have taken advantage of many times before, NY to South Florida, my favorite destination in the world! NYC to Miami area – Ft. Lauderdale specifically were only $39 bux each way. I booked two round trips, and with the recent JetBlue flight to California I figured if I book one more leg I’ll qualify for their 5,000 mile bonus that is awarded after 3 round trip flights flown in a year. So I was on the lookout for one more leg, and I sure found it. The flight from Daytona Beach to JFK in NY was only $29 bux…. ¬†sweet! But how do I get down there? … I remembered seeing a Hertz promo for one way rentals from certain airports down to Florida for only $9.99 per day. I checked the rate from Newark to Daytona Beach and the 3 day rental came out to some $62 bux with tax included. I thought that was a steal! I quickly booked it… but continued checking other permutations and before long ended up booking another much more favorable rate from LaGuardia airport to Daytona Beach airport for only $36 bux all inclusive, and this rental was for four days! Wow!

The Hertz LaGuardia experience was pretty shitty, I started writing details about it but figured it’s not worth the time… long story short I got a bad car. The black VW Bettle I picked up had a massive mechanical rattle coming out from the rear bumper and an even stronger hum which I suspect was a broken wheel bearing. I didn’t feel safe or sane enough to put up with it for 1,000+ miles, so I went to another Hertz in New Jersey to exchange it… three times! The fuckers at Paramus HLE refused to change cars for me saying they had nothing available, which was odd. The other fuckers at Hackensack HLE where I was sent to try my luck next explained to me that they were not going to make any money on me so they were not willing to just swap the cars out but were willing to give me another car if I paid more money to them. They suggested I try Newark Airport Hertz which I did, and where the manager reluctantly switched cars for me, and even more reluctantly put me in a similar upgrade that I started out with, which was a white VW Beetle… it didn’t have the noisy rattles or hum’s, but the wheel balance was off so the steering felt like a jack hammer especially at highway speeds. But whatever, they did what they could. I wasted some toll money and more importantly several hours of my time, and was now going to hit rush hour evening traffic at every major city along the Northeast corridor.

Luckily I took the longer way around to avoid all the Mid-Atlantic tolls, and Interstate 81 was good to me. No traffic, smooth sailing and I made it to my Shenandoah Motel around 9pm so I could start out bright and early the next morning. The first day was meant to be an easy drive of 400 miles. The next day it was about 700 more to my destination in Jacksonville. I timed the trip so that I didn’t spend any more money out of pocket for food. My plan was to hit a few TGI Friday restaurants along the way, order take-out and eat while i drive since I bought a deeply discounted TGI Fridays gift card on eBay. Similarly my fuel stops had to be at ExxonMobil, Sunoco or Speedway because I purchased discounted gift cards with those brands. And everything worked out super smoothly. Along the way I even managed to stop by Statesville, North Carolina to visit Long Road Racing again to check out the 2017 MX-5 Cup cars being built.

In Jacksonville I was to meet up with a fellow MX-5 owner from Miata.net someone who I’ve chatted with several times before and who has an identical car to mine: a 2007 Copper Red GT PRHT but apparently equipped with a TrunkMonkey which mine didn’t come with ūüėČ It was a pretty awesome meet-up, we sampled some delicious seafood together right near my shady motel… interestingly enough when I arrived to check in there were several cop cars there and a crime scene unit investigating a Jaguar XJ with a shot out rear window. While checking in I overheard the Sheriff telling the motel manager not to call 911 when he has issues instead he gave him a list of non-emergency phone numbers… “if you have someone selling drugs out of the rooms, call these detectives” and “if you have prostitution going on, call this vice unit…” Hmmm!

Finally, after an early wake up I was on my way to the ultimate destination in Daytona Beach (well technically to Port Orange where my fellow marshal friends that were hosting me for the night had moved to). I was in no particular rush and debated whether to continue along I95 for about an hour and a half or take the more scenic route along the Atlantic Coast and A1A… which is what I ended up doing. I picked up Florida A1A in St. Augustine and went as far as I could before a few detours around the Hurricane Matthew damage from two weeks ago. That was crazy. Never seen so much garbage on the side of the roads and standing water from water damage that the hurricane caused. In Flagler Beach the whole road got washed out. It was pretty insane, considering the area didn’t even experience the full brunt of the storm. They were very lucky though that the damage was what it was.

Once in Daytona I made the obligatory stop at the Speedway for a selfie and then we went out to  a nice restaurant near the beach for dinner. It was such a wonderful time. Before you know it, it was time to fly home. I dropped off my Beetle at the Hertz in Daytona Beach International Airport and was on my short two hour flight home. Ironically JetBlue calls the DAB РNYC flight #500 I guess it has something to do with the Speedway which I could clearly see out the airport window, along with several cars driving around the oval while waiting for my delayed plane.

Awesome trip, ¬†I am especially looking forward to two more trips down to Miami Beach area… I really want to go for a swim at South Beach, which I love! The seas were way too rough in the Daytona!

Some pix from the trip:

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I started out with this “upgrade” a 36k mile VW Bug with Cali plates and a real bad rattle coming out from the rear bumper area, along with a strong wheel bearing hum which provided an interesting sound track of base and drums for the 70 miles I had this car for.

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I have to say it did look great, had very comfortable leather seats that wrapped around you and plenty of room for storage.

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But I couldn’t wait to swap it out for something else, and after two failed attempts at HLE’s in Bergen County, New Jersey I ended up with a white VW Bug from Hertz at Newark Liberty Airport.

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It was much… sooo much, better even though it had vices of it’s own, like the badly balanced tires which made the steering wheel feel like a jack-hammer at highway speeds.

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After wasting a good three hours trying to swap cars I hit the road.

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To make up time I only ordered stuff to-go and to save money I went with Friday’s since I bought their discounted gift card on ebay.

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I have to give props to the social media team at Long Road Racing in Statesville, NC I checked in on facebook saying “drive-by wave to the best MX-5 shop on the east coast” and they invited me to stop-by.

Got a nice t-shirt just for visiting… how nice?!

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I <3 Florida!

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The white bug got incredible gas mileage, at one point showing 36.7 mpg which is even better than my Miata on the trip I took in March.

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Someone suggested I must stop at the Florida Visitor Center to sample the free orange juice… I did!

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and tried the grapefruit juice too…

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Crime scene at my Motel in Jacksonville, Florida… looked like someone either shot at them or was hooting out of the car… hmm!

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Dinner in Jacksonville, just down the road from the Motel and while checking out a Copper Red MX-5 GT PRHT from a local club there.

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Bright and early the next morning I headed further south, this time along the Atlantic Coast and Florida’s A1A

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Hurricane Matthew damage along the coast from St. Augustine all the way down to Ormond Beach, Florida

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Notice those big mounds of sand from the beach, on the other side of the road… further down tractors were moving the sand back.

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Some areas looked like they got hit while others looked untouched.

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The damage wasn’t just along the beach but further inland too.

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Finally arrived at my destination and took some obligatory selfies.

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It was too cold and too rough to go in the water, but we went to the beach nonetheless… to survey more damage in Flagler Beach.

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And of course ran across a familiar car what is my Miata doing there?

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Dinner at Charlie Horse in Ormond Beach was delicious.

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And the next morning I was back at the airport for the flight home. Interesting that only JetBlue has a true flight out of the south providing an A320 jet service to New York, while the competition from Delta and American fly smaller MD-80’s and CRJ’s to points closer to the South and especially those with NASCAR interests ūüôā

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I do love how you can see the Speedway so close… especially on take off. There were some cars on the oval doing laps, clearly visible.

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I <3 Florida! I can’t wait to move and live there.

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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!

Quick Getaway to SoBe, Miami Beach, Florida

Just a day after I returned from Austin, Texas I was back on the way to the airport to fly to my favorite American destination: South Florida. I love Miami, I love Miami Beach, I love South Beach there’s no question I find this place to be the best place in the US! And the best part is, it was so cheap to go there for a completely relaxing getaway.

A few weeks ago a facebook group I follow called “The Flight Deal” shared an incredible offer of $80 round trip flights between New York and Miami. I jumped on that offer! Normally any flight between NYC – MIA for under or around $100 is a great deal. But this $80 hurricane season special was probably one of the lowest fares I’ve paid on this route in a¬†long time. So I booked two trips.

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This particular trip came incredibly useful because it was right after the Lone Star Le Mans and after working 16 to 17 hour days on my feet, it was incredibly exhausting. So the mission for my trip to SoBe was to completely relax! And relax I did. I flew out on an 8am flight from LaGuardia getting me to South Florida just before noon. A quick ride on the #150 Airport Flyer got me to Miami Beach right in time for lunch. It was too early to check into my $20 hostel, so I decided to stuff my face with some delicious Cuban food. So I got off at the Lincoln Road stop and walked towards a great restaurant I last visited in February when we were in Miami Beach with my sister and her family on our way back from Saint Lucia. Turns out that restaurant had closed since our visit, so I searched for an alternative and the place I found was even better!

So first order of business was food!

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I had a very filling fillet of fish with some rice, beans, fried plantains and very delicious cafe con leche. I would come back to the same restaurant for lunch the next day and sample their delicious breaded steak with yellow rice, beans and another serving of delicious cuban coffee.

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For dinner I sought recommendations from a facebook friend who suggested I must visit another Cuban cafe about 10 blocks away from La Playa called Las Olas… and that place didn’t disappoint at all. I had a cubano sandwich just before heading back to the airport for my flight home:

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Never seen a cubano sliced that way, and individually wrapped but it was amazingly good, and again with a nice cup of cafe con leche.

The other specialty of Las Olas was a big cup of the sugar cane juice which was incredibly tasty! I love Guarapo!

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But besides eating I also got an opportunity to enjoy the beach. I’ve been to the Jersey Shore a bunch of times this year with the baby nephew but frankly the water in Northern Atlantic is too cold for me even in the heat of the summer. In South Florida walking into the ocean at noon time, the water felt warmer then the air tems outside, it was amazing! I went swimming for at at least an hour which was exhausting and incredibly relaxing at the same time!

I would say shame it was only a two day short trip, but honestly it is exactly what I needed at this time. And the two days went quickly enough so I wasn’t bored at any moment. It was just right!

I can’t wait to go back in October after Petit Le Mans!

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I <3 Miami!

Oh yeah, almost forgot… I considered using this opportunity to visit Speed Source in Coral Springs, just a short drive from Miami Airport… maybe there was a job I could apply for. But in the grand scheme of things it never materialized. Would be nice to work for a team that races the same Copper Red Mazda’s as my MX-5 ūüėČ

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Mazda MX-5: New York City Road Trip to the Bronx

There’s no better car to go cruising around New York City than a Miata, especially with the top down – it’s a perfect car for sightseeing. For the second time this month I had an opportunity to drive all the way to NYC and my Miata has made me fall in love with the city again and again.

I think people living in New Jersey take NYC for granted. It’s so close and yet a world away. It’s not always easy to get to even though we live in the best country in the world our transportation system sucks. I think many see it as a chore making the effort to go to the city. It’s not cheap or terribly convenient. When taking public transport, the expense, the traffic the crowds – suck. Or driving your own car and paying more for the tolls than anyone could really justify ($15 bux!!!), dealing with traffic, the gridlock, the pot holes big enough to blow a tire or crack a rim – destroy your alignment, the lack of parking and the ease of earning a ticket from the NYPD… it all adds up to avoiding the experience altogether.

But what an awesome city New York is! My job sent¬†me to check out some vehicles¬†they wish to purchase from their NYC affiliate with headquarters in the South Bronx. A very quick 20 minute ride with no traffic from my office in Hackensack across the George Washington bridge and down the Major Deegan past the Yankee Stadium. The garage was only a few blocks away from Bruckner Expressway I took to get to the Third Avenue bridge on my way to Long Island when picking up the RX-8 donut for my car. This time I noticed something new along the way: beautiful street art, graffiti. And it was a perfect backdrop for an impromptu photo shoot. I popped a u-ey, backed up onto the sidewalk, and snapped away… before the parking cop shooed me away:

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So it turns out that part of the Bronx is called Port Morris. Definitely not the most dangerous part of town as the South Bronx is typically portrayed in the media with countless crimes, dangerous gangs and stolen cars left on cinder blocks or torn apart in the chop shops. It was a beautiful experience.

From there I decided to go home via Manhattan again, taking the FDR down to 42nd street and cruising along with the top down across town admiring NYC architecture along the way. From the beautiful facade of the Grand Central, to the art-deco style of the Chrysler building, the hussle and bustle of Time Square and of course the very touristy area of 42nd Street. Loved the experience of driving with many of the tourists checking out the car and taking pictures of it. It was great. I gotta do this more often!

I <3 New York

PS. The Miata is a perfect Motorsport Tourism vehicle so long as there’s a party of 1 travelling without luggage (on account that the RX-8 donut takes up most of the trunk space). Next time one of my marshal buddies visits NYC I’m definitely taking them for a ride in the MX-5.

Best Foodie Experiences during Grand Prix of the Americas in New Jersey

How do you plan for a Formula 1 Grand Prix that has been on and off the official calendar for a few years now without any conceivable hope that it will actually ever happen? By scouting out decent foodie experiences in the area for the race that may just become the highlight of the F1 circus one year!

We all acknowledge that the NYC skyline will be the selling point of the race being staged on the New Jersey side of the Hudson river. And you can easily cross the bridge or one of the few tunnels to dine in the city, but that’s $14 bux in tolls alone not to mention the inevitably high parking bill. Even parking on the Jersey side and spending $10 on public transport to get somewhere isn’t the most convenient thing. So let’s focus on the best that New Jersey has to offer. And with my 20+ years living here in the Northeastern part of the state just minutes from where the race “would” one day take place, I’m sure I can recommend a few of my favorite places.

I decided not to do a Top 10 list because that isn’t descriptive enough. Not accurately anyway. Top 10 of what? If you like sushi but hate BBQ would my higher ranking of an American restaurant over a Japanese joint seem fair to you? Probably not. So I’d rather present my choices in a “Best-of” format. The best sushi option, best BBQ, best Thai, Mexican, Korean, etc.

So without any further delay, here are my favorite restaurants you should definitely check out when in town for the Grand Prix of the Americas at Port Imperial in Weehawken and West New York, NJ:

  • American:

Cubby’s BBQ – Hackensack, NJ cubbysbarbeque.com/ famous for their ribs, steak and burgers, my favorite is their house BBQ sauce and anything that goes with it. The ribs are pricey at $25 a rack but well worth it. The deluxe burgers come with a generous portion of fries which can be smothered in absolutely delicious gravy.

Seafood Gourmet – Maywood, NJ seafood-gourmet.com/ famous for their fresh seafood counter at the front and a tiny dining area in the back. My favorite is the New England Clam Chowder which they sell by the Quart. Not the cheapest seafood place but definitely the tastiest in the area.

White Manna – Hackensack, NJ wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Manna famous for their little burger sliders. Made in front of you while you wait in a cozy little diner, with seats surrounding the cooking area. The strong smell of onions whafting in the air. Authentically Jerzey place for sure. Have a bunch of them.

  • Colombian:

Pollo Mario Steak House & Seafood – Hackensack, NJ www.pollosmario.net/ this is a chain restaurant with another convenient location just about a mile from the proposed circuit on i495 in Union, NJ leading out of the Lincoln Tunnel/New York City. Amazing selection of grilled meats, fantastic rotisserie chicken and seafood served with traditional rice and beans. Yumm!

  • Cuban:

Casual Habana – Hackensack, NJ www.casualhabanacafe.com/ famous for its Ropa Vieja and the Cubanos and that’s what I tend to order. I’ve tried other items, but my favorite are the classics and they are absolutely delicious. Another store is opening in New Milford, NJ

  • Italian:

Cosmo’s Salumeria – Hackensack, NJ famous for his cold cuts, but the little deli gets crowded in the lunch time when everyone orders sandwiches to go. My favorite is the #2 Prosciutto with Mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar on crunchy Italian bread. Goes really well with a bottle of Stewart’s Root Beer which Cosmo sells.

Roman’s Pizza – New Milford, NJ www.romanpizzarestaurant.com/¬†¬†¬†¬† I don’t like their pizza, but the Calzone’s and Strombolli are outstanding. Get they with the extra marinara sauce and grab a bottle of Boylan’s Creme Soda to wash it down. Excellent combination of amazing flavors.

  • Japanese:

Kumo Japanese Cuisine – Ridgewood, NJ kumo55.com/ famous for their three roll lunch specials when you pay cash. But even when dining in, the sushi is made to order, using very fresh ingredients and the taste is outstanding. Great decor inside and the green tea will warm up your soul while you wait.

  • Lebanese

Tabboule Fine Lebanese Cuisine РRidgewood, NJ  www.tabboule.com/  I started going to this place because they participated in the Frequent Flyer dining program where I got miles for every dine, but unlike other places I keep coming back because the food is actually great. Fresh ingredients, made to order, a little pricey but very very good Middle Eastern food.

  • Malaysian:

Penang Malaysain & Thai Cuisine – Lodi, NJ this is a chain that specializes in Malaysian, Singaporean and Thai food, but despite being a chain it is outstanding. Food is a bit pricey but properly prepared and very authentic tasting. Portions are good and the selection is awesome.

  • Mexican:

Pancho’s Burritos – New Milford, NJ www.panchosburritosnj.com/ the most authentic of Mexican tasting places I’ve come across in New Jersey. A little pricey but the food is great. They use fresh ingredients, and fairly large portions. My favorites depend on the mood, but the tacos, burritos and chimichangas are really, really good. Get a bottle of Jarritos there too.

  • Spanish:

Segovia Steakhouse & Seafood – Moonachie, NJ www.segoviarestaurant.com/ we go to this restaurant to celebrate birthdays and special occasions with the family. The sit down atmosphere is excellent and their catering is awesome too when you feel like ordering a few trays to serve at your own house party. They do meat well. They do seafood well. The lobsters are outstanding. The little hot bread they serve at the start of the meal is outstanding. The sangria is outstanding. Like a lot!

Iberia Peninsula Restaurant РNewark, NJ www.iberiarestaurants.com/  we used to go to this place a lot more often when I studied in Newark. But they take advantage of the large Spanish and Portuguese population living in the Ironbound district of Newark to prepare outstanding Spanish and Iberian food. Their massive trays of mixed seafood with yellow rice is to die for. Highly recommend.

  • Thai:

Bangkok Garden – Hackensack, NJ www.bangkokgarden-nj.com/ the most authentic of anything from Thailand I have ever come across in New Jersey. The dining area is nicely decorated in traditional Thai decor but the food is simply outstanding. A little pricey but well worth it. My favorites are basic red curry dishes or Pad Thai. Their little egg rolls are really good, and the orange peel sauce is fantastic. They do spicy well.

  • Turkish

Lisa‚Äôs Mediterranean Cuisine – Ridgewood, NJ famous for it’s home cooked style dishes, this is an excellent restaurant to bring your friends and family and spend the evening together in the heart of the Village of Ridgewood. My favorite dish would have to be the lamb kebob served with the really fresh salad… all the dips that accompany various meat dishes are amazing!

 

If you agree or disagree with the choices above, or if there are some obvious options I missed, please do share your comments below.

I will do a separate post of my favorite foodie places in NYC later.

PS. this list will be periodically updated as new places appear and old places unfortunately go out of business (like one of my favorite local Brazilian Rodizio places)

Advice Request: Newbie training for Singapore GP

I got a curious question¬†from a reader earlier this week that I don’t have a good answer to. So I would like to pose the query here to seek the best course of action for the reader, whom I’m going to call Bob.

Bob is not his real name.

Bob is a young man that lives in New York City. He has never marshaled before but has developed an interest in volunteering for the Singapore Grand Prix as an “observer” marshal. Bob asked me what training is available in the NYC area for him to qualify as a marshal for the upcoming Singapore GP event in September.

It’s a loaded question that I will break down below along with the advice I proposed to Bob. Unfortunately I am not completely happy with what I told him and that’s why I want others to share their suggestions.

Suggestion #1: If Bob is able to attend the training in Singapore that would be the best course of action. He should apply for the SGP, and if accepted take advantage of the FIA certified F1 specific training.

However living in NYC that is not a realistic option for Bob.

Suggestion #2: Forget Singapore this year and sign up for the US Grand Prix in Austin, TX. The likelihood of getting in is much better than SGP and he could use his experience at USGP as a reference when applying for SGP or any other event in the future.

However, Bob is most interested in Singapore GP this year.

Suggestion #3: Last resort option: Join SCCA. Bob referred to my blog by saying that he read that I’d recommend joining SCCA because they are the only governing body in the US capable of issuing a marshal license. But I wanted to make it clear to Bob that SCCA does not do F1 specific training. There is a significant cost involved with joining the club. And the emphasis of the local marshals that would train him is more focused towards Club events than anything else. And in the NYC area SCCA offers very limited training¬† no training (I did also make it clear that I left the NNJR SCCA Region and joined Guam Region instead because no training was offered in the last 3 years of my membership here). Bob and I live in the same region: NYC/Northern NJ. So relying on SCCA is a time consuming endeavor that may or may not result into anything, and is certainly not the optimal option when thinking of volunteering at Singapore GP or any other major international event in the immediate future.

Bob is frustrated!

And so there’s the dilemma. Having volunteered Singapore GP for a few years myself. Having participated in a few SCCA events and having argued relentlessly with the local club for ages about the lack of training. I have no good suggestions for Bob to help him out in this situation.

Bob mentioned he’s been reading forums and has reached out to some SCCA folks in this area that suggested he go to a “crash and burn” school at Summit Point with the Washington DC region (Saturday, March 14th). But according to Bob it wasn’t a realistic idea on short notice, factoring the distance (5-6 hour drive each way) between NYC and West Virginia. He’s quite surprised that for an activity that is so short on volunteers it’s definitely not easy to get started for someone brand new. Which echoes the point I have been stressing for a few years now. But recognizing or confirming a problem and seeing no obvious solution doesn’t help me help Bob.

And while it is true that many volunteer organizations around the world, especially here in the US, struggle to muster up good marshal numbers for various events. Singapore is not one of those struggling organizations because Singapore receives far more demand (supply) then the supply (demand) allows. It’s common knowledge that each year over 3,000 applications get submitted for SGP and only 1,200 to 1,300 marshals get selected, of whom a good 80% are returning marshals. So applying for SGP even with experience is no guarantee of getting accepted. But how do you even get to the point of applying for SGP with no experience like the situation Bob is in?

I am very curious to see what Bob ends up doing. I hope he does follow through with his desire to marshal and joins another event that would accommodate him in terms of training for the future. And I would really appreciate if people share their thoughts on this subject. I will also acknowledge that it will undoubtedly take time for Bob to get anywhere. But following the traditional SCCA route of doing club races, say at Lime Rock which only hosts 2 or 3 races per year, it would take him many years to be even in the position of considering an event of the Singapore GP magnitude. I don’t know if Bob would have enough patience for that. If only there was F1 specific training, or at the very least an avenue with the local club that fast tracks people specifically interested in Pro events vs. slugging along via Club events. Because let’s face it, there are plenty of first time volunteers at various F1 events already including US and Singapore. If only there was training in the NYC area period…

Interesting dilemma…