Tag Archives: Prototypes

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…

Signed Up for Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and Sebring 12 hour

Good News! I signed up to volunteer for St. Pete Grand Prix and Sebring 12 hour with the Central Florida Region SCCA.

I had a blast last year. I had a great time at Daytona this year. So it was natural to want to return to sunny Florida this March.

Like last year I’ll be driving my Miata down for two weeks on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I’ll do a stop over in Daytona Beach on the way down and hopefully on the way back home. All of this I am very much looking forward to. New for this year will hopefully be my role at the event. I asked to work Pit & Grid so hopefully I’ll get to see more at St. Pete than just a remote corner of the track. Although I think Sebring will indeed be the more busy of the two races for me.

We shall see…

Looking forward to watching the pelicans land into Tampa Bay while in St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach area.

this is my post assignment from last year…

…can’t wait!

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!

Lone Star Le Mans the Debrief

For the second year in a row, Lone Star Le Mans proved to be one of my best events of the year so far. In many ways it was much better than last year. The weather was nice, warm and sunny compared to last year’s rain and cold. I was feeling much better physically, none of that nausea from food poisoning that messed with me last year. There wasn’t a generator with an exhaust pointing into the station, so things were pretty good all around.

Of course things were up and down, starting from the time I booked my flights. I overpaid for my air travel this year. Part of it was due to the lack of cheap offers I took advantage of last year, and another part was because I chose to burn up some soon to expire mileage which actually resulted in me paying a higher price. This year I used the last of my Avianca Life Miles frequent flyer points to book a one way trip from Austin to Newark in time to get to work on Sunday afternoon. In all it cost me $120 dollars to pay for taxes and to prop up the mileage which Avianca allows you to buy in order to book the trip (I didn’t have enough to book it outright). The price also included the $25 booking fee which Avianca charges which sucks. To get to Austin I booked a $118 flight with JetBlue from Westchester County airport on the NY/CT border to fly there via Orlando. It wasn’t the cheapest flight possible, but it allowed me to satisfy some frequent flyer criteria to earn a bonus with JetBlue to use for the future. Of course a few weeks after I booked these trips that amounted to $238 and a bunch of layovers, Southwest came out with a sale that was $50 cheaper on direct flights into Austin from Newark, and that had much better timing. Go figure!

For comparison purposes I paid $106 round trip to go to Austin last year, in fact I booked two of those trips for WEC and F1.

But enough about that. The next snag came once I landed in Austin. I had some miscommunication with my buddy Joaquin which resulted in me waiting at the airport for him to pick me up. Somehow we didn’t get the arrival date correct. He thought I was flying in the next day when he had work commitments at COTA. I foolishly thought he had to work on the date I arrived. So I sat and waited at the airport until 5pm when he would have been finished with the work, and then 6pm, and 7pm, etc. I people-watched. Had some Salt Lick BBQ which I know I wouldn’t have a chance to go to since I wasn’t renting a car to drive to Driftwood. So I waited. About 6 hours later and no sight of my buddy… I decided to call him. And then we both realized out mistake. While waiting I got a chance to say hello to Marc Miller the driver of the CJWilson #3 Miata which had a very good start for the Continental Tire SportsCar Championship race this weekend.

I always have high praise for Salt Lick BBQ – an Austin institution, but I had a bad experience there on this visit. The girl behind the counter swiped my credit card twice during my purchase. I didn’t think anything of it until I got home and saw two separate and different charges on my card. She charged me for my meal, which was delicious and for something else which I didn’t order nor receive. So I sent Salt Lick a note about this theft from my credit card, but got a pretty arrogant reply back requesting my card number so they can credit the account back. At this point I had already disputed the transaction with the card issuer so that was a pointless piece of the process but it is sad to see that the organization doesn’t take theft seriously. In the past I had seen duplicate charges from my purchases at the Austin Airport but the amount was too small to fuss about. But this time it was more about the principle. I don’t like being robbed even of a small amount.

And so onto the actual event.

On Wednesday I arrived with Joaquin who was scheduled to work for COTA that day, thinking I would just hang out and take some pictures. Luckily the powers that be decided to use me for the practice sessions, so I got issued with a radio and dropped off at Turn 12 for the Porsche GT3 Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge practice. There were five sessions in total, and at the end of the day I was able to register for the main event without having to arrive extra early the next day.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were extremely long days. We were to arrive at the crack of dawn, 5:30am and most of the time didn’t leave well after dark… the hardest were 9:30pm finish on Thursday and the 11pm finish on race day Saturday. My feet were completely swollen.

Thursday I got to captain at Station 20 Alpha which is the exit of Turn 20 opposite the finish stand on the main straight. That was an amazing opportunity. My goal was to sneak away during our breaks, to the pit lane and say hello to some people while snapping some pix, but that wasn’t realistic at all. The track stayed hot most of the time.

I did get an opportunity to go down the pit lane and check out the paddock on Friday and Saturday because I was stationed at Turn 2, the station had an incredible view of the uphill leading up to Turn 1 which was amazing. But besides the convenience of walking to the pits and watching the cars shoot for the first turn, we actually had some great action ourselves at our turn, where again I was captain. First for the Lamborghini Super Trofeo event there was a Huracan car that smacked the ARMCO just up the station from us, which allowed me to respond with a fire extinguisher. Since the car was facing away from me I never got the driver to make eye contact so I could tell him that the rear end was broken. But after a few moments he drove away, crabbing along with the left axle clearly destroyed. For the IMSA practice we had a PC prototype cruise backwards after a spin at Turn 1 and then suddenly shoot out into the oncoming traffic trying to rejoin. Another PC prototype collected him in a violent fashion and both ended up coming to a rest just prior to Station 3. I was on flags again so I went from waving a green, to waving a yellow, to standing a yellow to asking my partner to go waving white, to again waving a yellow when the crash happened. The incident repeated in the Porsche GT3 Cup when the second car in Gold class got bumped and spun out of the way in the apex of our turn by a Platinum class driver. Like the PC incident the whole thing didn’t make sense, and resulted from some pretty aggressive driving. While on comms for the headline WEC race we were extremely quiet. The only call I made was for the #50 Corvette getting pushed off the track by a passing LMP2 car, and a few laps later I was surprised to hear that the Corvette was penalized for that incident. From my vantage point it looked like the prototype clearly muscled his way through.

Going to this event I was happy to just be a flagger, but I understand why the flag chief would make me a captain. I wanted to share what I have learned over the years with my crew, but it was interesting to see how some selectively accepted what I told them, and at other times didn’t bother listening to it at all. It took some adjustments on my part to get people to do what I wanted them to do. And some mistakes were made, minor but mistakes nonetheless. I was happy to see a fellow marshal request the communicator role which freed me up to do some flagging. But during both of our major incidents at Turn 2 I noticed he had the boom of his Mic over his head. And even though he tried calling in the incident play by play, Race Control would have a hard time making out his call because the Mic was so far away from his mouth. Both times I reached out and pulled the Mic down to the proper level. But that obviously interfered with the smoothness of the call, as it should have been made. I had a great time training some new marshals, and one of the main things I tried to instill is confidence in blue flagging. It almost worked too well because my rookie flagger threw the blue flag on second lap for the mixed GT field. I quickly corrected him and explained that during the race blue flag is ONLY for lapping. But it was one of those things that totally caught me off guard, as he didn’t throw the blue flag on the start of any other support races. It wasn’t just the rookies that surprised me. One of the experienced flaggers that I wanted to rotate with during a support race took the headset off my head as I got the blue flag from him, which is something I asked him prior to the start of the race we were not going to do. Leaving me fumbling to find some ear protection. And at the start of the front straight the station is at the point where all cars accelerate flat out making it a very noisy station. My ears were ringing for a while after that. I still don’t understand why he did what he did, and certainly didn’t appreciate it at all.

So that was that, good racing. Three different perspectives and eight different people I got a chance to work with. Most were really nice, some were quite stubborn and didn’t seem to approve of my choices at times. But I got a real kick out of two people listening to my advice as they were new to endurance racing and appreciated the opportunity they got for the training I offered them. One even said he had stumbled upon my blog in preparation for his first event at COTA which I thought was really cool.

During the pit walk I managed to snap a whole lot of pix. Got an opportunity to say hello to Mr. Alain from WEC who surprised me with a few WEC/Le Mans 24h patches. And even got a chance to tour the Race Control room. Although it was a bit awkward getting in, as security was under strict orders not to let us in so we had to wait in the sun until someone was sent to get us. It was ironic as there wasn’t many people in race control when we finally got in, so I’m not sure what was the point of making us wait outside in the sun to begin with. Maybe that was a way to elevate the image of the idea of the Race Control facility… or who knows what else. That aspect should have been organized better.

I’m glad I got an opportunity to go back to Austin and substitute my previous trips to Le Mans 24h in France with two American events with “Le Mans” in their names. Petit Le Mans is my next big trip only a week apart from Lone Star Le Mans, and if it goes half as well as the Texas event I would be very happy!

Stay tuned for more…

This is Texas! My Ride for Lone Star Le Mans at COTA The “Beast”

There’s one thing I look forward to the most when arriving in Austin, Texas for any of the events at Circuit of the Americas: and that is a ride in my buddy’s truck: the “Beast”

What is the Beast?

It’s a ninety seventies something Chevy Silverado Dually… with a big ass V8 under the hood and a four speed manual transmission with a skull for a shift knob… it’s loud, it’s aggressive and it’s powerful. It certainly got a lot more heads turning at the airport when I got picked up than any of the fancy new pick ups or other vehicles that picked up other people as I was waiting for my ride. And there were plenty of Texas Edition and Lone Star Edition trucks driving through the terminal. The noise from the Beast is really something…

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I met Joaquin the owner at COTA last year during the Lone Star Le Mans weekend because we worked the same station together. He’s been kind enough to store my tent for me since then, picking me up at the airport when I arrived for the Formula 1 weekend and now Lone Star Le Mans this year.

To me, Joaquin’s truck is what Texas is all about. Big, noisy and tough! And this time around I actually got to drive the Beast myself being the designated driver when we went out for some Mexican food and margaritas. What a thrill! Only stalled it once when I put it in 4th instead of reverse while leaving the parking lot, but did pretty good the rest of the way to the house. Very happy to have had this experience. Certainly made my day!

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Pre-Race Praise to the Lone Star Le Mans Flag Chief Brent McNaul for his Work Organizing Marshals at COTA

I have high praise to the Lone Star Le Mans flag chief Brent McNaul for the way he has been organizing the marshals for the upcoming event at the Circuit of the Americas. I want to recognize his efforts in this post because often I blog about people doing things wrong and how much I don’t agree with their approach, and it’s too easy to be critical. In this situation the man deserves high accolades long before the event has even started because he’s been doing everything right. And I really appreciate it!

For those of you reading this you may remember the post I made a while back about the perfect registration page set up for Lone Star Le Mans on MotorsportReg.com It was detailed, thorough, and intuitive. It communicated well what’s involved with the event and encouraged you to be a part of something big, a PRO event, something to be proud of. That attention to detail has continued in the months that followed leading up to this weekend. Brent has been communicating constantly with frequent e-mail blasts keeping the registered marshals abrest of important details pertaining to the race weekend, flag rules, new procedures, etc.

What I liked most about Brent’s e-mail communications:

  • Acknowledgement that the days would be long, as they tend to be on such a race weekend where cars are on track from dawn to dusk, and beyond. In early July Brent sent out info about working in shifts to break up the work load. Personally I can’t get enough of endurance events so I volunteered to work both shifts.
  • Marshal evacuation plan. Who thinks about that right? We had a simulated evacuation a year or two ago at COTA. We were loaded onto the “train” shuttle and taken to the safety of an underpass to wait out a storm. Nobody knew really what was going on, it seemed as the shuttle drivers were following instructions from whomever came on their hand held radios. Now we have a detailed plan of action direct from COTA management.
  • Detailed schedule of the event and the confirmed race entries were provided for those of us interested in the participants of the event in late August.
  • Specific flagging rules were provided as the IMSA rules differ from the FIA rules used during WEC. Specific instructions were provided about the use of boards including NEXT SLOW, SLOW zone, and FCY – Full Course Yellow. While the boards appeared at last year’s event they were not used. The information provided in Brent’s e-mail prepares us as marshals to know what to expect if Race Control calls for a specific board or a series of boards like the progression of NEXT SLOW to SLOW zone, and FCY.
  • Captain prep e-mail was sent out to those of us expected to carry out the captain roles during the event. I was fortunate enough to be selected and am looking forward to fulfilling my duties. I am especially looking forward to incidents happening in my sector so that I could put my training to good use with execution and learn from my response for future incidents.
  • Information about registration, morning sign-on and even early registration times and locations was sent out. This is especially useful since I will be without a personal vehicle being a pedestrian sucks, but allows me to rely on friends to go and register early so that the morning of the event I could go straight to the morning meeting.
  • Station assignments. This one was my favorite especially since last year I left COTA with a sour taste after getting stuck in the same part of the track for several consecutive events. Well, not anymore. I am thrilled with my station assignments thanks to Brent because I will be working some new portions of the track that I haven’t done yet and I am very much looking forward to this experience!

So major props to Brent McNaul for his efforts to keep the Lone Star Le Mans a well oiled machine of an event that I’m sure it will be. The work he’s doing is greatly appreciated not just by me but everyone else, and that’s important. Furthermore I wish more people would learn from Brent to put this amount of effort into their events that they flag chief. He is certainly setting a good example, and I thank him for it!

austin texas cota
source: swiped from the e-mail signature of Jeanie at COTA

SportsCar Grand Prix of Mosport debrief

What an incredible event! The ALMS Grand Prix of Mosport at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was my second year in a row participating with MMS – Motorsport Marshalling Services crew from Ontario, Canada there. And although the racing itself was probably less exciting than it was last year, I had a far better time participating this year. And this is why: friends!

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I had signed up to volunteer Toronto Indy to optimize my time spent in Canada. As usual going into Ontario was a breeze which is always refreshing. I got super lucky to be hosted for the Toronto Indy by CouchSurfing friends that I first met in Korea during the F1 event there last year. The Indy race was OK, I was assigned a wonderful corner, but I didn’t really work it except for one day when I kind of got to play at the crash zone. Long story short, the true reason I went up to Canada was ALMS. This was my fourth time participating in the series this year, and they’re only up to five races so far, not bad!       The only one I missed was Sebring because it was the same weekend as Australian GP.

So heading to Bowmanville for ALMS at Mosport, I was again hosted by a wonderful CouchSurfer who let me use her house for a few days between the races where I had absolutely nothing to do but eat poutine for lunch and surf the web. That worked out really well. What was also nice is the fact she got a new pet, a nice beagle named Kip that sounds exactly like my Maxi Max. For the actual ALMS race I crashed in the marshal camping area using Frank and Judy’s pop up, which was very nice of them to let me use. I had worked with these awesome Canadians for the past two Montreal F1 races, as well as the ALMS last year and Toronto Indy a week prior. Great people!

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Once the race weekend rolled around, some more new friends showed up from the States, specifically a trio of Detroit marshals whom I have invited to blog on this web site. I feel silly confessing I was wrong by making semi-sarcastic comments on my facebook about Canada being predictable. Of course I didn’t get selected to work the paid test day for ALMS weekend, but I was encouraged to volunteer which is what I came to do in the first place. And of course I wouldn’t get to blue flag because that’s a speciality typically reserved for the locals, but I was wrong on both accounts. I got some gas money for working the test day and was the designated blue flagger for the entire ALMS weekend. Which was beyond fantastic, special thanks to Richard and Barbara Dobbs of MMS whom I had the pleasure of working Detroit GP together with, whom I’m sure made this all happen for me. Thank you!

The weather over the weekend went from extreme heat to extreme rain, to moderate cold. Racing was good, but not very spectacular. And I was very much busy the entire time blue flagging. Happy beyond belief! Wish more race weekends were like this one. My CouchSurfer friends were also recruited to try their hand working the Start/Finish stand with Judy, which is awesome… they came out to the race to spectate and we spend a lot of quality time together hanging out, including a quick trip for more poutine, my last meal before heading home to New Jersey.

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CouchSurfers Will & Holly, my recent recruits to marshal at Mosport doing Start/Finish

Northeast Grand Prix ALMS debrief

I was not feeling it. The whole atmosphere of this year’s Northeast GP was somehow off. It was supposed to be amazing. After all I had just returned from Europe working the actual Le Mans… I was going to work with my friends at Lime Rock, what more could I ask for? Well Friday night I was just one bad decision away from going home and not returning.

Luckily I stayed. Saturday morning, on race day I was still out of it. I asked my buddy Tim where he and Jessie were stationed and he was like: “we’re together dude!” which made me feel a lot better, I mean we were team JRT after all, even though I was totally thirdwheeling the entire weekend. I also found out we were at Turn 1, which made me go “WOW!” that’s one hell of a station to work for ALMS. And finally when the flag chief called station assignments I discovered I was made corner captain, which just made me laugh. Why me? Usually Tim likes this sort of thing… but at least I knew I wasn’t going to be stuck doing something I wouldn’t enjoy. In that spirit, I made station assignments based on people’s requests. It may sound a lot looser than it actually is, but I know from my experience when I’m doing something I enjoy doing, the time flies.

Thanks to the heat the time didn’t fly during the race though. It felt like the exact 2 hours and 45 minutes that it was. Unfortunately for Tim and Jessie, they were marooned across track at the outpost for the entire race. I tried to “create” opportunities to cross with the only full course yellow until that point occurring at our station thanks to a high-sighted prototype challenge car, but it wasn’t happening. All in all, the race was OK… not the greatest ALMS race I’ve been to, not even as good as I remember last year’s race to be, but it was good. Something was holding it back from being amazing. Not sure what.

The station assignment was quite perfect though. We were able to do the grid walk for the Le Man’s style start, and mingle with teams and drivers before the big event. It gave Tim and Jessie a final opportunity to sticker up cars they didn’t get a chance to over the past few days, and they did a spectacular job doing it. These guys have some serious balls doing what they did… I on the other hand would be contacting the organizers, the team head offices, etc. and probably getting rejected at every step of the way, while they went there and had the driver’s put the stickers on the cars, that’s about as good as it gets.

It will be sad not to see prototypes racing at Lime Rock Park next year with the United SportsCar Series… its the second track I’ve lost in my home area in two years, after NJMP lost Grand-Am… but I guess I’ll have to travel elsewhere to volunteer…

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The highlight of the weekend was a call I requested that Brendan make to Race Control in the early stages of the race. Pat from Watkins Glen had complained that the blue flag was shredding off the handle, every time we used it. And at turn 1 we used it aggressively. I had a quick look at it, and told him that that’s how flags generally are with the NY SCCA region… but being corner captain and allowing myself to start and finish the race on blue flag, I found my right hand was cramping after only 15 minutes into the race, because I was clinging onto the cloth part of the flag. The grip was so tight because I worried I’d lose the flag when waiving it in a spirited fashion to allow the prototypes to zoom past the slower GT/GTC traffic. Brendan reported our blue flag catastrophic failure to Race Control whom promptly delivered a new flag for us to flog 🙂

Le Mans 24 spotter guide Download

I have a confession to make. I collect Andy Blackmore’s spotter guides at every event or opportunity I get. So far I’ve got keepsake souvenirs from ALMS races at Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock, etc. His latest release for the 24 hours of Le Mans is incredible, consisting of three pages full of info and of course race cars. Spotter guides are super useful for marshals at identifying cars to be called in to race control, whether they spun or crashed, or caused an incident. But they are beautiful memorabilia to keep for any fan.

spotter guide 24hr le mans

Download the FREE 2013 Le Mans 24 spotter guide on Andy Blackmore’s web site: http://www.spotterguides.com/

Link: http://www.spotterguides.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LM13_A3_V1.pdf

Follow his updates on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpotterGuides

The Road to Le Mans, France

I don’t think there’s an automotive enthusiast out there that doesn’t know what the 24 hours of Le Mans is all about. My goal for 2013 is to marshal this race and so far the road to le Mans has been full of uncertainty.

But, like many other races I’ve done over my short marshaling career, this one is a priority. I’ve been quite fortunate making contacts over the past few races with people that have either done the 24hr enduro or will be doing it again next year, those contacts have been excellent. Similarly, people on the ten-tenths.com forums, complete strangers, have been offering useful advice which I hope will materialize into my participation there.

One of the most interesting attractions of working this race for me is not just trying to pretend I speak French, but exposure to some amazing technology, like the teaser about Green GT

I’m a huge fan of green technology – the whole hybrid idea, and would love to see this in action, whatever it actually is. Reading the history of Le Mans its fascinating to know that the series first saw KERS in use ten years before Formula 1 adopted the idea, technology brought to the game by the ALMS founder Don Panoz. I’m sure whatever 2013 holds in store will be historic. Hopefully I’ll be there. More info about Le Mans: www.lemans.org