Tag Archives: Road Atlanta

Post Card from Road Atlanta, Petit Le Mans 10h TUSC 2014 Season Finale

Only one word can describe this entire trip: Perfect!

Absolutely, positively perfect trip to Road Atlanta to volunteer at Petit Le Mans, the 10h TUSC season finale. Let me tell you why, and if you get a sense that I’m just tripping over myself with joy after a fucking miserable start to the year with Daytona and Sebring, you’d be correct in getting that sense, I’m as happy about this trip as I could ever be. Loved it, absolutely loved every minute of it!

So lets start at the beginning. The flight was cheap. The destination was unique. I picked Savannah flying JetBlue because it was really cheap, like few hundred dollars cheaper than flying direct into Atlanta. Why did that make me happy? Because a day after I booked my trip, JetBlue offered 20% discount, and I was able to call back and re-book at the even cheaper rate with no questions asked. And that made me really happy. The car rental too was cheap. I typically monitor the prices and rebook constantly to get the best deal. Well I got a steal of a deal, because the price dropped by half from the first time I booked to the one I actually kept. And I got a ridiculous amount of miles for my rental with Southwest, which means I’m within range of getting a free flight next time I fly a short hop. How can I not be super excited about that? FlyerTalk would be proud of me. And when I arrived at Savannah to pick up my car, I got a brand spanking new Nissan Note with 500 miles on the clock. I was the first to roll that car over 1,000 miles and got 37.2 mpg doing it on my little Road Trip, which just made me super happy.

Arriving at Road Atlanta I was welcomed by my fellow volunteer Robert who hosted me in a very comfortable pop-up camper. Much better experience than camping on the ground in a tent, that’s for sure. Especially with the rain and cold weather that inevitably rolled in. But no rain could piss on my parade, I was constantly surprised with positive experiences and was just glowing with excitement.

turn 5 road atlanta petit le mans 2014

My first day marshaling I got to work with the legendary Willy Perez as my captain at Turn 5. What a blast that was. Fantastic blue flag opportunities all day, three unique views by rotating from 5 Flags downhill and 5A uphill. And I got to interview Willy for #MarshalCam , incredible!

For the remainder of the weekend I was bumped to Turn 1 again with Nancy. I was besides myself. I got an opportunity to work Turn 1 last year for race day only and had nearly 10 hours of blue flag there, how lucky for me to end up there the whole weekend? Very lucky! I loved it so much because Turn 1 is amazing at Road  Atlanta. You’re right at the exit of the pit lane, with perfect view of everything going on there. Walking distance to the paddock, so I got great photos roaming around during my off time. I must remember to request Turn 1 at other tracks because it had such a positive effect on my overall well-being and happiness volunteering this weekend. As luck would have it though, for race day I saw an even better opportunity to flag at Alpha which precedes Turn 1, is on the main straight just after the Starter stand, but an even better post for blue flag. I agreed to work 10 hours there without relief, so I would not compete with anyone else from Turn 1 for blue flag (there were 8 on station), but Starter sent people every hour to partner with me, so we shared the blue flag duties. It was incredible. I want to do Start in the future so to watch them work was a great learning experience. Although at the end of the event Nancy criticized me for blue flagging on restarts which I thought I was well within my rights to do. Nancy was super cool giving me a #MarshalCam interview also, so I’m forever grateful to her and others on station that participated also.  You can see my station (Alpha) right over my shoulder from these grid walk photos:

petit le mans grid 2014

Love the new aero package on the DeltaWing:

deltawing petit le mans 2014The fun didn’t stop at the track, during the worker dinner and party on Friday night I got super lucky with the prize drawing winning some much desired Mazda and Mazdaspeed swag:

mazda mazdaspeed swag petit le mansNow I have some hats to wear when I finally buy my Miata MX-5 and a t-shirt sized for my future girlfriend (size S) wink wink…

If you think I’m going to stop ranting and raving about Petit Le Mans and Road Atlanta here you’d be wrong… The event was fun, but post event touristy stuff was even more fun! I got a perfect opportunity to have a very nice breakfast with Tim & Heather, Robert and Brendan at an Atlanta suburb Waffle House. Laughter never stopped, and we got more Waffle House edition #MashalCam interviews done there. Freaking awesome!

But that was not the end. Five hour drive later back to Savannah I was hosted by a really friendly and welcoming lady who besides CouchSurfing also had some paying AirBnB guests. The fun continued there exchanging stories, and even sharing some sightseeing and foodie experiences with a young lady from Portland that we spend the next two days together roaming around Tybee Island, Hilton Head, SC and downtown Savannah being tourists. I won’t bore you with details of all the fun we had, but just drop some of my favorite photos below:

seafood feast at crab shack tybee island

Seafood sampler at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island, GA

chicken and waffle savannah

Chicken and Waffles at Loc’s in Savannah, GA

bbq savannah

BBQ sampler: ribs, chicken and pulled pork. Savannah, GA

You can hate me later after you stop salivating. I tried so many good and delicious dishes from various BBQ meats, to Seafood samplers, Crab Cakes and Conch Fritters, Chicken and Waffles, Grits and Hashbrowns, Biscuits and Gravy…

Oh man… I just want to go back already!

Au Revoir ALMS, Petit Le Mans debrief

So that was that, the final ALMS race as we know it has been run on a semi-wet Road Atlanta road course in less than 10 hours, and team Rebellion defended its win from last year with another victory. From turn 3 on Friday I was bounced off after I requested a change back to 11 to be with my Canadian friends from Mosport. That wasn’t meant to be though as I was moved to turn 1, and of all the places I could have been that was the most perfect one. Not only that, the flag chief from Baltimore GP was in charge of the schedule and he made sure I stayed on blue flag for as long as possible on the actual station for turn 1, as we were also responsible for turn 2 as well as working safety cross-track. Not only that, because we had an uneven number of marshals on a two-shift two-team rotation, I managed to double-stint it working both Group 1 and 2. So staying on station for the full 9 hours and a whatever minutes, I got to blue flag forever, and I loved every second of it!

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Race day was my whites day, which was funny because after having worn an orange set of overalls for the previous three days everyone assumed I was European… “oui, oui!”

petit le mans atl4

Working turn 1 meant we had two blue flaggers separated by a yellow flagger in the middle. We were responsible for both working the traffic on the course, and the cars coming out of pit lane. Watching the pit lane traffic was awesome, you could see every penalty taking place, fueling, tire and driver changes, etc. It was beautiful!

petit le mans atl5

Being so close to the grid also meant we could partake in the Grid Walk… and we got there before the crowds. It was again very awesome. Got to meet Leo Parente from /Drive Shakedown, finally… though he seemed to be in a moment admiring the NGT Momo #30 car dedicated to Sean Edwards who lost his life in a freak accident in Australia earlier this week while coaching a driver. That was sad, and a lone car pace lap was a pretty somber salute, though a very thoughtful one.

Camping at Road Atlanta was great compared to CouchSurfing last year. Ben Tyler was kind enough to bring a spare tent and air mattress for me to use, which made things very convenient. Seeing people from all around the country and the world was a great touch too to end the season. Next stop is F1 in Austin in November.

Petit Le Mans – ALMS season finale @ Road Atlanta

I faced a real dilemma deciding whether to jump on the opportunity to go to Korea for the F1 GP. Fortunately after quickly checking flights for the return trip, I realized I could have my cake and eat it too… You see I had already made plans to go to Road Atlanta for the 15th annual Petit Le Mans, the deciding race of the American Le Mans series. Going to Korea meant that I would miss a big chunk of that racing, luckily thanks to good availability with American Airlines AAdvantage, I was able to arrive just in time for ALMS practice.

Besides the flights, my major concern was cost of rental car and accommodation. Luckily Sixt came through big time. While all other car rental companies, including Sixt, were showing rates in the $30 a day range, there was a promo at Sixt for $19.99 Chevy Cruze in select cities, including Atlanta airport. Luck like this doesn’t happen to me often, I jumped on the deal saving a significant chunk of money. Similarly, CouchSurfing came through as I found a host in Gainsville, Georgia just twelve miles away from the track.

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The racing itself was spectacular. In addition to the usual suspects, a number of teams came from Europe bringing with them beautiful prototypes I haven’t seen in action before. Several teams from France, UK, Ireland and Switzerland were represented, including a gorgeous Lotus prototype that set the pole and won the race, giving the Muscle Milk #6 a good run for the money (had it not been crashed out by the #34 Green Hornet Porsche, it would have probably won though… the same Green Hornet that smashed the #0 Deltawing making it rollover in free practice).

The most interesting part about Petit Le Mans was the fact that it was an endurance race. My previous longest race was a Six Hour at the Glen for Grand Am series, Petit Le Mans was 10 hours or 1,000 miles, going well into the night where the only lights on the circuit often enough were those from the cars. It was super cool blue flagging the race in the dark, trying to make out the prototypes vs. GT’s and keeping track who’s in the lead. But I quickly got the hang of it, which surprised even myself.

I had a really wonderful time meeting a lot of new people from the Atlanta Region, many employees of Road Atlanta with lots of experience working for Panoz whom recently sold the ALMS series to Grand Am/NASCAR. It was quite interesting to chat with them on what the future of sports car racing in US has in store. I’m looking forward to go back to this track for sure, after driving around a few times it really is amazing, the elevation changes rival those of Mosport in Canada .