Tag Archives: Spa 24h

California 8 hour at Laguna Seca Debut of Intercontinental GT Challenge in America

Welcome to the California 8h the debrief.

Man was I looking forward to this event… not so much because I thought it was going to be a thriller (it was good, but in a genetic GT racing kind of way, fairly predictable) but because I wasn’t sure it was actually going to happen… even a week before race day!

Why do I say that? Because this is SRO’s second attempt at bringing the Intercontinental GT Challenge to America… I specifically signed up to volunteer the PWC season opener at COTA last year just for the Circuit of the America’s 6 hour race… that never happened.

I am glad however that this event took place, and most importantly that it was a success! We only had 19 cars on grid, which is a low number. But the racing was good. One brand dominated… Nobody could keep up with the pace of the Audi’s… not McLaren. Not Acura. And definitely not Porsche whose very reliable 911 GT3 RSR’s started falling lap down first… at one point there was only four cars on the lead lap, which is silly.

Luckily the battles for first were good. Team Land Audi lead for most of the event. Belgian Team WRT took over briefly and then spun out into the kitty litter, going down a few laps by the time it was recovered. And Magnus racing saved the best for last and won. McLaren ran Okay… went down a few times but finished on the lead lap. And Acura didn’t fare so well either. One of the cars DNF’ed… the other finished in fourth or so. I think all of the Porsche 911’s finished a lap down. In GT4 field the Ginetta, Aston Martin and Porsche Cayman had a great battle. And the Invitational Mazda3 V8’s finished a strong 9th and 10th. Which is pretty cool! Those cars were very neat… one was left hand drive, one right hand drive. And featured two shades of the Mazda famous red paint. (while being powered by a Ford Coyote 5.0 liter V8)

So what’s the verdict for this event?

If it happens again, I think it would be tremendously better if more cars show up. That of course could be said about any other event, but in this case it would have made a huge difference.

Anything else they could change?

YES! I hope and pray that SRO or USAC/PWC/SFR SCCA spring up a few bucks to buy some “SC” – Safety Car boards. It was absolutely absurd waving double yellows every time there was full course caution. Who made that decision? It’s Stupid! Any kind of waving yellow flag for no good reason (absent an SC board) waters down/diluted the importance of the safety aspect of waving yellow flags. How much could the boards possibly cost? Can’t SRO just bring their own… I mean they already bring containers full of equipment. Bring the pink Code 60 flag along too! If I could change one thing I would have changed that first…

Total 24 Hours of Spa Blancpain GT Feature Race of Intercontinental GT Challenge at the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps

What a way to end an amazing month in Europe by volunteering the best endurance race in the world: the Total 24 hours of Spa at Circuit Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

I was looking forward to Spa 24h for the whole year since I have worked last year’s event. This year the race did not disappoint. My Belgian or rather Flemish friend Pol was kind enough to chauffeur me around for the past few weeks, and Spa-Francorchamp visit was the last stop on our journey. The first order of business was to go to Spa city center for the driver’s parade and autograph session. To me that’s the most amazing thing the series does, instead of bringing spectators to the circuit they bring the cars and drivers to the people. It was super packed, as usual, and the cars were amazing.

At the track we were assigned Posts 11 and 12 at the exit of Double Gauche (Double Left) turns about in the middle of the course. It was a super active section of the track with the first red flag popping out as a result of a smash of Piquet Jr. into our station. We had a few more major crashes, several big fires. It was nuts.

My favorite part as always was making it out to the Pits to check out the cars up close and personal (even though I got very close in town also during the parade).

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It was nice to finally see the new Mercedes-AMG SLS GT3’s which cheated during qualifying grabbing spots one to six… they were penalized and started from the back with a five minute penalty… the nice thing many of them still finished in the top ten at the end of the 24 hours.

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I love this place… can’t wait to return to Spa-Francorchamps!

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Post Card from Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchapms

What a fantastic weekend marshaling at Spa 24h at Belgiums Spa-Francorchamps… excellent event in good company of Belgian, Dutch, Czech and German marshals.

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and the pit walk…

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Special thanks to my Flemish friend Pol for making this three week journey possible and very enjoyable. Dank je!

Planning my Biggest Euro Trip Yet this Summer: July 2016, Stay Tuned…

I am never going to find a real job… just when I thought I would focus on settling down and searching some meaningful employment on the Gulf Coast of Florida I went ahead and booked my flights back to Europe.

While this is still the very early stages of my planning process I know exactly what I would like to do.

The goal is to marshal the following events:

f-netherlands DTM at Zandvoort, the Netherlands

f-germany WEC 6 hours of Nurburgring, Germany

f-belgium Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

 

The Netherlands/Holland would be my 15th country to volunteer in.

Besides the races I’m really looking forward to exploring Amsterdam which I’ve visited a few times but only for a few hours each time. And another trip to Adenau is in order to have a nice schnitzel at Giulia’s. Belgium is my favorite country in Europe at this time and another trip to Brussels is something I can’t wait to do.

While I failed in the past, I’m really hoping that some MX-5 get togethers in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium will materialize this time around. There are a ton of Dutch MX-5 owners, juts as there are a ton of German Miata owners, and I’m sure we can scrape a few in Belgium too.

So for anyone reading this that are interested, please get in touch, we have a few months to organize a meet up!

Stay tuned for more…

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Spa 24h Blancpain GT at Spa-Francorchamps the Debrief

Have you ever done an event for the first time but felt like you’ve been there a million times? My first Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchamps felt that way. I was full of confidence, had a sense of familiarity with things and most of the events that took place felt predictable. Maybe I had done my homework in advance, or maybe it was just a natural place for me to get quickly acclimatized and integrate into the flow of things with the local Belgian marshals on Team 31.

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We were based on station 4 for the weekend. The home pod was at 4B and it was a place where we initially started flagging on Thursday, but the visibility was much better from 4A which was about 100 meters down track towards the famous Radillion at the top of Eau Rouge. The flagging from that point was perfect, and yet another 50 meters down towards Radillion was the track marshal station 4, as it was written on the rail in permanent marker. This spot was the launching point for marshals doing recoveries on track after a crash at Radillion, a place where I watched Pol respond to a wrecked Lamborghini Huracan in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo support race, and later during the 24 hour Mike and Jelle responded to a crashed Ferrari 458 Italia in the middle of the night.

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The position of our post, while close walking distance to the famous Radillion was a world apart in that we were more sheltered from the huge crowd of spectators that flocked to the Radillion. And yet, we could see the turn (at least the very top of it) perfectly. Which means the marshal team at Radillion got all the action, we got to spectate it and wave the occasional Green flag, or display the SC board. For me personally it was a fantastic station because it was ideal for Blue flag. Cars don’t generally pass through Radillion, but they get positioned nicely to make passes right after it, which is where we were. In addition, the pit exit blend line was just before our station, so for this reason we got to display plenty of Blue flag for cars coming out of the Pits. I was in Blue flag heaven!

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I have to say I was super happy with my station assignment because in addition to the wonderful opportunity to use the Blue flag, we were also very close distance to the paddock, and ultimately to the grid walk which was one of the more fantastic things I experienced that weekend. But enough talk about how lucky I got, let me share some tidbits about marshaling at Spa.

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Having worked with Belgian marshals before the learning curve to adjust to the way things were done at their home track wasn’t long. The neat thing I found on station was the digi board controller which unlike many others I used around the world was fully touch screen. It was cool and challenging at the same time, because for anyone having experienced how frustrating an iPhone could be sometimes I had the same issues using this system. The scariest moment came during one of the night practices where I pushed the Blue button and watched cars came slowing down like there was something happening behind me. I quickly looked back and noticed that the Debris / Lack of Adhesion flag was displaying, which was not the button I thought I pushed. So I immediately corrected myself and everything was back to normal, but it made me think that obviously whomever designed the system didn’t get much useful marshal input because this seems like a pretty silly design flaw. I mean you’ve got to account for marshals with fat fingers, right? Though I assumed pressing the button on an angle confused the system.

The unique thing about working Spa 24h from my experience was seeing how the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium (RACB) assigned stations by teams. I was on Marshal Team 31 which most of the time either work together on the same track, or break up events over the same weekend and have part of the team work at Spa-Francorchamps and another at Zolder. Long story short, the team was assigned the turn. Throughout the four day weekend of the event, different members rotated into and out of working shifts based on their availability. Some were only available for race day, while others were able to work two days. I was super happy to be able to work all of the days we were needed as Pol managed to get vacation the week of the event.

The thing that surprised me the most about watching Belgian marshals work is how they just jump out on track when an incident happens… no delay whatsoever reporting to and asking Race Control for permission to go trackside. As soon as a car bounced into the tire wall at the top of Radillion the marshals behind the tire walk climbed over towards the stricken car, helped get the driver out, and waited for the wrecker to pull around the tire wall to drag the car off the track. Even at the incident that happened at our turn, Pol responded to a crashed Lamborghini Huracan, got the driver out and then assisted in getting the car straightened out and onto the flat bed truck once it showed up. Things seemed to go really quickly and smoothly and we didn’t have huge safety car periods or full course yellows like I’ve become accustomed to with some of the domestic series in the US.

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The other thing that surprised me was the close proximity of the marshal campsite to the track. We had some of the best views there are at Spa-Francorchamps just feet from our tents and campers. Just look at the picture above. With the elevated views you could see a huge part of the track all the way down to the paddock. The ring road going through the campsite was open to spectators to pass through and at times it was pretty crowded with people watching the race right from the road, which made driving to and from station a bit slow. But it was cool nonetheless. Spa provided very modern bathrooms and shower facilities, so I was very comfortable marshaling this event with all the creature comforts imaginable. Being able to quickly access the track meant we left several times to go into town and enjoy our foodie experiences which I’ve already covered in a separate post.

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The most familiar experience for me was having the predictable amount of rain cause havoc during the race. We had a wet race. Very wet at times. I got lucky in a sense that it didn’t rain for a few days leading up to race day which meant I got to experience both extremes of the weather at Spa. Having watched the /Drive video with Leo Parente and John Hindy from Radio Le Mans interview talking about this situation, I was thrilled that I got to live it. During the race itself we had so many Safety Car (SC) periods in the opening hours that I think they resorted to using to Full Course Yellows (FCY) to balance out the number of caution periods. At one point we even upgraded from FCY to SC when it was determined rail repair had to be made after a single car incident into the barrier. There were a lot of caution periods, and some spectacular crashes, many of which we were able to see from our post looking down at Radillion.

All in all, I am really thrilled with this whole experience and cannot wait to return to Spa-Francorchamps for another amazing event. Everything went perfectly on this trip. From the few hours I got to sightsee in Rome, to the excellent culinary experiences eating delicious local food and drinking tasty cherry beer. To the trip home via Helsinki sampling their famous Salmon at the airport, and then spending a night in Chicago while sightseeing around the Loop area downtown and stuffing my face with more delicious food like the Chicago deep dish pizza and hot dogs. I mean, it was perfect!

I’d highly recommend for anyone to do what I did, and I hope this post and all the pictures encourage people to at least consider it!

Grid Walk at Spa 24h

One of the coolest things I did at Spa 24 hour was the grid walk. The experience allowed me to take a shit ton of pictures of cars up close which meant I didn’t bother trying to use the phone at any other time which has historically gotten me in a lot of trouble for sneaking a shot here and there.

I had such a blast and took so many shots I would love to share them here for everyone else to enjoy. The weather was a bit soggy which was great because all the cars came out in perfect focus with no shadows. And there’s something inherently beautiful about cars that have good contrast against the background. So here we go:

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Does anyone know what an Australian Holden Special Vehicle (HSV) sticker is doing on a British entered Nissan Nismo GT-R? GodZiller…

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Huge thanks to my Belgian friend Pol for all the awesome photos!

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Two huge thumbs up for the SRO, the Spa 24h organizers and Spa-Francorchamps circuit for allowing marshals like me to have fun!

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Driver Parade to the center of Spa, Belgium

Most race tracks out there want racing fans to come to the circuit to check out the beautiful machinery racing there. Not Spa 24h. At 4pm on the Wednesday leading up to the big endurance race a number of race cars leave Spa-Francorchamps under their own steam to drive a few kilometers to the center of Spa along roads lined with spectators taking pictures and admiring the incredible GT3 machinery. Instead of having people come to the track, Spa 24h organizers bring the cars to the people and the city center gets pretty crowded as a result.

I was one of the spectators in the center of Spa eagerly awaiting the arrival of the race cars. My friend Pol and I had just arrived from Flanders and this was going to be the first glimpse of the race cars I’d get for this event. Spa was abuzz with excited people like me. We sat down at one of the outdoor bars for an ice cold Kriek beer surrounded by race fans, members of the crew from various teams, and even drivers. It became obvious we were surrounded by drivers when a fan with a thick stack of pictures of race cars started walking around asking for autographs from young kids wearing team t-shirts.

I asked Pol to snap a few shots of me with the famous background, and then the cars rolled in, parked and the huge crowd of people quickly started swarming them with their cameras clicking away.

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Big thumbs up to the SRO, the RACB and Spa for doing this parade!

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Post Card from Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchamps

I just returned from one of my most incredible trips marshaling anywhere, ever! What an amazing experience Spa 24h proved to be. Here I’ll share a preview of the posts to come describing my participation as a marshal at Spa-Francorchamps on the Belgian Marshal Team 31 working the top of the Radillion after the famous Eau Rouge.

If I got your attention with the corner names I’m sure you’re going to enjoy reading about the famous Belgian hospitality I received working this event. The various procedures Belgian marshals used when marshaling, and all the marshal toys available to them at the circuit.

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I will also talk about the side trips I made on this journey. First visiting Rome for a couple of hours during my layover in Italy. And concluding with the stopover in Chicago on my flight home back to USA. It was an incredible sightseeing and foodie tour, to be sure.

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I’ll write about meeting Teddy the marshal mascot from the Netherlands and what role I think these things play in the world of Motorsports. And I will be sure to share many pictures from the event and the trip overall.

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Please stay tuned, much goodness is to come after this incredible event!

Spa 24 hour Spotter Guide Blancpain Endurance Series in Belgium at the Spa-Francorchamps

To say I’m super excited about my next race would be an understatement. I’m simply thrilled. Next week I’m off to Belgium to marshal my first Spa 24 hour event at the world famous Belgian circuit Spa-Francorchamps. So in preparation for the trip I’d like to share some information about the event to help me get prepped for the race. Sadly Andy Blackmore hasn’t come up with a handy spotter guide for this race, and the only one I’ve found so far is from 2013 on DailySportsCar.com http://www.dailysportscar.com/Uploads/BES/2013/SPA/BES_Spa_Francorchamps_Spotter_Guide.pdf 2013 coincidentally was the last year that Team Ukraine Racing with Ferrari participated in this event with their #123 Ferrari 458 Italia pictured above.

IF ANYONE HAS A SPOTTER GUIDE PLEASE SHARE A LINK HERE

The official Blancpain Endurance Series Spa 24 hour entry list can be found here: http://www.24hoursofspa.com/entry-list and it includes some of the finest and most exotic European GT3 machinery (all 60+ of them) including:

  • Audi R8 LMS and Audi R8 LMS Ultra
  • Bentley Continental GT3
  • BMW Z4 GT3
  • Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3
  • Lamborghini Huracan and Gallardo
  • Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3
  • McLaren 650S GT3 and MP4-12C
  • Ferrari 458 Italia GT3
  • Emil Frey G3 Jaguar
  • Aston-Martin Vantage GT3
  • Porsche 997 GT3 R

According to the official provisional timetable, found here:  http://www.blancpain-gt-series.com/ there will be some interesting support races for this enduro, including:

  • Formula Renault 2.0 NEC
  • Porsche Carrera Cup
  • Lamborghini Super Trofeo
  • Trofeo Abarth Europe
  • SPA 24H

Oh and there will also be great entertainment besides all the events on track. Martin Solveig will be the headlining DJ for Saturday night’s concert according to the official event poster, found here: http://www.24hoursofspa.com/posters

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And so with that, I don’t know what I should look forward to more. The concert? The different racing? All the exotics on track going flat out? Or maybe an amazing marshal post… there’s so many options:

  • La Source
  • Eau Rouge
  • Raidillon
  • Kemmel Straight
  • Les Combes
  • Bruxelles
  • Pouhon
  • Campus
  • Stavelot
  • Courbe Paul Frere
  • Blanchimont
  • Chicane

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I think I would just be happy being there!

The trip over will take me via Rome, Italy on Alitalia so I’ll get to have some pizza in the motherland. And then fly home again on Finnair via Helsinki, through Chicago.

I’m so looking forward to this trip, I just can’t wait to be there!

A little history. I have visited Spa-Francorchamps in the French part of Belgium and Zolder in the Flemish/Dutch part of Belgium on my 2013 road trip from Le Mans 24h to Nurburgring 24h with Pol. Pol has been an amazing organizer for all of my European events and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for all the help. Belgium will be my 14th country to marshal, and Spa-Francorchamps 30+ track, which is absolutely positively awesome. I love Belgium!

Which European Endurance Race Do I Pick?

It’s never too early to start planning events for next year, and even though there are a few major events still left for me to do this year, I’m contemplating the plan of action for the future.

I’m having a really hard time deciding which weekend in Europe to choose, the options are: Nurburgring 24h, Le Mans 24h and Spa 24h. Each event is a month apart with N24h taking place in the middle of May, LM24h in the middle of June and Spa 24h at the end of July. All three events are in the heart of European summer and travel to Europe will be quite pricey. But having done Le Mans a few times, Nurburgring for the first time and visiting Spa in transit, I’d love to volunteer all three events. Which one would you choose?

The way things are going now, I’m fairly sure that whatever event I choose for next year will be the highlight of the year for me. I will explain why. Marshaling in the US has deteriorated into pathetic and depressing experience. There is still no training, and little desire from the powers that be to implement universal training for everyone to work well together, regardless of what each participant’s personal experience is. We bicker and argue over the way things should be done with no meaningful outcome resulting from those heated discussions. No one is focused on a common goal of bettering the role of marshaling for the masses. Instead people push their own agendas. It is laughable that some idiot decided to pursue the issue of COTA issued blue nomex suits as being a problem. Whether fit, comfort or color, whatever the hell the problem was it didn’t particularly please a moron that reached out to COTA and now we must bring our own whites to the event. While this may make sense for some locals it is terribly inconvenient for those of us traveling having to lug more baggage. But it is also an issue of looking professional at the track. With a track issued overall everyone looks the same and therefore professional. By bringing your own whites, the marshaling body will resemble a group of amateurs sporting 50+ shades of white, some wearing jeans and t-shirts while others may throw some orange into the mix and it will really look like COTA scraped the bottom of the barrel just to man the staff for the event. Totally uncool!

While I am bottling that frustration before heading out to the actual event, I’m curious to see what people think I should do next year. I would love to do Le Mans again, but Spa seems like an equally amazing venue that I haven’t experienced yet. And Nurburgring actually pays marshals for participation so that could significantly offset my travel costs.

Share your thoughts please.

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Nurburgring 24h is 14-17 May 2015

Le Mans 24h is 10-14 June 2015

Spa 24h is 24-26 July, 2015