Tag Archives: Spa-Francorchamps

Get Closer to the Action! Become a Motorsport Marshal Volunteer!

Russ found a new hobby in 2011: Motorsport volunteering.

Since then he has worked in 15 different countries and for all sorts of racing from Formula 1 to MotoGP.

Russ likes to encourage others to volunteer also.

Get in touch with Russ to find out how.

 

 

some shortcuts:

How to Become a Marshal?

by Series

by Event

by Circuit

by Country

Young Marshals Wanted!

 

Events Russ Marshaled

Circuits Russ Marshaled

Mazda MX-5: Liège Foodie Tour in a Miata, Cruising the Belgian Countryside

My most epic Mazda MX-5 Miata Road Trip took place this July in conjunction with my Motorsport Euro Trip to volunteer a few races in Western Europe. Third stop was in Belgium but since no one was interested to meet up in Brussels I went to Liège, Wallonia.

European MX-5 Miata Road Trip Overview:

f-netherlandsPost Card from the Dutch MX-5 Miata Road Trip

f-netherlandsAmsterdam to IJmuiden Miata Road Trip

f-germanyPost Card from the German MX-5 Miata Road Trip

f-germanyCologne to Dusseldorf Miata Road Trip

f-germanyNordschleife, Nurburgring Miata Road Trip 

f-belgiumPost Card from the Belgian MX-5 Miata Road Trip

f-belgiumLiege MX-5 Miata Road Trip

f-francePost Card from the French MX-5 Miata Road Trip

f-franceParis by Night Miata Road Trip

 

Belgium is currently my favorite place in Europe. I love coming back to Brussels for the awesome sightseeing, the delicious food and of course amazing racing at Spa-Francorchamps. But Belgium is tricky. The country is divided between the Flemish and French speaking people with Flanders to the north bordering the Netherlands and the French speaking Wallonia to the south. Brussels is a French speaking city in the middle of Flanders. Perhaps none of the very active Flanders and Limburg MX-5 owners didn’t want to come to Brussels because they don’t like French things… I don’t know. But when I saw that Brussels was a bust, I booked a side trip to Liege (which is much closer to Spa-Francorchamps) specifically to meet up with a fellow MX-5 owner Philippe (Phil as he prefers to be called).

Phil lives outside of Liege but he came out to meet with me and we quickly left the city to explore the countryside. It was as much a foodie tour as a sightseeing tour of the villages in Wallonia. First stop was an awesome pastry place. Next visit after that was to the smallest town in the world, which was very scenic.

And finally we had dinner in Liege proper after a little walk around the downtown area. It was pretty awesome seeing other MX-5’s either driving by or being parked in the streets. It was fantastic!

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 1

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 2

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 3

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 4

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 5

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 6

belgian mx5 miata 3

belgian mx5 miata 4

belgian mx5 miata 5

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 8

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 7

belgian mx5 miata 6

belgian mx5 miata 7

belgian mx5 miata 8

belgian mx5 miata 1

belgian mx5 miata 2

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 9

belgian mx5 miata 9

belgian mx5 miata 10

belgian mx5 miata 11

belgian mx5 miata 12

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 12

belgian mx5 miata 13

belgian mx5 miata 14

Oh look… something we don’t have in the US… a cool Alfa-Romeo!

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 11

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 10

belgian mx5 miata 15

belgian mx5 miata 16

And we’re back in Liege:

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 13

belgian mx5 miata 18

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 14

belgian mx5 miata 17

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 15

belgian mx5 miata 19

belgian mx5 miata 20

The funny thing about our dinner, all the places recommended to Phil were closed, so we ended up walking around looking for proper Belgian food… proper Liege food. And we found it by stumbling upon a restaurant with a Miata parked right outside of it…

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 16

Liege is best known for it’s waffles… not sure what bacon has to do with waffles, but this restaurant’s logo looked way cool!

And we found a place to have dinner:

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 17

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 18

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 19

The food was absolutely amazing… the Liege style meat balls.

belgian mx-5 miata cruising liege wallonia foodie tour 20

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.

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 1

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 2

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 3

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 5

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 6

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 7

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 9

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 10

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 11

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 12

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 13

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 14

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 8

and the pit walk…

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 15

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 16

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 17

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 18

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 19

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 20

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 21

spa 24h spa-francorchamps 22

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…

miata car wash adenau

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.

spa-francorchamps radillion spa24h 1

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.

spa-francorchamps radillion spa24h 2

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!

spa-francorchamps radillion spa24h 3

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.

spa-francorchamps ditigal light panel controler flaging system

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.

spa-francorchamps radillion spa24h 5 turn

spa-francorchamps radillion spa24h 5

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.

spa-francorchamps radillion spa24h 6

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:

grid walk spa 24h 2

grid walk spa 24h 3

grid walk spa 24h 4

grid walk spa 24h 5

grid walk spa 24h 6

grid walk spa 24h 7

grid walk spa 24h 8

grid walk spa 24h 9

grid walk spa 24h 10

grid walk spa 24h 11

grid walk spa 24h 12

grid walk spa 24h 13

grid walk spa 24h 14

grid walk spa 24h 15

grid walk spa 24h 16

grid walk spa 24h 17

grid walk spa 24h 18

grid walk spa 24h 19

grid walk spa 24h 20

grid walk spa 24h 21

grid walk spa 24h 22

grid walk spa 24h 23

grid walk spa 24h 24

grid walk spa 24h 25

grid walk spa 24h 26

grid walk spa 24h 27
Does anyone know what an Australian Holden Special Vehicle (HSV) sticker is doing on a British entered Nissan Nismo GT-R? GodZiller…

grid walk spa 24h 28

grid walk spa 24h 29

grid walk spa 24h 30

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

grid walk spa 24h thanks pol

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

spa 24h at spa-francorchamps pit lane

Foodie Tour Belgium

Over the past few years of my volunteering in Motorsport, Belgium has become one of my favorite countries in the world to visit, certainly it is my favorite country in Europe. And every time I visit Belgium I end up going on a foodie tour sampling some tasty dishes and flushing them down with my favorite style of beer: Kriek.

On this trip it seems I’ve gone on an exclusive “fritten” diet. I think I had fries almost every day!

foodie tour belgium 4

The first meal I had after arriving in Stavelot, near the track was a carnet of frites with some curry ketchup. Followed by a box of frites with mayo from the same place for dinner a few hours later.

foodie tour belgium 5

A few days later, we went out to eat in Malmedy Friday night. Malmedy is one of the neighboring towns near Spa, Francorchamps, Stavelot and Coo. The mussels were an excellent appetizer.

foodie tour belgium 6

I was even taught the proper technique to eat them:

foodie tour belgium 7

But for the main meal I had a delicious plate of beef full of flavor as it was cooked in local beer specific to that town.

foodie tour belgium 8

And it amazes me that even for such a fancy meal the side dish was a bowl of Belgian fries.

foodie tour belgium 2

And to help with digestion most of my meals were washed down with a cold kriek – cherry beer. My favorite!

foodie tour belgium 3

foodie tour belgium 10

At the track Pol was on chef duties whipping up some tasty meat dishes several times a day for a few days of our volunteering for Spa 24h race. Here the sauce made all the difference, and I made sure to buy a bottle of Hot Curry sauce to go with the tasty meat fresh off the grill.

foodie tour belgium 9

It wasn’t long until I discovered a Frituur / Friterie near the main gate closest to our campsite and post on track. So I made the ten minute hike to sample their fries, and they were delicious!

foodie tour belgium 11

Belgians take their fry making very seriously. And whenever I offered some fries to fellow marshals nobody turned my offers down which shows how much they appreciate their national dish.

foodie tour belgium 12

Even after we’ve left the track and just before I flew back home, Pol and I stopped at a Frituur / Friterie to have some Frit mit Souflees, a delicious beef stew served with fries and mayo. Man was that stuff good!

I can’t wait to go back to Belgium for the fries alone. (and the Kriek)

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.

driver parade to the center of spa 0

driver parade to the center of spa 3

driver parade to the center of spa 4

driver parade to the center of spa 6

driver parade to the center of spa 5

driver parade to the center of spa 7

driver parade to the center of spa 8

driver parade to the center of spa 9

driver parade to the center of spa 10

driver parade to the center of spa alex zanardi bmw

driver parade to the center of spa alex zanardi

driver parade to the center of spa 11

driver parade to the center of spa 12

driver parade to the center of spa 13

driver parade to the center of spa 14

driver parade to the center of spa 15

driver parade to the center of spa 16

driver parade to the center of spa 18

driver parade to the center of spa 19

driver parade to the center of spa 17

driver parade to the center of spa 20

driver parade to the center of spa 2

 

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

driver parade to the center of spa 1

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.

spa-francorchamps ditigal light panel controler flaging system

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.

rome road trip

chicago road trip

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.

meeting teddy racing at spa drivers parade

spa 24h driver parade in spa belgium

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