The 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona was a blast for me! I got to see all the cars up close and personal and spend a good chunk of the race in the paddock shooing people out of the way of speeding cars and crew that kept those cars going for the duration of the race.
Unlike previous times I volunteered to work pit & grid which for this event turned out to be more of a “crowd control” role in the paddock across the gate from pit lane… anytime cars left the track to go to the garages or returned to the track after a repair during the race I had work to do, making sure the spectators don’t get run over… or a car doesn’t lose time unnecessarily because of pedestrian traffic. That was fun!
Also unlike previous times where I would just barely get a chance to sneak into the paddock to take some pictures, I hardly took any even though I was in the paddock the entire time. I almost missed the grid walk because it was so busy before the race. But my boss was really cool and when the announcer called to clear the grid, I ran out there to snap some shots. My goal was to get the Mazda MRT24-P DPi’s which were a hell of a way down the Le Mans style pit lane past the GTD, GTLM and PC fields. I did manage to snag some shots of them, but because they started playing the national anthem I didn’t bother going all the way down to P1 spot to catch a photo of the Cadillacs. Touche…
Here’s the pix:
The variety of cars was absolutely outstanding… much like the previously mentioned fields in the Pirelli World Challenge… but of course this series also sports the uber quick prototypes. I have to admit besides the Mazda’s, the GT field was my favorite!
Acura NSX GT3
Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Audi R8 LMS
BMW M6 GT3
Chevy Corvette C7.R
Ferrari 488 GT3
Lamborghini Huracan GT3
Lexus RC F GT3
Mercedes-AMG SLS GT3
Porsche 911 GT3 R and RSR
The PC field remained unchanged and to be honest those cars are getting old, I’d be OK not seeing them return the following season. The prototypes were dominated by Cadillac DPi’s which was pretty disappointing. Mazda’s DNF’s were super disappointing too. Though I was quite happy to see the Spirit of Daytona / Visit Florida P2 finish third. That was a fluke especially since that car started from the back of the prototype grid. I’m super happy though to have had this opportunity to see the cars so up close and personal. Best time at Rolex 24 ever for me.
Oh yeah… and I got to watch both the start and the finish from pit lane along with all the teams and official IMSA photographers.
This year’s Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix was a blast!
I had such a tremendously great time I can’t express my gratitude enough to all the people that make the event possible.
There were some hiccups, as there always are, but things worked out perfectly. I was in good spirits from day 1, although it was hard to overcome my displeasure with the state of the roads in Michigan. Many of the highways and roadways in suburban Detroit suffer from incredible neglect and my Miata was the wrong vehicle to navigate these streets. Specifically Interstate 75, Chrysler Freeway and parts of Ford Freeway (Interstate 94) had such big pot holes I’m surprised I didn’t suffer a blowout. My GPS didn’t help me either, sending me along Mound Road or Metro Parkway (Metropolitan Pkwy) which had pot holes so big they had their own pot holes within them, it was so rough I cringed every time I found myself falling into one. And with the car being so low most of the time I couldn’t see it coming until I was in it…. So with that off my chest, to the positive.
Or at least sort of positive. My GP experience I found out, is what I make it… and on the first day of the event I found out I was flagging at Turn 11 which is along the Detroit River on the back straight just past a few sharp turns from Turn 7, 8, 9 and 10. Turn 11 was spectacular both with the views of Canada across the river, Windsor Ontario hustle and bustle can be seen and heard quite easily. But also because once the cars come out of the turn they come so close to the concrete barrier which we flag from, sometimes they brush up against it. Often times I had to yank my Blue flag back after displaying it because it was possible for the cars to rip it out of my hands and take it along for the ride… the rush was incredible!
Yet… Turn 11 has the identical views I’ve seen before from Turn 7 which I worked the last time I went to Detroit Grand Prix in 2013. And that bummed me out…. I was hoping to experience something new, something unique… even if it wasn’t the best view I wanted for it to be different…. so after contemplating whether or not I’d be a pain-in-the-ass for asking, I reached out to my corner captain and asked if I could be switched. He told me “NO”, the assignments were set in stone… Hmm. I asked a few more people on the ride back to the dinner tent after the day’s events were finished, and they said if I feel it is a legitimate reason I should go ahead and make the request, but it would be better if I present the Flag Chief with a solution, otherwise find someone from a different station to switch with me.
While I knew some people at the event, I didn’t know enough to have this conversation about switching so I went straight to the Flag Chief. I presented him with my dilemma and suggested that he could even put me on a “Shitty” station but my goal is to have a different view. He kind of “whoah’ed!” at my “Shitty” comment, as if there’s no such thing at the track and all stations are “good” but then after some thought told me he’d take care of it. I told him no pressure with the decision, I’m quite impressed with the views of Turn 11 and I had a great time working with all the people on there, but honestly I’d prefer a different view, and left it at that.
During dinner the flag chief asked one of the corner captains if he wouldn’t mind trading people, he agreed… and I found out I’m going to work Turn 1 for the rest of the weekend… Holly Fucking Batman! Turn 1!!!! WHOA… that was very surprising and not at all expected.
I couldn’t wait to come back Saturday and Sunday because I knew Turn 1 would be awesome… the switch totally made my day!
The team on Turn 1 welcomed me even if they probably thought I was a jerk for even requesting this move. I can’t say I was terribly concerned what other people thought, I noticed that as long as I look out for my own interest, I have a great time. But we all had an amazing time working together. I tried to share with the team what I learned working a few IndyCar, IMSA and Trans Am events this year… possibly even too much info. But I thought it was helpful. We had a great rotation, I got to do what I wanted. I even said it would be a nice thing to have an incident at Turn 1 so we could all learn from it, and sure enough we had quite a tangle on the very first lap of the IndyCar race on Sunday. Nobody got hurt except some pride maybe, but we learned a lot… Especially from our Holmatro Safety Team crew that scolded us for blocking their exit with the truck. Sadly, their exit coincided with our escape route in case an incident such as this happened. So no matter how much they think they’re doing Godly work with their God-like attitude towards the volunteers who stand between a moving concrete barrier and the swing of their open door as they rush out to the scene. I wouldn’t have changed anything about the way we reacted to the multi-car crash that moved our station a few inches in making the truck exit hole even smaller.
Post race we had a great photo op with the cars that couldn’t continue:
The views from Turn 1 were pretty awesome, we could see almost everything that went on in that part of Pit Lane, including penalties and all vehicles exiting onto the track. Prior to the IndyCar incident we had a few scuffles and spins in Trans Am, while IMSA was pretty well behaved and civil through our corner.
Every night Detroit SCCA Region treated us to a tasty dinner, which was so appreciated!
The food was excellent, from sign-on/registration throughout the event… I especially like the Thursday night welcome party at Sindbads, for all the bad things being said about Detroit, this was an excellent view of what Detroit is really like, and that there are multiple experiences to be had in the D, not just bad ones like people assume every time. Sindbads is great!
Believe it or not, this is Detroit!
The other thing I’m a big fan of is the Michigan State Police cars with their traditional light bubble and the stop sign on the hood… What in the world is that still all about?
Anyway I had such a great time I can’t wait to return again and again! I will marshal another Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix if I have the money to do it. Next time I’ll rent a car though!
Motorsport Marshal, Miata Driver, Hot Wheels Collector