Tag Archives: Start/Finish

NER @ LRP presented by Thompson Speedway

My 7th weekend in a row spent at a race track, unlike the previous 6 which were each at a different track (Palmer, Watkins Glen, Mosport, Lime Rock, Detroit, NJMP) I’ve started repeating tracks… much like the previous visit to Lime Rock where I worked as a backup starter for the Pirelli World Challenge, this time I got to wave all the flags in the Starter rotation for NER SCCA club racing.

The weekend went by perfectly. Excellent weather. Excellent company. I was very happy to work with Jamie again. And I’m really happy to be trained by Peter Watson the chief starter of the Northern New Jersey Region who has been awesome in showing me how things should be done. I truly enjoy learning from him because things are done naturally, everything makes perfect sense, and when I make a mistake Peter corrects me right away, which helps tremendously, I really do appreciate immediate feedback. My weekend was truly enjoyable and I’m actually really happy doing these Club Races, something I didn’t like so much in the past.

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I was also very happy with the amount of cars we had racing. As usual the fields of Miata’s were very impressive. They kicked my ass while I was lap charting because any time a group of four or more would blow past the starter stand together, it would knock me off my rhythm doing charts, and I’d miss everything behind that group. But with more practice I was really getting the hang of it. When I was on point I did make the mistake of blue flagging the leaders… Oops! But that only encouraged the little Miata at the front to push harder, the much more racy-looking Honda S-2000 behind it looked like it would snatch the lead, but it didn’t. That same Honda was probably my favorite looking car of the weekend, sadly I didn’t get a shot of it. But it was basically Yellow #17 S2000 without a front windshield. I signed up to marshal at Watkins Glen next weekend for an SCCA event just because I looked on MotorsportReg.com and saw a similar Miata without a windshield that will be racing there. Good enough for me… can’t wait!

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While heading to the track I noticed a weird noise coming out from the front of my Miata, especially when making a right turn at speed like getting onto the highway or taking an exit ramp… we spoke with Jessie about it and she suggested it may be a bearing that’s going bad, which after the super crazy pot holes in Detroit I could totally believe… One of the mechanics on the RX-7 team in the paddock volunteered to have a look… jacked my car up, had a close inspection and said nothing looks out of place and he’d have full confidence driving the car as it is. But of course I’m being all paranoid about what it could possibly be. And with two trips to WGI (500 miles apiece in the next two weeks) I am a bit worried.

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I guess we’ll find out.

I had a lovely weekend, got enough TIPs from NER to convert them into a $25 Shell gift card so the weekend basically paid for itself. Which made me happy! I can’t wait to work with this club again.

ner track incentive plan

ner scca track incentive program gas card

In honor of it being the Le Mans weekend, I had my fries with mayo:

honor le mans 24h french fries with mayo

Never thought I’d say this but even the camping was fun. My new Coleman 4 person tent worked perfectly.

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Wish I would have known I could set up closer to the paddock, though it worked out really well camping at the usual spot under the pines (top of the hill) because there was no moisture on the tent when it was time to break it down Saturday morning. Fun times!

Post Card from the Grand Prix of Lime Rock, Pirelli World Challenge Weekend Minus Formula 4

Today went by in a flash… I was fortunate enough to work my first Pro-weekend as a backup starter at Lime Rock Park for the Pirelli World Challenge event dubbed the Grand Prix of Lime Rock.

I didn’t even think it’d be possible, but sure enough Andy Smith the flag chief for this weekend granted my wishes to work closer to the paddock so I could sneak out for lunch to take some pictures of the cars without having to choose between doing that and eating lunch. It doesn’t get better than working start. From my previous experience at the Glen I figured there would be a team of Starters and I would have a very small role to play monitoring the radio while the “pro’s” do the work. I was wrong. It was me and only one other person: the official PWC Starter… a guy from California that does many of the official starts for PWC travelling around the country with the series. That was pretty cool… I didn’t expect it at all. Besides working comms on the backup net, the official starter had me put out the white flag for any vehicle leaving pit lane during the practice sessions. The reasoning being that cars flying at speed would know about a slower car entering Turn 1. For the races the starter handed me the while flag to wave on the final lap just before he threw the checker. That was really neat too. I got to call every Green flag that was thrown as well, first and last cars to take the checkered, and a variety of incidents along the front straight… so for someone who was going to just monitor the flagger net and relay messages to the official starter, I sure did have a lot of exciting work… I loved it!

Being on start also gave me the opportunity to wander the paddock before the event and during lunch… below I will share some photos:

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At the end of the day we got a good worker feed… nice warm food:

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A nice Lime Rock Park sweatshirt, although not suitable for today’s 90F weather, but very nice nonetheless:

grand prix of lime rock pirelli world challenge weekend sweatshirts

And I got to check out a whole lot of Mazda’s everywhere:

grand prix of lime rock pirelli world challenge weekend

grand prix of lime rock pirelli world challenge weekend tower

It was such a brilliant experience I cannot wait to get back to the track tomorrow and do this all over again! So much Fun!

PS. This weekend was supposed to feature the US debut of FIA Formula 4 sanctioned by the SCCA Pro and to be raced around the US. Unfortunately that race series got bumped to another weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park and in their place we got all the amazing TC and TCA class Miata’s…. I felt really happy with that!

NARRA, Trans Am, Global MX-5 Cup at Watkins Glen International Race Weekend Debrief

I’ve been riding a wave of really outstanding events… one better than the next, and so far the NARRA / Trans Am / MX-5 Cup weekend at Watkins Glen has topped them all… I just wanted to check out the Miata’s race but instead I got so much more out of it… got to drive the track on the newly repaved circuit and most importantly got to wave the Checkered flag on the Starter stand.

So to start at the beginning, Watkins Glen is 250 miles from where I live, which Google says should take about 4 hours with no traffic, but with all the construction along the way and pee stops at Sheetz in Pennsylvania (where I also pick up some delicious chicken wings or burger sliders with delicious Dr.Pepper BBQ sauce) it’s a 5 hour trip. My goal was to get good gas mileage on this trip… unfortunately the best I got was 29mpg which is well short of 36mpg’s I got on the trip to Florida… but arriving at the Glen got me excited for other reasons.

Cars!

Lots and lots of awesome looking cars. I was able to wander around the Mazda MX-5 Cup paddock and take a million pictures of the cars. From there I watched the Vipers roll into the NARRA padock, and the Trans Am cars getting assembled. It was freaking awesome.

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My buddy Pat Fuller hosted me for the weekend in his spare camper which was very convenient and comfortable because the temperature dropped from 70’s on Thursday to 30’s on Sunday. Plus it rained Friday and Saturday. I had my wet weather gear so the rain was bearable but a lot of cars suffered major smashups because of the track conditions, which was sad to see.

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 26 cadillac

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 24 challenger

scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 20 trans am corvette

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scca pro weekend at watkins glen international trans am f1600 f2000 formula atlantic 4 formula 1600

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I was impressed though how quick the MX-5 cup cars were able to handle the repaved track in wet conditions. On Saturday while working Turn 7 the cars were taking a sharp right hander at a pretty high rate of speed without much effort it seemed, and in the wet. Pretty cool! I was impressed with my BFGoodrich Sport Comps 2 in the rain while driving on track also, tires made me feel very comfortable even where I thought the conditions would be slippery.

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Because RSI, the club that provides marshals for events at WGI didn’t supply us with lunches for this event, I went to Jerlando’s Pizzeria in Montour Falls and stocked up on some pizza, which tasted pretty good for the next few days for lunch. What’s better than cold pizza? (well probably hot pizza, but that wasn’t feasible).

The highlight of the weekend for me was of course the total surprise of working the Starter Stand. I did not expect that in a million years and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. It was an amazing educational experience and a perfect viewing spot for the races. The MX-5 Cup race was impressive, the Trans Am races were sweet… the whole stand shook when the field of cars went by. The NARRA field was pretty small, but the support races made up for the boredom. I really enjoyed the Formula Atlantic races, even though I couldn’t figure out whether they were SCCA PRO or SCCA CLUB event.

Oh well…

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The main take-away for me from this event was how well the event ran, even when faced with difficulties. The weather didn’t help… rain caused havoc with the cars, and freezing cold caused pain to the marshals. The redeeming feature of large fields was the fact that despite the big attrition there was still exciting racing to be had. Although at times it did feel like there were a few long stretches of full course caution interrupted by a few quick laps under green flag. The MX-5 field suffered the most losses, but I’m sure it’s good for business for Mazda Motorsports and Long Road Racing. Trans Am too had a few serious smash ups that will undoubtedly hit the pocket book of the private teams that run in that event. My favorite thing was to see cars from various series repurposed to run in this weekend. I mentioned earlier the former Grand-Am and Conti Tire Sports Car Series cars running in Trans Am as well as a current Pirelli World Challenge Miata running with NARRA. That was way cool!

I don’t know what my next event at Watkins Glen International will be but I’m certainly looking forward to that experience… I’ll be sure to request to work Start/Finish again, who knows maybe it’ll work!

Thanks to James Wilbur at RSI for the opportunity.

New England Region SCCA Season Finale at Thompson Speedway Debrief

After blowing through $400+ dollars on travel expenses alone for Petit Le Mans, I returned home feeling bummed out that I didn’t quite get my money’s worth from that event. Maybe my expectations were unreasonably high, I don’t know. So to end the year on a high note I decided to take Jessie up on her invite to come to New England Region SCCA season finale at Thompson Speedway for some club racing. Good thing I did!

A number of things went well that I’ll blog about, but I must apologize that on this event I took hardly any pictures so prepare to read a lot of positive words without much photo evidence to illustrate the experience. I’ll write about my foodie tour separately, though I should mention that of all places: Who woulda thunk that Connecticut was such a foodie destination?  Not me… Besides the food, seeing the leaves change color up in New England was neat, it was fall foliage in full effect with various shades of green, yellow and red all around.

ted's steamed cheeseburger meriden ct 4

The drive to Thompson, and well to Massachusetts where Jessie lives, was also to test out the new tires I just bought for my Miazda, which turned out to be a lot worse than I thought they’d be. I’m talking about the BFGoodrich g-Force Comp 2 A/S that I had recently purchased for my 16 inch winter wheels. I don’t know if it’s the aggressive tread pattern or the idea that maybe they weren’t balanced correctly when I had them mounted, I felt a very noticeable but slight vibration throughout the entire trip. It came from the front, I felt it on the steering wheel, I felt it on the gas pedal. But it also came from the rear, because I felt it on the seat as I was driving. So I’m not happy about that. I wish the ride was a bit smoother like the old Yokohama’s I took off to go with the BFG’s. That said I got to test the tires out in the dry for about 200 miles and then another 200 in the wet, and the grip was perfect. So maybe that’s the nature of the design after all?

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I was so glad to catch up with Jessie once again over dinner and for the whole day of racing. She was working Race Control and had a great view of my Starter station below the race control window, which means the only pictures of the event with me in them came from her taking spy shots. Thanks Jessie! Also thanks to her I finally got a chance to experience the Starter role, it was something I wanted to do forever but was never given a chance. I am hooked on this role now and don’t really see how I could go back to regular F&C after this experience. Not willingly anyway…

pumpkinhead beer with cinamon and brown sugar
Jessie introduced me to some delicious new beer: Pumpkinghead served with cinnamon and brown sugar along the rim of the glass, yumm!

As with any SCCA Club Racing there were many Mazda MX-5 Miatas racing. So that was by far my favorite sight to see at the event. Among them was a true red NC Miata with a bunch of Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge stickers, which I assume was a hand me down IMSA car from a few seasons ago. It went very well, much faster than most other NA and NB Miata’s though unfortunately it broke down during the last race of the day. Luckily though I saw it win it’s class during an earlier race in the day, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not taking a picture of the driver receiving a small checkered flag directly under our Start stand for his victory lap (in the paddock – since they weren’t doing them on track because of time constraints). It was awesome to see and I’m very happy for the driver. It was nice to also see “Flatout Racing” stickers on that car and many other Miatas which are apparently rental cars for someone who wants to race but doesn’t have the money to buy a race car. What a cool concept!

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Anyway, I had a fantastic trip and I’m very happy I got a chance to go. The New England Region threw a big tent party for the workers at the end of the day with delicious pasta on the menu, and some prizes and other awards for volunteer participation. I was amazed to see that I won something again, a nice envelope with some gas money which basically covered most of my cost to go up there, in fuel anyway. So I came home really happy! Thanks to Jessie! and Thanks to the NER!

One more event of the season and 2015 is in the history books 🙂

…and a few more pictures:

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I love seeing the British influence in New England:

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Almost forgot to mention some fuel stats. This time I noticed something interesting, the cheaper New Jersey based BP 93 octane gas seems to give better gas mileage than the more pricey Massachusetts BP 93 octane premium gas. I topped off before I left NJ, re-fueled in MA adding 5.672 gallons  after doing 201.1 miles, getting 35.454 mpg. After reaching home I topped up 6.899 after doing 228.8 miles getting 33.164 mpg. Which leads me to believe NJ gas is superior MA gas all other things being equal. Unlike my previous trips where I normally keep the car between 60 and 70mph, this time I was in a more of a rush doing 70 to 80mph so maybe that was a factor. Overall I did 429.9 miles and used 12.571 gallons, averaging at 34.197 mpg. NJ gas price $2.29/gal for 93 at BP, MA gas price $2.45/gal for 93 at BP.  And now I’m at 5,000 miles since the last oil change, so the little Miazda is due for it’s second service.

Discovered My New Favorite Role Marshaling: Starter! (Start / Finish)

Forget marshaling as a Blue Flagger, working as a Starter is the most involved job while marshaling there is. Thanks to Jessie Lynne Honigs I was able to finally get a chance to experience working the Start Stand and I don’t think I want to go back to working regular F&C ever again. The Starter job is where it’s at!

So a little background about my plan on becoming a starter. I got the bug more than two years ago where after much thought about my “picture taking” issues from the previous season I thought all my problems would go away if only I could get a job marshaling closer to the paddock, right near the pit lane. Start stand was the obvious choice. I knew I couldn’t just jump into the role at any old Pro event and I’d have to work my way up by participating in some Club racing, so I asked the flag chief of the New York Region to give me the opportunity to learn the next time I come up to Lime Rock Park. He agreed but when the events came around I found myself on some random station working F&C and was very disappointed and discouraged to come back. This year I didn’t go back to Lime Rock at all. But I did go up to Thompson Speedway after Jessie invited me with the thought that maybe there I’d get a chance to finally learn. I registered through MotorsportReg.com for a club event, ticked the box for Starter, but knew full well going in that if they were terribly short on F&C people it’s likely that’s what I’d end up doing. And sure enough I got put on Station 3. This was cool because I wanted to help out in the time of need, and actually got to work with Jessie. We had a hell of a good time, but it wasn’t the Start stand and I had to delay my plan further. Until of course the second time Jessie invited me up to Thompson Speedway for another NER SCCA club event, where finally I got a chance to work Start.

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What did I discover working as a Starter at Thompson Speedway?

I learned that it’s the best possible job there is marshaling, bar none, for me anyway… Here are the top few reasons I find the role of a Starter to be incredibly awesome:

  • You get to Blue Flag!
  • You get to keep track of all the cars in the field through Charting
  • You get to throw the Checkered Flag
  • You get to throw the Green Flag
  • You get to Black Flag and Meatball Cars
  • You get to work out the timing of Last Lap and when to Checker
  • You work on the Front Straight and Pit Lane
  • You are close to the Paddock and Garages
  • You have a lot more Responsibility than any other station
  • Your Mistakes are more visible than any other station

I could probably come up with a dozen other reasons why the Starter role is awesome but I’m too excited to think about them right now.

thompson speedway ner scca starter scoring chart

Suffice to say I was blown away with how awesome that position was and a little bit sad that I waited this long to finally try it. And I’ll say a few words about that:

F&C or any other specialty volunteering a club event will always be short on people. Hardly anything is done about recruiting, and the participation numbers are insufficient at most events. There’s nothing noble about being a nice guy and trying to accommodate the flag chief to work a random turn especially those that don’t make you personally happy because chances are after a bad or even less than good experience  you won’t come back to work another race again, or at least not return frequently. So what’s the point? I think the most important thing to do while volunteering is to do a job that makes you personally happy. And for me that is working as a Starter.

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The irony about being selfish is that SCCA as a club advertises volunteering  positions by saying there’s a job for everyone! Of course in practice that isn’t always the case. I asked to work Start, someone didn’t feel it was worth it for them to oblige to my request, and so instead of having a satisfied volunteer working a position that person enjoys doing, they lost a volunteer altogether. And that’s stupid. But people do get that way. I pissed people off by taking pictures and calling some high ranking club members incompetent because they refused to offer training which the club should provide, and they would rather get rid of me as a volunteer than to put me in a position where I would receive the training I was after and perform the role I wanted to perform. Of course before they decided to “get rid” of me, they wanted to teach me a lesson against picture taking by placing me at the most remote areas of the circuit, so that when I did want to take pictures legally during our lunch break I had to chose between trekking all the way to the paddock or to actually eat lunch. It’s hard to change the politics of any organization even those where nobody gets paid to work. And volunteering is very political, clique’ey, and not always welcoming to new people.

So, I’m glad I got a chance to discover a role that I think I would really enjoy doing from now going forward. If I can’t get that role again in the future I simply won’t go to future events. But my goal is to do what it takes to master the role of a Starter so I could do it at Pro events. I definitely could use more practice. Even though waving flags on the start stand is no different than that on a random station as an F&C marshal, there’s definitely more work to be done, and I had made some mistakes while learning this weekend. For example: keeping time is a very important job of a Starter. The experienced starters I was learning from had two stop watches set to 18 minutes each to time the race. My job was to push the start button as the cars crossed the start line, and yet I pushed it when the cars received the Green flag even though the starter explained to me what I was supposed to do a few times. Why did I do it? I have no idea, I knew better and yet I did something anyway. Maybe from being nervous, or maybe from being premature and worried that I’d miss the correct start time by doing it too late. Starting the clock early is as bad as starting the clock late, so to get it right consistently requires practice. I also ran into a situation where the leader of the race was about to take the Checkered flag but was fast catching to a back-marker of the race. I threw the checker too early without pointing at the leader, who in turn wasn’t convinced it seemed that he was the leader because he drove around and took the checkered flag again. So I learned to point at the car that is about to win the race to inform them they are about to receive the checkered flag. I even made a mistake with blue flag which I enjoy the most. In a group of a combined field of fast wings and things and slow Formula Vee racers, I displayed a stationary blue flag to a slower FV car where I should have waved it because a faster Formula car caught it well before Turn 1. The starter told me to do this but for some reason I hesitated and he reminded me of his instructions immediately after my mistake to correct it. Props to the chief starter of the New York region for being patient with me and giving me good advice and training. I really appreciate the opportunity!

Thank You Jessie Honigs for the VIP Treatment at an NER SCCA event at Thompson Speedway

The best way to end a racing season in the US is to go to an event where Jessie Lynne Honings is the Assistant Flag Chief and be her VIP guest!

I had such an amazing time again hanging out with Jessie at Thompson Speedway I wanted to share this note of my gratitude and appreciation to her for being so amazing.

I wasn’t event planning on marshaling any club events this year thanks to some thickheaded people that I had the misfortune of interacting with before, but certainly Jessie turned things around for me and it was really enjoyable experience to go to Thompson Speedway Motorsport Park in the Northeast corner of Connecticut just south of the Massachusetts border and flag some excellent Mazda MX-5 Miata racing along with a lot of other groups.

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Not only that, more than two years since “expressing” my interest in working the Start Stand, Jessie saw to it that I finally got the opportunity to wave the checkered flag. What a rush and thrill that was, and I am absolutely convinced that is what I want to do in the future as the next step in my marshaling hobby.

So thank you Jessie for being awesome!

Can’t wait for more…

Signed Up to Marshal the New England Region SCCA at Thompson Speedway

Noticed Jessie from SponsorAFlagger.com seeking volunteers for next week’s New England Region SCCA club racing event at Thompson Speedway, so I signed up.

Between the two of us, it took a good ten minutes trying to force MotorsportReg.com web site to allow me to register. On my own I was getting all kinds of warning and error messages highlighted in Red and Yellow, either preventing me from registering or making the event invisible altogether. I guess it helps that Jessie is the NER Assistant Flag Chief now and dismissed the idea of me being banished from working SCCA club events as a silly notion, as I did.

I’m looking forward to working Thompson Speedway for the first time. I have not been to that track yet. It shall be my 15th circuit I’ve volunteered in the US, and 37th worldwide. I’m also going to push my luck and try to see if I could observe the Starter there to learn a new skill marshaling. That is if they’re not desperately short on people by next Friday, in which case I’m happy to work whatever station Jessie assigns me.

If things go to plan I may even check out some fisherman’s towns along the New England coast line whether in Connecticut or Rhode Island… sure it’s a bit out of the way, but I’ve driven up for their delicious lobster rolls before… and this time I have race cars as an excuse to go there.

Can’t wait!

For anyone with free time, do consider volunteering at Thompson Speedway yourself. The link to the event is here:  http://www.ner.org/race-volunteer/volunteer-news/ Or try your luck directly on MotorsportReg following this link:  http://www.motorsportreg.com/events/worker-registration-for-july-10-11-ner-races-tsmp-thompson-speedway And if the system fucks with you, then I’ll feel very happy that I wasn’t the only one, contact Jessie on facebook and she’ll see to it that you’re added to the list. Cheers!