Wasn’t planning on visiting another Dodge Chrysler Jeep (Fiat) dealer on my drive home, but two brand spanking new Abarth Fiata’s caught my eye in Winchester, Virginia.
These two beauties were on the same lot I stopped by a few months ago on the drive home from Florida. They had two white Abarth Fiata’s then, which must have sold so well they replaced them with two gray Abarth Fiata’s…. must be something in the water in that part of Virginia on the West Virginia border… with Summit Point racetrack nearby the Abarth versions of the Fiat 124 Spider must be flying off the dealer lots. Still feel a bit weird seeing Fiats on the Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealer property… But if you’re in the market go buy one… they’re available and look gorgeous!
Another “Balmore” Grand Prix is in the books… and I quickly went to re-read last year’s debrief to make sure I don’t repeat the same sentiment. This year the tale of Baltimore GP consists of two experiences. First Couch Surfing. Like last year I got very lucky with the hosts even though it wasn’t through traditional channels of requesting a place to stay. Instead I posted on Facebook in the CS Baltimore forum and got invited. Sweet! Second, the race itself. It was a crashfest! No nicer way to put it… a bunch of ‘amateurs’ it seems, as people were wrecking almost on purpose in both ALMS and Indycar feature racing that had more yellow flag / caution time than green / race time.
But it was good!
I was stationed at turn 3, the amazing hair pin that didn’t get nowhere near as much action as it did last year which seemed to have shifted mostly to turn 1, 4 and 9. But we did have a number of spins, debris, and even a car on fire during the Indycar race for which I waived our fire bottle at the driver through the hole in the fence we were behind, and he promptly stopped in front of us. Of course, he stopped on the other side of the track, and after another Indycar went between him and us at speed, he proceeded to watch the smoke billow out of the car instead of attempting to run for the fire extinguisher. Luckily the safety team were quick to respond, and all ended well.
I was not terribly impressed with the level of professionalism of the drivers this weekend. In the ALMS race, the Dyson car seemed to false start repeatedly which caused the first big wreck and contributed greatly to more full course caution the second time. Similarly, turn one shinanigans for Indycar saw four consecutive full course yellows after each attempted restart. What a joke!
On Sunday night I left Baltimore for Summit Point, and the final racing of the Labor Day weekend with the DC region SCCA. Absolutely nothing happened there, completely uneventful day… though since I was stationed at turn 3, I had to run to cars that pulled off in our shortcut area to see what the issue was… both cars lost power, which was OK… the exercise I got sprinting about 300 meters in each direction was great too. I enjoyed the leisurely road trip back to New Jersey and am looking forward to fly out for the Grand-Am weekend at Laguna Seca tomorrow.
I was a bit on the fence about going to Summit Point for the SCCA Majors this weekend, not so much because I didn’t want to go, but more so because of my limited transportation options at the moment (too many broken cars in the driveway). But I bit the bullet and said screw it, jumped in the Jeep and went… thanks to a little encouragement from my buddy Tim and a timely reminder from another friend Richard.
The drive down was quite excellent actually, since I was babying the Jeep I stuck to the speed limit, well… actually 60mph which was well below the speed limit south of the Mason Dixon line. Got great gas mileage and arrived at the track just in time for registration. Another beautiful part about using the Jeep, with the rear seats folded down, it was my camping spot for the weekend, and with a bunch of blankets and pillows – a comfortable one at that. But enough about the car and the road trip. The racing was COOL!
This being a National event, some of the best regional drivers came out to put the pedal to the metal. They didn’t disappoint. The racing was remarkably clean, but you’d expect it to be considering pretty much all the competitors own their own vehicles and causing a spectacular crash is a big hit on the wallet. Though we did have several good crashes at my station. Everyone walked away but tempers flared. Had to whistle and yell at one driver at the top of my lungs because he kept on coming close to the track’s edge after he was crashed out signalling profanities at the driver that caused the incident.
My station for the weekend was a bird cage between turns 3 and 5. A fantastic blue flagging spot that was advertised as a great black flag station, though we only used the meatball once. I’m glad I got to switch my station assignments with my buddy Tim, because the original station I was assigned to was quite crowded and relied on a busy rotation focusing a lot on working safety rather than flagging. Instead I had a great conversation with an experienced corner worker from the Nelson’s Ledges track region, that had a lot of funny stories to share.
Camping at the track also meant hanging out with all the corner workers after the racing, and having CouchSurfed before every time I visited Summit Point, its an experienced I got for the first time. Tim was sporting his cool new Sponsor A Flagger t-shirt from Jessie, and we got to walk around the paddock chatting up various competitors which was all very down to earth. All in all, a great weekend!
SCCA’s DLB Racing web site: http://www.dlbracing.com/ listed this event as the first possible option to register once I arrived back in New Jersey. And I did. I’ve been to Summit Point Motorsport Park in West Virginia before as a spectator for the Cannonball One Lap of America tour, but this time was my first attempt working there, and I had a blast.
The event was well organized and I learned a lot from my team mates at Sector 5. There was much to learn as SCCA rules seem to differ from International rules in SG or NZ. For one we did not have a green flag on point, instead there was a black one. None of the flags were waived, except in case the track was blocked. And all marshals rotated through various positions on point from blue flag to communications, even fire/rescue positions on the other side of the track stationed with a fire extinguisher. It was then I got a bit nervous I hadn’t memorized the hand signals yet.
Regardless it was an amazing experience and I certainly will be back. It was also a great trip to CouchSurf. I spent the night across the border in Virginia only 8 miles away from the track with a wonderful couple that treated me to dinner and a great conversation. As usual it was a good opportunity to source some cheaper goods, like cigarettes for my dad which were more than half the price per carton compared to New Jersey. And fuel was cheaper in Virginia compared to West Virginia.
Next event is in Milville, New Jersey at the New Jersey Motorsport Park.