Tag Archives: TUSC

Let’s Support the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas

A lot of sad news is coming out of Texas about the state of affairs at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Speculation this morning that Formula 1 may drop the venue now that Texas will not foot the bill for the event in the future. The pretty disastrous 2015 running of the United States F1 Grand Prix which was mostly rained out. And of course subsequent storm damage, pictures which have been circulating around the Internet for a while now, but were officially posted on the COTA web site to point out the damage… see here: http://www.circuitoftheamericas.com/storm who knows if the pictures will stay up, so I just wanted to share a few here:

circuit of the americas main grandstand damage
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas double decker bus cota
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas flooding
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas tunnel 1 flooding
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas tunnel 2 wall collapse
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com
circuit of the americas storm damage tunnel 2
photo courtesy of circuitoftheamericas.com

The picture above of the Tunnel 2 is especially scary because it is essentially the evacuation site for the marshals, which we practiced getting to in an expedited fashion during one of the events specifically in situations of severe weather, life threatening weather like what the pictures of the aftermath depict.

While I chose not to participate in this year’s F1 Grand Prix at COTA I did volunteer there for the WEC/IMSA: Lone Star Le Mans races. I have gone there for two consecutive years to volunteer Formula 1. And I would have been there again for MotoGP had they responded to my inquiry sooner. I have a very special place for COTA in my heart for a variety of reasons. Not least because I find it to be the best circuit the US currently has to offer to the world. Yes, I acknowledge that there are other amazing tracks like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California, Watkins Glen International in Upstate New York and Road Atlanta in Georgia. But COTA is the newest and most advanced circuit US has. It is the most impressive facility we currently have on a world stage, and in its current state it’s worth supporting!

I understand there have been a change in management because of the less than desired outcomes of recent events. The prospect of losing F1 could snowball in larger problems that could send COTA in the direction of what happened to Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Mother nature hasn’t been cooperative this year, that was a big hit. But as American Motorsport volunteers and fans we ought to support this place because many more “good” things will come out of COTA in the future. I firmly believe it!

I really hope the Circuit of the Americas receives the support it deserves in the 2016 racing season…. whether it is for Pirelli World Challenge (PWC), IMSA Weathertech United SportsCar Series, World Endurance Championship (WEC), MotoGP, Formula 1 (F1) and all the other smaller track rentals that occur there. I have faith!

So, this was pretty much Petit Le Mans 2015 (7 hours in 7 minutes) Video

The 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta was a messy crashfest.

While the practices and most of the support races were outstanding, the actual feature race wasn’t really much of a race, but cars sliding around off-race-pace, hydroplaning into concrete walls, tire barriers and gravel traps. Perhaps the best description of what happened can be watched in this 7 minute video that condense the 7 hours the event dragged on for into something watchable.

(if the video becomes unavailable or disappears off YouTube just search for: “2015 TSCC The Petit Le Mans All Crashes” I’m sure there will be plenty of clips that come up)

Take note of how many of the same cars had repeat incidents that were not of a racing nature. The ones I got to see myself were the #90 Spirit of Daytona DP prototype spinning on the front straight in the exact same spot. The #912 GTLM Porsche 911 RSR going off Turn 1 into the tire wall uphill. The #4 Corvette Racing C7.R and the Deltawing. GTD class BMW Z4 from Turner, etc.

What a mess!

petit le mans road atlanta station alpha pit exit between start and turn 1

Petit Le Mans the Debrief

Just two weeks after an excellent time at Lone Star Le Mans I headed down for my third Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

It was a good experience, things were up and down, but overall I had an incredible time…. all things considered it was a nice way to end my year of Motorsport marshaling in the United States. I have of course still a few trips left including one International event in December one in January and one in February, but I’ll talk about that later.

To start the debrief I have to mention that I was not impressed with my luck this year when it came to booking flights and other travel related expenses. I had pretty much screwed myself with the trip to Austin booking expensive flights through remote connecting cities when a cheaper option popped up just days later on direct flights. Well, the same situation repeated itself with Atlanta. I booked a flight from Philadelphia which I thought was cheap, and 25 hours later it went down in price. Had it happened 24 hours later I could have cancelled and rebooked but that wasn’t my luck. Philadelphia played host to Pope Francis visit the weekend leading up to my flight on Monday, so getting to Philly wasn’t cheap either, and I was slightly concerned that I wouldn’t make my flight if the blocked off zones of the city weren’t opened up in time. But I made it. Upon arrival into Atlanta I had overpaid for the rental car too. Unlike the previous two years the prices were thru the roof, and the option I chose was the more expensive one because instead of tenting it in the campground I decided to use the SUV I rented. At least I lucked out with a large enough vehicle (this wasn’t of course without a fight, Thrifty refused to give me a larger car so I went with Advantage and even they tried to squeeze me into a Mitsubishi Outlander which is small, but eventually I got into a Toyota Rav4 which was just right).

petit le mans 2015 rental car and camping vehicle

Leaving the airport I headed south, not north where the track is located. I had ordered a sleeping bag from Sears to be available for pick up upon my arrival so I didn’t have to drag it with me thru NJ into Philly and then down to Georgia on my flight. It was meant to arrive the Southlake Mall about 9 miles from the airport by the time my flight got in, of course that wasn’t the case, the bag arrived a few days after my arrival so I ended up canceling the order. Instead I took advantage of the opportunity to search some local places to eat and stumbled upon Sonny’s BBQ just about a mile away from the mall. Little did I know it was the same Sonny’s that have a booth set up in the vendor village at Road Atlanta every year. I made friends with a great lady that took my order named Leslie and made sure to visit her during the race where she surprised me with a complementary sammich! It was the most amazing food I’ve had all week… thank you Leslie!

appalachin bbq in georgia at petit le mans road atlanta

Big thanks to the crew at Turn 7 for inviting me to sample some of their spectator’s BBQ from the Appalachian mountains of Georgia. What an excellent tasting pulled pork they let me have a taste.

pulled pork from appalachin georgia petit le mans at road atlanta turn 7

The organizers of marshals for Petit Le Mans: Atlanta Region SCCA, fulfilled my request to work “Alpha” at the pit exit area of the main straight, just after the Starter stand and before Turn 1. That was awesome. But for some reason the corner captain at Turn 1 didn’t want to acknowledge that my station was a legitimate station. I got a sense that she was sort of belittling it’s role and by extension my role being there, when it came to flagging. I didn’t appreciate that at all. Not sure what sort of threat she felt from my flagging as it would relate to her station, but I certainly didn’t look at it that way. I treated Alpha as an independent station and flagged my heart out because it’s an incredible Blue flag spot. Of course for every incident at Turn 1 we mirrored their flags which are a bit hard to see with the way the station is situated. I even caught myself displaying a Yellow flag before Turn 1 flaggers had a chance to put their’s out because I saw the incident happening before they did. That was cool.

My reputation preceded me when it came to working with the chief of Start. The only thing he wanted to advise me of when we met is not to take any pictures. Which I didn’t. I did find it pretty ironic that others on the Start stand had no problem tacking pictures and sharing them on facebook. So my reputation seems to be a bit unfounded, I certainly don’t do things that nobody else does. But whatever. Here are some pictures that I did take:

petit le mans 2015 alpha flag point and turn 1 in the distance

2015 petit le mans start finish front straight

2015 petit le mans lamborghini blanpain super trofeo

2015 petit le mans continental tire sports car challenge

2015 petit le mans grid walk 6

2015 petit le mans grid walk 7

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2015 petit le mans pit lane lamborghini super trofeo blancpain

The racing was pretty interesting, especially where I was stationed. Though it seems most incidents seem to have been repeatedly happening in the Turn 5 region, we had some great spins and even hits along the front straight and down at Turn 1. I got to witness several PC cars bin it. I also saw the Ligier P2 smash at night time in the rain. I later got to sign the nose cone of that P2 which had my name, the message: “Go for the Win!” and “#MarshalCam” clearly visible on race day. That was pretty neat.

2015 petit le mans grid walk 2

Though it rained on race day, I was pretty comfortable because the flag chief set up a canopy over our station which did a great job keeping is fairly dry. I also used the new wet weather gear I recently bought which kept me exceptionally dry even when I was walking around in the rain, and more importantly it was breathing enough that I wasn’t drenched from sweating inside of it. I did somehow manage to put a hole through one of the pant legs, which makes me pretty mad at myself. I always tend to damage my gear when marshaling.

Others, including the media were complaining about the treacherous conditions during the event. But I thought they were fairly predictable. We did have the hurricane Joaquin moving up the coast in the Atlantic, and while it rained in Georgia for a week leading up to the event, I can’t help but wonder if the hurricane had any contribution especially as the event progressed to race day. What was happening on race day wasn’t really racing. Most cars were taking it slow, especially those in the PC field. The Daytona Prototypes tried hard, but like the Trans Am races I attended in the wet at Lime Rock where T1 cars were blown away by quicker (in the rain) T2, the same phenomenon happened at Road Atlanta. DP’s, P2’s, and PC’s were slow. GTLM were absolutely quick, yet GTD cars were not. So I wonder if the Michelin tire had anything to do with the quickness compared to Continental Tires on everything else.

We were told in the morning briefing that the race has to last only five hours and a second to be called as a full race. But just after five hours came about, the race director called for Red Flag and we were advised to seek shelter. Luckily I had parked the Toyota SUV on pit lane across from my station, so I quickly turned on the heat on full blast, took off my damp shoes and let the sox dry out. It was so cool. I found the radio station that had IMSA broadcast and listened to the speculation of what’s going to happen next, just like everybody else. A very short time later we were back on station, preparing to go Green. But after the restart we seemed to have Full Course Yellow about every five laps or so when someone would go hydroplaning into the tire barriers or a concrete wall. A few incidents happened at Turn 1, many more happened around Turn 5 area and finally at 7pm the race director called it a race and Checkered Flag was shown. It wasn’t without controversy, I’m sure. Even I thought to myself that they must have had to re-position cars for the finish to their liking, because at 5pm the order clearly wasn’t favorable. But who knows what really happened. I would imagine this historic race with it’s shortened schedule and a GTLM car taking overall win was completely manufactured, and most fans could see right thru it. I don’t think IMSA did itself any favors with doing something so blatant. We all know it isn’t right for competitors to cheat, I don’t think the series as a whole should resort to cheating either.

So that was that. The last race of the IMSA season. And my last American race down at an amazing track that is Road Atlanta. I had a good time. I had tasted some great food, which is always a plus. But I don’t know if I have a burning desire to come back next year. Throughout the event I couldn’t help but think how much Motorsport advertising actually works, because every time I saw the Spirit of Daytona car with it’s Visit Florida livery I just pictured myself in Miami… that trip is next, and a little time swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach is just what I need after this!

2015 petit le mans grid walk 1

Postcard from 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Presented by Mazda and Interrupted by Joaquin

All ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what happened. Well, maybe you will, but here’s my little preview of the “season finale” at Road Atlanta during the 2015 Petit Le Mans presented by Mazda (the presented by Mazda bit is obviously a joke, while accurate, it was repetitively used by the flag chief in a NASCAR-style shout-out to the sponsors). I like Mazda even though their booth babe tricked me into taking a survey without actually giving me the hat I was promised for my participation. So screw Mazda! or at least the people they outsourced the marketing duties to during the event.

2015 petit le mans mazda owner's lounge

On a positive note, when Corvette Racing advertises a FREE t-shirt for completing their survey, they actually give you a t-shirt… get it Mazda?

2015 petit le mans mazda owner's lounge 1

I will make a few posts about each of the topics I wanted to share from Petit Le Mans, but this entry will act like a snapshot of things to come accompanied by some teaser pictures.

This year’s Petit Le Mans was wet… so wet it was cut short, thanks to Hurricane Joaquin stirring shit up in the Atlantic. But I was well prepared. I had a great station assignment that I actually requested, and as luck would have it, I stayed pretty dry throughout this soaker of a week(end).

hurricane joaquin
credit: borrowed from Facebook

The saddest part of the trip was catching a glimpse of the MX-5 Cup graveyard near the Skip Barber facility at Road Atlanta. I took some pix, they aren’t pretty:

skip barber mx-5 cup miata graveyard road atlanta

skip barber mx-5 cup miata graveyard road atlanta 1

The action on track cheered me up a bit. I was close to the action and close to the pits, which means I was super close to cars. I love being this close to cars! Like this close:

2015 petit le mans continental tire sports car challenge

This is the view from station, with flags in the foreground.

2015 petit le mans pit lane lamborghini super trofeo blancpain

mazda mx-5 cup during petit le mans 2015 miatas galore

I got a chance to meet up with some great people that fed me well. I love southern BBQ. I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m also glad to see some European friends that I last met in Belgium during Spa 24h.

2015 petit le mans marshal dinner with teddy racing

I had some fun in my rental vehicle which I probably overpaid for, just like the flight, and like the cost of the way to get to the flight… I flew out of Philly International the day after Pope Francis left town. But the rental was worth every penny in the flood that literally took over the camp site. I was dry. I was comfortable. And I was happy! I even got a chance to sit in the truck during the red flag period of the race, with the heat on full blast pointed at my sox… shoes off, getting some much needed rest and warmth from the heater and IMSA radio called by John Hindy from Radio Le Mans thru the car’s stereo!

2015 petit le mans red flag

Yep… I got to park on the pit lane for the main event!

petit le mans 2015 rental car and camping vehicle

All in all an excellent weekend. There were some people that went out of their way to sort of shut me down and rain on my parade, and I wasn’t really in a position to ignore them, but shit like that happens. I was just happy that the good moments outnumbered the bad.

2015 petit le mans grid walk 7

I don’t hate Teddy!

PS. I got to win another “Mazda” hat during the marshal party! So thanks but no thanks Mazda booth! But I’m happy I got to take some pix with an ND Miata, both the safety cars and the display models.

2015 petit le mans presented by mazda marshal swag

2015 petit le mans grid walk 2

I also got a chance to sign the nose on the #60 Ligier P2 prototype, they didn’t win and crashed often… but a GTLM car won. A Porsche… which I suspect was done for publicity, both for IMSA and for Porsche in their North American headquarters home of Georgia. Hmm…

Petit Le Mans 2015 Powered by Mazda Spotter Guide by Andy Blackmore Design

Posting this a bit late, but better than never… check out the outstanding work of Andy Blackmore with his latest spotter guide for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship season finale, the 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

petit le mans 2015 powered by mazda spotter guide by andy blackmore design

click here to download:  http://www.spotterguides.com/portfolio/15imsa

I’ve had an amazing opportunity to actually meet Andy Blackmore for the first time during the pit walk at COTA a few weeks ago during the Lone Star Le Mans and made sure to thank him in person for the fine job he does with all his spotter guides. I always leave an event with a printed version as a keepsake. Sharing the link on my blog does two things: 1. shows my appreciation for the work especially since this is a very useful tool while marshaling and 2. promoting the sport to others who may not have known about the series or the cars that race in it. The detailed spotter guides sure provide a wealth of information on everything from cars, to teams to individual drivers.

Thanks Andy!

Lone Star Le Mans the Debrief

For the second year in a row, Lone Star Le Mans proved to be one of my best events of the year so far. In many ways it was much better than last year. The weather was nice, warm and sunny compared to last year’s rain and cold. I was feeling much better physically, none of that nausea from food poisoning that messed with me last year. There wasn’t a generator with an exhaust pointing into the station, so things were pretty good all around.

Of course things were up and down, starting from the time I booked my flights. I overpaid for my air travel this year. Part of it was due to the lack of cheap offers I took advantage of last year, and another part was because I chose to burn up some soon to expire mileage which actually resulted in me paying a higher price. This year I used the last of my Avianca Life Miles frequent flyer points to book a one way trip from Austin to Newark in time to get to work on Sunday afternoon. In all it cost me $120 dollars to pay for taxes and to prop up the mileage which Avianca allows you to buy in order to book the trip (I didn’t have enough to book it outright). The price also included the $25 booking fee which Avianca charges which sucks. To get to Austin I booked a $118 flight with JetBlue from Westchester County airport on the NY/CT border to fly there via Orlando. It wasn’t the cheapest flight possible, but it allowed me to satisfy some frequent flyer criteria to earn a bonus with JetBlue to use for the future. Of course a few weeks after I booked these trips that amounted to $238 and a bunch of layovers, Southwest came out with a sale that was $50 cheaper on direct flights into Austin from Newark, and that had much better timing. Go figure!

For comparison purposes I paid $106 round trip to go to Austin last year, in fact I booked two of those trips for WEC and F1.

But enough about that. The next snag came once I landed in Austin. I had some miscommunication with my buddy Joaquin which resulted in me waiting at the airport for him to pick me up. Somehow we didn’t get the arrival date correct. He thought I was flying in the next day when he had work commitments at COTA. I foolishly thought he had to work on the date I arrived. So I sat and waited at the airport until 5pm when he would have been finished with the work, and then 6pm, and 7pm, etc. I people-watched. Had some Salt Lick BBQ which I know I wouldn’t have a chance to go to since I wasn’t renting a car to drive to Driftwood. So I waited. About 6 hours later and no sight of my buddy… I decided to call him. And then we both realized out mistake. While waiting I got a chance to say hello to Marc Miller the driver of the CJWilson #3 Miata which had a very good start for the Continental Tire SportsCar Championship race this weekend.

I always have high praise for Salt Lick BBQ – an Austin institution, but I had a bad experience there on this visit. The girl behind the counter swiped my credit card twice during my purchase. I didn’t think anything of it until I got home and saw two separate and different charges on my card. She charged me for my meal, which was delicious and for something else which I didn’t order nor receive. So I sent Salt Lick a note about this theft from my credit card, but got a pretty arrogant reply back requesting my card number so they can credit the account back. At this point I had already disputed the transaction with the card issuer so that was a pointless piece of the process but it is sad to see that the organization doesn’t take theft seriously. In the past I had seen duplicate charges from my purchases at the Austin Airport but the amount was too small to fuss about. But this time it was more about the principle. I don’t like being robbed even of a small amount.

And so onto the actual event.

On Wednesday I arrived with Joaquin who was scheduled to work for COTA that day, thinking I would just hang out and take some pictures. Luckily the powers that be decided to use me for the practice sessions, so I got issued with a radio and dropped off at Turn 12 for the Porsche GT3 Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge practice. There were five sessions in total, and at the end of the day I was able to register for the main event without having to arrive extra early the next day.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were extremely long days. We were to arrive at the crack of dawn, 5:30am and most of the time didn’t leave well after dark… the hardest were 9:30pm finish on Thursday and the 11pm finish on race day Saturday. My feet were completely swollen.

Thursday I got to captain at Station 20 Alpha which is the exit of Turn 20 opposite the finish stand on the main straight. That was an amazing opportunity. My goal was to sneak away during our breaks, to the pit lane and say hello to some people while snapping some pix, but that wasn’t realistic at all. The track stayed hot most of the time.

I did get an opportunity to go down the pit lane and check out the paddock on Friday and Saturday because I was stationed at Turn 2, the station had an incredible view of the uphill leading up to Turn 1 which was amazing. But besides the convenience of walking to the pits and watching the cars shoot for the first turn, we actually had some great action ourselves at our turn, where again I was captain. First for the Lamborghini Super Trofeo event there was a Huracan car that smacked the ARMCO just up the station from us, which allowed me to respond with a fire extinguisher. Since the car was facing away from me I never got the driver to make eye contact so I could tell him that the rear end was broken. But after a few moments he drove away, crabbing along with the left axle clearly destroyed. For the IMSA practice we had a PC prototype cruise backwards after a spin at Turn 1 and then suddenly shoot out into the oncoming traffic trying to rejoin. Another PC prototype collected him in a violent fashion and both ended up coming to a rest just prior to Station 3. I was on flags again so I went from waving a green, to waving a yellow, to standing a yellow to asking my partner to go waving white, to again waving a yellow when the crash happened. The incident repeated in the Porsche GT3 Cup when the second car in Gold class got bumped and spun out of the way in the apex of our turn by a Platinum class driver. Like the PC incident the whole thing didn’t make sense, and resulted from some pretty aggressive driving. While on comms for the headline WEC race we were extremely quiet. The only call I made was for the #50 Corvette getting pushed off the track by a passing LMP2 car, and a few laps later I was surprised to hear that the Corvette was penalized for that incident. From my vantage point it looked like the prototype clearly muscled his way through.

Going to this event I was happy to just be a flagger, but I understand why the flag chief would make me a captain. I wanted to share what I have learned over the years with my crew, but it was interesting to see how some selectively accepted what I told them, and at other times didn’t bother listening to it at all. It took some adjustments on my part to get people to do what I wanted them to do. And some mistakes were made, minor but mistakes nonetheless. I was happy to see a fellow marshal request the communicator role which freed me up to do some flagging. But during both of our major incidents at Turn 2 I noticed he had the boom of his Mic over his head. And even though he tried calling in the incident play by play, Race Control would have a hard time making out his call because the Mic was so far away from his mouth. Both times I reached out and pulled the Mic down to the proper level. But that obviously interfered with the smoothness of the call, as it should have been made. I had a great time training some new marshals, and one of the main things I tried to instill is confidence in blue flagging. It almost worked too well because my rookie flagger threw the blue flag on second lap for the mixed GT field. I quickly corrected him and explained that during the race blue flag is ONLY for lapping. But it was one of those things that totally caught me off guard, as he didn’t throw the blue flag on the start of any other support races. It wasn’t just the rookies that surprised me. One of the experienced flaggers that I wanted to rotate with during a support race took the headset off my head as I got the blue flag from him, which is something I asked him prior to the start of the race we were not going to do. Leaving me fumbling to find some ear protection. And at the start of the front straight the station is at the point where all cars accelerate flat out making it a very noisy station. My ears were ringing for a while after that. I still don’t understand why he did what he did, and certainly didn’t appreciate it at all.

So that was that, good racing. Three different perspectives and eight different people I got a chance to work with. Most were really nice, some were quite stubborn and didn’t seem to approve of my choices at times. But I got a real kick out of two people listening to my advice as they were new to endurance racing and appreciated the opportunity they got for the training I offered them. One even said he had stumbled upon my blog in preparation for his first event at COTA which I thought was really cool.

During the pit walk I managed to snap a whole lot of pix. Got an opportunity to say hello to Mr. Alain from WEC who surprised me with a few WEC/Le Mans 24h patches. And even got a chance to tour the Race Control room. Although it was a bit awkward getting in, as security was under strict orders not to let us in so we had to wait in the sun until someone was sent to get us. It was ironic as there wasn’t many people in race control when we finally got in, so I’m not sure what was the point of making us wait outside in the sun to begin with. Maybe that was a way to elevate the image of the idea of the Race Control facility… or who knows what else. That aspect should have been organized better.

I’m glad I got an opportunity to go back to Austin and substitute my previous trips to Le Mans 24h in France with two American events with “Le Mans” in their names. Petit Le Mans is my next big trip only a week apart from Lone Star Le Mans, and if it goes half as well as the Texas event I would be very happy!

Stay tuned for more…

This is Texas! My Ride for Lone Star Le Mans at COTA The “Beast”

There’s one thing I look forward to the most when arriving in Austin, Texas for any of the events at Circuit of the Americas: and that is a ride in my buddy’s truck: the “Beast”

What is the Beast?

It’s a ninety seventies something Chevy Silverado Dually… with a big ass V8 under the hood and a four speed manual transmission with a skull for a shift knob… it’s loud, it’s aggressive and it’s powerful. It certainly got a lot more heads turning at the airport when I got picked up than any of the fancy new pick ups or other vehicles that picked up other people as I was waiting for my ride. And there were plenty of Texas Edition and Lone Star Edition trucks driving through the terminal. The noise from the Beast is really something…

the beast lone star le mans austin texas cota 3

the beast lone star le mans austin texas cota 1

the beast lone star le mans austin texas cota 2

I met Joaquin the owner at COTA last year during the Lone Star Le Mans weekend because we worked the same station together. He’s been kind enough to store my tent for me since then, picking me up at the airport when I arrived for the Formula 1 weekend and now Lone Star Le Mans this year.

To me, Joaquin’s truck is what Texas is all about. Big, noisy and tough! And this time around I actually got to drive the Beast myself being the designated driver when we went out for some Mexican food and margaritas. What a thrill! Only stalled it once when I put it in 4th instead of reverse while leaving the parking lot, but did pretty good the rest of the way to the house. Very happy to have had this experience. Certainly made my day!

la palapa austin mexican cantina

tacos at la palapa austin mexican cantina

Post Card from Lone Star Le Mans – WEC/IMSA 6 hrs of the Circuit of the Americas

Wonderful time spent at the Lone Star Le Mans this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas. Very happy with the way all of the events turned out, here are some photos:

lone star le mans 6 hr of the circuit of the americas 1
Thursday’s station assignment: 20 Alpha after last turn and before the main straight.
lone star le mans 6 hr of the circuit of the americas 2
Friday and Saturday station assignment: Turn 2 above the paddock and after the famous uphill Turn 1

My favorite activity of the weekend: Pit Walk!

lone star le mans 6 hr of the circuit of the americas 3 lone star le mans 6 hr of the circuit of the americas 5

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More from my station assignment for Practice/Quali and Race Day: Turn 2

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Back to the Paddock for some more shots for WEC and IMSA race cars:

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My favorite Copper Red Mazda’s… just like my Miata (color not slow)

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A more detailed write up to come soon…

Pre-Race Praise to the Lone Star Le Mans Flag Chief Brent McNaul for his Work Organizing Marshals at COTA

I have high praise to the Lone Star Le Mans flag chief Brent McNaul for the way he has been organizing the marshals for the upcoming event at the Circuit of the Americas. I want to recognize his efforts in this post because often I blog about people doing things wrong and how much I don’t agree with their approach, and it’s too easy to be critical. In this situation the man deserves high accolades long before the event has even started because he’s been doing everything right. And I really appreciate it!

For those of you reading this you may remember the post I made a while back about the perfect registration page set up for Lone Star Le Mans on MotorsportReg.com It was detailed, thorough, and intuitive. It communicated well what’s involved with the event and encouraged you to be a part of something big, a PRO event, something to be proud of. That attention to detail has continued in the months that followed leading up to this weekend. Brent has been communicating constantly with frequent e-mail blasts keeping the registered marshals abrest of important details pertaining to the race weekend, flag rules, new procedures, etc.

What I liked most about Brent’s e-mail communications:

  • Acknowledgement that the days would be long, as they tend to be on such a race weekend where cars are on track from dawn to dusk, and beyond. In early July Brent sent out info about working in shifts to break up the work load. Personally I can’t get enough of endurance events so I volunteered to work both shifts.
  • Marshal evacuation plan. Who thinks about that right? We had a simulated evacuation a year or two ago at COTA. We were loaded onto the “train” shuttle and taken to the safety of an underpass to wait out a storm. Nobody knew really what was going on, it seemed as the shuttle drivers were following instructions from whomever came on their hand held radios. Now we have a detailed plan of action direct from COTA management.
  • Detailed schedule of the event and the confirmed race entries were provided for those of us interested in the participants of the event in late August.
  • Specific flagging rules were provided as the IMSA rules differ from the FIA rules used during WEC. Specific instructions were provided about the use of boards including NEXT SLOW, SLOW zone, and FCY – Full Course Yellow. While the boards appeared at last year’s event they were not used. The information provided in Brent’s e-mail prepares us as marshals to know what to expect if Race Control calls for a specific board or a series of boards like the progression of NEXT SLOW to SLOW zone, and FCY.
  • Captain prep e-mail was sent out to those of us expected to carry out the captain roles during the event. I was fortunate enough to be selected and am looking forward to fulfilling my duties. I am especially looking forward to incidents happening in my sector so that I could put my training to good use with execution and learn from my response for future incidents.
  • Information about registration, morning sign-on and even early registration times and locations was sent out. This is especially useful since I will be without a personal vehicle being a pedestrian sucks, but allows me to rely on friends to go and register early so that the morning of the event I could go straight to the morning meeting.
  • Station assignments. This one was my favorite especially since last year I left COTA with a sour taste after getting stuck in the same part of the track for several consecutive events. Well, not anymore. I am thrilled with my station assignments thanks to Brent because I will be working some new portions of the track that I haven’t done yet and I am very much looking forward to this experience!

So major props to Brent McNaul for his efforts to keep the Lone Star Le Mans a well oiled machine of an event that I’m sure it will be. The work he’s doing is greatly appreciated not just by me but everyone else, and that’s important. Furthermore I wish more people would learn from Brent to put this amount of effort into their events that they flag chief. He is certainly setting a good example, and I thank him for it!

austin texas cota
source: swiped from the e-mail signature of Jeanie at COTA

Sahlen’s Six Hour At the Glen 2015 Debrief

This was the most amazing event I’ve ever done at Watkins Glen!

The Sahlen’s Six Hour At the Glen 2015 was my first US event of the season, and only second event after the Nurburgring 24h in May. I had the most incredible time and I’ll share the story in this debrief.

I think everything went relatively perfectly throughout this trip. The drive up was on a nice sunny day, I enjoyed the drive with the softer tire/wheel combo on the Miata, got great gas mileage. My name was actually on the registration list which I think was the first time that has happened in my four years with RSI. And I got to hang out with a fellow marshal from Colorado visiting WGI for the first time for this event. It was excellent.

Over the four day weekend I got assigned four excellent station assignments, many took me quite by surprise. I worked Station 10 at the toe of the boot on Thursday, all by myself. Then got moved to Station 1 in Turn 1 for Friday where I worked with one of the WGI employees who said she loved to blue flag, so I got an opportunity to share some of the things I learned over the years working IMSA, and she shared with me some videos from her Twitter feed. She said she follows a bunch of the drivers, especially those from Upstate New York. The weather changed on Saturday and Sunday where we saw two days of rain. It wasn’t heavy rain or stormy weather, but it was fine and consistent which had a similar effect, parts of the schedule were abandoned. Saturday I worked Station 4 at the top of the Esses and Sunday I worked Station 12 at the exit to the hairpin in the toe of the Boot. My schedule was quite similar to the IMSA race I worked last year, I remember working Station 10 alone during the week and Station 12 on race day. I don’t really remember where I was in the middle. But I do remember that I nearly had a heartattack at Station 10 when I stepped on something that was moving under my feet, looked down and it was a small snake a few feet long that scurried away… Yikes!

imsa at watkins glen international station 10

Unlike last year, I pitched a tent this year. And since I got a very positive experience at Nurburgring using an air mattress, I made sure to bring one with me to New York. The Miata was full to the max with all the gear, both trunk space and the passenger seat. The tent held up pretty well in the weather we had, although I got awoken a few times during the night when the walls were caving in from the wind.

camping at watkins glen international with mazda mx-5 miata

As far as racing goes, the weekend was pretty predictable. While a P2 Prototype posted good numbers in practice it was the Daytona Prototypes that lead the pace of the race… which was kind of Meh! The DeltaWing and diesel Mazda Skyactive P2 were also predictably slow and mostly broken… The best battles were in the GTLM and GTD fields, which was great. I was happy to see the Falken Porsche team do well knowing that they’ve pulled out of IMSA for next year.

I was really happy that I got the opportunity to drive the circuit a few times to get to station and then to get back to the RSI campsite. That’s such an amazing perk that Watkins Glen does for their marshals that is really appreciated, even when I drove the track relatively slowly. It was very cool. I was also thrilled to go walk around the paddock as the teams were getting ready to do qualifying which never actually happened. Because of the rain that was increasing in volume of water getting dumped on the circuit, the day was cut short… you can actually see the rain in my pictures that I shared in the Media post earlier.

Every night of this trip I ended up going out to dine in town. Someone at RSI recommended Jerlando’s at Montour Falls. I’ve tried their calzone and a chicken parm and it was quite tasty, especially having a nice warm meal after a long day at the track. I also got to visit Seneca Lodge pretty much every night. First with Christy from Colorado who has heard about it and had to see it for herself, and then with Jessie from SponsorAFlagger.com  It was pretty funny with Jessie when one of the IMSA driver’s came up to her and told her how he follows her marshaling adventures on facebook…. No one has ever done that with me, especially not a race car driver. Go blondie, Go!

While at the RSI compound I was really happy with the way everyone treated me. People were really friendly and welcoming and I really appreciate that when volunteering. I was amazed and thankful for my station assignments every day. The IMSA folks were just as pleased as I was. Even when some of the lingo during communications is uniquely Watkins Glen compared to the rest of the circuits they visit, they spoke very positively at the level of professionalism extended to the series. Calls were concise, precise and accurate. I was lucky enough to make a few of those important calls when two separate cars came to a stop right at my station (Station 10) resulting in practice stoppage. During the race we had a Corvette spin and again stop right at the foot of our station (Station 12) check out my earlier post about that incident. I was very proud to be a member of RSI when things just went right over the weekend. No fighting or bickering, no yelling or screaming. Just business as usual, and everything was done by the book. I loved it!

And so I’m looking forward to my next visit to Watkins Glen in August for the NASCAR Sprint Championship series. Can’t wait…

 

PS. I was very happy to see tons and tons of MX-5 Miatas at WGI

mx-5 miata parade at watkins glen