Tag Archives: Watkins Glen

Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen Spotter Guides by Andy Blackmore

Don’t know about all ya’ll but I’ll be spending this Forth of July Upstate New York, volunteering yet another Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen… you know the race weekend is near because Andy Blackmore has released a whole series of new spotter guides for this event. And because IMSA is pretty awesome, there are spotter guides commissioned for nearly every series racing!

So go to SpotterGuides.com or IMSA.com and download them:

What can you download?

  • WeatherTech Sports Car Championship spotter guide
  • Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge spotter guide
  • Porsche GT3 Cup North America spotter guide
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Canada spotter guide
  • Lamborghini Super Trofeo spotter guide

OR… do what I do, and stop by one of the many info booth’s at Watkins Glen International and pick up a spotter guide as a souvenir to take home… those are my favorite!

links:

http://www.imsa.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SpotterGuides/

2017 Official IMSA Spotter Guide

 

Track Familiarization during RSI MSS at WGI

Track Familiarization module is a beautiful thing. It’s an opportunity for flag marshals to drive the track at speed and see what the driver’s see (at a higher rate of speed). And I must say with all the things to consider and the visual information you take in while driving the track, the flag station is but a tiny spec that you fly by. That’s why flagging, especially displaying yellow flag in a dangerous situation requires apeshit effort because just dangling a piece of yellow cloth out there won’t get anyone’s attention. I thought that was the biggest lesson to be learned today.

And even though I have absolutely no intention of doing any driving, I learned I had no future as a race car driver long ago, and that marshaling is the closest I ever want to get (it is expensive enough for me and I could barely afford volunteering). Driving on track today totally made my day. What an awesome adrenaline rush!

We staged in the Winner’s Circle before taking to the track, so it’s a great opportunity as any to take some pretty Miata pix:

This lip spoiler is really growing on me…

Oh hey! Another B-spec Mazda.

Heading up the Esses

Going into the Bus Stop

Heading down into the Boot

The final turn

The Starter Stand, looks like you can reach out and touch it, but while working up there the cars seem quite far down

Turn 1

The Shoot

Pit In

Thank you WGI. Thank you RSI. And thanks to the NASCAR folks for a wonderful weekend at a beautiful race track!

New WGI signage on NY 414

Watkins Glen Motorsport Safety Seminar by NASCAR

The 2017 Watkins Glen Motorsport Safety Seminar is in the books, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to participate.

Training is crucial in this highly dangerous hobby that we choose to do, and not a lot of places provide it on a regular basis. Certainly none is offered by the SCCA in the New York City metropolitan area, but five hour drive north at Watkins Glen International, RSI and NASCAR put a very thorough and educational program together every year to both teach the newbies and refresh the skills of the old hands that attend. There were newbies for all specialties, from flaggers to fire fighters. And there were plenty of old hands who wanted to handle a fire extinguisher which we seldom get a chance to do with “on the job” training. The fire rescue folks had about half a dozen cars they got to cut up with the jaws of life, AMKUS tool – the official tool of NASCAR. People from Pocono Raceway helped with the training and rescue folks came from as far as Calabogie Canada to receive this training. It was essential and awesome at the same time. I really enjoyed it!

This is a two day event. Day 1 it snowed… not much when I arrived, but there were icebergs and fresh snow on the ground at the track.

It was also freezing!

The beauty of this training, whether for fire fighters or us flaggers, many of the things taught were meant not just for the track, but everyday life. Street cars were used for extrication practice to show how they ought to be cut correctly… whether for road accident or track accident (for track and club days, non-pro events). similarly caged cars were cut to practice specifically race car extrications.

I cashed in a favor and CouchSurfed in downtown Watkins Glen.

My host invited me to check out their neighbors barn bar… it was pretty awesome. Always nice to nibble on venison sausages and beer! These are real NASCAR fans… “So who’s your driver?”

Day two was significantly warmer. We got to shoot the extinguishers:

Same cut-away car from two years ago, but it works well!

That’s me.

Not sure what this fella was up to.

Chief really knew his shit, and presented it in understandable manner.

The wind was coming in from the front, blowing the extinguisher powder back at us. So some adjustment in positioning was required.

Everyone had a go… I went last.

By the time I got the bottle there was barely enough pressure to reach the fire.

So I sprayed, and I sprayed, and I sprayed… and I have a feeling one of the fire fighters cut the propane so the flame went out on its own.

But boy was it fun just doing it. Pulling the trigger. The excitement of fighting a fire. Better to do it under these circumstances and knowing what to expect than during a racing event when a car pulls up on fire and you’re the closet one with a bottle there. It’s nice to know what to expect from it once you’ve called for help.

Thank you RSI. Thank you WGI. Thank you NASCAR!

Mazda MX-5: 600 Mile Miata Road Trip to Watkins Glen for some NASCAR Training

I’m so glad I drove up to Watkins Glen for some much needed NASCAR training during their Motorsport Safety Seminar this April. Last time I went was two years ago. Last year I almost went, but with snow on the forecast I chickened out, panicked and booked a flight to Texas instead to volunteer MotoGP where it didn’t snow. This year I was committed to go, but kept on checking the weather app because the Miata is not an optimal snow vehicle upstate New York.

Things were looking good… and then I saw snowflakes on the forecast. I don’t know if it was that… the five cups of coffee I had on Friday, or the excitement of planning a Texas Road Trip… I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before leaving for my 4 hour drive north. Went to bed early at 9PM by 1AM I was still tossing and turning, so I decided to shower and hit the road. And the road was miserable. It was raining the whole time, most of the way heavy. And closer to the destination it started snowing with big snow flakes zooming past reflecting in the headlights playing tricks on my sleepy mind, resembling time travel in some cosmic galaxy. It was fucked up!

I took my time, and the otherwise 4 hour trip turned into a 6 hour trip. I stopped for food at Sheetz, my usual spot in Scranton, PA. I stopped at Tim Hortons but they didn’t seem to be open even when there was an employee cleaning the place up… I had to pull over at a Rest Area near Tioga Downs to close my eyes for a minute because I found myself dozing off a little. But I made it to MSS training with time to spare but not too early.

On the way in I drove past Montour Falls which compared to the last time I saw them (when they were dry) it was the complete opposite. They were gushing with water. A massive amount of water. All the rivers leading to Watkins Glen were overflowing. Lots of fishermen along the creeks down the main road were getting ready to catch something early in the morning.

The first day flew by quick. I went into town to crash at my host’s house. She was away so I figured I’d take a nap and hang out in the evening. But the nap didn’t work. So we hung out ordering pizza and wings and watching a movie. Went to visit the neighbor and check out their awesome back yard bar. It was so cool!

That night though my mind was still racing, and come 10PM I just couldn’t seem to go to sleep. But I forced myself and eventually slept like a baby all the way until 8AM the next morning. Staying downtown Watkins Glen was super convenient. I could wake up late. Shower. And casually drive to the track for our 8:45AM meeting. I discovered my car was the victim of some unkind birds, since I parked under a tree. So before heading to the track I stopped at a self-serve car wash and gave it a nice hose-down.

Second day flew by even quicker.

The highlights for me were the hands-on fire extinguisher training. Followed by track familiarization laps around the circuit, both with the Boot and without (NASCAR configuration).

It was amazing, and ticked all the boxes for me coming out to this event. I totally got my money’s worth!

Besides the track activities I spent half an hour at the Watkins Glen Walmart the night before rummaging through the Hot Wheels display. To my surprise all the Miata’s were at the bottom of the box, and I ended up buying all of them! This may not seem like a big deal, but I’ve been on the hunt for these little toys for a while. I must have visited a dozen Walgreens, Walmarts, Dollar stores, Kmarts, and other supermarkets in New York, New Jersey, and Florida… and these little fuckers were really hard to come by!

They will be especially useful next time I travel for a Miata event (overseas).

And the cherry on top moment on this trip came from a Foodie Experience… I was telling my host about the wonderful “pig wings” I stumbled across in South Carolina… and she casually told me that they totally have the same food upstate New York… they just call them “Hog Wings” here… so on the drive home I stopped by Mooney’s on Main Street in Corning to pick up a box of them to take home…

The place was packed with diners. And I was happy to see the girl sitting closest to me at the bar getting her order of hog wings on Mac’n Cheese (apparently that’s their thing up there). I chose mine with french fries and they were especially tasty as I reach in a few times for a snack during my long drive home.

What an awesome adventure this trip turned into. I’m so glad I went! Luckily I am at almost 5,000 miles since the last oil change in February, so I’ll be doing one soon after I return from Texas…

I love Watkins Glen, I really do! Ya’ll should come and visit…

Marshal Radio: Episode 3 Sebring 12 Hour Debrief with Guest John Gamble Talking IMSA DPi’s, LMP2 and LMP3’s

It’s been a while since our last episode, but John Gamble and I decided to do a follow up post-Sebring 12 hour. Have a listen:


Marshal Radio – 12 hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway

Summary:

First let me apologize for the poor audio quality for my guest John. I made a rookie mistake… since recording the last Miata Fiata Radio episode I forgot to adjust my Blue Yeti mic to adjust again from 360 degree area, instead it was turned directly towards me and John was sitting opposite me… Sorry!

That said, he’s a soft-spoken man and that’s how he generally sounds anyway… so turn your volume up and listen.

We talked about marshaling at Sebring 12 hour this year and how much we liked the new selection of prototypes especially in the new support series: Mazda Prototype Challenge and the LMP3 cars (which ironically aren’t Mazda powered at all).

We also talked briefly about the St. Pete Grand Prix where I volunteered. Barber Motorsports Park and VIR where I plan to volunteer soon. And Watkins Glen International where John and I will probably record another episode.

I’m really enjoying doing these episodes with John Gamble, big thanks to him and Jeree for letting me stay in their house while in Florida… I had based myself in Daytona Beach for both St. Pete and Sebring along with two Miata events in Jacksonville and Orlando.

Thanks John and see you next time.

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

Post Card from IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen

Greetings from the Not-Boston Grand Prix! Or rather Ferrari Club of American track rental that guested IndyCar at Watkins Glen. This Labor Day weekend was spent flagging some of the (probably “the”) fastest cars ever to take on Watkins Glen to date… at least the ones I got to see. IndyCars flying around the bus stop where I worked on Friday and the last turn before Start/Finish were amazing, it didn’t even look like they used brakes or downshifted for that matter, cars stuck to the surface like glue.

Some pix from this weekend:

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New front wing design, with very aeroplane style winglet on the edges…

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More to come soon…

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A Very Mazda-Centric Visit to Watkins Glen Int’l for IMSA 6 Hour Enduro Race

I just had one of my most Mazda-centric weekends at Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen’s Six Hour and all the support races.

To start an internet friend was visiting from California and I was determined to show him a good time. Ron is a fellow marshal from the San Francisco Region of SCCA. He’s also a fellow Miata owner with a beautiful 2007 Winning Blue that he autocrosses and uses as a marshaling rig to go to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I figured Ron would get a kick out of going to the Seneca Lodge, but the roles reversed and he showed me something about Watkins Glen I had not experienced before… he took me around the original 6.6 mile Watkins Glen Grand Prix Circuit:

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In fact we drove that course several times. Basically every time we decided to go into town for dinner, we’d take the course… and enjoy these beautiful views:

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Turns out I had driven over the Start/Finish line a million times, ever since I started coming to volunteer at Watkins Glen in 2012, but I never realized what it was!

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No sooner as we pulled into Seneca Lodge we spotted a Miata there. This theme would continue throughout my trip last weekend.

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Ron had forgotten his RSI hat at the bar so we went back, and the Miata was still parked there… some hard core fan!

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Back at the “new” circuit, things weren’t much different. There were Miata’s everywhere you looked. My favorite ones were at Turn 1:

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This gorgeous Niseko Edition Miata was really something to look at.

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As well as Canadian Mazdaspeed Body Kit NC in speeding ticket red.

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I went over to chat with the owners during lunch break, awesome guys! Saw them posting on Miata.net / MX-5.net about this event. Then one of them came over and hung a goodie bag off my mirror.

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Besides being an active place to work at Turn 1 (Station 1A) I was able to see up close and personal the car I came there to see… the 1991 winning livery Le Mans 24h heritage edition Mazda Lola’s.

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Huge thanks to Andy Blackmore for his awesome spotter guides.

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Notice how close my parking spot was to these cars exiting track…

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As far as racing went, the Miata’s didn’t do terribly well. Freedom Autosport #25 was leading the race for the longest time until it was punted off, which is a common practice in Continental Tire Sports Cars Challenge… the others were involved in first lap incident too I think, so no Miata took a podium, and almost all suffered damage.

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But again the spectators that showed up in their MX-5’s had a blast:

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I only got to drive a sliver of the track getting to my station on Thursday and Friday… working Turn 6 in the Boot and Turn 5A in the Bus Stop… but that was OK with me. I got lucky on race day to work Turn 1, which allowed me to hit the pit lane to do my grid pix.

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That place was super crowded. I did manage however to visit the Mazda Owner’s Lounge which was very generous with me this time, and even contemplated visiting the Mazda test drive center near Turn 1 to see if I could take an ND for a spin around the original 6.6 mile Grand Prix Circuit (currently village streets).

Our station at Turn 1 was peculiar, it was manned by Mazda owners. The corner captain drove a Mazda 3 and was sporting a Mazda hat and a lanyard, and our other coworker, the most experienced one on station, drove a first gen red NA Miata.

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We parked ours right in front of the Grand Stand at Turn 1.

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Another fantastic weekend in the books and more than ever now I’ve become a total Mazda fan boy… Mazda advertises that there are more Mazdas raced on any given weekend than any other brand. And I totally believe that. Besides the Prototypes and Miatas in their respective series, there was a spec series formally called Prototype Lites and currently renamed to Mazda Lites (because they paid more said the voice on the radio from Race Control)… so definitely, when it comes to Motorsport Mazda is knee deep in this business.

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We found this Zebra livery car thinking it was piloted by the same girl from last weekend’s SCCA Majors (who had a blow up Zebra in her Miata) but it turned out to be another Zebra enthusiast/racer.

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I bought my Miata as a result of watching Playboy MX-5 Cup race…

SCCA Majors Super Tour at the Glen the debrief

This is weekend 8 out of 9 in a row (second month straight) volunteering for a Motorsport event around the US where I’ve driven to the circuit. Watkins Glen International was playing host to Majors Super Tour for SCCA Club Racing. On paper it was supposed to be a spectacular event, but in reality things were brought down a few pegs real quick. I’ll share the good the bad and the ugly in this post.

First the good. And there was a lot of good happening. The weather was good! That’s always a plus. The car turn out was good, there were tons of cars in each field, and by tons I mean high twenties were the smallest field. I counted upwards of forty cars in some fields. The station assignments were good. I got to work some of the best stations there are at WGI and it was really enjoyable. The food was good. SCCA Glen Region offered tasty lunches and some finger foods at dinner time which was very much appreciated. My car got good gas mileage using Sunoco Ultra 93, that was good.

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Next, the bad. While I enjoyed my assignments very much it wasn’t really what I requested. I was hoping to practice working Start a bit more and it didn’t seem like that request was even up for consideration. But I guess it pays to be persistent. Another bad thing was the fact that despite advertising (pictures included) some amazing cars that were supposed to be at the track this weekend, they didn’t actually show up. That’s not good at all. But both of these bad things I could live with.

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And finally, the ugly! Some of the racing was pretty ugly. I don’t know what it was that made so many people have so many avoidable incidents. In fact for club racing it was very much uncharacteristic to have so many bad wrecks, but I think people were encouraged a bit too much to set new track records on the newly re-paved racing surface so they pushed their cars way beyond their driving abilities. We had multiple incidents where cars were destroyed badly, whether in single car incidents or multi car incidents. The crashes started happening on Test day Thursday long before any official racing could take place on Friday. It was so unnecessary. At one point a piece of ARMCO had to be replaced delaying one race group for a whole day because of the severity of the impact. There were several cars going airborne. One flipped over, another flew over second car. The racing was dirty, and at some points dangerous… especially when drivers involved ran on the track to scold the other driver. Luckily nobody got seriously hurt but a lot of private cars will have to undergo major reconstruction to be in a position to race again.

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I’m sure people would think that crashes are good for spectators and to make time fly faster for the marshals because something exciting is happening. But in reality all that contributed to was shorter racing, way too much downtime and reduced fields of cars per group. The attrition rate was atrocious. And that’s no fun.

But anyway. Both Glen Region SCCA and RSI folks did an awesome job of making me feel welcome. We had a visitor from San Fran Region in California that felt very welcome too. I got to use my tent to camp at the RSI compound which was very convenient.

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I also got to drive on track to get to my station assignment on Saturday, that is always enjoyable!

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Got to see a ton of Miata’s though I’m most interested in the NC – 3rd Gen model, and there were only a few of those, including this car with PA plates that must have belonged to one of the SCCA Stewards. (NC3 Club Edition)

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The last time I saw this NC racer it was a decomissioned IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge car, now it has gone some serious upgrades:

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All in all an awesome weekend, and I was definitely missing out by not volunteering Club events in the past. Though I wish there would be a little more consistency in the future. The only thing that was consistent this weekend, was the great food!

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After 500 miles put on my car this weekend I’ll be repeating the trip again next weekend to do the IMSA Six Hour at the Glen.

Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Race at Watkins Glen International May 2016

Once I saw the schedule for the brand spanking new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup I quickly signed up to marshal it. Immediately following the debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last week, the Series tracked across the country to Upstate New York for their second race of the season at Watkins Glen playing a support role to the NARRA and Trans Am series.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Playboy MX-5 Cup which I credit with the reason for my buying an NC Miata of my own. Since I’ve been using my car as a marshaling rig to travel to various circuits including Watkins Glen International, Thompson Speedway in New England and even a trip down to Florida for St. Pete GP and Sebring 12 hour earlier this year where I visited Long Road Racing on the way home in North Carolina. The reason I mention LRR is because they make all the cars (hand built) that participate in this Global MX-5 Cup series and those parallel ones that happen around the world. Who’d thunk it?

The new Global MX-5 Cup cars are incredible and the field is huge pushing over 40 cars on the grid which almost guarantees incidents and accidents. Thanks also to the rain that blessed us this weekend there was a ton of cars that crashed including a major smash-up right under the start stand when the green flag was thrown. I was super privileged to work as a Starter this weekend and was amazed to see all the cars on pit lane staging for their race. I also got to work turn 7 where the cars were taking the fairly sharp turn at over 60mph which seems incredible to me.

Enough talking and here’s some photos from the paddock walk I did on Thursday as the cars were unloaded… the hardest part was selecting the pictures to share as I took hundreds of them…

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The first car I saw was plain vanilla… body in white.

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But the rest were like Skittles, all colors of the rainbow!

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Check facebook for more pictures from this event. Amazing event!!!

I loved it!

PS. Even the Pace Car was a new ND MX-5 Miata:

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Mazda Road to 24 – #MRT24