Tag Archives: WC Vision

Memorial Day Grand Prix of Lime Rock Park (PWC) the debrief

To say I had a blast at this weekend’s (Memorial Day weekend) PWC event at LRP would be an understatement… I really, truly, genuinely had an amazing time. And the people I got a chance to work with totally contributed to that experience.

It absolutely makes a difference who you work with and this time I was super lucky. You know someone else is comfortable with you when she refers to you as “dipshit” to her colleague. That happened. Both of my series starters from PWC were amazing, and it was my honor to be working with them as a backup starter at the Start/Finish stand.

I thought the weekend went especially well. The racing was better than usual. We didn’t have too many bullshit crashes that tend to ruin other PWC events. The recoveries were smooth and quick, and there were awesome battles for positions throughout the field in all the classes. That was awesome.

I got to make a lot of calls on the radio. Which was good. I’m happy I didn’t make too many mistakes with that aspect. I was even able to do a debris run picking up a large chunk of debris from the race winning Turner BMW in the TC race. But I also made some rookie mistakes and they were to be blamed on me squarely. There were three instances where I was meant to point out a car to the series starters and I pointed out the wrong car. We did track it correctly, but for whatever reason I pointed at a different car that was similar in appearance. In the TCA/TCB race I pointed to the SAC racing 080 car instead of the race winning 70 car. Both were black with Green accents, but one was Teal and another bright Green… One was ND and another NC. And yet somehow I mucked it up. With the other starter I had real trouble with the Porsche Cayman GT4’s… we were supposed to track 018 car and I (for some weird reason) confused it with it’s sister car 017… luckily the series starter was better than me at identifying cars but it tripped her up too, unnecessarily. Maybe the dipshit comment was right on the money.

I must have not been too terrible, because unlike the series starter last year she greeted me with a hug in the morning, which was an AWWWW moment. She must not hate me. And on race day she gave me a little gift, a pin of a Guardian Angel that one of her colleagues designed. AWWWW again! She doesn’t want me to die. That’s nice. I really enjoyed the weekend and I really hope I get another opportunity to work with these folks again… somewhere!

Pirelli World Challenge was a standalone feature of this Memorial Day weekend. So we only had the GT/GTA/GT Cup, GTS and TC/TCA/TCB cars at the track. What was different was the fact that the field of TC cars grew so large in size that they got to run a race on their own without the usual TCA/TCB addition. This meant that the TCA/TCB ran a race of their own too… and it was clear as day to see how well the Global MX-5 Cup cars performed on their own in this series. I knew they won at VIR and Mosport (both races I volunteered) but since there was a different overall winner in TC class, it wasn’t so obvious who won TCA. The older Miata’s in TC class though qualified super well, they were in row 2 and 3 on the grid, but as soon as the race started they faltered. Many DNF’d. Which sucks! But the cars are getting old, and the newest addition to the field this year, the BMW 235M blew up in size, it seems like they are completely dominating this series. In the GT race there were quite a few incidences, but overall it was super enjoyable to watch and especially neat to be a part of in such an amazing position on the start stand. I’m incredibly grateful!

Best of all I didn’t have to choose between having lunch or taking pictures during our downtime. I was smack in the middle of all the action. I could just walk over to the dummy grid and take a few snaps before heading back on duty and the series starters were happy to help me out with a few selfie style shots to capture the moment of this experience. It was tremendous!

I would love to do it again!

Post Card from PWC Grand Prix of Lime Rock

Greetings from an amazing first day of the PWC at LRP.

I love this track.

I love this series.

I love this assignment.

This is my first time since last year working as a back-up starer for a pro event (or for any event period) and it just so happens that last year it was PWC at LRP as well.

Despite the wet weather and the alternating mist and light rain, the racing has been especially good. Only the PWC series are present though they are broken up in bits to make more racing happen. There’s the Sprint X headliner featuring GT (Pro-Pro), GTA (Pro-Am), GT Cup (Am-Am) and GTS (up and coming Pro’s)… the TC group grew so big with all the new BMW 235M’s that they get to race on their own… I think I counted over 30 cars, and it’s especially nice to see the familiar yellow Turner cars #95 & #96 re-join the series. TCA and TCB round out the support races with a pretty large field as well. Really neat to see this racing up close from the Starter stand. I love it! Didn’t take many pix, but the few I did I’d like to share:

And so my day went absolutely perfectly… I truly enjoy working Start and my PWC series colleagues were awesome to me. Despite the rain I thought the racing was very good. No stupid crashes. It was very competitive, very tight and mostly clean with minor incidents here and there (only a few full course cautions)… so I’m grateful for that. Lime Rock Park fed us at the end of the day and I was happy to spy a bunch of Mazda’s at the track including a Miata parade early in the morning and a few Mazdaspeed 3’s and 6’s in the camping area.

I decided not to tent it in the wet, and instead opted for the 2 hour and 100 mile trek home… which was fine in the evening, but I’m sure tomorrow morning I’ll be regretting it. Oh well… looking forward to another great day at the track!

Why Is Everyone Ditching SCCA Pro Racing? First Global MX-5 Cup in Favor of IndyCar and Now Pirelli World Challenge to USAC

For those of you reading this blog post looking for some in-depth analysis or insider information as to why everyone is ditching SCCA Pro racing, go look elsewhere. This post will express my opinion on the matter which is just that, an opinion. It is based on my personal experience of a mere marshal volunteering for both series mentioned in the title and the three sanctioning bodies involved. My treatment as a volunteer could and definitely may be different than that of other volunteers so take the opinion at face value.

That said… and the many frustrating posts I’ve made over the past few years, I can’t say I am surprised that SCCA is being ditched. I have had plenty of personal experience of maltreatment by assholes within the club to which I pay/paid a hefty membership fee for all these years. Perhaps I’m not the only one that thinks this sort of treatment isn’t acceptable and there are other options.

What am I talking about?

Today PWC leadership made an announcement at the Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis, Indiana that after 27 years of being sanctioned by SCCA Pro (a body that created the PWC series) it will now be sanctioned by USAC – the arch-rival of Sports Car Club of America from way back in the day. USAC is United States Auto Club which I’m sure people reading this blog would be familiar with because I’ve had many kind things to say about them from my experience marshaling at Indianapolis Motor Speedway which is staffed by USAC volunteers (not SCCA).  For more info about this story check out this Racer Magazine article:  racer.com/more/viewpoints/item/137087-insight-the-state-of-pirelli-world-challenge

Speaking of Indy, about a month ago the leadership of Global MX-5 Cup, which also had been sanctioned by SCCA Pro for the past 11 years, announced their move to IndyCar sanctioning. Read all about that story here in this Racer Magazine article:  racer.com/scca-home/mazda-mx-5-cup/item/136029-pruett-indycar-s-new-mazda-matrix

IndyCar of course is the famous American dumbed-down version of Formula 1. IndyCar, like NASCAR has in recent years build up a ladder system to feature various lower support series at their events. They call it the Mazda Road to Indy or MRTI for short. Even though Mazda doesn’t actually race in the big leagues with IndyCar where Chevy and Honda engine powered Dallara chasis compete. Instead Mazda provides pretty much all the engines for the lower series including Indy Lights, the Formula 2000 and 1600 series and Pro Mazda series. Not quite sure exactly how those series differ from similar SCCA club F1600 and F2000 series, but they are very similar save for the sanctioning bodies. The Mazda connection made sense for IndyCar’s sanctioning of the Global MX-5 Cup, even though that is the only non-open wheel series they sanction (I think). USAC sanctioning something as big-time as PWC though is a stretch, especially since the only thing I’m aware of USAC sanctioning previously are dirt racers throughout the MidWest.

But I guess we’ll see how that will go.

Good news is that PWC will open TCA class to the Global MX-5 Cup, which already features previous gen NC MX-5 Cup cars. Now we’ll get a mix of NC’s and ND’s… good variety!

I was getting excited this year volunteering for Pirelli World Challenge because of Stefan Ratel’s involvement with this American series. He is famous for the Blancpain Sprint and Endurance Series in Europe as well as the Intercontinental GT Challenge which he was going to bring to America after big success in Asia (Sepang 12h) and Australia (Bathurst 12h) and of course their crown jewel event, the Spa 24h in Belgium (at one of my favorite circuits: Spa-Francorchamps). Maybe with PWC moving to USAC the SRO will have more say in the way things are done in US, which I assume would have created tensions with SCCA… (because of course everything creates tensions with SCCA, speaking from personal experience here). I hope to see the series succeed under USAC.

Besides the IndyCar and USAC sanctioning bodies, the two series are actually run by WC Vision for PWC and Andersen Promotions for the Global MX-5 Cup… so I’m not sure how much input either IndyCar or USAC will have on either. But I’m sure at the very least both MX-5 Cup and PWC will probably continue to prop up IndyCar events in the future (as they have already done in the past)… which is a good thing! The only thing different for me volunteering will be the fact that I will not earn SCCA worker credit for volunteering those big weekend events now. Oh well!

Who’s left to ditch next? Will Trans Am jump ship too?

2017 will be quite interesting.

Hopefully there will be enough change in the future that won’t require me to pay $60 to Topeka for SCCA membership. Then again USAC charges $30 per event at Indy, or a discounted rate for multiple events. This business of shaking down volunteers for the privilege of volunteering is just wrong to me. I still think that it should be like the rest of the world, a small nominal fee to cover supplies like plastic membership cards and postage to mail them to the members every year. Anything more is a rip off. Maybe after losing a few more series they’ll come to their senses. Or maybe they’ll become even more greedy… who knows?

pwc lime rock memorial day weekend 2016 grand prix of lime rock 2

UPDATE December 12, 2016; Formula Race Promotions (FRP) whom run Formula Atlantic, Formula 2000 and Formula 1600 have announced that they’ve ditched SCCA as well in favor of USAC.  atlanticchampionshipseries.com/news/972-usac-to-sanction-atlantic-f2000-f1600-championships.html

Seems like only Formula 4 remains under SCCA Pro sanctioning body, which makes absolutely no sense considering F4 is a European FIA rules/spec series (which had a real hard time starting up in the US this year). We’ll see if they stick around…

Victoria Day Speedfest at CTMP: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Featuring NASCAR Pinty’s Series and SCCA Pro Pirelli World Challenge debrief

Fantastic, absolutely fantastic weekend spent in Canada over the Victoria Day weekend flagging for some local NASCAR, touring car and SCCA Pro World Challenge series… what a hoot, eh?

It’s been three years since the last time I went to volunteer in Canada, the last time I did a double header working Toronto Indy followed by American Le Mans Series (hey remember ALMS? ) 🙂 back-to-back. That was 2013 and somehow the closest International destination to marshal fell off my radar, until now. I picked a relatively small pro weekend but full of excitement and variety. Variety because there was a lot of interesting stuff on track… from NASCAR stock cars, to local CTCC – Canadian Touring Car series, and my favorite Pirelli World Challenge with all groups on track including PWC GT/GTA/GT Cup, PWC GTS, PWC TC/TCA/TCB and a brand new class PWC Sprint X featuring a mix of GT/GTA/GTS cars… amazing!

In a typical CTMP fashion every day I was assigned a new station to work… I got to check out Turn 6 which is more of an uphill straight along the back straight… Turn 10 which is the last turn before Start/Finish and Turn 5 which is a very dramatic double apex hair pin with elevation changes… pretty awesome. I requested to Blue Flag the PWC series since I knew that IF I didn’t ask, they’d appoint another Blue Flag specialist and I’ll be stuck on Yellow Flag for the weekend, as that’s the way they do things in Mosport. Luckily my blue flag request was honored and I blue flagged like crazy. I even got to use the blue flag for NASCAR Pinty’s series which means a completely different thing… for them Blue Flag is local caution while Yellow Flag is full course caution. I volunteered to work on flags for the NASCAR sessions even though it was meant to be my time off, and I feel like I got my money’s worth.

This time around I stayed with a fellow marshal in Bowmanville… he’s a Canadian legend in the marshaling world having been born into Motorsport and marshaling for a very long and impressive career. I really enjoyed my stay!

The food was amazing as usual. I couldn’t wait to try new things as much as I wanted to try things I’ve had before just to stick to the local diet. I had poutine a few times. I had fish & chips. I even went to Timmy’s for some Timbits!

But for me this whole weekend was about cars, and I got plenty of action to enjoy… What a great time! I can’t wait to go back again.

While working at 10 and having pit entry in my direct line of sight I spotted someone with an SRO shirt moonlighting before the start of one of the PWC races… it was Stefan Ratel from Belgium. I’m really impressed with this guy, someone I’ve now seen in COTA and I think at Barber Motorsports Park too… I cannot wait to see what becomes of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The new race of Sprint X which combined some of the GT/GTA cars with GTS was brilliant. I want to see more stuff like that taking place in the US!

ctmp victoria day speedfest chevy safety team

ctmp victoria day speedfest chevy official vehicle

ctmp victoria day speedfest audi r8 lms sprint x

ctmp victoria day speedfest audi r8 lms

ctmp victoria day speedfest bmw z4 gta

ctmp victoria day speedfest bmw z4

ctmp victoria day speedfest ferrari 458

ctmp victoria day speedfest gainsco mclaren red dragon

ctmp victoria day speedfest mclaren red dragon

ctmp victoria day speedfest dodge pinty's series nascar

ctmp victoria day speedfest nascar pinty's

ctmp victoria day speedfest nascar pinty's series dodge challenger

ctmp victoria day speedfest gmg porsches

ctmp victoria day speedfest porsche 911 r gmg pwc gt

ctmp victoria day speedfest porsche 911 r gmg pwc

ctmp victoria day speedfest sin r1 gt4 side scoops

ctmp victoria day speedfest sin r1 gt4 sprint x

ctmp victoria day speedfest sin r1 gt4

ctmp victoria day speedfest trg-amr aston-martin gts

Au revoir Canada… until next time!

Race Car Drivers Should Demand Better Trained Safety Marshals

There’s one thing I have always wondered: Do race car drivers care about the quality of the marshals that are responsible for track safety? Ultimately, their safety?

I’m not a race car driver, so I can’t answer that question with confidence. I have asked a few friends that race on an amateur and professional level and the answer is an overwhelming “Yes!” especially from those that have had some marshaling experience as they were coming up in their racing careers. But seeing how training is limited especially here in the US, I wonder if the drivers are aware of the situation and should they be concerned? Shouldn’t they demand better training for marshals? To me it only seems logical.

This concept isn’t limited to pro racers, amateur racers participating in club events have just as much stake in the quality of training as some of the famous F1 or WEC celebs. Everybody has a stake, it’s safety we’re talking about here, human lives! And it doesn’t matter if you are getting paid millions of dollars to jet around the globe and put on a show for the TV audience and all those fancy sponsors. It doesn’t matter whether you have the best quality kit: helmet, fire proof suit, gloves, shoes and underwear. Neck restraints, arm restraints and state of the art roll cages, strong carbon fiber cockpit, etc. If you’ve crashed you’d want the first responders – the closest marshals to you, to know what to do rather than just call for help from race control. Sure depending on the severity of the impact a simple call to race control may be an appropriate action (it usually is), but if the scenario isn’t given sufficient priority or there is a delay in dispatching rescue crews to the incident, someone could be severely hurt. That’s you: the race car driver I’m talking about!

So what can be done?

Two things in my view: 1) awareness and 2) discussion.

Awareness is not the same as paranoia. I think many drivers, especially those that were either wronged by a bad call from a marshal about a particular incident, or those that had their car damaged more by the rescue crews than what the car sustained from the impact of the accident itself, are already aware that there are some marshals better than others. But I could only speculate they assume that the event organizer, or the sanctioning body that pays for the marshaling services to the organization that provides the marshals, would improve the quality of the marshals. In my opinion that doesn’t always happen. It’s like outsourcing. The FIA requires marshals for F1, they outsource this task to the local ASN. The local ASN turns around and compiles a crew from it’s own clubs and any other clubs it works with. And the clubs recruit (hopefully) people to make up their numbers to facilitate the requirements of the ASN. So the F1 marshal at US GP does not work directly for the FIA who pays for their services, but instead for USAC, SCCA, RSI, or directly for COTA. As a result, depending on who the marshal actually volunteers/or works with determines the quality of the training that marshal received. In the US nobody is trained specifically for F1. Sometimes your corner captain may forward you some FIA regulations passed on to them from the ASN, but that’s not always the case. So you as a marshal are on your own. Does a Formula 1 driver know this? Should they be concerned? And this is not limited to F1, MotoGP in Indianapolis is even looser with whom they let work as marshals for the Grand Prix, being a motorcycle enthusiast might be the only prerequisite it seems.

Discussion therefore is the appropriate solution I can recommend. We’ve all seen the movie SENNA and how the drivers have a direct impact on whether a race takes place. If the drivers aren’t comfortable with racing in a monsoon for safety reasons, perhaps the race could be delayed. If the drivers aren’t comfortable with the set up of a tire wall in a dangerous corner, they can get that wall modified to better suit their needs. If the drivers are aware that there isn’t consistent marshal training, they can certainly request it to be done.

How can drivers demand better trained marshals? Simple, ask to see what training material is used to educate marshals.

In this day and age, teaching marshals word-of-mouth with on-the-job training is primitive, especially in the US. There’s got to be supplemental materials created for each series, not just FIA F1… but WEC, IMSA, WC VISION (SCCA PRO), FIM MotoGP/SBK Superbikes, IndyCar, NASCAR, etc. It is the responsibility of each series to facilitate learning for the marshals that take part in their events, assuming the marshals have common sense and learn shit from Club events is foolish! Many drivers, especially the famous ones race in multiple series. Go nudge whomever it is responsible for trackside safety in each one of the events you do, to better prepare the marshals that have the potential to be the first responders at YOUR crash site wherever you race, and tell them you want them to be sufficiently trained. Demand better training. Often times marshals don’t have a voice because they are mere volunteers. Well, race car drivers certainly have a voice… use it!