Tag Archives: World Endurance Championship

Lone Star Le Mans 2016 WEC & IMSA at COTA debrief

This weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans was outstanding!

My third trip to COTA this year and one of the best experiences yet following PWC in the spring and MotoGP in the summer. Ironically the September trip was the hottest temperature wise, but I’m super happy it didn’t rain at all on this trip.

For this event I got teased with my station assignments a little bit. I got the awesome Alpha station for the first day on Thursday which got me very excited but then Station 4 in the Esses brought the mood down a bit on Friday and Saturday because I could not make a much desired trip to pit lane from across the track, even though technically it was pretty close distance wise (if only we could cross the track). I wasn’t too thrilled with Station 4 until I got to do a whole bunch of Blue flag there and cars started bouncing off the curbs and orange turtles which send them flying off the racing line. During the WEC race one of the Ford GT’s got punted into our gravel trap so we got all sorts of action and my view of Turn 4 changed dramatically. I’m very thankful I got a chance to work this station now.

To get to the event I booked a cheapo flight to Dallas. This time on Southwest into Dallas Love Field, my first time flying there, and for $39 one way, a pretty reasonable way to do it. The flight home was a bit more expensive but the costs were offset by my buddy offering to drive me from Dallas to Austin and back. We had a few nice dinners together sampling some of Austin’s finest BBQ joints and some delicious Tex Mex too with a big bowl of Margarita’s.

Next year apparently IMSA and WEC will run COTA on separate weekends which sucks, but it is what it is. There has been an announcement that Creventic will run a 24 hour race in November which I’m really looking forward to participate in, so hopefully things will pan out nicely.

I love Texas and can’t wait to come back again and again.

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The highlight of the COTA experience this year was my finally test driving the new Mazda MX-5 Miata ND model on an autocross circuit. The car didn’t feel much different from my NC miata, and if anything more sluggish but that could have been the result of 95+F temps and the thick humidity. I enjoyed the experience, although it’s a bit of a shame the Petty Driving Experience dude that went on the ride with me didn’t let me do another lap… no other people were waiting in line, we were having a good chat about my previous Petty Experiences with the SRT model like from Chrysler, but after the five minute ride around he told me to park it and that was that. Maybe I’ll get another opportunity at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next month. Or elsewhere for that matter.

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See you next time Austin!

Post Card from Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas 2016 WEC & IMSA

Greetings from sunny Central Texas and the Lone Star Le Mans at the Circuit of the Americas. This time I’m volunteering F&C. Thursday at Station Alpha directly across from Pit Exit and the rest of the event at Turn 4 in the Esses.

Wonderful event, awesome experience and perfect weather (albeit a little HOT). Enjoy the pix:

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The only WEC car I got a picture of as the team garages were closed during our paddock walk… boo hoo!

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For the Kiwi’s:

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Lots of Mazda stuff for me to enjoy:

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Lots of new LMP3’s on display:

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Probably the ugliest LMP3 on display from Riley:

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Thanks to one of the HOPS crew, I got a chance to test drive the new ND Miata at the COTA Lot H… seemed pretty sluggish on acceleration, more so than my car… hmm!

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Love the pre-race FIA inspection trackside…

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Nürburgring 6 hour FIA (WEC) World Endurance Championship on the Grand Prix Circuit

Second weekend in Europe and another circuit in another country. From the Netherlands I took a train down to Germany. Amsterdam to Cologne in just a few hours, then onto the Nurburgring. Unlike the last two times I volunteered there, I got to work the Grand Prix circuit since WEC did not use the Nordschleife. And like the last weekend in Holland I got to work the last turn, which allowed me to prowl the grid before the start of the race.

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It was great to see all the cars, though Porsche was impossible to access, like a million people crowded Mark Webber… I could not squeeze through.

It was a great race!

And so were the support races. My favorite was the classic DTM, the old Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, the old World Touring Car Championship cars, it was amazing!

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The whole Nurburgring experience, like every other time I’ve been there, were amazing. I cannot wait to go back!

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Lone Star Le Mans Marshal Invitation, Circuit of the Americas September 15-17, 2016

Just got two invites for the most important races of the year (I think) on the American Racing Calendar. I’ll make two posts to share the invites with anyone who could be interested. My advice, do both!

Lone Star Le Mans is one of the coolest events there are on US soil. It is the only appearance FIA WEC makes in the United States and the circuit couldn’t be better: COTA in Austin, Texas

Interested in volunteering?

I say do it!

What is it; Lone Star Le Mans

When is it: September 15-17, 2016

Where is it: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas

Who’s recruiting: Lone Star Region SCCA and COTA itself

Who will be there: Five Race Groups!

  • FIA WEC (LMP1, LMP2, GT Pro, GT Pro-Am)
  • IMSA WeatherTech Series (DP & LMP2, GTLM, GTD)
  • IMSA Continental Tire Series (GS & ST)
  • IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo
  • IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup USA

How to get there? Fly into Austin which may be pricey, I went twice earlier this year and flew through Dallas DFW, Houston is also doable with Intercontinental and Hobby airports, San Antonio is probably closest of the nearby towns.

Where to stay?  The cheapest place is at the COTA campground. Right outside the Mustering Marshal tent so you get to sleep in until the morning meeting.

I would highly recommend this event!

I went to COTA twice this year already for PWC and MotoGP but I would go again in the heartbeat if I still can’t find a job by late September… my fingers are crossed that I’ll be working for a living, but if not I’ll find a way to come to this event!

To sign up go to COTA web site, scroll down to Volunteers on the bottom of the page and fill out the application on MotorsportReg where it links to. Or go directly to MotorsportReg and do it there.

Good Luck!

Have Fun!

Planning my Biggest Euro Trip Yet this Summer: July 2016, Stay Tuned…

I am never going to find a real job… just when I thought I would focus on settling down and searching some meaningful employment on the Gulf Coast of Florida I went ahead and booked my flights back to Europe.

While this is still the very early stages of my planning process I know exactly what I would like to do.

The goal is to marshal the following events:

f-netherlands DTM at Zandvoort, the Netherlands

f-germany WEC 6 hours of Nurburgring, Germany

f-belgium Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

 

The Netherlands/Holland would be my 15th country to volunteer in.

Besides the races I’m really looking forward to exploring Amsterdam which I’ve visited a few times but only for a few hours each time. And another trip to Adenau is in order to have a nice schnitzel at Giulia’s. Belgium is my favorite country in Europe at this time and another trip to Brussels is something I can’t wait to do.

While I failed in the past, I’m really hoping that some MX-5 get togethers in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium will materialize this time around. There are a ton of Dutch MX-5 owners, juts as there are a ton of German Miata owners, and I’m sure we can scrape a few in Belgium too.

So for anyone reading this that are interested, please get in touch, we have a few months to organize a meet up!

Stay tuned for more…

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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…

Post-Race Praise for Jeanie Caulfield the Motorsport Operations Event Manager at COTA

I have major praise for Jeanie Caulfied the Motorsport Operations Event Manager with the Circuit of the Americas for a job well done at the Lone Star Le Mans this weekend.

In this blog post I would like to express my gratitude to Jeanie for the awesome work she has been doing, from a marshal’s point of view. That work is greatly appreciated because it makes a big difference for those of us that are visiting marshals. Those that don’t live in the Central Texas area and those investing significant amount of time and money to be able to volunteer the events that COTA puts on.

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I’ve had the privilege of meeting Jeanie on my very first trip to COTA for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in 2012. Since then, I’ve been back to Austin a number of times including several Formula 1 and a few WEC events. There were also a few that I almost participated in but things didn’t materialize on my end, most notably MotoGP this year, as well as Pirelli World Challenge and ALMS – American Le Mans that became the current version of IMSA TUSC series. And over the years I’ve learned that the most important person at COTA for the marshals is Jeanie. I made an earlier post praising Brent McNaul for his excellent work as a flag chief for the Lone Star Le Mans, but the majority of e-mails Brent forwarded onto the rest of us marshals actually came from Jeanie. So big thumbs up to her for the open communication channels and being a great person to seek information from about a particular event or the track itself.

I’ve been learning about Jeanie’s job(s) and the multiple hats she wears during a particular event purely from observation. I’ve seen her transport marshals to and from station during the F1 and WEC weekends. She is a great shuttle train driver, pulling several trailers behind a Ford Super Duty in true Texas style. She’s brought us a Kubota quad this weekend to make a quick getaway from station at the end of the day so we don’t impede scheduled track activity that didn’t require marshals. That was very thoughtful so we didn’t have to be stuck on track for another hour at the end of an already long day. Thanks for that!

The track services staff work directly with Jeanie and for anyone that likes food like I do, could appreciate her efforts in organizing lunches and drink runs to all the stations especially on hot days like this weekend. Track food is always a hit or miss. I’ve written posts about us volunteering for a soggy sandwich or how Singapore GP has the worst food I’ve ever had track side by offering Délifrance as the least-likely-to-spoil option in the heat of Southeast Asia (when distributed in the morning sign-on meeting and meant to last to the end of the day without refrigeration on station). But Jason’s Deli that COTA has been offering marshals for the past few years is quite tasty and the variety offers something for everyone. So thumbs up for taking care of us, when all of our attention is on the race cars on track!

I’ve even seen her ride around the ring road with the track services people delivering lunches and drinks with a water gun spraying unsuspecting marshals. So she’s got a great sense of humor to boot.

Jeanie has also been very creative in rewarding volunteer participation with excellent marshal swag. I think this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans was her best work yet with a very stylish t-shirt design. A useful cooler bag with COTA branding. A participant patch customized to show the year of the event. And a neat poncho which we luckily didn’t have the need to use… but it made for a cool and useful keepsake.

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Besides being really good at her job she’s also a very pleasant person to talk with. She’s always friendly, polite and courteous and that’s important. Especially when arriving at the track at 5am and leaving after a double shift at 10 or 11pm like this weekend. I know I have a tendency of getting cranky especially when things don’t go my way, but Jeanie has a big smile on her face at the start of the day when you see her during the morning meeting, during lunch delivery or shift relief drop offs, or at the end of the day when we’re dropped off at the marshal tent. Thanks for always smiling!

Thank you very much Jeanie!

 

In true Austin style, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeanie bring live music to the marshaling tent at a future event… some almost famous dude or a chick with a guitar playing a catchy tune at morning sign-on… yep! totally see that happening.

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:

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Thursday’s station assignment: 20 Alpha after last turn and before the main straight.
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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!

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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…

A Challenge to the SuperGT Organizers to Accept a non-Japanese Marshal for One of Their Events

Why don’t some countries allow foreign marshals to participate in their events, when they clearly allow and promote foreign driver participation in the same events?

I want to marshal a SuperGT race in Japan.

And yet, the few contacts I’ve made in Japan at various circuits seem set against it to allow foreigners to marshal with the Japanese.

The photo above came from an article where the SuperGT (GTA) boss Masaaki Bandoh issued a challenge to WEC organizers to have three teams race their GT500 cars at the Fuji 6 hour event. The GT500 cars from SuperGT look far more GT-like than the LMP1 and LMP2 prototypes in the Word Endurance Championship series. According to the article the GT500’s are quicker than the pace set by the Audi R18 eTron, though slower than the Toyota or Porsche hybrids, but faster than the privateer teams like Rebellion LMP1’s. Anyhow, the quickness of the GT500 cars is irrelevant to the fact that the Japanese circuits I contacted only allow Japanese speakers to participate/volunteer in their events. Why not? Surely the multitude of foreign drivers many of them English speakers (but others whether French or German are still more likely to speak English then Japanese) don’t actually speak Japanese should they crash and need to interact with the local marshals.

Mr. Bandoh apparently didn’t stop with the challenges there, he issued another challenge to the German manufacturers to step up their game in the GT500 field (they currently participate in the GT300 field with GT3-spec machinery like the Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS, BMW Z4 GT3 or the Porsche 911 GT3). And the manufacturers are expected to comply, according to the article. Why not open up the doors to the opportunity for foreign travelling marshals to volunteer at Suzuka, or Montegi, or Fuji? It’d make perfect sense to me and plenty of other people too. I’m sure we’d all take the Japanese Automobile Federation up on their offer to work with our Japanese colleagues like we do with our German colleagues, or our French colleagues, or our Australian colleagues, etc.

I don’t speak many languages of the countries I’ve volunteered at. In Belgium French is the official language of the circuit, but many of the marshals, including many Belgians, speak Flemish. There were plenty of Dutch marshals there too. Plenty of Brits. Plenty of Czech’s, etc. I’m sure most of them don’t speak French but we all got along nicely and worked professionally as expected. I didn’t speak French working at Le Mans. I didn’t speak German working at the Nurburgring. French was one of the official languages in Canada even though the other official language was English. I didn’t speak fluent Singlish to work the Singapore GP. Definitely didn’t speak Bahasa Malaysia working at the Sepang Circuit. Or Korean working in South Korea. Point being, I don’t speak most of the foreign languages at places I have volunteered successfully. But I did my job the way I was supposed to, and I would love to return to work there again and again.

The excuse that the local language is required to work an event isn’t valid, and it’s a shame that the Japanese circuits I contacted use. Surely there are some marshals there who speak some English and I would partner up with to work under their supervision and some translation when necessary.

I suspect that the reason we get rejected as foreign marshals is that the Japanese organizers don’t want to babysit a foreigner. It’s a lot easier to say “NO!” than to accept a marshal and than have to worry about a myriad of questions like where that person should stay (lodging), how he should get to the track (transportation), what that person must eat and how prepared he should be (food). Communication in general. Following the dress code. Having a helmet that fits. etc. It’s much harder to say “YES!”

But I wish they would.

If there is anyone in Japan that would help me facilitate my wish to volunteer at one of the SuperGT events at Fuji, Montegi, Suzuka or any other track, please get in touch. I would probably need your help translating the application (and the whole process indeed). Some advice about transportation getting to the track, on time. Where to eat, where to sleep, etc. It would be most helpful!

One day I will do SuperGT… it’s at the top of my wish list,  like DTM!

 

Link to the quoted article: http://www.racecar-engineering.com/news/super-gt-challenges-lmp1-dtm-to-fuji-showdown/

Accepted to Marshal Lone Star Le Mans at COTA

Great news from Texas this 4th of July morning: I got accepted to marshal the Lone Star Le Mans this September, ran during my birthday weekend. Woo Hoo!

I’m very excited.

cota wec fcy

Last year I had a pretty good time working this event. Some things went great, others not so much. But I am happy to be given an opportunity to come back and marshal WEC/IMSA endurance races at COTA.

I’m sure they are still looking for more marshals, so if anyone else wishes to join me, I can guarantee you a good time! Go ahead and register.

wec cota grid porsche 3

See all ya’ll there!