Just now getting back to normal, traveling to Monaco had no affect on me whatsoever. Coming back on the other hand totally kicked my butt. Seems to be wearing off each day.
A.J. hit the nail on the head regarding the bus drivers! It was wild as we worked our way down the highway, our driver would barely clear a vehicle with his front tire then just abruptly change lanes. It was a blast, we were going to put the helmets on and hold on. Then we get to the city and it was even more impressive riding down narrow streets with the driver throwing this thing around narrowly missing anything in his path. Couldn’t believe it and still don’t.
This was an experience that is hard to put in words for sure. The evening we finished assembling our machines (Thurs) I turned and looked around a little and was totally blown away by the beauty of this place. It is everything you see and hear and more, lit up at night, it just doesn’t look real.
They don’t race the same over there. The driving is aggressive and the pressure relentless. They do not throw a black flag unless you are lapped by the leader, then it is to remove a driver from competition and directly to the pits. They run on a schedule that is exact, the track personel are precision and dedicated to efficient performance (most wear fighter pilot type helmets with 2 way communication). An example: there was a kart damaged from an incident in the 6 hour endurance race, it ended up in the infield portion of the hairpin. The workers (at least eight) created a snake with yellow flags and ran across the track getting the machine in a position so the crew could get it back to the pits to continue racing. It was an amazing orchestration. There are mobile rescue teams staged around the circuit in their rescue gear with the rescue vehicle idling as long as there are racers on track. There are doctors, not just in a medical station but staged at critical areas around the facility, equipped and very serious about what they do. The security will not let you access the paddock without credentials. They clear the track with some very cool small trucks that hold 2 karts and the driver sits in his / her kart and holds the brakes for the ride back (don’t ask me how I know so much about this) Before each a group is sent on course, they have a small convoy of official vehicles complete the circuit to approve the track going hot.
There was a scrutineer that was in the four stroke pit and he did not miss a thing. He would on the other hand, tell you something needed to be addressed. (he also loved Heiniken, we hooked him up) They hold the top 5 karts from each session and perform a very thorough post session inspection. (it was great seeing Kyle being held there)
The other racers started warming up to us after they realized we were there to race them and had a little something under the hood. It is cool understanding someone you can’t talk to. Most of the drivers were very small (120 – 150 lbs) and seem to have many years of seat time. You can just tell. I was very proud of all of our drivers. The track is very deceiving with barriers lining the entire circuit, depth perception is challenging, braking zones difficult to located and repeat consistenly. Most every corner is blind as well. Our team did a commedable job of adapting to this type of racing circuit with ZERO tolerance to error.
We worked the officials to let Roman run the helmet cam and at first it was an absolute no (Cik). After a while they asked if they could have a copy for their website if we were to be allowed to run it in practice. We said sure and showed them what we had filmed at the end of the day. They liked it very much and waived us to use it for competition for the weekend. The TV and filming was awesome but, they had no onboard. I will hook them up with some very good onboard. Roman hit the barriers so hard it nearly knocked him out, his head was drifting around and you could see the track crew with their arms crossed, a few seconds later you see him look at the left spindle then the right spindle, then points to the track crew he wants to go, gets out swings the kart around and takes off. It is awesome and it is all preseved. I was blown away by Romans kart control. We did not think front brakes were going to be allowed and a week before the event they were offered. We passed. Upon arriving, we noticed everyone had front brakes, we decided we needed them too but there just wasn’t enough to go around. He was at the edge of control in every braking zone and if he missed a little, he would be passed under braking. How he could be this close to the edge in every brake zone for the entire weekend and only loose it once, impressed me. He mixed it up most of the weekend with Giorgio Panini (I know Jansen, can’t seem to remember it right) former Jordan driver and current Touring Car driver (who had front brakes and was 30 40 lbs lighter) it was great.
They had a bad a$$ sound system playing Pink Floyd while we were practicing on friday. You could hear it everywhere in the race track and vicinity. Also the announcer’s did an incredible job. Even the one who spoke french, and if you don’t understand the language , you could not help but get excited. And the english announcer was nearly as good. They came around and got profiles from all the drivers and used this information to it’s fullest extent. They made the racers seem like stars over there.
Equally impressive is the way the mechanics worked together, there were times when every machine needed something. All swung into action and rebuilt front ends, made engine swaps, tuning changes etc… All this out of a very modest set of tools. (in fact my tools are slightly more modest than when I got there) The Germans were fun too. They know their stuff and had great humor as well being pretty good at putting a beer away. Also glad to get out of there with the boys in one piece (the legal drinking age is 18 after all!)
I think all of the drivers came home better drivers. We would like to thank Brad and Pete for the support and oppurtunity. Sam and Jack for helping support A.J. enabling him to be there for ALL of us. He did a great job of supporting all racers just as he has done the entire year. I’m only sorry we didn’t think earlier to have him put on somebodies driving gear and get some laps. I grew up racing and have to say, this was as good or better organized than any race I can remember. We just had fun!
I’ll post some more pics and maybe a video sample when able.