2014 track visits: Spa-Francorchamps

My first visit to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was actually in 2013, when the ADAC GT Masters made a guest start there. I probably sound like a broken record, having said the same about the Nürburgring Nordschleife, but it’s a simply beautiful track. The Ardennes are a gorgeous region.

In 2014 I visited the FIA WEC 6 hours race at Spa in early May. I had never seen Prototype machinery before and went to the track on friday for watching some free practice. The P1 cars in particular are pure magic. They’re so unbelievably fast and grippy through the corners. Seeing the GT cars blast up Eau Rouge was also very, very special. The weather, particularly on race day, was very awesome (unlike the other two days I spent at Spa so far).
The FIA WEC brought quite a few tents for merchandising as well as entertainment along, which was a bit new for me as the other series I’ve visited were rather down-to-earth and all about the racing. The tent with a bunch of bean bags was very popular with my girlfriend. 🙂
They had a simulator tent as well, which ran rF1 with what I presume was a version of the Enduracer’s mod and what looked like a modded version of the GTR Spa converted to rF1.

Cars heading through Pouhon

For the track itself, the “main” grandstand between La Source and Eau Rouge is very, very loud with the noise getting reflected back from the roof. It does, however, offer a great view, especially at the start. The viewing is great from almost anywhere around the track, especially from the embankments next to the track. I’ve particularly enjoyed Bruxelles, Pouhon and Blanchimont.

The only bad thing I noticed were the streets leading to the track, which were heavily congested several hours before the race. From Twitter I learned that Nick Heidfeld must have been stuck in the same queue about 10-15 cars behind us. we made it well in time, but taking half an hour for the last kilometer and a half is not very enjoyable.

2014 track visits: VLN at the Nordschleife

This year I’ll post a bit about my visits to race tracks during this motorsports season

First up, my biggest series of visits. At my local garage I met someone who participated in the VLN (the endurance series running the Nürburgring Nordschleife, he used to run more often but only started once this season). Through him I met someone active in the club which organizes one of the races each year.

As a bit of background, the VLN generally speaking is a loose aggregation of ten different motorsport clubs (plus the Nürburgring GmbH itself) under which each of the ten clubs organizes one race each season. Qualifying and races are on saturday, with the races between four and six hours in length. The fastest class is composed of GT3 cars, with the field of up to 200 cars also consisting of spec-classes like Toyota GT86s, Opel Astra OPC, Renault Clio or BMW M235is as well as “slower” cars like an older VW Corrado, or my friends with their BMW M3 in the historic cars class (fighting against a Mercedes-Benz 190E…).

I started helping out on the grid from the third or fourth race onwards. It is a peculiar feeling physically standing on the grid of the Nürburgring after having watched it for years on the TV. It is also a peculiar feeling standing next to so many great looking racing cars so shortly before the race.
The gap between the end of qualifying and the formation on the grid is fairly short (qualifying ends at 10am, the cars leave for the grid at around 11am), so it does happen that the teams aren’t exactly sure where they need to go – which is what we’re for. We’re standing on the grid with the relevant lists on our hands and can help out team members looking for the grid spot they need to put their car at. Normally the team will then help out their driver into the correct spot but if the need arises, we help moving anyone who isn’t positioned correctly (I got to push an Aston Martin GT4 with, I believe, Richie Stanaway in it that way).

The first group takes the start

Our club’s race is the 9th of the year, in mid-October. The preparations for such an event start early. As an illustration of this, we have already registered our race for 2015 a week ago. The intense phase begins a few weeks before the event, when the entries start coming in. Now, you won’t notice this from watching a race on the TV, but these events require a lot of bureaucracy, especially given the large number of entries the VLN gets. You have to account for every car entered, and every entry typically has three or four drivers on a car (very few entries get along with two or even just a single driver).

The day before the race the document checks take place. This includes checking the documentation for each car and every driver. It’s a process which requires concentration and diligence, but you also get to sit opposite some interesting drivers. Another interesting portion was the driver’s briefing, including the questions asked afterwards. On race day I helped give out (and take back) the flags and radios to the track marshals.

Even with all I’ve seen and experienced helping out, you can not overestimate the effort the track marshals (men and women alike) put in. They stand out in the cold and possibly rain, have cars careening by them at high speeds and all “just” to warn drivers through their flagging or helping them out directly in cases of accidents. And they take some risks just by being so close to the track. This year there was a close shave during the preparatory “Test und Einstellfahrten” session, when a Mercedes SLS hit the catchfence protecting the marshals.
In 2011, during a ADAC GT Masters race on the Nürburgring GP track, a BMW flew over the guardrail and into the marshal’s post. They got out of the way in time but that was one scary accident.

Whenever you see a race on the TV or in real life, remember motor racing is dangerous and that a lot of people put in a lot of work just to make it happen and to keep it as safe as possible.

Two competitiors at Ex-Mühle (Breidscheid), taken from the hills above the track

If you only ever visit one race track in your life, the Nordschleife should be it. Disregarding the tradition and history (I’m not big on those per se, I don’t think just because things were done a certain way they should necessarily be done the same way), it’s a beautiful track with great, challenging corners, awesome viewing locations for spectators (my favourite one is Klostertal, before the Carousel, and essentially the whole walk to there from Brünnchen) in a stunning environment in the Eifel mountains. Oh and also there is no entrance fee for spectators on the Nordschleife (for the VLN only the GP track’s grandstands and paddock will cost you 15€).

Work on the road markings continues

Work on the road markings continues. I’ve not posted much because there isn’t really anything interesting to say about it. “Created road markings at turn X” gets old quickly I though.

Now work is pretty much done. The pit entry and exit areas are done, which required some more detail than the usual sections. The one section left is where the track meets the Hunaudières straight.

Work done during the last few days (2014-11-30)

– created the white lines between Tertre Rouge and Porsche corners. Base outer lines (left and right hand side) are done and segmented.
– work on the central line has begun, section between Tertre Rouge and the first roundabout is done, including building of the arrow indicating traffic to move back to its lane

Work done today (2014-11-25)

– built the road markings from the first roundabout to the first chicane

Building and placing them all just down the Hunaudières will probably take a few days.

Work done today (2014-11-24)

– built catchfences on the right hand side between the second chicane and Mulsanne corner
– built three smaller catchfences, at the exit of the second chicane (inside, including gate), protecting the first gantry on the outside after Mulsanne corner and protecting a marshal’s post about halfway between Mulsanne and Indianapolis

Work done today (2014-11-23)

– built guardrails on the right hand side between the second chicane and Mulsanne corner
– added catchfences on the left hand side between the second chicane and Mulsanne corner (one longer set and a short one protecting a marshal’s post)

Work done today (2014-11-14)

– built first guardrail on the left after the second chicane
Рadded local road forking off the Hunaudi̬res approximately at the midpoint of the right hand kink after the second chicane

Work done today (2014-11-13)

– some touching up on the guardrails built yesterday
– built catchfences/fenced gates on the right hand side between the first and second chicanes
– added fourth element of guardrail on the right hand side before the second chicane

Saved scenes since the corrupted files disaster: 14. I’ve become a tad paranoid. 😉