New Experiences at NER SCCA Road Race @ Whiskey Hill Raceway

Had a very interesting weekend this past weekend at Whiskey Hill Raceway (aka Palmer Motorsport Park), in Palmer, MA.  I went expecting to do my bit as a volunteer flagger for NER’s Opening Weekend event.  However, when I checked in I was informed I would be working in Control for the weekend.  This was a bit of a surprise, but I realized that since I was going to be acting as a co-chief for the June NER race at Lime Rock, I should get some experience prior to that.  Saturday was a nice day out, so I was bummed I wasn’t out on station but instead stuck in the trailer. Sunday completely changed my mind on that, with cold temps and rain much of the day.

I’ve gotten a fairly good patter with my radio communication on station, but working Control was a different perspective.  I tried to remember all the communicators I had heard over the years and remember the phrases and terminology they use in different situations.  My first job on Saturday was as a logger; write down in shorthand every radio call.  Sounds easy, but it took a few times to get comfortable with all the shorthand that is commonly used.  Once that became familiar I had a good time, getting to hear the stewards’ discussions and finally see all that occurs in Control that I’ve only gotten snippets about in the past.  Fortunately for me I was teamed up with Pete “Thumper” Villaume, who is a really nice guy and very competent as a control person.  He showed me the ropes and I tried to absorb as much as I could from him given all the circumstances that came up.

Sunday I was asked if I wanted to try the radio, and rather than shy away from it I decided to tackle it head on.  It was not too difficult until incidents happened on track, and that’s when I realized how much I didn’t know yet.  Thumper did his best to coach me, but unfortunately some of the terms he used I simply wasn’t familiar with, so like a dog who doesn’t understand his owner, I’d cock my head at him and hope he’d rephrase his suggestion in a manner that I was able to understand.  “Stand up 2” didn’t mean much to me when it was first said, but once it was explained that I should ask Rescue 2 to “Stand Up”, or get ready to go, then I completely understood.  Unfortunately we couldn’t risk the racers’ safety with much more learning on the job, so I handed back radio duties to Thumper after the 3rd session and went back to logging.  So thankful to all that gave me the opportunity to learn more from that side of the radio.

Oh, and my motel room featured bed bugs that ultimately gave me a nasty set of bites on my head, jaw, neck, right arm, and my shoulders.  Thanks Hamilton Inn, Sturbridge, MA!  The owner was polite about my complaint, but ultimately didn’t believe me.  He told me flat out he was going to rent my room even if I moved to another room because he was fully booked for the weekend. He also offered to cancel my 2nd night and give me a refund, but for some reason threw in that he could simply rent my room for more than I had paid for it.  At that point I wasn’t impressed, and while I took the offer of a different room (that didn’t have bed bugs), my resolve to reflect this issue in my online reviews was determined by his negligence for his other guests.

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