Formula E – NYC e-Prix, Brooklyn, NY – July 14-15, 2018

Next up on the calendar was another pro flagging event: the NYC E-Prix in Brooklyn, NY. I had heard good things about this event last year, and decided it would be a good way to dip my toes in the world of FIA open wheel racing. I have friends who flag at Formula 1 events, and based on the stories I hear and what I imagine from them, I’ve always been a bit intimidated to try my hand at flagging them. Any time I come up on formula racers at SCCA events, I always find them difficult to identify – all you see is a nose and some indeterminate colors, and rarely can you see a number. Blue flagging a race can be a real challenge with that. So how better to see if my fears were real than to sign up for the Formula E race, and play a small part on some hugely experienced marshal team?

I signed up and was set for my adventure, safe in my anonymity, but then I got some emails that gave me a shiver. “You are receiving this email as you have been selected to be a post captain for the 2018 Formula E-Brooklyn race.” Gulp. Captains are supposed to know what they’re doing – they’ve obviously made some sort of mistake. I reached out to some of my more experienced flagger friends who were attending, and told them what had happened. The general reaction was along the lines of “You’ll do fine”. Oh, then alright. I tore into the materials they had emailed us. Decided it was pretty safe to skip the parts where it described how to build a car, and went right to the flagging rules and intervention descriptions. As a newer flagger (started in 2009), I’m definitely part of the post-intervention era in flaggers, and don’t have a lot of experience in attending to disabled cars, and especially ones with wings, and huge batteries/electrical shock risks like these. They provided a movie to show you how to assess and handle a car in the event of an accident (hint: there are multiple lights on the cowl to indicate whether a car is good (green), the electrical system has become unsafe (red or no light), and whether the drive sustained g forces sufficient to warrant a trip to medical (blue light)).

The schedule for marshals was excruciating, too: buses departed hotels at approximately 5am on Saturday and 6am Sunday, only to have a session at 7:30a on track, then have massive amounts of downtime since there are no supporting series in attendance, and batteries require time to charge!

My station, and my fellow marshals, turned out to be great. We faced the harbor, and had the Statue of Liberty across from us in the distance. In addition, the Freedom Tower was just off to our right. The podium, and all its ceremonies, were right behind us (we kept our gear out of the sun and rain by keeping it under the stage). One of the bigger surprises was that they staged the cars right in front of our station, so we got to watch the grid walk activity happen right in front of us. Saturday I was just in awe of being so close to the action, but on Sunday Liv Tyler, who earlier had done some demo laps in the Formula E spec car, poked her head into our cutout to pose for a quick selfie with one of my teammates. She smile at me and all I could do is smile back, star struck.

SCCA Road Racing – NER “NERRC #3 “Paddock Crawl” @ Lime Rock Park

The weekend of June 15 & 16 brought some new highs and lows for me. MoHud flag chief Rich Alexander and I offered to co-chief this event to help cover for NER’s current flag chief, who is busy planning for her upcoming wedding. This was a good opportunity to expand my experience in Control that I started this year at the Palmer event, and I was looking forward to the challenge. Rich had me go through the exercise of staffing stations, and he had also lined up another control person to help mentor me on the art of communication. I’d learned a lot my last time at Palmer (especially what NOT to do), and felt up to the challenge.

It was pretty chaotic in control – we had our usual radio issues, and if you’ve ever worked race control before, you’ll know that clear and quick communication are critical to making a race go smoothly. We ended up renting Lime Rock’s radios and had a good day Friday. The “Paddock Crawl” portion at the end of the day is always a fun time. Racers and organizers alike bring various foods and beverages and offer them to folks who wander around from place to place. I had some very good food, and Mohawk-Hudson’s very own Team Bucci has become pretty good at putting together a great chip, salsa, and margarita station.

Saturday dawned and the event was once again marred by ongoing radio issues. We couldn’t hear some of the stations, and everyone became pretty frustrated. We did our best to carry on with the event, but before we got to lunch I experienced a pretty serious vision issue. Unfortunately I needed to get to an ophthalmologist ASAP, so my friend Rich took me back to Albany. As it turned out, I had a small bleed in my eye that cleared up somewhat within hours, but it has left a ton of floaters in my left eye and some odd noise I constantly see. Nothing I can’t overcome, but it was scary when it happened.

Pirelli World Challenge @ Lime Rock Park – Grand Prix of Lime Rock

Memorial Day weekend brings professional race series to Lime Rock Park in CT, and I usually participate by flagging at the events. This year’s event focused on the Pirelli World Challenge series (, featuring their full complement of classes to our little bullring of a track, Lime Rock Park: Touring Car A (TCA), Touring Car (TC), Touring Car R (TCR), Grand Touring Sport A (GTSA), Grand Touring Sport (GTS), as well as Grand Touring A (GTA) and Grand Touring (GT).

As always, we were a bit light on flaggers, but the quality of those individuals who came out meant there was a lot of experience on stations. My most memorable moment of the event was while working outpost at Station 1, which means I was across track from the flagging post at Turn 1 at the end of the front straight (aka “Big Bend”). While the Sprint X race was happening, I happened to have what I found out to be a Ginetta roll off the track and down the runoff area, pulling up next to me. Watching the race later on the DVR, I found out that the #24 of Frank Gannett got jumped by the #50 of Preston Calvert in the Downhill, and it apparently broke something in the suspension that was highlighted when he went to brake coming into Big Bend. I eventually got Frank to move the car down to the end of the runoff and him out of the car. He came up and joined me at my post, and we chatted while watching the race progress. We talked a bit about his incident, and he mentioned he wasn’t sure if he was leaking anything. I just happened to glance at the pavement where he first stopped, looking for signs of moisture, when I noticed something black on the pavement. The item was undulating, in a very snake-like manner, and thus we figured out pretty quick it was a snake headed our way. The real question was what kind of snake? LRP is famous for having some ornery rattlesnakes around, and that thought became foremost in my mind. As it got closer – 20 ft, 15 ft, 10 ft – it became pretty apparent that a) it had a small, but very articulated viper head, and b) it definitely had a diamond pattern on it, although the color was dark gray, almost black. The rattlers I’ve seen are usually tan or brown in color, being western rattlesnakes, so I wasn’t sure about an eastern rattlesnake. Turns out it was a Timber Rattlesnake, and s/he appeared to be making a beeline for our position. I mentioned the possibility of a visit to Mr. Gannett, which prompted him to tell me a story about gators at Moroso Raceway in Florida. In the short time that story took, the snake was now about 8 ft from us. “If it gets any closer, you and I are getting up on this TV stand” I told Frank, and he agreed it sounded like a plan (this is why I loved Frank – he was personable, pleasant, entertaining, and he didn’t give me any grief about missing the race). Just as we decided to move, the snake took an abrupt right angle turn and decided to disappear into the tirewall directly in front of us. I was relieved initially, but now I realized I couldn’t keep track of where it was and kept looking down at the end of the tirewall to make sure it didn’t change its mind.

Before we knew it the race had ended and the tow trucks were coming to pick up Frank’s car, so we said our goodbyes. It certainly gave me some good flagger story material to tell.

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.

A new site… long overdue.

I recently had new business cards made up, not because there was any need to but because the image on my old business cards featured my very stock-looking BBY Evo 8, and now it’s a more non-stock looking BBY Evo 8.  Gotta rep the wing…

I finally handed out a new card (Hi to Adam F!), and realized my website address on the new business cards point to my extremely creaky Earthlink website.  I’m no longer an Earthlink customer, but I guess Earthlink websites never die, they just stick around forever stuck in a weird 1999-2007 vibe. So I decided to finally use this push to take the plunge and whip up a quicky WP site.  I administer one for the MoHud Region of SCCA, so I figured I could use the practice on my own site.  It’ll slowly get built up around here…