With the completion of the first round of the WEC at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, I figure we should get to know the 2015 Le Mans and WEC competitors. Up first, the 2014 WEC champions: Toyota and their upgraded TS040. With a 3.7 litre, normally aspirated petrol engine combined with a 6 megajoule (MJ) hybrid, flywheel system, Toyota looks to become the 2nd Japanese manufacturer to win overall the 24 Heures du Mans since Mazda in 1991.
Not resting on their laurels, Audi has upgraded their 2014 Le Mans winning car. Running the same 4.0 litre, diesel engine with an upgraded hybrid system from 2MJ to 4MJ, Audi looks to return to the top step of the podium. Again.
Next up, after a fairly successful debut season in 2014, Porsche returns with their upgraded 919 Hybrid. Using the same – if not fairly unconventional – 2.0 litre turbocharged V4 with an amazing 8MJ in additional boost, driving all 4 wheels, Porsche returns with some wonderfully upgraded liveries.
Last, but not least – and certainly the most interesting, the Nissan NISMO GT-R LMP1.
Get a load of this beast. Sporting a front-mounted, twin turbocharged 3.0 litre V6 with an 8MJ hybrid system producing an estimated 1,200+ horsepower. All of this power is delivered to the FRONT TIRES. Talk about turning the establishment on it’s ear. Nissan pulled out of the opening rounds of the WEC to focus on Le Mans, we’ll have to wait a few more months to see Godzilla competing on-track.
Only two more months to go.
Essentially, I’ve been away for a good 9 months. To be completely honest with you, my faithful readers, I just haven’t felt like writing for a while. But on this lazy, snowy Saturday, I have 4 races to get caught up on. I have a Le Mans project I’m putting the finishing touches on, and I want to get started on my 2014 Le Mans report. Before I do, I have two races I need to get to: the 2013 United States Grand Prix and the 2014 Red Bull Grand Prix of Americas. Channeling my best Billy Mays, act now, and I’ll throw in a 2nd report for FREE. That’s right – this is a two-fer!
2013 United States Grand Prix.
Through my relationship with Grand Prix Tours, I’m working the 2nd United States Grand Prix in Austin. Having learned a few difficult lessons last year, I’m more prepared to handle my responsibilities. Unfortunately, many of the details have escaped me over the past year +, but maybe that’s a good thing. I have my bus assignment at the Austin Hyatt Regency just on the other side of the river, south of downtown Austin. One morning, I’m standing in the main lobby with my GPT shirt and sign, directing my clients to the bus outside. Near me is a private driver, a woman, with a sign that reads “Emerson Fittipaldi”. The two-time F1 World Champion and 1989 Indianapolis 500 winner, I’m a little excited the Emo is in my hotel. That private driver, keeps looking to her left and right, and has a worried look on her face. I ask her if she knows who Emerson Fittipaldi is. Sheepishly, she says no. I try to describe him the best I can before I offer to help her out. I’m short a few clients, so I volunteer to head up to the restaurant to look around for our combined clients. A quick recon trip upstairs, and I don’t find what either of us are looking for. A little disappointed I couldn’t find Emerson, I head back downstairs, inform the other driver and head to my bus where my missing clients have joined us. We head out to the track. The weather is cloudy, but it’s expected the clear up shortly and become another glorious Autumn day. As we approach the track, it’s eerily quiet. Turns out the fog is too thick to allow for the medical helicopters so the track is red-flagged. And from this shot, it’s easy to see why.
In due time, the fog burns off and we finally get some action on-track.
Aside from the fog, Friday is less that memorable. In fact, so too is Saturday. And to be honest, so is Sunday. One of the best parts was catching up with my good friends from Atlanta Kris and Jim, but otherwise, there’s just not much to write about. Sure I met some interesting people – including American driver Alexander Rossi and BBC commentator James Allen, but the racing was a glorified parade. Red Bull and Vettel won, but it was just rather unmemorable. About the most exciting thing that happened was my wonderful GPT co-host, Cherry, asked if I would be interested in working a tour at Le Mans. Wood eye! Does the Pope wear a funny hat? It took me all of 2 seconds to say yes. More on that later. Until that report, here’s a photo dump of my favorite pictures from the race weekend.
One of the cooler moments from the weekend came from the track marshals. Mark Webber announced he’d be leaving Red Bull racing at the end of the year. For the driver’s parade on Sunday, the marshals came out with at banner thanking Mark Webber for his time behind the wheel.
Oh…and per my contract, I’m obligated to include a pic of Jim and Kris at the race.
2014 Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas
Again, through my relationship with Grand Prix Tours, I was asked to host some clients to the 2014 MotoGP race in Austin. Having missed the 2013 race, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve never seen MotoGP and I thought it’d be fun. And it was. Tickets were quite reasonable, so I grabbed 2 sets and took my best friend Ted with me. We had a place to crash at my sister’s place and only two GPT clients, so it all worked out. Those two clients, a father and son from Seattle, provided some comic relief. I didn’t know if these were two adults or a father and child. So I packed Avery’s child seat just in case. Much to my relief, when I picked them up at their hotel, two grown men hopped off the elevator and introduced themselves to me.
As always, it is just a joy to be at the Circuit of the Americas. I wish I could tell you more about the race action on-track, but again the details escape me and I’m not entirely sure of the racers involved. But it was incredibly cool watching the 2-wheeled machines fly around the track.
Just look at that lean angle.
And that’s about it. We had a great time at the race. While not as parade-like at the F1 race, Marc Marques led the whole race. Ted and I had a blast together and our clients were extremely cool.
I’m certainly not going to submit this post to the powers that be in terms of getting my media pass to the next race, but at least I got these done. Next up, an interview with some passionate Le Mans fans, the 2014 24 Hueres du Mans, and the 2014 Lone Star Le Mans.
A little note from one competitor to another.
I’m leaving on 3 days and I’ll be back at the track in a week. So, maybe the message is meant for me. Either way, I can’t wait.
Courtesy of the FIA/WEC
Time to get back to racing.
I’ll get something online soon about the 2013 US Grand Prix, but with Le Mans only 78 days away, it’s time to start focusing on the 24 Heures.
In the beginning of March, at the Geneva Auto Show, Porsche unveiled their 919 livery. Sporting a less than creative (my opinion) Porsche Intelligent Performance themed livery, the theme is shared with it’s GT competitor.
With the history of Porsche liveries, you’d think they could have come up with something a little more interesting. At least tie it in with their racing heritage. Gulf, Rothman’s, The Pink Pig, Salzburg, Martini, something other than this. Where’s Andy Blackmore when you need him?
Audi at least did something cool. Revealing their livery in the center of the town of Le Mans, Mr. Le Mans – Tom Kristensen – drove the redesigned R18 e-tron quattro around the Bugatti circuit. I find this livery stunning.
White, silver, red and matte black…I think it’s stunning. They said during the performance the red has some sort of reflective quality that should make night-time pictures jump.
Last but not least, Toyota finally pulled the covers off their new TS040 competitor.
Toyota didn’t change much from the TS030 to the TS040. The familiar blue and white with the red streaks highlight the changes in the new car. The TS040 has more upright headlights and all three cars have higher cockpits as mandated by the FIA over safety concerns – primarily pilot vision.
In a little over a month, all three will battle each other at Silverstone and then through Eau Rouge at Spa as warm ups for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is going to be great.
Back in late 2000, early 2001, my marriage was falling apart. We’d gotten married in 1999, but it wasn’t much of a marriage. Something I’ve written about before and something I’m not going to get into right now. Because of Mom and Dad – who had several King Charles Cavalier Spaniels – my wife decided she had to have a Cavalier. We found a breeder through Mom and we adopted a puppy: Barrister. He was a good little pup, but we felt bad about him spending his days at home alone.
In the middle of the downward spiral of our marriage, my wife convinced me we should get Barrister a friend. The only reason why I agreed was to make her happy. Or, at least, try to make her happy. Things in our household were anything but happy, but if I could do something to appease her, I did.
We found a Cavalier rescue group and drove almost to 2 hours to some woman’s house – fighting almost all the way. When we finally got there, in and among this group of puppies, we found one special boy. The product of a puppy mill in Missouri, he spent the early weeks of his life in a kennel with a least a dozen other puppies – less than ideal. But this, however, lead to one of his better traits. This rescue group saved a dozen or so puppies on Saint Patrick’s Day, so they all had Irish names. I’m not sure if we picked him or he picked us, but they named him Seamus.
We brought him home and immediately he took to me and I to him. Our first puppy, Barrister, was “hers”, so I made Seamus mine and he made me his. During our divorce, as we were splitting up our belongings, it was only natural that I would take Seamus with me. And I was glad to do so.
After the divorce, I had to move in with Mom and Dad. Seamus took the move well and made quick friends with Jack and Chelsea – the other dogs in the household. But more importantly, he made friends with Mom and Dad. Again, because of his puppy mill upbringing – where he was forced into a cramped environment with a dozen or more other puppies – he craved touch. Being next-to or on-top-of someone was what he wanted and needed. When you sat down, he was almost immediately in your lap. He slept with me, he followed me. If you sat down, he was in your lap immediately. More often than not, I would wake up in the middle of the night, pinned against the wall with him right next to me in bed.
When I moved back to Arkansas to finish school, I couldn’t take Seamus with me. I had to leave him with Mom and Dad. This wasn’t a big deal for him, for he had, in turn, adopted Mom and Dad as his parents. But, when I came home, he knew “daddy” was home. I was gone for 6 months and then lived with Mom and Dad for another year afterwards before I could afford to move out. Once I did, it wasn’t an easy decision for me to leave Seamus with Mom and Dad, but he loved them, and they loved him. It worked on many levels. But still, when I came over, he knew me and paid me close attention.
Over the past decade, I’d come and go from Mom and Dad’s house, but Seamus was always there. As he grew older, he’d nap more, but whenever I came over, he was always the first I went to. I’d wake him and he’d wag his tail; he knew I was there to see him. I’d plop down on the couch, and he was close behind me, scratching at the couch, asking for help up, just so he could sit in my lap. I cherished those moments with him.
I will miss those times.
Seamus passed away today.
I am sad and I miss my “son”.
He was a reluctant addition to my life because of someone else. But he was with me through the hard times and through the good. He loved me and I loved him. He wanted nothing more than to love someone – that and treats. That dog loved treats. Whether Cheerios or dog biscuits or cheese or french fries or Cheetos – he could eat. You had to be careful when giving him something. More often than not, giving him a treat resulted in you pulling back a nub as he’d nearly bite off half of a finger.
But he could love even more. He was a loving boy.
Through my sadness, I remember an email that was sent to me however many years back. True story or not, there’s no better way to describe Seamus.
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.
He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?”
The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
I wish Seamus could have stayed longer.
He was rescued on Saint Patrick’s Day and he went to sleep in my arms on Saint Patrick’s Day. I can’t think of a better way to complete the circle.