Mazda Raceway Diary:|
We Will Rock You
Monterey, Calif., May 22 — I have a confession to make. I've never covered a 6 hour live race before. I guess in my mind, I thought it would be only marginally more tiring than covering 3 two hour races in one day (which I have also never done before, either). But, all of this sounds like I'm complaining. The truth is, this is about the most exciting racing I've ever seen, and there’s still 2 hours to go as I'm starting to write this piece. What develops is an incredible race which was, as GT winner Patrick Long described it, "The most exciting racing of my life."
To begin, today is May 22nd, 2010, and as this race is running the rest of motorsport is not idle (duh, she said). My first big activity for the day was stopping by the Mandatory Driver Autograph Session for the ALMS drivers (whose 12+ hour work day started with warm up around 10 AM) to drop off some photos Jeff took of Simon Pagenaud while winning the race at Long Beach last month. ALMS prides itself on being accessible to its fans and part of this accessibility is the autograph session. Nothing exclusive to ALMS—the autograph session—but they also allow their fans on the starting grid. Yep, that’s right, down on the grid. Now, can you seriously imagine Indy Car doing this? Or, NASCAR whose drivers have all become Slick Willies who are shined up all nice and corporate, who are harder to access than the inside of Studio 54 in its day? I don't see that happening in either series.
Yes, so at about quarter to 2, while Indy Car was doing its rendition of its new Pole Day, onto the grid came thousands of race fans. It was very cool to watch. Pagenaud had let us know that his teammate Marino Franchitti, whose brother Dario qualified third for the Indy 500 next weekend, was going to finish the race. His teammate, David Brabham, yes, the son of Sir Jack Brabham, had qualified the HPD Patron Highcroft Racing entry in P2 on Friday. However, technical gremlins had pushed the car close to the back on the actual starting grid. So, by process of elimination, we figured out that Simon Pagenaud was starting the race, followed by "Brabs" in the second segment, and with a few hours left, Marino would bring it home, so to speak.
From the little we saw of the Indy 500 Pole Day, we thought the old way was just as good, but with racing having to put entertainment ahead of sport, we expect we'll be seeing more of this happy horse ****. Not to be outdone, NASCAR is running its All Star Race today, preceded by a vote-in-the-driver deal won by Carl Edwards, and the "Show Down," the guys who didn't get into All Star and trying to kill each other to get in, won by Martin Truex, Jr.
Now I wonder about Martin, specifically, about his name. I get why we have to call Dale Earnhardt Junior. I mean, strictly speaking, we really don't, because Junior and Senior are used while both are living to distinguish one from the other and well, we don't have that problem with Mr. Dale, now do we? Thanks to the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500? But, getting back to Martin Truex, does anyone know who in the blazes Martin Truex Senior is? I mean, other than the NASCAR racer’s father! I don't, so I do wonder, why does the son race under the Junior moniker? Kind of ostentatious for a NASCAR dude if you ask me.
My point is, all of this other stuff that passes as racing today, on May 22, 2010, cannot hold a candle to the fans-on-the-grid non-stop excitement of this race. Now, I loved Champ Car and CART but their races here were a snore fest. We remember this track for Alex Zanardi’s pass on Bryan Herta at the Corkscrew, but we remember that because so little else happened at that race – and it was a pretty cool pass, I'll admit. We remember one year with Carpentier going upside down and living and Gonzalo Rodriguez going upside down and dying. That’s pretty much what we remember from Champ Car. Now today was more exciting than all of that and no one had to die. To wit:
Hour 1: Simon Pagenaud drives from P33 to P2, passing at least 30 cars in the process. Remember, folks, 33 is just a number! Well, it was pretty exciting and some of those numbers were really exciting. First retirement of the race is a Prototype Challenge, Number 95.
Hour 2: Pagenaud takes the lead by Lap 52. 42 laps in, the front running car for the race, #37 Intersport Racing entry, grenades a motor and exits into the Paddock. The #36 PC entry goes into the top 5 overall due to the Field’s car grenading.
Hour 3: David Brabham takes over for Pagenaud and builds the lead. Somehow the #37 comes back to life just like Rasputin, but like him, finally dies, 115 laps in. The car, not Rasputin that is.
Hour 4: By the 4th hour, Brabs has lapped the entire field and is handling his stock portfolio on his I phone while cruising around the track. Another LMPC bites the dust, and there were only six entered to begin with. The second Prototype retirement, the Drayson racing #8 entry does a Houdini. Which means, I don't know how they left the race, I'll have to see the TiVo of the race.
Hour 5: Marino Franchitti takes over for Brabs, who was up to two laps ahead of anyone at one time. Marino is not so lucky and the pole winning Dyson entry #16 is taken over by its strongest driver, pole winner Guy Smith. Track temperature dropping rapidly. Cars turn on their headlights for real.
Hour 6: Englishman Guy Smith passes the Scot Marino Franchitti for the lead and we're nowhere near the UK. In the meantime, the GT boys go crazy with so many lead changes and overtaking moves that I will probably have to replay this hour of the race a couple of times just to figure out what happened. My fingers start cramping due to excessive keying.
I get to watch the race from the Media Center exterior staircase. Great view of the Corkscrew! Smith pits for a long time, allowing Franchitti to not only take the lead, but lap the whole field. His final pit stop is for fuel only, no tires. My new buddy, the Michelin man, nice guy, no puffy suit, says that because the track is so cold, this may be good strategy because it takes new tires a longer time to warm up on such a cold night. For whatever reason, this decision gives the #1 car enough of a lead to lap the entire field seven times before the end of the race
Now about that TiVo’ing. It turns out that the ALMS is going to try something a little different when broadcasting the race. As a result, it’s not going to air until next weekend. So, I apologize for any errors I've made in reporting the race, but I can only tell you about what I saw and what I noticed.
It’s a very tired couple who arrives at our no free Internet hotel after 10 PM but the time was sure worth it!
Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.