Thursday, July 12, 2007

Indy day trippin’

You know that old saying. “Time flies by when you’re having fun!”
Which is why I guess another year has already slipped by…? Since this time one year ago I was making my last trek to Indianapolis for the USGP. This was my second trip to the fabled Brickyard, having made my first visit to these hallowed grounds in 2001. Which was an interesting trip as the USGP was a fortnight after 9/11.

Departing six days afterwards via Mary Ellen’s trusty ‘ol 1978 Ford Econoliner van. We had NO way to discover whether or not the race would be cancelled? As we were driving coast to coast.

Yet my first memory prior to leaving was how I couldn’t figure out what was different as it was so quiet. I finally figured it out when upon day four of the NO Fly zone; our local TV stations were flooded with calls of panic. As I was surprised to hear a F16 Fighter Jet making a bonsai pass down one of our major freeways. (I-5)

Oh! That’s it; there’s been absolutely NO aircraft in the skies… Not even the pain in the ass obnoxiously loud “Mc Chopper/Chip’s” Snohomish Co. Sherriff’s helicopter that flies directly overhead my Apartment at anytime of the day or night.

Yet by far, the worst memory was the accident that occurred to Alex Zanardi at the Lausitz Ring in Germany on September 15th. Correctly CART, nee Champ Car had decided to commence with its scheduled event in lieu of 9/11. Unfortunately the day would be forever marred by the horrific incident between Zanardi and Alex Tagliani, where Zanardi almost lost his life along with both of his legs.

And it was an absolutely fantastic 17 day vacation of exploring the countryside with M.E. making stops at Custer’s Last Stand, Devil’s Tower, “Jellistone” (Old Faithful) Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Battle of Wounded Knee, standing in the Mississippi and finally Grand Coulee Dam. These stops coincided with three full days of a great Formula 1 race sandwiched in-between.

Arriving at the Brickyard in time for the very first practice of Friday morning, I was overwhelmed by how Frilling Huge Indianapolis Motor Speedway is. As I just stood in awe looking down the length of the 5/8th mile straightaway… As the grandstands just seem to go on and on. And it was even harder to comprehend what it must be like when they’re all filled up with spectators.

Yet I couldn’t get over the disparaging difference between the inside and outside of IMS. As the Brickyard sits in the middle of run down streets directly next to the race track. Dirt parking lots, uneven sidewalks interspersed with gravel. Trailer parks and make shift RV facilities along with temporary vendor booths and Honey Buckets! While inside the Speedway seems fairly up kept wherever a camera may pan.

And apparently if you live anywhere near the Brickyard, you supplement your income by charging for parking on your front lawn. As the further we drove away the price dropped. After forking out $10.00, we headed off for Indy.

And where else can you pay $25.00 (General Admission) for two full days of viewing Formula 1 chassis! As we wandered the infield burms Friday & Saturday, which I still feel are some of the best F1 viewing I’ve had access to. Along with thoroughly enjoying watching the vintage Formula 1 cars of the three liter Cosworth DFV V-8 era perform.

Of course everything paled in comparison to the Star’s of the show, the F1 circus. As I still chuckle to myself today while recalling how pitifully SLOW the Ferrari 360 Modena Challenge cars looked after having just watched 22 of the fastest race cars on the planet scream down the 22+ second full throttle straightaway of Indianapolis at over 200mph. DAMN! Those “liddle” Ferrari’s just seem like their walkin’ at 170mph!

And we also made a trip to the infield Hall of Fame museum which definitely has to be the best $3.00 I’ve ever spent on a museum! Hell, I even had my picture taken in the “Enemy’s” (IRL) chassis which you were allowed to crawl into for pictures. And the museum is simply overflowing with wonderful memorabilia intertwined with a staggering cross sample of vintage race cars. As I was drawn to the row of rear engine chassis of Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Al & Bobby Unser, Gordon Johncock to name just a few. And it seemed odd to have Jacques Villenue’s 1995 car parked next to my very favourite. The Andy Granatelli 1963 STP Turbine driven by Parnelli Jones.

Saturday & Sunday we arrived bright ‘N early at opening of the gates in order to park inside IMS, which is pretty cool to drive underneath the Brickyard and park in the infield. And I recall being part of a fairly large throng of spectators holding up the Ferrari Challenge cars trying to make their way back to the pits as we ventured towards the burm adjacent the banked final corner of the F1 circuit. The Ferrari’s along with the Porsche Supercup series, identically prepared Porsche 911’s supported the Formula 1 race as the three days of speed seemed to blur by.

The pre-race hoopla in support of the USA upon 9/11 was overbearingly NAUSEATING!!! Although I did enjoy the driver’s parade as they were whisked around the track in vintage automobiles.

The most humorous thing to me was the sound of a P.O.S. Harley Davidson trying to sound cool preceding the Grand Prix, as the torturous sounds of an uncorked Fat Boy resonated off of the grandstands as some goofball roared by on the adjacent street. Yet there is just simply NOTHING that can compare in sound to the symphonic rhapsody of a modern era Formula 1 car! Especially what I consider to be some of the finest machinery ever unleashed on the F1 Championship. The full tilt boogie 3.0 liter unrestricted V-10’s…

And although being a huge Herr Schumacher fan, I was absolutely delighted with the outcome, as I’d be on hand to witness Mika Hakkinen’s final Formula 1 victory. While being overly impressed by rookie sensation Kimi Raikkonen driving for Sauber alongside Nick Heidfeld. As this would ultimately become the passing of the Finnish torch in F1…
To continue reading, See: Indy Day Trippin' (Part 2)