Friday, September 26, 2008

Hockenheimring (Part 2)


Having dosed off to the soothing sounds of peaceful acoustic German music with enthusiastic singing along, daylight soon approached...
SAT, 7/19YES! There really is a shuttle bus to the race track for us... As we were stationed in front of our awaiting motor coach bright ‘N early... Otay, perhaps a little too early, as we rode the Greyhound-like shuttle bus in to watch the day’s activities... And as our motor coach came to a stop, we disembarked and followed the F1 “Sheeple,” not being exactly sure which direction to go?

Following the crowd, we passed another cluster of “Yellow-vest’s,” walked thru a massive amount of broken glass, up a little dirt trail and followed the Sheeple across the Autobahn... And then walking underneath the track with some sorta type of unknown Honda-esce like mini racecar’s roaring overhead, as this is what my notes say...

“Why don’t you just say some type of cars went around the track, but my Seeing Eye dog didn't know what they were, and therefore I didn't either!"?!?”
Yeah, that’s what happens when you’re visually impaired, since I never actually saw these cars before we finally reached the track’s entrance and headed towards our seats. But I think perhaps they were the BMW Pro car’s? Of which I last saw two competing at the Zippo Historics at Watkins Glen and they’re really cool racecars.

Thus, we arrived at our seats just-in-time to see the start of Formel Ein practice, and I watched with amazement once again how FREAKIN’ FAST they are and the hour practice session just flew by! As it would be interesting to know just how fast they’re arriving into the Motordrome section?

Next up was the Porsche Supercup qualifying session, which started off fairly sanguine, as its an injustice for anybody to appear after the Formula 1 land sharks have thrown down hot laps... Yet suddenly, three cars spun out directly in front of us, as after hearing the screech of brakes locking and badly flat spotted tyres, a Porsche sat motionless facing the wrong way in our corner, although the PA announcers later confirmed what I’d suspected, that he’d had some assistance... Yet, the real culprit for all of this drama was caused by a ten second rain burst that covered the racing surface. (Oh NO! DON’T tell me it’s gonna rain...) While two of the Porsches were abandoned off track, the piloto facing the wrong way finally managed to motor back off into competition and then the sun reappeared.

Next up, after a lunch break and having removed the stricken Porsches, it was time for Formel Ein knock out qualifying!

In-between the bellowing sounds of the shrieking F1 rocket ships, I was able to intermittently catch snippets of the track’s PA announcers, of which there were three voices; German, French and English, of which I could only understand the one in English, which turned out to be the familiar voice of Bob Constanduros, whose been a traveling trackside F1 announcer for several years now. Actually, it’s funny to think it’s almost a decade now since I first heard his voice on the PA system at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

And unfortunately for us, we were sitting directly besides a quartet ‘O very enthusiastic fans, of which the nearest duo Claire appropriately decided to nickname “The Air horn Brothers!” As they wildly tooted their air horns every time one of the Ferrari’s appeared, making it pretty easy for me to know when the red cars were coming...

Yet, even with out the assistance of the Air horn Bros. Claire had devised an ingenious method of informing me when the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro racecar’s were passing me, by simply tapping me on various parts of the body! Wap-Wap!

And it was most impressive to see the youngest German hot-shue Sebastian Vettel ring the lifeblood out of his Scuderia Toro Rosso and make his way into the Q3 final qualifying session, once again out qualifying Red Bull elder statesman DC. (Coulthard)

And it was interesting to note, that although the Air horn Bros. were still rooting for the red cars in Q3, they became absolutely ecstatic, standing up and eagerly blarin’ away every time the BMW Sauber of “The Kracow Kid, a.k.a. Robert Kubica passed by.”

But even funnier yet was that all the way up to the final moments of Q3 Mr. Constanduros could be heard intermittingly on the PA system during brief moments of relative quiet from the banshee wail of the ten remaining F1 rocket ships... Yet, Bob simply disappeared before the end of Q3 and we were left pondering who was on the pole? As I could make out some of the names from the German commentator, but had no idea which way he was reading them off? Last to first, or visa-versa?

While the stands emptied after qualifying, we stayed for the upcoming GP2 race, which turned out to be very entertaining for us remaining spectators... Albeit not so fun for the participants, as midways thru the event a 10 minute rain shower engulfed the track and I decided to christen my newly acquired rain gear, as suddenly there were four racecar’s pirouetting off of the “Ash-fault” directly in front of us... Who were quickly joined by another two contestants alongside the massive carnage, as the six driver’s solemnly stood besides their wrecked hulks, totally dismayed by what had just occurred, as all of the chassis would be towed away later.

As the sun reappeared and I began to swelter in my rain gear, we decided it was time to leave the day’s festivities and I stopped to purchase my lone Bratwurst of the weekend on our way outta the track, although we did stop briefly to check out a few of the F1 show car’s before sauntering back to our Shuttle bus...

Returning to our party tent, it was nice to be sitting down with a beer in hand as the rain once again returned and we simply sat listening to our wonderful German acoustic performer before we were rudely interrupted by a massive thunderclap, as suddenly our campground was hit by a 5+ minute deluge of torrential precipitation, as Claire madly battened down all of the party tent’s various flaps... Aye Karumba!

SUN, 7/20Once again, we get up early, ‘cause Tomaso wants to get in as MUCHO racing action as possible! Thus, upon departing the Shuttle Bus, we walk around in town a bit and stop in a little delicatessen to purchase some water for the track, which will later be much needed and appreciated as it would be extremely warm; 90 degrees w/humidity and even with the water, I’d ultimately get dehydrated from sitting in this oven for 5+ hours...

Crossing the Autobahn once again, over the woods ‘N thru the hills, Err, up the ‘lil dirt trail and underneath the race track, we’d be greeted to the shrieking sounds of the F1 piloto’s making their morning warm-up laps as we made our way towards the Motordrome stadium section. And once again Claire planned things perfectly, as my notes say; “Get in, SHUT UP! Sit down and Strap in!” Err, actually they say that we sat down, put our earplugs in and wall-lah the morning’s GP2 Sprint race began! Talk ‘bout timing, eh?

Next up was the Porsche Supercup race and it seemed like deja vu all over again, as once again a Porsche 911 spun out directly in front of us... Although he did make it back on track while another two driver’s joined the “Groundhog Day” precession, also merrily spinning off track. But the German commentators made the whole show very entertaining...

After all of the Porsche’s had been removed, there was a short “Demonstration” race run by the BMW M1 Pro car’s, along with a short interview on the PA system with Herr (Niki) Lauda, (Michael Schumacher also made a cameo interview I believe?) while Claire noted that they looked like a bunch ‘O RASSCAR’s out there and were SLOW! Well NO SHEISA, Sherlock! They’re not going 10/10th and are following up two previous races, but hey! At least we saw something unusual, as one of the M1’s actually made an outside pass in our corner and they have a very nice, throaty, burbly sound...

Then it was time for the F1 Drivers parade laps... LAPS? I’ve only ever seen them perform a single lap, so this seemed like a bonus, as appropriately Kimi Raikkonen led the parade, with all of the drivers being chauffeured around the track in really nice vintage automobiles...

And one of the coolest things about going to Grand Prix’s is the multitude of people carrying flags on long poles in support of their favourite drivers or team, as the Air horn bros. had seemingly elected to wave a huge Ferrari flag instead on race day, although we also passed a few Finnish flags, (a Scottish flag?) etc.

And then it was time for the race to start, with undoubtedly the coolest part of the race being the parade lap, where all 20 drivers did various incarnations of putting heat into their race rubber, coming to an almost complete stop and “BRRRRRR!!!!!!!!” Burap- Burap-Burap!!! As clouds of tire smoke wafted from the Ash-fault, with everybody doin’ their Big Daddy Don Garlits Top Fuel dragster dance steps thru the entire Motordrome section...

Then the unmistakable shrill of 20 tightly wound 19,000RPM rocket ships screeching off towards the first corner as Bob Varsha urging you to turn up the volume at the start of every televised race just DOESN’T do justice to the live symphonic sounds of 20 Formula 1 piloto’s mashing the loud pedal!

And in the time it took me to write the above paragraph, pole sitter Hamilton had taken off like a scalded cat... No puns intended as I like to call him Jaguar; Oh never mind... Yet, Hamilton seemed to be leaving Massa in his dust with apparent ease, along with the rest of the grid, as I’d count up to 14 seconds to myself when awaiting the arrival of the red cars...

And while Claire was still employing her ingenious Wap-Wap method of informing me when the Ferrari’s were approaching, it was pretty simple for me since a fan a few rows below us would stand up and hold a Ferrari flag in his hands every time Kimi approached, who for reasons unknown was way off the pace, (the entire weekend) dropping down to somewhere between position 4-10? SHEISA!

And then a audible din fell upon us as over the PA system I could hear that one of the Panasonic Toyota’s had crashed, somewhere else on the circuit and this was followed by a safety car period; but which Toyota driver?

Afterwards Massa dropped from P2 to P3 although Claire had NO clue who was on second... Although we could tell one of the red cars was third, as Claire says it’s impossible to make out a cars number as they scream by... And I’d forgotten to print up any spotter guide material, so I just simply ASS-Sumed it was “KOVY,” a.k.a. Heikki Kovalainen? As it was a light coloured racecar...

And I noticed that the two gentlemen sitting next to me had been plugged in the entire race with mini television sets... And the person closest to me obviously was a McLaren/Hamilton fan as he gave his friend a waist high closed fist pull/pump as the drivers came by on the final lap... After waving to all of the drivers, I’d just marvel at youn “Louise’s” domination, muttering out loud several times that Hamilton had simply “WALKED IT!” (As I’d been rooting for either Kimi or Felipe to win...)

After letting the stands clear out a bit, we joined the parade and walked down the stairway, ducked thru a small fence hole and joined the masses walking on the track... Which is always an added bonus! As I was bemused to notice that the FIA curbing in our adjacent corner was painted blue and white instead of the customary red and white, while we were surrounded by an ocean of race fans.

Then Claire walked off towards the sand trap to retrieve race track souvenirs for Zeben (Alex) finding a whole bunch of bits ‘N pieces of fiberglass/carbon fibre, metal bits, etc, while I stopped for a photo-op with the largest AGIP banner I’ve ever seen before following the Sheeple thru another set of fences and ducking before coming out next to part of the paddock...

Then we had to walk thru another tunnel which ultimately led us towards the other side of the Motorddrome, where we did another cool thing, like fish swimming upstream against the constant current of leaving spectators, we walked up to the top of a grandstand/bleacher complex which happened to look directly out onto the front straight and was awash with a see of people mulling around the pit lane and now deserted victory rostrum...
After reversing course and coming back down the stairs with the still leaving spectators, we decided to check out the various F1 show car displays; McLaren, Toyota, Ferrari and Red Bull, as well as the BMW M1 racecar’s, (again) with Claire deciding to get Zeben a few free car posters, as I was quite bemused to have been almost knocked over while accompanying Claire towards the BMW M1 posters... SHEISA DUDE! There’s only about 1,000 left...

Not sure what else to go look at, since the majority of the remaining tents were simply merchandise, we reluctantly decided it was time to leave, walking back to our Shuttle Bus rendezvous, where we patiently waited next to some Firemen washing a vehicle in the still beaming sunlight, as approximately 30-45mins. Later our motor coach arrived and took us on a different route back to our now mostly deserted campground, where I immediately got a beer before changing into shorts and lying down...

MON, 7/21
There was just one couple next to us, as our campground, which was normally a soccer field was quite quiet Monday morning. After checking out and getting our deposit back, we got a ride to the Hockenheim train station from two of the very friendly “Chaps” working the event for F1 Camping, which is TOTALLY the way to go low budget while NOT having to lug around camping paraphnalia...

Having said our goodbyes, we hung out at the train station for an hour awaiting our first train, to begin the long trek home to Vladi and Ulli’s, I marveled at the fact of how the tracks were divided, with the slow freightrain’s hugging the inside lane, while the High Speed trains blasted past us on their own separate lane, four tracks opposite of us and the freightrain’s. Transferring at Mannheim, we once again took the scenic route alongside the Rhine River and had good seats for viewing the countryside... Look, there’s another Kastel, Wap-wap!

Arriving in now semi-familiar Koln, we hopped upon our well known commuter train from Koln Central Station to Bergisch-Gladbach and arrived early afternoon. Upon Vladi’s arrival and telling him all about our adventures, I was dumbstruck to hear Vladi tell me that Nelson Piquet had finished second... WHAT? Are you sure? And then Vladi got the paper and read the results to me, SHEISA! How in the HELL did that happen?

Next, we drove over to Yogi’s Vino store, where we met Saskia, and then back to Vladi’s where we met Ulli and walked over to the neighborhood’s local restaurant for dinner before staying up into the wee hours imbibing in our favourite German beverages one final time
Prior to our unwanted departure as Vladi & Ulli are simply “Voonderbar” hosts...

TUES, 7/22
After awakening way too DAMN early to say our unwanted goodbyes... We take our well worn commuter train to Koln-Mulhim and transfer for Dusseldorf airport. Of course our train is running slow and we arrive late to the airport after hopping the third and final train, but we make check-in 1hr prior to our departure for the DREADED Heathrow airport which was Claire’s idea to go home a different route...

After spending the majority of our 4hrs layover quibbling with numerous security Boffins... Uh Sir, is that a corkscrew in your backpack? NO! It’s a BLOODY Corkscrew... Well Bolluck’s, as we did finally manage to get Heathrow sorted “Just-in-Time” to board our 9hr 36min direct flight to SeaTac...

You can read more about this PAINFUL Airport experience in; Back in the USSR?

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