Monday, June 25, 2012

Ode to Portland: Can it already be 5-Years GONE? (Part III)

Friday, June 8, 2007
(Practice/Qualifying)

 What a Freakin’ AWESOME Day!
Started out very cold, (for me) as I was wearing just shorts and my exclusive limited 1st edition No Fenders T-Shirt in about 50 deg-f - after having a quick breakfast at Elmer’s, I left for the track around 8:50AM, arriving 10 minutes later, “Just-in-Time” to see the Toyota Atlantics; Err Champ Car Atlantics morning session. At least I think it was the Atlantics? Which I know had various names over the years but will always be the “Toy Yoter” Atlantics to Mwah...

The grandstands were almost completely empty, which meant there were plenty of vantage points to watch the Open Wheel action. Then after having “vacillated” for weeks prior to the race, I decided to purchase a Friday paddock pass after all, for two reasons. First, it allowed me admittance to my very favourite vantage point. Second, I’d finally decided that morning to attempt getting my Molson Indy poster signed by “The Hamburgular& TAG” who’d STIFFED me the previous year…

Thus I headed across the Bridgestone foot bridge to take up my position once again at the end of pit exit from inside the paddock. Still cannot believe that we’re allowed approx. 50-feet from the race track. This is my personal favourite vantage point for the start of the weekend! (Back at my room I discovered I’d spent the whole day with my ticket in upside down! But nobody seemed bothered by that…)

And this was the very first year that I used my (Dreaded) white cane… Which always makes me smile thinking about what everyone else must be thinking when they see me in the paddock!  As it’s virtually impossible for me to see any of the Champ Cars when they’re “hidden” inside of the fully enclosed tent awnings...

Meandering my way down the paddock, the Alex Figge Pacific Coast Motorsports spare chassis was sitting on the back of the transporter sticking straight out towards us. This immediately caught my attention; the solid black chassis was absolutely “WICKED!” The Panoz DP-01 is an AWESOME car! And they really remind me of contemporary Formula 1 chassis…

So I stood awhile admiring it, before I got a crazy idea. I’d just wait until I could get the attention of one of the many crew members going in and out of their tent. First I asked him what type of car was it? Then I asked if it would be ok for me to stand inside of the temporary barriers and look at it? And he was really “kOOL!” He answered my questions and let me look at the chassis for several minutes…

Next I took up station just outside of the Forsythe/Indeck (Paul Tracy) compound, watching various crew members go back ‘N forth, before tiring of this.

When I’d been chatting with the PCM crew member, he’d told me that I was looking at the back-up car and he had NO idea where the primary was? May be it’s in the pits I replied? Nope, but I don’t know where it is… And wallah! While at the Forsythe trailers Alex Figge’s black primary chassis went rolling past me… As it was being towed back from Tech Inspection...

I wandered around some more, trying to figure out what the giant black building behind me was? Nope, it’s not the “Flinstone” tire booth as I found the Bridgestone semi trailer later. And there was the constant bark of wheel nut air guns going off. But the funniest sound was the screaming noise of (2 Stroke) Dirt bikes racing about at the west end of the track which could be heard over everything else as they were totally oblivious to the current proceedings.
  
Then I walked back to watch the action near the exit of the Hot Pits, where I DON’T know why? But somehow I was “magically drawn to the Frilling Hamburgular’s pit stall, SHEISA!!! (Guess I must be a “closet” Bourdais fan, eh?) I asked somebody if it was (Graham) Rahals? Who? Oh, never mind! But he told me it must be Sea Basses since it had a Mac-Doogal’s emblem on it…

Le ‘Hamburgular, aka Sebastain Bourdais ’06 Hero card
With the sound of air guns going off all around, I just stood there watching as the Mac-Doogal’s crew was busy doing dry-run pit stops (Practice) before the start of Friday’s first practice session. And then at the time it was “Hilarious” to me as somebody did a full “NHRA” tire smokin’ burn out as all of the Champ Cars left the pits…

Poor ‘PT! Who’s been waiting a full seven weeks to get back into a Champ Car and had spent the prior evening “yuking” it up about how he was roarin’ to go! As I heard the interview during lunch over the track’s PA system that Tracy had gone out and HIT the WALL at Turn 8 on the very first lap! Then Mr. Chrome Horn never went out for the remainder of the first practice session! Obviously this wasn’t how Paul had planned on making his return to the cockpit, eh?

And may be it’s just another sign of my getting old-ER? But I was amazed at how many kids were on hand this morning, which is GREAT! As I heard a kid in front of me saying… And I’m glad I kept my trap shut since I’d have been WRONG! (Again!) As his dad pointed out the lights on the front straight as the kid asked; What are the lights for? These were the lights for Champ Cars very first standing start, scheduled for Sunday’s race.

Having watched that first Champ Car doing a burn out, I was unsure why this was occurring. Then I realized that they’d set-up a separate lane to simulate individual standing starts as I watched at least five cars do this. Which was INSANE! As the driver enters the box, runs the Cosworth XFE up to what sounds like full RPM’s before “dumping” the clutch and hopefully not stalling the angry beast! And this is even harder to do since there’s no traction control or clutch pedal to use… As a corner worker mused over whether or not they’d do the standing starts in the rain? (As the forecast was for precipitation both Sat. & Sunday...)

It was AMAZING to watch the practice starts as I tried to not breathe in too much of the burnt rubber and methanol after my discussion with the Nurse on the train, as I hung out there for the entire session… (Standing for at least 90 minutes)

And it was interesting to watch the Mac-Doogal’s crew bring in and out of the Hot Pits Bourdais race car, as I’m not sure what was going on? Having the chassis push directly in front of me…But instead of towing it, they simply pushed it around using a rear jack stand. Also a Forsythe/Indeck chassis was rolled past me, probably Tracy’s spare car? It was really kOOL seeing those two cars close-up!

Then I high-tailed it back across the Bridgestone foot bridge to wander the “Manufacturer’s Midway,” where of course I had to puruse the Randy Owens booth. And what jumped out at me from the wall? DAMN! A large, beautiful autographed Nigel Mansell serigraph! And the “Sales Monkey” immediately started his pitch on me while I was checking it out… Telling me how good of a deal it was; only $275 or I could get it framed for $600! And it’s really sweet! And SHEISA! I want it, but where would I stick it?

It’s titled Rookie Champion, with “BLOODY Nige” in the 1993 Lola/Ford Cosworth coming straight at you; “There’s ONLY 4 left!” And it originally sold for $400.

With my head reeling; I went and sat down in a nearby grandstand to watch the Toyota Atlantics. While I seriously contemplated purchasing the AWESOME Mansell serigraph, but think I’ll pass as I told the sales jockey I DON’T even have my Thunderdome print framed yet! To which he replied, send it back to Randy; they’re too nice to be sitting in tubes, but I digress…

OOPS! Freudian slip as they’ve now been the Champ Car Atlantics powered by Mazda for two years. Actually I think it’s now Cooper Tires presents the Champ Car Atlantics powered by Mazda… (Try saying that fast five times.) As I watched the qualifying session for race number one tomorrow. And I suddenly thought about Linksheaven’s “Boy” John Edwards. But I don’t know what happened to him since he qualified 18th. And I believe the Sierra Sierra team was on pole? Even funnier to me was the fact that the Atlantics had 27 entrants vs. Champ Cars lowly 17…

Then just for humour I took the scenic route and went all the way across the bridge for a hot dog and bottled water… Like I said, just for humour, eh? (Walking past the much closer vendors)

Then I watched Champ Car provisional qualifying from the exit of turn 12 onto the main straightaway. And DAMN! Those Champ Cars are so FUCKING FAST!!! I watched the entire first qualifying session there, noting how different they sound on the outside of the course compared to inside the paddock. NO Wog-Wog-Wog of pit lane speed limiters here, it’s just “On the Button” as they’re screaming down the front straight.

And “My Man” did it! Justin Wilson “FUCKIN’ ROCKED!” As he claimed Friday’s provisional Pole position. And it was fun listening to the pre-qualifying interviews as PT fessed up to hitting the wall that morning. They also interviewed “Bad Bobby D,” better known as Robert Doornbos. And I really like that guy; he’s got a great attitude! And it kracks me up since I’ve heard this before. But they keep asking him about the difference between testing an F1 car…

Ok, so he’s a Test Driver this year, but HELLO! He actually raced for Red Bull as Christian Klien’s replacement in F1 during 2006. (Making 4 starts) With Doornbos stating that the F1 car is the most technically advanced machine on the planet! Very challenging technically, with the steering wheel looking like something out of Play Station… But Champ Car is great as the traction control is your right foot! They’re a blast to drive and he really enjoys Champ Car.

Then after hemming and hawing all day, I headed back inside the paddock to get my poster signed at the yearly CCWS autograph session, as I decided that I wanted Doornbos’s autograph definitely!

But I’m jumping ahead as I think Katherine Legge was last on the grid at one minute, 01 seconds plus. Tracy worked his way up to 13th with a 59.4 second lap while Justin Wilson’s pole time was 58 seconds flat, which guarantees him of no worse than P2 on Sunday. And the interview was typical Justin, unflappable, NO Ego… As they kept trying to egg him on, C’mon you kicked everybody’s ASS! “NO, I’m just happy with where we’re at today, but there’s more work to be done with the car and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.” Is there anything more left in the car? Well there’s always something left, room to improve on… We’ll see tomorrow. And then I decided that I really needed to make a Pitstop… As I must’ve walked right past the Honey Buckets that I know are near my grandstands at the other end of the bridge.

Then I headed for the Red Bull chalet prior to the autograph session. And I was there so DAMN Early, almost 1hr before, that they were still setting up the gates they use to heard us thru… And it was hilarious as I ended up standing next to Becky, who I swear was the same lady I stood behind in line last year… I mean she even had the same pile of stuff in her arms as last summer and I ended up giving her my business card… So the first two No Fenders cards went to women…

Originally I’d planned on only getting Doornbos signature, standing first in his line, but then I thought NO! I’d better get The Hamburgular’s first. So I jumped in line directly behind Becky, whom after telling her my story of Bourdais stiffing me last year told me to go ahead of her. So I was the second person in his line...

Stepping forward to Sea Bass, GAWD DAMN!!! He SIGNED my poster, NO Questions asked!!! He tried handing me a card, (Again) but I just unrolled the poster and wallah… He signed it, before sliding it over to Alex Tagliani. Who still has the thickest French accent, thus I couldn’t understand what he was saying... As I still don’t know what TAG was pointing too, but he liked something at the top of the poster… As I was bemused that TAG was actually impressed by somebody’s signature? I tried asking him what he said, but NO Reply. So I slid my poster to the next victim, followed by some “Numbnuts” from Atlantics…

In typical Tomaso fashion, while tryin’ to talk smart, I walked over two lines when I only needed to go one. So after standing there for 5-10 minutes before discovering my gaffe... And I think there were some “KuhNucks” in line behind me as they were talking about their Edsel. (Hmm, Betcha they’re in line for Tracy?) So I asked them which line was I in?

So I ended up getting behind another kOOL person, who’s I originally guessed must be military with his short haircut. He told me he’d been on tour for two years; “What do you mean?” He said he’d been to every race for the past two years, since he was part of the TV broadcast team. (2nd in charge, I believe) He was an engineer who worked in the trailer, so I enjoyed chatting with him about TV issues. He told me they’d been there since Tuesday setting up everything, taping for production, etc. And everything had been going extremely smooth, in fact so smoothly he’d been given the chance to go walk around, which hardly ever happens. So he’d decided to go to the autograph session.

He told me a funny story about that year’s Houston race where they’d hung a bunch of coaxial cable… They’d hung it high enough for the golf karts to clear; but NOT the Fire Truck. As he said the fire truck’s cab made it under, but not whatever was on the back half of the truck… So that was a $2,000 mistake!

And he had some really nice photographs to be signed, which I couldn’t make out who they were, but he was really nice. So I got Doornbos, “Christian Comedy” (Tristen Gomendy) and Neal Jani plus two other drivers autographs - as my garbled chicken scratching sez Cclare? As in Dan “Speedy-dry” Clarke with the fifth Amigo still unknown; basically the Red Bull group, eh? As I’d gotten nine drivers signatures in addition to the 16 from the previous year! And I was impressed by the number of kids getting autographs… So may be there’s hope for Champ Car afterall? Although Becky rambled on and on about the 100th year Portland Rose Festival parade being on raceday and they’d probably use that as the excuse for diminished crowd count and cancel the race…

Happy to have gotten my signatures, I headed back to the hotel as it was actually quite warm out, although it would be the last of actual heat as I returned to my room at 5PM, chillin’ out for a while before dinner at Elmer’s and Mike Malloy on the radio…

To continue reading, see; Ode to Portland (Part IV)

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