Sunday, March 10, 2013

TexxArse Twister - Austin does F1 in style: Part II

Otay, hopefully now to the meat of thee sandwich, albeit we didn’t find any tenderloin sandwiches at COTA; Hya! (As these are a staple at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, albeit I haven’t had ‘Juan since ‘bout 2006, I think...)

Nose of 2010 Renault F1 Showcar - taken at 2012 Austin Fan Fest. (NA images)
Fri, 11/16
Awakening too ‘Bloody early, at 5AM,  we began the day’s somewhat long trek to the racetrack some where’s on the outskirts of Austin, proper. Leaving around 5:40AM we walked the short distance to the local bus stop and caught our first bus to downtown Austin, which I think arrived at 6:16AM?

Then we walked the multiple blocks over to the downtown shuttle Bus pickup lot, arriving still in the dark with extra layers of clothing on for the 40 degrees-f morning weather; where we were greeted by a small gathering of fans as we walked like bedazzled sheep down the serpentine crowd control barriers, as I hooked a few of the invisible stanchions - and promptly made some jokes about cutting tyres whilst kerb hopping - as my “Seeing Eye” guide was supposed to keep me off the barriers.

We let a few people pass us by before meeting up and walking the rest of the way to the awaiting busses with a man who’d come all the way from Lakeland, Florida and he regaled us with talks about how this was a piece ‘O cake compared to attending the Daytona 500...

Thus my scrawling, scribbled notes say 6:16-8:13AM from shuttle bus to actually being seated in our grandstand seats, thus approx two hours to get to the track. (1-way) Yet the FREE shuttle bus was the only way to go to the racetrack, as they worked GURR-REAT!!! And even better yet, we seemingly avoided any traffic jams by taking what I fondly coined thee “Rick Perry Freeway.” (A somewhat controversial toll-road project, that I believe runs from Austin to San Antonio?)

Its kind of funny how far away from the circuit’s entrance the busses drop you off, as I guesstimated it was approximately a one-mile walk to the track gates, which was all on loose gravel, which seemed it could have been better manicured, as naturally I found A-L-L of the loose boulders to step upon, then we crossed over a smallish pedestrian bridge, which would become a logjam on race day... But all of the COTA staff were super friendly, easy going and very eager to assist anybody; asking us if we had any questions?

Having left my bazooka at home, (HUMOUR!) we made it thru the redundant bag check and ticket scanning line in approx. five-plus minutes, and then when finally arriving at our grandstand, were personally escorted to our seats in the relatively empty Turn-15 grandstand.

And as I’ve mentioned before, if you’re looking for Blow-by-Blow racing coverage here, you’ll be sorely disappointed, since due to what I now call my “Jellybean Vision,” ™ which is exactly what any racing car looks like at speed to Mwah; if I’m lucky they’re jellybean shaped  blobs of differing colour hues speeding past, while other times their just colourless blobs... And thus, as Friday’s Free Practise-1 session loomed, with the day’s cloudiness, our turn was completely bathed in shade.

Then as the public address system crackled to life - hey, I know that dude’s voice, albeit it took me several moments to spit out the name Greg Kramer of SPEED fame... Suddenly the barking noise of blipping throttles could be heard in the distance as ladies & gentlemen, it’s Showtime!

And then as Hickory Dickory Dock the clock struck 9AM central time sharp and they were off! As I think I was told that thee ‘Iceman, nee Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus was first on track? As I mentioned before, unfortunately our turn in the Hockenheim stadium-like section was completely bathed in shade which meant I couldn’t see any of the twenty-four F1 ‘Landsharks quickly getting up to speed, and basically spent the entire 90-minute session staring at the darkness while simply awash in the shrieking cacophony of piercing ear splitting uncorked 2.4-liter V-8’s straining to buzz their respective 18,000RPM rev-limiters! As I’d listen to them downshift three gears into our complex before blasting back through four up-shifts for the next corner before disappearing out of audible range...

As soon as the session ended we made a beeline to attempt the unthinkable - and try getting the Sauber F1 duo of Sergio Perez & ‘K-Squared’s (Kamui Kobayashi) “John Hancock” at the day’s autograph session, which Clyde had asked me if I wanted to do that? Not sure of where it was at, we meandered around the Fan Plaza looking for the Sauber F1 booth, which naturally they didn’t know where it was, and passed us off to the nearby information kiosk.

Walked past a dude sporting a brand new replica black Lotus F1 team shirt and Clyde stopped and asked who he was rootin’ for? Taken aback he momentarily drew a blank as I said you’d better be rooting for Kimi! And then we told him where the autograph line was.

In the end, this would turn out to be a huge mistake, as the line was horrendously LONG!

Standing there and hardly moving, I had a very enjoyable “Chin-wag,” my favourite new expression thanxs to Derrick Daly... With a man from Mexico City; who seemed to enjoy my basic knowledge of the Mexico Grand Prix, Sergio Perez and Carlos Slim Jr. As he agreed that the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez (named after the Rodriguez brothers) was indeed in sad state and needing of total re-pavement before being capable of hosting another Grand Prix. Yet I’ve since heard somewhere that a 5yr deal was worked out in principal over the weekend at Austin, which Slim Jr. was attending. Possibly beginning in 2014 since the track cannot be refurbished in time for next year’s season.

We stood in the painfully slowly moving line some 45mins ahead of time while first the Ferrari 458 Italia challenge cars blasted by, followed next by the historical F1 cars, which included my Numero Uno favourite the Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler, the solitary dark blue Elf version of 1976; which I believe Clyde told me had pulled off on the side of the track.

And did I mention how horrendous the line was? As we seemed surrounded by people talking el Spanol; DAMN! This Sergio dude is Freakin’ popular! Although I got a ‘Wee bit tired of everybody pushing on me with countless people cutting thru the line, as after standing in it for one hour and twenty minutes, we’d only moved forward enough to see Sergio walk away! And at 12:10PM, which was the cutoff for the 20-minutes Marussia F1 drivers signing, as seriously? All of the autograph sessions were a ridiculously short 20mins, our friend told us we were now in line for the 3:30PM signing, and they were giving up. Thus, having said our farewells, we too decided to throw in the towel and go find some lunch instead, as I’d much rather attempt watching the Formula 1 cars instead of standing in some line for a further three-plus hours; SHEISA!

Interestingly, we learned that 80% of the crowd’s attendees were International visitors, with Mexico making up the largest portion of these; can you say Sergio? Ariva-Ariva-Ariva!

Close-up side view of 2010 Renault F1 Showcar taken at 2012 Austin Fan Fest. (NA images)
Of course by now the lines for the concession stands were massively long! As we gave up on the first two options, before finally settling for a lengthy line for some traditional track food - this case hamburgers, hotdogs, etc to which several choices were already 86’ed! (Sold Out)  As the typical highway robbery price gouging occurred, shilling out $25-large for some plain hamburgers and soggy French-fries. What? NO FreeDumb Fries? Yuck-yuck-yuck...

Returning to our seats “Justin-time” as the infield section is now bathed in sunlight, I’m immediately thinking of how we’re sitting in Adrian Newey’s favourite “Twiddley bits” of what reminds me of the Hockenheim stadium section, as the cars parade  by us through the serpentine section of ‘Ash-fault... As eureka! I can now actually occasionally catch glinting flicks ‘O colours of certain F1 machinery racing down the Turn-2 hill off in the distance. Then the brightly coloured cars, most notably the Silver Arrows and bright greens of the Force India and Caterham’s pop out at Mwah, while the Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s don’t even remotely resemble their known color hues to me...

Yet I revel in the joy of being capable of seeing the rainbow of jellybeans hurtlin’ towards our corner downshifting twice before rocketing away into the bright sunshine. As I’d later be asked if I could really hear the differences in engine pitches? Y’all know how blindfolk have “Super Powers,” right?

Yet, don’t know if it was simply something being tested or not, but one of the Force India’s sounded extremely different downshifting, audibly different then the others, while the Hispania’s ‘Cossie lumps (Cosworth) were also audibly discernable, albeit they sounded like they were simply going slower...

Then we trundled our way back to the shuttle bus stop after a few moments of the woefully slower Ferrari 458 Italia challenge cars and heard Greg Kramer thanking ‘All for attending; noting that 63,000-plus had shown up for Day-1.

Then a few hours later were back at our humble abode, having dinner and recharging our batteries for the first of our three evening’s foray to the downtown Fan Fest, where we walked around the numerous displays, including two F1 Show car’s, of which I scribbled 2010 Renault? Which was a pretty good guess since it was indeed the 2010 Reggie “Flamethrower” (front facing exhaust) to which the formerly ‘Quick Nick Heiddfeld utilized to flame broil his car... While the other chassis, most likely another Renault, was painted or wrapped in solid blue Pepsi colour with Doritos advertising upon it.

Also, we went into some crazy booth where Nelie kept making me scrunch down further ‘N further; what thee HELL? In order to get all three of us into the old style photo-booth photo, all of which was prior to what we’d come for.

As Clyde had proclaimed we’ve gotta see Sara Hickman! Who was taking one of the multiple stages at 9PM, which we dutifully were seated for prior to her show beginning. As reputedly Sara’s a well known Austin musician with quite the following, although I’d never heard of her before.

The show opened with Sara singing about how “Love’s not a size six dress,” which afterwards she dedicated to Phoebe, “her platonic lesbian girlfriend.”

Sara pointed out how her twelve year old daughter had braided her hair for tonight’s show and she thought it SUCKED that kids weren’t welcome to the show... As I found my favourite song of her’s to be about Boxes, and trapping ourselves inside of them, which sadly I cannot seem to locate upon YouTube...

 Sat, 11/17
After a somewhat late evening and definitely long day, the 5AM wake-up bell came way too early, and as we were dragging our butts, Nelie ended up driving us to the bus stop further down the line in order to catch the 5:52AM bus, in order to copy the previous days trek to downtown Austin’s awaiting shuttle busses. Yet, we arrived so early that it was still dark out - that the shuttle busses weren’t running yet, as ironically, and improbably, we met up with the same Gentleman from Florida once again in the cattle corral; YIKES, great minds think alike, eh?

And as we  stood in the slow lane, we met up with a couple from Texas, who were most curious about just how much could I see, having noticed my white cane. Thus I explained to them my Jellybean vision. As Clyde & I would be asked later in line if we needed assistance? As the volunteer told us we could use the special “Handicap” line  instead of waiting with everyone else, and thus we were whisked to the front of the bus line; SWEET!

The man proclaimed he was the track’s electrical engineer; who in his 32yr professional career had never seen a project scheduled that aggressive. Mentioned how after it looked like the project was “Tits Up!” The contractor had pulled all of his heavy equipment off the project, thinking it’d be at least six weeks before re-starting. Thus, they had to bring everything back after just three weeks instead, as the management shuffle got things re-fired.

He also noted how he’d never seen that many snakes in his life! Went out to survey an electrical junction/sub-station and was greeted by a seven foot long rattler that was as thick as his arms... Never seen that many dens of snakes before, as the bulldozers ran into multiple snakes, as they were after all building upon swamplands; YIKES!

I asked him if the employees had been invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony that Mario Andretti drove the Lotus on track for. NO! HELL, they didn’t even give us tickets for the race, we’re going today, in order to let our daughter who’s in the Texas State University marching band go tomorrow...

And I’d read previously to SPEED’s half hour special on the construction of COTA, that the racetrack was being built upon a flood plain and some natural gas lines had to be relocated; while the show noted how they’d had to go out of state to procure the proper soil needed for constructing the ‘Ash-falts bed, which although I never saw I-T, makes a very large 132-foot elevation change!

Another enjoyable bus ride down thee Rick Perry highway and the subsequent  walk into the track, sans yesterday’s shuffle, once again saw us in our seats prior to Free Practise-3, albeit this time I was super surprised to hear the Ferrari 458 Italia challenge cars on track prior to 8AM, as I’m used to Seattle Pacific Raceway’s mandatory NO engines fired until 9AM rule - as surely la Scuderia’s  must have been running at 7:30AM; WTF? As I’m guessing we somehow got to our seats even earlier?

Yet, today our corner was more visible light-wise, as even though I was wearing the world famous floppy ‘Kuhnadiun hat... The sun was  so DAMN low on the horizon that it simply was coming across us almost horizontally, as Clyde would later mention how you could tell which side everybody had been sitting on due to one side of our faces being sunburned.

Cannot really remember that much from the shortened one-hour final practice session, albeit the usual suspects seemed ‘Bloody F-A-S-T; most notably the Red Bulls seemed quickest, followed by the Ferrari’s and the gleaming McLaren’s, this weekend sporting Verizon sponsorship instead of their traditional Vodafone livery.

Needing to make a ‘Loo Pit stop, we ended up walking around the confines a bit before deciding to finally view the racing action from a different vantage point and hence, walked around to what I called the “backside” of where we’d been sitting previously. As we decided to watch Qualifying from the General Admission grass viewing hillside leading towards the ninety degree final corner leading onto the straightaway.

Arrows A4 and Arrows A3. (Source:
Like I mentioned before, the Historic Grand Prix (HRG) flotilla included the likes of the Tyrrell P34, which I’d naturally ARSE-sumed that HRG was made up of the normally aspirated three-liter Cosworth era, which indeed I’d later discover is exactly what the fifty-some strong owners of 1966-83 F1 cars is comprised of.

And while Clyde pointed out the likes of what many consider the most beautiful vintage F1 car - the John Player Special liveried Lotus Type-78 of Mario Andretti’s to Mwah; as I heard somewhere that it hadn’t been running right, or to Mario’s liking on Friday.

Clyde also pointed out the Team ‘Willy Williams FW07 of 1980 World Champion Alan Jones (my guess) and a Marlboro “BAD HABITZ” car, which naturally must be a McLaren M23 chassis, right? As several cars routinely passed by our vantage point; but what I didn’t know until poondin’ out this riveting story was that Mexico’s David Martinez of Champ Car fame, driving for the ‘legendous Gerald Forsythe was quickest on Friday aboard an ex-Riccardo Patrese Arrows A3, whilst some dude nicknamed the Flying Dutchman, aka Arie Luyendyk was also taking part aboard another McLaren.

Hmm? Why didn’t the PA ‘Boyz tell us any of this? As I was quite contented to have Greg Kramer and Jonathan Green doing the majority of the announcing, with F1’s Bob Constonduros leading the booth during the Formula 1 portions of track activity.

Thus we watched a great ‘Hystericals (Historic) F1 race Saturday as the primer to the BIG BOYZ show, F1 qualifying, albeit there was an overly long, drawn out hour plus wait between the HRC race and the Q1 ‘Quallie session, in which I finally took off my sweatshirt as the mercury continued rising...

And once again, how can I try describing the F1 Landsharks? Although at least now I could see them a bit more, albeit the sun was too bright, and they were hurtlin’ down a straightaway, as Clyde mused it don’t even look like they lift for the corner! Guestimating they were rocketing into the final turn at 100mph or more? As I enjoyed having Clyde call out the various different cars of desire; there goes a Ferrari with green helmet - which I believe is Massa, since I thought I’d heard later that Alonso sports a blue crash bucket?

There goes a Red Bull, and another Red Bull; there goes a silver car with a red helmet - which I know for certain, was Michael Schumacher; there goes Kimi, and on-and-on it went, as the only Quallie session which seemed somewhat long? NOT! (Just used to SPEED carving the SHIT outta the TV broadcasts, like commercials every 6mins Yuhs know...) Was the twenty minutes Q1 session when all 24-cars were on track... Note to Uncle Bernaughty, there’s NO such thingy as too many cars, as in WHHHHAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! I only ever wanted ten teams on the grid; BOO HOO HOO BERNIE! GO STICK A CORK IN I-T!

As perhaps Emperor Bernardo has never ever had to sit thru a pathetic Champ Car race at Portland Int’l Raceway with only 17-cars taking the green flag, before having some drop out. Or how ‘bout a lowly twelve Indy Lights chassis answering the bell...

2010 Renault F1 Showcar, side view - taken at 2012 Austin Fan Fest. (NA images)
And ok, so it’s the age old problema of a Formula 1 car going too slow and hence the 107% rule for the despondent Hispania’s; BUTT! Like I told Clyde is there really such a thing as a SLOW F1 car? And apparently Bernie’s simply worried about keeping a bunch ‘O extra coinage in his pockets instead...

And I don’t really remember anything about Q2, as perhaps one day soon, as I’ve made it my Christmas Day’s mission to watch the ‘Ol Memerox I’ve recorded of the qualifying and race... I’ll actually get to relive the whole ‘Bloody thing and see what I missed? Although I think the usual suspects made it into the final ‘Q3-qualie session, i.e.; Master Zebb, Webber, Hamilton, ‘JENSE, Raikkonen, etc.

As all I know is that I went home happy, with Sebastian Vettel scoring another Pole position, with “Louise ‘JAGUAR: Hamilton alongside him and overly content with that pesky Alonso being mired down in P9!

Yet I could only smile to myself listening to the European sounding voice behind me musing over how he was already sick of Vettel, claiming it felt way too much like the Schumacher era, and he’s so ‘Bloody young!

When seeing the large-ish crowd ahead of us, Clyde tried taking us on a shortcut, as the volunteers said; we just watched Y’all walk around in a circle. Thus looking for a different shortcut Clyde walked us thru the VIP parking lot where we bumbled into  a cluster of people gawking at a yellow ‘N black low slung car, which this funky lookin’ bumble bee turned out  to be a Bugatti Veyron - after Clyde told me he could see the four turbochargers sticking out of the bodywork. Yet the parking lot led us nowhere so it was back to where we’d begun to join the melee walking to the awaiting shuttle busses...

That evening’s Fan Fest concert was to see Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears, which apparently had gone Acid Rock (Heavy Metal) upon us, albeit I’d never seen or heard of this group before, but Clyde was pretty disgusted with it and fortunately we left early to the sanctuary of an awaiting bed...

2010 Renault F1 Showcar pics taken by Nelie.
Sergio Perez - Source: