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ChumpCar World Series: Watkins Glen International - Part 1

by Frank Ewald

Driving down the Interstate is not always the most inspiring drive. My GPS must have recognized that I was getting bored because it suddenly announced that I should take a smaller highway. As I had the settings adjusted to the fastest route, I did not question but instantly - well, as instantly as a Ford E450 24' RV can respond - followed the path it directed me to take. Within fifteen minutes I was wondering what it was thinking as the route I was now on certainly was not fast, it was not scenic, and it was going to tie back into the same interstate that I had just left. Sigh! I was on my way to the ChumpCar World Series at Watkins Glen International so why was my GPS messing with me like this!

After what seemed like forever, (no wonder kids get bored on road trips) I finally got the indication that Watkins Glen was coming up. Off the interstate again and down some paved but narrow roads. Windy roads. Hilly roads. The kind of road that inspire a driver - even if the vehicle is a bloated RV! The drive in to Watkins Glen International Raceway is fantastic and I could feel my enthusiasm mounting. Memorial Day weekend and over 90 cars are ready to start this ChumpCar weekend - three days of endurance racing. Twenty hours of racing spread over three days on a race track nestled in the hills of cottage country. Now, my GPS took me on a route that normally an RV or truck towing a race car would not follow, but it did help to inspire me.

 

This may not look as narrow and windy as I have indicated, but did you really want me to take a picture while driving on that road? And would you stop to take a picture when the race track you are heading to is just minutes away? This is still a great road and you'll just have to believe me about the rest.

In an earlier article I commented about the harsh winter that the Northern States and Canada have experienced. This meant that I have only been out to an HPDE and a lapping day so far this spring. This would be my first race of 2014 so I was absolutely starting to feel the adrenaline kicking in.  I also have to be honest to my new readers, I am not an experienced road racer. On my ChumpCar team I am the newest member and also the least experienced. So perhaps it is adrenaline mixed with a healthy amount of fear that is kicking in – because anyone who does not respect the track and recognize the danger blah blah blah.  Danger, forget danger. My wife worries more than enough for the both of us about the danger of the sport I love. I just want to get on the track!

 

Getting up close and personal with the track is important. Watch video in preparation for the new track. Participate in video game races. Do a track walk. Attend a lapping day so that you familiarize yourself real time. Be ready for the real thing. Photo by Mike Agiannidis.

Cresting a hill there were the spectator stands and beyond that there was a second set of seating. There are actually grandstands everywhere. That was a shock to me, as I realized I was entering an area where motorsport is a huge spectator event.  Pulling through the main entry way I had to stop and get a picture. Driving in and through the tunnel. Then onto the infield and the search for my team 'No Budget Racing 1 and No Budget Racing Too' consisting of a Honda Civic and a Mazda Miata. After driving through the paddock, walking through the garage, and then driving around a bit more I found them. Dusk was already setting so there was no time for a track walk that evening. Got the RV set up for the weekend and then settled down for a bit of writing and to unwind from a hectic week at work. It was now time to focus on the task at hand. A weekend of racing.

 

How many times have you stopped at the race track main gates to take a picture? Especially upon arriving at a track for the first time! Because I was arriving late Thursday evening I did not have to worry about holding up traffic behind me – I just had to worry that the gates were still open. If not, I would just sleep in the RV right here.

93 cars registered. Three or four drivers per car. Support team helpers. If you do the math it will be a phenomenal number. It was the largest driver's meeting that I have been too. At 11:30 Friday morning you could hear the engines starting across pit row and 93 cars got ready to head out to the track for the first race from 12 noon to 6 p.m., Saturday’s race would be from 9 to 5 and then Sunday’s finale would be 9 to 3.  Watkins Glen International Raceway is a track that should be on your bucket list - and if it is not then please add it.

 

The driver's meeting inside the WGI garage was crowded. ChumpCar World Series, sponsored by Optima Batteries, is split into four regions. The Northern Region, directed by Sal Sanfilippo, covers Michigan, New York, Connecticut, all New England States (US), Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador and the Arctic Circle. This past winter this entire region felt like part of the Arctic Circle.
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Comments
ETM
ETMlink
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 2:00 PM
Racers and rule makers have to be made aware about how insanely dangerous the combination of a roof with no rear window is. At speed the air flow comes from under the car, in the rear window then out the door windows just behind the windshield. In the event of an engine oil or fuel fire the driver gets torched. Its especially pronounced on the hatchback/wagons.
nissannx
nissannxlink
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 7:53 PM
Hi ETM, I appreciate the work and effort that the rule makers are doing for this series. There's also no question that there is always room for improvement. I will follow up with you on this.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 8:50 PM
Tange Everson got burned badly when this very thing happened in his Civic.
nissannx
nissannxlink
Thursday, June 19, 2014 2:03 AM
I've shared your comments/concerns with our team and with ChumpCar. There is no question that all precautions to avoid an intense cabin fire should be implemented. ETM, can you send me your email address?
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