It has been years since I volunteered a race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. But an opportunity came along to participate in a new role and I basically jumped on it. I realize that this may never happen again but I was so thrilled to be a part of the scrutineering team both my fingers and toes are crossed I get a chance to work pit lane again in this capacity.
As these things go, the stars aligned just right that the Brazilian round of WEC got cancelled and the event was rerouted to Texas instead. While I’ve done Lone Star Le Mans at COTA a few times in the past they haven’t run here in a while. Luckily the track scrambled to put the race on and because this happened on fairly short notice the group of regular scrutineers were probably less than available. Lucky me!
I burned some Delta frequent flyer miles to get to Texas, including a routing via Houston to try out the new Bombardier C-series plane that was rebranded as an Airbus A220. Since I’m not planning to travel internationally this year I decided to also burn my anniversary hotel night at the swanky Intercontinental traveling on my way back. But for the event itself I decided to rent a cargo van at Hertz HLE downtown and rough it at the track’s campground. That plan went out the window when I saw the weather forecast a few days before leaving for Texas and decided to evacuate to a friend’s house some 20 miles north of COTA instead. The couch in a warm house was great, but the van’s 10mpg fuel economy kind of killed the deal. Commuting to the track daily however meant I could stop at my usual Taqueria and pick up some breakfast Tacos every morning, which was delicious!
I was hoping to learn as much as I could for this new Scrutineering role so I could apply with confidence in the future. The people assigned to specific tasks have done this role for a long time, and there was a whole queue of others that wanted to learn as much as I did so the inspection garages were pretty full of all of us spectating. For the event itself I got assigned a Pit Observer role to monitor the pit stops of my assigned Garage, the #90 Aston Martin GT3 car in the PRO-AM class which ended up winning the race in it’s class. How cool is that?
I’ve been a pit observer of sorts before at the Formula E races I participated in, but being inside the team’s garage was rather special. I really enjoyed the tasks I was assigned and stayed on my toes to make sure no infringements went unnoticed. Being on my feet though for the duration of the endurance race was tough so I found myself needing to sit down between my team’s pit stops which was unusual for me. Normally when we are flagging sitting is not allowed but here the chief told us to bring chairs to our positions so that was sanctioned… weird feeling nonetheless. It did help however.
After the race I had a new task assigned: pairing up with an ACO official to measure one of the winning team’s fuel rig in the LMP2 class… that was very interesting indeed. If nothing else I am now hooked on the idea to learn more about this position so I can volunteer in this capacity in the future.
Some pix walking down pit lane during one of our many downtime periods. This was possible because there were basically no support series for the weekend.
While I have seen pretty much all of the above cars in action before (except for the brand spanking new Corvette C8.R which only debuted in January for Daytona 24 hours with IMSA) everything seemed brighter and more exciting. I think this role made me look at life through rose colored lenses. I loved this opportunity to work in pit lane.
My friend Jamie worked in Start/Finish so I got to visit him during one of the pit walks to take a shot with my Ukrainian flag as is tradition. Having tried the starter role in the past I think I enjoyed scrutineering more.
WEC was a pleasure to work with. I was a little bummed out that my WEC friend from Le Mans, France – Alain was actually working in Southeast Asia and could not make it to COTA. In fact I first met Alain at the Asian Le Mans Series round at Sepang in Malaysia. As it turns out this year Alain had back-to-back races at Sepang in Malaysia followed by Buriram in Thailand which is fantastic. I wish I could go back there one day and participate in the warmer climates. For the time being Sebring will be next for me in March.
Though it sucks that the Brazil round was cancelled, I’m glad I got this opportunity to go back to COTA and work a new role. I’m a huge fan of WEC and just as big fan of Texas and all it has to offer… food being perhaps the biggest factor! Until next time.