Visiting the Petersen Automotive Museum with LA F1 Fans

After several years of gathering to watch Formula 1 on television in bars around Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Formula 1 Fans meetup group gathered for a non-race event to tour the Petersen Automotive Museum last Sunday.

Inspired by a Twitter discussion of Bugattis, group co-leader Mara picked a date in February for us to gather and tour the museum. I had not visited the museum since it re-opened in December, 2015, after a $125 million restoration, so I was excited to see the museum with fellow car racing fans. Not sure how many  people would attend an event that did not involve watching Formula 1, Mara was pleasantly surprised when over twenty people pre-paid so that our group received a discounted ticket rate.

Meeting in the museum lobby, Mara checked everyone in and purchased additional tickets while we mingled and discussed the latest developments in Formula 1 (the hot topic was Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement, Valtteri Bottas’ signing with Mercedes AMG Petronas to replace him, and Felipe Massa’s un-retiring to drive this year with Williams).

Everyone gathered to pose for a photo in the lobby before we entered the museum.

LA F1 Fans group photo before our Petersen Automotive Museum tour

LA F1 Fans in our first non-race viewing event at the Petersen Automotive Museum

After trying to squeeze all of us in the elevator, and bouncing a few times, our group split and made our way to the third floor to begin exploring the museum. The top floor featured early cars, such as this replica of the first practical car, an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, as well as General Motor’s 1996 EV1, the world’s first mass-produced electric powered vehicle.

The first practical car an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen replica at the Petersen Automotive Museum seen with LA F1 Fans

The first practical car – an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen (replica). One prototype was built and 25 replicas.

1996 General Motors EV1 at Petersen Automotive Museum

General Motors’ 1996 EV1, the first modern, mass-produced electric vehicle.

This being Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood and the film industry, there are several cars featured in movies on display.

1963 Volkswagen Beetle, Herbie, driven in the film Herbie Fully Loaded on display at Petersen Automotive Museum

1963 Volkswagen Beetle, “Herbie” driving in the 2005 film, “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

We wandered the exhibits on our own pace chatting with fellow F1 fans.

LA Formula 1 Fans at the Petersen Automotive Museum talk by a 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37

LA F1 Fans discuss car design in front of this 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37

This 1953 Nash-Healy was particularly beautiful.

1953 Nash-Healey designed by Pinin Farina on display at Petersen Automotive Museum

1953 Nash-Healey designed by Pinin Farina

For those more interested in race cars, this 1997 Porsche 911 Gt1 was a special treat to see.

The McLaren P1 on display showcases the production vehicles developed by the other side of the McLaren F1 team parent company.

2015 McLaren P1 at the Petersen Automotive Museum

2015 McLaren P1

An exhibit on American racing legend Dan Gurney opened January 28th. “The Eagles Have Landed: Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers,” features 11 AAR cars, memorabilia and short films on the walls of the display about Dan Gurney’s racing career.

Dan Gurney exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum featured the 1967 AAR Eagle Gurney-Weslake V-12 #36 F1 Grand Prix Car

Dan Gurney exhibit featured several of his race cars including the 1967 AAR Eagle Gurney-Weslake V-12 #36 F1 Grand Prix Car

Dan Gurney Moet & Chandon magnum sprayed from 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans podium at Petersen Automotive Musuem

Dan Gurney memorabilia on display includes the original magnum of Moet & Chandon champagne he sprayed from the podium when he and A.J. Foyt won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The ground floor of the museum featured a large exhibit on the Bugatti. Most of the cars are from the Mullin Auto Museum (perhaps one day we can organize a group visit there).

1931 Bugatti Type 50 S on display at Petersen Automotive Museum

1931 Bugatti Type 50 S

The 1925 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum

The 1925 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix

Mara suggested that we meet at Tom Bergin’s (the second oldest bar in Los Angeles) down the street from the museum once we were finished touring the museum. I was part of the last of our group that was in the museum, and there was a small remaining group in Tom Bergin’s by the time I arrived that enjoyed beer, Irish coffee and lunch together.

LA F1 Fans at Tom Bergin's after touring the Petersen Automotive Museum

The last of the LA F1 Fans at Tom Bergin’s after touring the Petersen

LA F1 fans have lunch and Irish coffee at Tom Bergin's after a Petersen Museum visit

Yvette, Mara, Mike and Eric enjoying lunch and Tom Bergin’s famous Irish Coffee

LA F1 fans enjoy lunch at Tom Bergin's Irish pub after the Petersen Automotive Museum visit

Anmol and Alen enjoying lunch at Tom Bergin’s

LA F1 fans enjoy Irish coffee at Tom Bergin's after a visit to the Petersen Automotive Musuem

John, Dave and Kiera enjoying Irish coffee at the bar at Tom Bergin’s

In all, the first LA F1 Fans non-race meetup activity was a success. Everyone seemed to enjoy the museum and the opportunity to visit with other Formula 1 fans.

Based on the success of this gathering, Mara already scheduled our next meetup on March 12th to visit the Malibu Cars and Coffee gathering.

The 2017 Formula 1 season opens on March 26th with the Australian Grand Prix. Join the Los Angeles Formula 1 fans meetup group to see where we will gather to watch the race.

“The Race at the Base” – Fun at the Coronado Speed Festival

Coronado Speed Festival the Race at the Base

On Sunday we drove down to San Diego and Coronado Island for the 19th Annual Coronado Speed Festival. Hosted by Naval Base Coronado on Naval Air Station North Island, the “Race at the Base” features a car corral, ten different car class races on an active runway, and the opportunity to tour the Naval base and ships and explore some of the aircraft on display.

We left Riverside around 7:30 AM (after a friend’s wedding the night before) and arrived shortly before 9:00 AM. Traffic was light so we were able to drive through Coronado Island onto the base and park with no waiting. After parking, we walked to security screening, much like at an airport, except that no large bags or backpacks were allowed. I was turned around with my small backpack as it was deemed too large. Luckily I brought my fanny pack along so I stuffed that with my wallet, cell phone, extra battery and ear plugs, and I hand carried a can of spray sunscreen. The marine layer was still overhead when we arrived, but we knew it would burn off and we would need sun protection.

The Coronado Speed Festival runs all day Saturday and Sunday and is part of Fleet Week San Diego. Tickets for each day were $25 for adults, but we had a coupon from Reader City for $15 each (Active duty military personnel are admitted free and children under 12 are free; a weekend pass is $35). While we missed some of the early races, each group of cars raced in the afternoon as well, and we were able to watch all the different groups race later in the day.

The Paddock

We walked around the paddock where each car was getting race prepped. There was a wide variety of cars to enjoy; I always enjoy the older cars, especially the pre-war racers.

Morgan automobile at Coronado Speed Festival in San Diego for Vintage car racing

A beautiful Morgan automobile.

A vintage Porsche at Coronado Speed Festival

A vintage Porsche

1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang at Coronado Speed Festival

The 1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang. When we peaked inside the back, there was gravel all over the car floor, picked up from the track.

1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang at Coronado Speed Festival

The back of the1991 IMSA GTO Roush Mustang exposed.

Paddock at Coronado Speed Festival

Three cars in the paddock.

Comedian, podcaster, documentary filmmaker and vintage car racer Adam Carolla, who was racing in Group 8 with his Bob Sharp Datsun 610, posed for a picture with us. He said that the first two races on Saturday seemed to go well, but there was something not right with the car, and they were not sure if they had it fixed. He advised that if we saw his car moving slowly on the track, it was the car and not the driver. Sadly when we watched his group race, we knew that his car problems continued, and he did not participate in the afternoon race for his group.

Adam Carolla at the Coronado Speed Festival

Dave and I chatted with Adam Carolla before his group raced.

Many of the cars had signs that described their provenance and race history.

1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-AM / IMSA GTO in the paddock at Coronado Speed Festival

1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-AM / IMSA GTO – this car would be in a heated battle for first place in the last race of the day.

1952 Allard K2 at Coronado Speed Festival paddock

The 1952 Allard K2

Watching the Races

We walked over to one of two spectator stands, and when we climbed to the top, we could peer over and see the cars lining up in advance of each race. It was fun to watch the cars drive in and be directed to their place in the grid.

Group 8 cars on the race grid at the Coronado Speed Festival for vintage car racing

Group 8 cars – mass produced cars and sedans built prior to 1973 – line up on the race grid.

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association group 8 cars on the grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Looking down on the Group 8 grid from the stands. In the distance on the left is the short course for the Jaguar test drives.

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association Group 10 cars on the grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Group 10 – NASCAR Cup and Nationwide Stock Cars – line up on the grid

Pre-war race cars at Coronado Speed Festival

The Pre-War race cars line up in the grid as the NASCAR group exits the track

pre-war vintage race cars at Coronado Speed Festival

The pre-war race cars lined up in the grid (the San Diego skyline is in the back on the right)

From this perch we could see almost all of the 1.7 mile race track. Facing north, sailboats sailed by on San Diego bay and flights departed from the airport as the marine layer hugged San Diego in the morning.

Sportcar Vintage Racing Association grid at Coronado Speed Festival

Group 9 – “Wings & Slicks” open-wheel race cars as raced from 1973 – 2008 – on the grid with San Diego Bay and San Diego to the north in the background.

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Heading from the grid

Coronado Speed Festival Sportscar Vintage Racing Association

Heading from the grid for Group 7

Other Activities at the Base

Unfortunately while we were watching groups 8 and 10 race, we missed the pit crew challenge. Active duty military personnel competed in a pit crew time trial with NASCAR cars and equipment.

We were treated to some of the Naval Seahawk helicopters flying over the racetrack while we were in the stands, and we also saw some F-18s take off (they were a bit too fast to take a picture).

Naval seahawk helicopters at Coronado Speed Festival

Naval Seakhawk helicopters flew over the track during the races

During the noon lunch break, I was fortunate to take a selfie with actor Gary Sinise. Gary and his Lt. Dan Band performed on Saturday at the fest. He was the Grand Marshall for the races. I thanked him for all that he does to support our military with the Gary Sinise Foundation.

Coronado Speed Festival actor Gary Sinise

Meeting Actor and Coronado Speed Festival Grand Marshall Gary Sinise (note my hand-carried can of sunscreen!)

I realized too late that while the racing paused for a lunch time breaks that hot laps were offered – spectators were being driven around as passengers in some of the cars. By the time I realized this and got in line, it was too late. Something I definitely would like to do next year!

After grabbing lunch, we stood in line to test drive Jaguars. Jaguar is a sponsor of the event and had professional drivers there to tell us about their vehicles. We had the option of either being driven around the short course on the field or driving the cars ourselves. The line to test drive the Jaguars was long, not surprising, and I wish we stood in line for the test drive when we first arrived – the line was shorter and the sun was still hiding behind the marine layer. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the drive and accelerating these beautiful vehicles on the track. I first drove the XE and then after getting a feel for the track switched to the F-type, with much more horse power and sportier styling. Both beautiful cars, and I liked their power!

The groups all raced again in the afternoon, and while we planned to leave early, we ended up staying to watch my favorite group, the pre-war cars. Since there was only one race after that, we decided to remain for that as well, Group 10b, and I’m glad we did. The 1998 Ford/Penske Taurus Stock Car and 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston Cup traded places the entire race, and as we could see all of the track from near the start/finish line, it was fun to watch them battle on track for position with one car being better in the turns while another caught up on the straights. All of the cars that raced by group are listed on the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association website, as are the results from each of the qualifying sessions (from Saturday) and races.

Pre-war cars race for the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Coronado Speed Festival

Pre-war cars race at Coronado Speed Festival

Pre-war cars race Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Coronado Speed Festival

The Pre-War race featured this National with two drivers.

The last race of the day proved to be quite exciting.

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These two cars traded positions the entire race. Eventually the white car barely edged out the black car at the finish line.

Coronado Speed Festival Sportscar Vintage Racing Association

This Ford/Penske Taurus Stock car and Oldsmobile Cutlass Winston fought for first place the entire race.

Coronado Speed Festival Race at the Base Vintage Car racing

In this photo, the Oldsmobile is in the lead.

Learning About Naval Helicopters

Once the racing concluded, we walked out past the helicopters that lined the entrance to the event. The pilots allowed us to peak inside and tell us about their aircraft. We saw MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters with different configurations depending on the mission of each. It was amazing to see these machines up close, and even more amazing that they are able to leave the ground and fly.

MH-60 Seahawk Naval Helicopters at Naval Base Coronado

MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island

Naval seahawk helicopters parked at Naval Base Coronado

MH-60 Seahawk Helicopters parked at Naval Air Station North Island

cockpit of naval helicopter MH-60 Seahawk on Naval Base Coronado during Fleet Week San Diego

The cockpit of one of the MH-60 Seahawks on display

Naval helicopter at Naval Base Coronado during Fleet Week San Diego

MH-60 Seahawk Naval Helicopter on display for the Coronado Speed Festival

While we didn’t beat the traffic leaving the base, the delays were not onerous as we sat in some traffic on Coronado Island heading to the Coronado Bay Bridge.

Overall, it was a fun day. While there are a good number of cars to see, there weren’t so many that it was exhausting. We were able to walk up and down each of the paddock lanes a few times each and see everything. Because we were only there on the one day though, we didn’t allow time for touring of the ships that were open or for touring the base.

The Race at the Base is a fun weekend event, something the entire family can enjoy. Where else can you see classic cars racing on a live naval runway with the beautiful waters of San Diego Bay surrounding you  and the skyline of San Diego to the east?

San Diego as seen from Coronado Speed Festival

View of downtown San Diego from Naval Air Station North Island and the Coronado Speed Festival

For more information on the other activities during Fleet Week San Diego, visit their website.

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Dinner with a Race Car Driver: Nelson Piquet, Jr.

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Me and Nelson Piquet, Jr. in Long Beach, California.

In advance of the Long Beach ePrix in April, I won a FoxSports twitter contest to have dinner with driver Nelson Piquet, Jr. I could not quite believe it when it happened, and remember telling Dave, “I think I’m having dinner with Nelson Piquet, Jr. on Thursday night!”

What do you do when you have dinner with a race car driver? Ask them questions, lots of questions. Nelson currently races in the Formula E series for NextEV TCR – electric car racing through the streets of many of the top cities in the world – and as a driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing. In the past he’s raced in GP2, Formula 1, Global Rallycross and the NASCAR trucks series. He’s also the son of three time Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet.

As you might imagine, I had no shortage of questions!

We met at Gladstone’s in Long Beach – right across the street from his hotel for the race weekend. Josh Skolfield was another contest winner, and Rebecca Banks and Emma Stoner from Nelson’s PR team joined the dinner as well. I thought there would be a huge group, but it was simply the five of us.

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Dinner with Nelson! L-R: Emma, Rebecca, Josh and me at Gladstone’s right after we ordered.

I started asking Nelson questions after we ordered, and I continued peppering him with questions as we ate our dinner. I wanted to be sure I did not forget to ask anything. Nelson was very gracious and open, and he was willing to answer all of my questions – even the ones about the infamous incident at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix in 2008.

Nelson Piquet - Long Beach

There’s a photographer that takes pictures of your table at Gladstone’s and then sells you this montage.

It was interesting to hear about the life of a race car driver – never staying in one place for too long as there’s always a promotional appearance, another race, or testing to attend. He said home is his suitcase. I asked Nelson which series he enjoyed racing the most, and was surprised that he enjoyed the NASCAR trucks series so much.

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Nelson poses with me and Josh after dinner. Credit: Rebecca Banks.

Some of the more interesting things that he shared with us include his regret that he didn’t continue racing in GP2 while he was a reserve driver for F1 in 2007. Since he was a reserve driver, he was sitting at the race tracks, not racing and it was a bit boring. He also regrets not remaining in Nascar Trucks for a third year as he instead jumped to the Nationwide series. He enjoyed Nascar and working with a radio spotter throughout the race. He said you need to have total trust with the spotter because they can see what is happening on the track, so when they tell you to make a move, you need to move.

I asked him about this favorite tracks, and he immediately mentioned Macau, Silverstone and Monaco, saying that the more challenging the track, the more fun it is to race. He hopes to continue racing for as long as he is able and will consider his next steps once his racing career is finished.

Nelson Piquet program

Nelson signed the Long Beach ePrix program for us.

Nelson was not particularly optimistic about his chances in the Formula E season this year, and after winning the series first title last year, it has been a disappointment. Still though, I am following the series, and enjoyed attending the race in Long Beach (the cars make high pitch sounds but are very quiet – it’s a bit odd to see the open wheel cars zoom by without much sound!).

Supporting Nelson at the Long Beach ePrix

Supporting Nelson at the Long Beach ePrix

I was excited to hear about his racing with the Rebellion team in the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His team mates are drivers Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost.

We attended Le Mans this year, and I managed to capture a quick selfie with Nelson during Scrutineering. He remembered meeting me in California and wondered what I was doing in France – watching Le Mans!

Nelson being interviewed with his Rebellion Racing team mates during Le Mans scrutineering.

Nelson being interviewed with his Rebellion Racing team mates during Le Mans scrutineering.

It was raining quite a bit during the interviews.

It was raining quite a bit during the interviews.

There was quite a large crowd for the two days of Scrutineering. After the cars were inspected, the team – drivers and crew – posed for an official team photo.

I stood on my tip toes to capture this photo. It was very crowded!

I stood on my tip toes to capture this photo. It was very crowded!

After posing for the photo, the crew pushed the car along the pathway, and the drivers stopped for photos and to sign autographs. That is when I was able to say hello to Nelson again and take a selfie!

Nelson signs autographs for the fans at Le Mans.

Nelson signs autographs for the fans at Le Mans.

Nelson selfie Le Mans

A selfie with Nelson during Le Mans scrutineering.

The Rebellion team was the top private team in the LMP1 class at the race, and Nelson and his team mates were on the podium.

Nelson Le Mans podium

The Le Mans 2016 podium. Nelson and his Rebellion Racing team mates Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost are pictured on the podium at the far right for being the top private LMP1 team in the race.

This weekend, he races for NextEV TCR in the last race of this year’s Formal E season, the London ePrix. You can help Nelson’s car receive an extra “boost” in the race by tweeting or tagging your Instagram photos with #NelsonPiquet, #Fanboost and #LondonePrix – once a day until race day (although since Nelson is not in a position to win the championship this year, he would probably would not mind if you gave your boost to another driver).

Thank you for dinner Nelson. It was a pleasure meeting you, and I hope to see you again soon at a racetrack!

You can follow Nelson on all his social medial channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Have you ever had dinner with a race car driver? Who would you want to meet? Let me know in the comments below.

Camping at a Car Race – Preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the most prestigious endurance car race in the world. Held in mid-June each year, to make the most of long summer days, the race draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to watch cars race around a track that in sections includes local streets in Le Mans, France, for a continuous 24 hours.

We attended the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2010 with a UK car club. The group stayed in a hotel north of Le Mans, and we used that as our home base for the days leading up to the race. We would car pool or taxi into town or the track to take part in that day’s pre-race activities, then return to our hotel for a multi-course gourmet French dinner. For the race itself, we watched the start and several hours of racing before returning to the hotel for dinner and a shortened night’s sleep. We awoke early on Sunday morning to make our way back to the track for the conclusion of the race.

It was a fun experience, but we also knew that many people say the only way to experience Le Mans is to camp at the track so you can catch all of the action, moving around to different viewing points and watching the cars race as day turns to night and then back to day again.

We decided to return to Le Mans this year when we heard that Ford was returning to Le Mans, marking the 50th Anniversary of when Ford raced at Le Mans and won. We not only decided to return to Le Mans, but we decided to return to Le Mans and camp.

Knowing that it often rains during the race weekend and that the temperatures are cool (50 degrees Fahrenheit at night and in the mid 60s during the day), we were hesitant to commit to camping at the track. Dave’s friend suggested we join the camping area with the Audi Club of North America and Audi Club International. Since Dave is an ACNA member, we decided to try the camping experience, and we sent in a reservation for a camp spot.

How do you camp at a race? Many people traveling from the UK, France and the rest of Europe bring supplies in their cars, or campers and RVs. We were traveling from the US, so we had to bring our gear in our checked luggage and that limited our options.

We already own a small tent from the one time we camped at Sears Point (now Sonoma Raceway) in Northern California. But we didn’t have sleeping bags, sleeping mattresses, rain gear or any of the many other supplies that were recommended. While I was researching what to bring and what to expect, I discovered the Beer Mountain site which bills itself as the, “Home of the Le Mans Survival Guide.” A forum specifically for those traveling to camp at Le Mans, it has ratings on the various camping areas around the track as well as forums where all manner of questions and discussion threads are ongoing about what to bring, how to travel there, where to sit at the start, etc. I registered in order to participate in the forums and found the members very welcoming and knowledgeable. I also searched for blogs or articles written by those that had traveled to Le Mans and camped, and I started a Pinterest board to keep track of the sites I discovered.

As we prepared to travel to France, we set up our tent, rolled out our new sleeping bags and “tested” them both outside and in the house. While I found a more compact sleeping bag, we decided to keep the Marmot bags we purchased on sale at REI that are rated for 45ºF. We opted for a basic sleeping mattress, and we are bringing painters plastic sheets to use as a tent footprint and also inside the tent in case there is a rain deluge.

 

LeMans Kiera tent sit up

The tent set up – it stands! We’re not sure how waterproof it is though.

LeMans Kiera tent sleep

The sleeping bag in the tent. The tent will fit our two bags and not much else.

I kept scouring the Beer Mountain site, visiting local sporting goods stores, searching on Amazon.com and talking to Dave’s friend Dave (who is also traveling to Le Mans and will camp with ACNA too) for the best supplies to purchase. Part of our dilemma is that we are not campers, so we had to weigh purchasing top quality gear that we might only use once versus the high cost of the gear versus keeping warm and dry and comfortable while camping for four nights.

LeMans Dave forehead

Dave testing the mummy-style sleeping bag by zipping it all the way to his head.

LeMans Kiera boys sleeping bag

While I was testing the sleeping bag, Koa and Lau Lau were very interested in what I was doing on the floor.

Our friend Dave sent me the list of the gear he purchased, and I was especially interested in a small chair he found for $39.99. I ordered two; they are very light weight and are packed in a small carry bag. This will be nice to have at our campsite and also if we wander around to other viewing areas on the track during the race.

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This chair, once folded, fits into the small bag pictured here. It is very light weight.

As I brought items home from the store, or as they arrived from shipping, we put them into my large suitcase, testing to see how everything would all fit together.

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Here you can see the two Thermarest sleeping pads, tent and two Marmot sleeping bags.

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This view shows one of the chair bags.

In addition to the camping gear, I also purchased a rain jacket (on sale at Sports Chalet which is going out of business), rain pants, and waterproof hiking shoes.

For our flight to Paris, we packed all the camping gear in my large suitcase and checked it as baggage. We each had a roller-bag to bring on the plane that contained our clothes and toiletries, and we each had a backpack, mainly for wallets, electronics and our camera.

We arrived yesterday (Sunday) in Paris, picked up our rental car and drove straight to Le Mans for scrutineering (the cars are inspected for technical requirements for the race). The weather was alternating between pouring rain and gray skies with brief periods of sunshine. It provided a good idea for what to expect as the weather report for the remainder of the week is similar – temperature highs in the 60ºs F to lows in the 50ºs F with rain showers on and off all day. We are staying in hotels this week until Thursday when the campsites open for the race, and then we will see if we made the right decisions in what to bring with us!

To follow along as we capture the race activities in Le Mans this week, you can see my social media posts with the hashtag #KRLeMans on Twitter and Instagram. The official hashtag for the race itself is #LeMans24.

If you have attended the 24 Hours of Le Mans before, or have tips on what to bring for camping trips, please let me know in the comments below.

Fun Times Through the Years at The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

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Every April, the streets of Long Beach, California, are turned into a race track for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, an IndyCar race, but there are other races throughout the weekend: the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race (this is the 40th and final year), IMSA, Pirelli World Challenge, Stadium Super Trucks and Super Drift races.

We are heading to the track today, and I found some old photos of previous weekends at the race. Fridays are less crowded, with open seating, and the ability to walk around some of the pits and take part in an autograph session with the drivers.

On Saturday there is World Challenge and Indy Car practice, the Pro/Celebrity race, Stadium Super Trucks race, IndyCar qualifying and the IMSA race. In addition to the IndyCar race on Sunday there is the Pirelli World Challenge race, Mothers Exotic Car Parade, and the Stadium Super Trucks race.

Throughout the weekend, the Long Beach Convention Center is open with pit areas for some of the support races, cars and automotive displays. There is a lot to see, and with bright sunny days in the forecast, it will be a beautiful weekend for racing!

Here are some of my photos from previous race weekends.

tgplb conv ctr 2014

K-PAX car in the Convention Center, 2014

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Nissan GTR in the Convention Center, 2014

 

Racing Ford GT and a Corvette, 2008 (If only that guy was sitting!)

Racing Ford GT and a Corvette, 2008 (If only that guy was sitting!)

Autograph session in 2012 with Corvette Racing's xxx, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen

Autograph session in 2012 with Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen

Flying Lizard Motorsports Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, 2012

Flying Lizard Motorsports Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, 2012

The Wayne Taylor Racing car in 2014

The Wayne Taylor Racing car in 2014

Lots of skid marks on the streets of Long Beach, 2008

Lots of skid marks on the streets of Long Beach, 2008

Walking around, you can see the cars being worked on before the races - here Flying Lizard Motorsports in 2008

Walking around, you can see the cars being worked on before the races – here Flying Lizard Motorsports in 2008

There are screens throughout the course - here during the Indy Race in 2012

There are screens throughout the course – here during the Indy Race in 2012

Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin and crew members by the car in 2008

Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and crew members by the car in 2008

Racing in 2011

Racing in 2011

Indy Car race in 2011

Indy Car race in 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Have you ever been to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach or another IndyCar race? Let me know in the comments below.

The 2016 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona – My Trip via Social Media

Rolex24 start

It was a quick weekend trip to Daytona Beach for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway. Here is a quick re-cap of the weekend based on my social media posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook via Storify.

Has anyone attended a long endurance race – either 24 or 12 hours? Let me know what you thought about the experience!

 

 

 

Visiting the LA Auto Show

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The LA Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center (South Hall entrance).

Last weekend, Dave and I visited the LA Auto Show on Saturday. Through Dave’s membership in the Audi Club, we were able to enter the show an hour before it opened to the general public. What a treat to see and take photos of the different car manufacturers displays without crowds of people!

The LA Auto Show is at the Los Angeles Convention Center and is open through Sunday, November 29th, and show hours are 9:00 am – 10:00 pm daily. There are cars to suit everyone’s interest, an aftermarket hall, and opportunities to test drive some vehicles too.

Here are some photos of the cool cars we saw.

We first explored the Audi booth, or rather, we made a beeline to see the new Audi R8 in the Audi booth.

I event sat inside for a little bit – there’s a surprising amount of head room (not an issue for me, but for those with taller builds, I imagine it would be quite comfortable).

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Here are the displays.

BMW:

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Mazda:

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Cadillac:

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Acura:

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The new Acura NSX was on display with a screen above showing the overhead view.

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When I walked by the Alfa Romeo area, most of the cars were still covered, but this 1968 33 Stradale was unwrapped and gorgeous.

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The 1965 TZ2 was also uncovered and looking fantastic.

Alfa Romeo 1965 TZ2

Alfa Romeo 1965 TZ2

The Maseratis were also still under wraps but slowly emerging. I love the look of the Maserati front grill, and their trident logo is iconic.

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We briefly ran through the Mercedes booth, stopping to take photos of this.

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And the SLS

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We left the South Hall and rushed over to West Hall, hoping to see the Ford booth before the show opened. We wanted to be able to ogle the new Ford GT before the crowds came. It did not disappoint in person!

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Both the race car and the street car were on rotating stages so you could see the car from every angle.

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It was really interesting to see the back and look under the car to see how the air flows beneath it. We can’t wait to see this race!

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Although I am not crazy about the yellow color on display, the lines of the street model of the Ford GT are beautiful.

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After staring at the two Ford GTs for a long time, we looked at some of the other Fords on display, like this Mustang GT 350r which Dave declared is, “my next car.”

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We went outside to test drive the Fords. Ford had an Explorer, Edge, CMax, Focus and Mustang to test, but in order to test the Mustang, you had to drive another car first. Dave tried the Explorer and I drove the Edge. Both were nice comfortable rides and handled well on the short drive around Los Angeles’ city streets.

We both drove the Mustang – it has eco boost which makes it not as front heavy as usual. There was also a paddle shift option on the car, which I tried for a small section but it didn’t have the same feel as the manual transmission I am used too, so the Ford representative switched it off.

After our test drives, we went back into the hall to see the Fiat booth – I love the Fiat 500s, and was also interested to see new Fiat Spiders on display.

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We took a quick glance at the Dodge Viper.

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We left the south hall and went to see the Porsche display, which was in its own contained area in Petree Hall. Not surprisingly, it was very crowded.

The 911.

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It was nice to see the race 919 Hybrid FIA World Endurance Champion car on display.

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While I was adding money to our parking meter Dave visited the Galpin Hall and saw the Aston Martin from Spectre…and didn’t take any pictures of it, or tell me about it. I love the beauty of Aston Martins and am bummed I didn’t see any.

In the After Market Hall, there were some modified Lamborghinis and Corvettes on display.

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Of course I spotted some original Abarths – modified by Madness Autoworks in Signal Hill (Long Beach). They are so tiny compared to the modern versions!

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This is only some of what is on display at the show. There are literally hundreds of cars to see, to sit in, and to test drive! It is fun to see the new cars the manufacturers are showing, and also to compare different makes and models of cars if you are in the market for a new one.

It is the last weekend of the LA Auto Show, so head downtown and check it out!

 

Meeting Formula 1 Driver Alexander Rossi Before the US Grand Prix in Austin

Yesterday I arrived in Austin from Los Angeles, excited to visit this fun city, spend some time with my sister and her husband, catch up with friends from high school, and….attend the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas this weekend!

We attended the first USGP (U.S. Grand Prix) at COTA (Circuit of the Americas) in 2012 and had a blast. Our schedules have not allowed us to return, until now.

When I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport yesterday afternoon (a really cool airport, by the way. Live music, a Longhorn fan store, free WiFi for 1.5 hours, lots of plugs for charging and eats from The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que and Amy’s Ice Creams to name a few highlights), I was greeted with ads from Mobile 1/Honda/McLaren.

I like this one on the stairs leading up to the airline club lounges. Note also the Dell signs to the right. Apparently there’s a Dell conference of some sort this week (Dell headquarters are in Round Rock, north of Austin), and their ads were quite clever.

IMG_8929After I picked up my bag, I checked my twitter feed and I saw something about Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi cooking/serving at the Chi’Lantro BBQ truck starting at 2:00 PM. I still had to retrieve my rental car, but I thought I might be able to get there.

I rushed over, arriving slightly after 3:00 PM to learn that the truck was closed for the day. Bummer. But, sitting at the picnic tables in front of the truck was Alexander Rossi.

Recently, Rossi, who was a reserve driver for the Manor F1 team, was named a driver for Manor F1 at several of their final races for this season. There has not been an American F1 driver since 2007 when Scott Speed raced for the Toro Rosso team. As this is the US Grand Prix, there is a quite a bit of excitement for an American driver to race in front of American fans at Circuit of the Americas!

Meeting Alexander Rossi

Rossi was talking to the crew from NBC Sports as they had just concluded an interview with Will Buxton and Jason Swales. I was able to chat with him for a few minutes before he had to leave for more PR engagements, and we talked about the sound of the new engines. He said that you can hear different things now that the engines are quieter, like the tires. I’m excited to hear the cars tomorrow during the first two practice sessions.

He graciously posed for a picture with me – I couldn’t believe how tall he is once he stood from the table. He said he’s 6’2″!! That is quite tall for a racer.

IMG_8932I also asked to pose with Will and Jason, who were fully decked out in Texas attire!

IMG_8934Three years ago at the first USGP, Will hosted, “Buxton’s Big Time Bash,” at a local bar. It was a fun time meeting fellow F1 fans before the race weekend. I was excited to meet the man behind the fake Charlie Whiting twitter account, and I also met Will! It was fun to see him again yesterday, and he said that we must attend his fourth annual bash as there are many drivers planning to attend and surprises in store. The bash is tonight at the Rattle Inn. More information can be found here.

Here’s a photo of me and Will at the first bash in 2012.

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To cap off my drop by Chi’Lantro, I met Blair Soden, the executive producer of the NBC Sports show, “Off the Grid,” and a Penn alumna! We had a bit of a moment when Will asked us about Penn State!

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Needless to say, but I was quite excited to meet all these folks yesterday afternoon. We are looking forward to the Formula 1 Fan Forum and Will’s bash tonight, and then tomorrow the fun begins on the track with practice sessions (fingers crossed the predicted rain holds off).

 

A Lamborghini for the Pope

Pope Francis touched down in the United States yesterday afternoon to much fanfare. I saw this photo essay by the Los Angeles Times highlighting some of the “Popemobiles” that the pontiff has used for travel over the past hundred years. I particularly liked the first photo showing Pope John Paul II in a Ferrari Mondial Cabriolet.

That picture reminded me of a papal golf cart I saw in the Museo Ferruccio Lamborghini several years ago. We were in Italy to watch the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Monza, and decided to visit Motor Valley in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, home to Italian auto manufacturers Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati to name a few. I booked a full day tour with MotorStars that took us to the Lamborghini Factory, Ferrari Museum, and Pagani Factory. One of the stops on our car tour was to the privately owned Museo Ferruccio Lamborghini (note the museum moved to a larger location in Funo di Argelato in 2014; we visited the old location in Dosso di Sant’Agostino). This museum is distinct and separate from the Museo Lamborghini which is attached to the Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese. We visited the Lamborghini factory and attached museum on our tour too, but the Pope’s golf cart was in the private museum.

Outside the Museo Ferruccio Lamborghini

Outside the Museo Ferruccio Lamborghini. Fabio Lamborghini, Ferruccio’s nephew, is on the right. He gave our group a tour of the museum.

While the highlight of the museum for many is the Countach and Miura on display, there were also other interesting vehicles to note, including some of the early tractors Lamborghini built.

The Lamborghini Muira (on the left) and Countach (right) on display under a photo of Ferruccio Lamborghini.

The Lamborghini Muira (on the left) and Countach (right) on display under a photo of Ferruccio Lamborghini.

And, there was this little golf cart made for Pope John Paul II.

Lambo pope cart 1If you zoom in on the front seal it reads, “Papa Giovanni Paolo II.”

Lambo pope cart 2From the side, you could see a Poland scarf draped on the seat, honoring Pope John Paul II’s home country.

Lambo pope cart 3Lambo pope cart 4The museum provides an interesting look into the history of Lamborghini and showcases not only cars, tractors, and unique vehicles like this golf cart for the Pope, but also family photos and Lamborghini memorabilia.

If you are a car enthusiast, a visit to Italy’s “Motor Valley” in the Emilia-Romagna region is a must. The tourist website for the Emilia-Romagna region has information about the museums and private collections to visit, along with other places of interest.

I found a more detailed review of the museum (at its new location) by Mark Smyers on the LamboCars.com site here.

So far the photos of Pope Francis’ visit have shown him in a Peugot in Cuba and a Fiat after landing in the US though his official popemobile for his visit will reportedly be a Jeep Wrangler.

What is your favorite popemobile?

 

 

Spotting Fangio in Buenos Aires

Last week, I saw a post on the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Facebook page about Juan Manuel Fangio, one of the most successful and celebrated Formula 1 drivers in history. His birthday is June 24, and Mercedes celebrated his career, and his short but successful tenure with them. Fangio won the F1 drivers’ championship a record five times ( a record only broken by Michael Schumacher) and is the only Argentine driver to win the Argentine Grand Prix, a race he won a record four times, more than any other driver.

Seeing the Mercedes post reminded me of spotting a few tributes to Fangio when we visited Buenos Aires. Fangio was born in Balcarce, Argentina, about 400km south of Buenos Aires.

We first spotted a photo of Fangio when we were in the Palermo Soho district. After a day-long private tour of the city, we ended in Palermo Soho and met Flytographer Paloma who snapped photos of us as we wandered the colorful streets.

Street art in Palermo SoHo Buenos Aires.

Street art in Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires.

While stopped in front of a bar, we noticed a picture of Fangio and had our picture taken with him.

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We spotted this photo of Fangio on a bar when walking around Palermo Soho with our Flytographer Paloma. Photo credit: Paloma, Flytographer.

Beautiful colors on this building in Palermo SoHo, Buenos Aires.

Beautiful colors on this building in Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires.

Later during our stay in Buenos Aires, we stayed at the Hilton Buenos Aires in Puerto Madero, a relatively new barrio that is filled with new high rises and glamorous apartment buildings. One of the best parrillas in Buenos Aires, Cabana Las Lilas, is in one of the old warehouses in Puerto Madero. We dined there one night with Dave’s colleagues, and the beef was indeed delicious. The wine list is also quite extensive. It seems that the only picture I took was of my entree – I think we were too focused on the conversation and ordering Malbec wine!

My beef entree at Cabana Las Lilias.

My beef entree at Cabana Las Lilias.

One of the landmarks in Puerto Madero is the Puente de la Mujer, the women’s bridge. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it is said to be reminiscent of a couple dancing the tango.

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Puente de la Mujer (Woman’s Bridge) in Puerto Madero with the Hilton Buenos Aires in the background.

A day view of the Puerte de la Mujer.

A day view of the Puerte de la Mujer.

While exploring the area our first morning in in this section of the city, we saw a Fangio statue, conveniently located in front of a Mercedes Benz dealership.

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Statue of Juan Manuel Fangio with a Mercedes F1 car in Puerto Madero (note the Mercedes-Benz dealership in the background).

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Plaque next to the Fangio statue celebrates his five Formula 1 World Championships. The statue was dedicated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his victory in the Grand Prix of Buenos Aires on January 16, 1955. The sculptor is Joaquim Ros Sabate.

As fans of Formula 1, it was nice to see a few small tributes to one of the greatest drivers while we visited Buenos Aires.

To Learn More

  • There is a Fangio museum in Balcarce, Argentina, that showcases his life and displays fifty cars.
  • To read more about Fangio and his F1 career, particularly with Mercedes-Benz, see their post on him here.