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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Zoom, Zoom and Vroom, Vroom for CARS on #FriFotos

The theme for #FriFotos a few weeks ago was cars. It was hard choosing which pictures to share from the myriad car shows and races I have attended, in addition to the photos of cars spotted while traveling around the world.

(The #FriFotos theme for tomorrow, February 20, 2015, is CHOCOLATE)

Every August, we head to the Monterey peninsula in northern California for a weekend full of car shows, auctions, viewing and races. We attend the annual Concorso Italiano celebration of Italian-made cars, watch the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, marvel at the cars up for auction at the many car auctions taking place throughout the weekend, and walk the greens at Pebble Beach for the highlight of the weekend, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

No matter where you are that weekend, you’ll see exotic cars, vintage cars, and expensive cars driving the local roads or parked in Pebble Beach, Carmel, Monterey and all the neighboring towns.

Here’s one car that we happened to pass by while taking a bike ride on 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach – the Bugatti Veyron. It seemed to be a professional shoot for this Hermes edition of the car, but as you can see, everyone stopped to take some photos of their own.

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The Bugatti Veyron was posed for a professional photo shoot.

 

CARS Veyron interior

Beautiful interior of the Bugatti Veyron Hermes edition.

CARS Veyron cameras

The paparazzi were out in full force to photograph the Bugatti Veyron.

For more views from the professional shoot, click here.

A few years ago, we traveled to France in June in order to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 Heures du Mans), the most-famous and most-respected endurance car race in the world.

A few days before the race, there is a driver’s parade through the streets of Le Mans. The drivers for each race car (three drivers share driving duties during the 24 hours of the race) sit on the back of an open-air vehicle to parade through the town for the gathered crowd of car racing fans.

We were lucky to see Audi Team Joest drivers Tom Kristensen (aka “Mr. Le Mans”), Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish in the driver’s parade. During the race, I managed to capture one picture of McNish driving – the cars are so fast, it’s hard to capture them without blurring the photo!

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Audi drivers Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish in the driver’s parade for Le Mans, 2010.

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Allan McNish driving the Audie Team Joest car at Le Mans, 2010.

In 2007, we traveled to Italy for a group trip to Lake Como. Luckily, the weekend before the trip began was the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Italy at Monza.

I think this Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is beautiful, and during the race, it is the slowest car on the track as it serves as the official safety car.

F1 Safety Car at Monza.

F1 Safety Car at Monza.

As you might imagine, the Italian GP is the home race for Ferrari, and Ferrari fans, the tifosi, are always in attendance.

When I traveled to Cuba in 2011, it was fascinating to see the many 1950’s era cars driving around on the roads. It made it seem like I was in a time warp to another era.

The lavender shade of this car was perfect for the hot sunny days.

The lavender shade of this car was perfect for the hot sunny days.

CARS Havanna

Cars in Havanna – not all of them were old.

About #FriFotos on Twitter

Here’s a quick guide of the rules by Jeffrey Epstein.

#FriFotos was started on 15 October 2010 by Jonathan Epstein (@EpsteinTravels). Jonathan is the President and Owner of Celebrated Experiences, a company focusing on travel to the UK and Ireland. He is passionate about photography, his favorite hobby. Each week Jonathan cohosts #FriFotos with Stephanie Diehl (@TravelDesigned), Charles Yap (@CharlesYap), and two guest co-hosts that change each week. Jeffrey Epstein (@jeffreyinmotion), CEO of HBIM was a key advisor in the creation of #FriFotos and continues to assist in the Forum’s growth and success.

#FriFotos – Signs

The theme for this past week’s #FriFotos (July 18, 2014) was SIGNS.

I take photos of signs when I travel to remind me of the different languages I see and hear when I’m in a different country. The words look beautiful.

Here are the “signs” that I shared.

Do you take photos of signs when you travel? What signs have you seen?

About #FriFotos

Here’s a quick guide on the rules by Jeffrey Epstein.

#FriFotos was started on 15 October 2010 by Jonathan Epstein (@EpsteinTravels). Jonathan is the President and Owner of Celebrated Experiences, a company focusing on travel to the UK and Ireland. He is passionate about photography, his favorite hobby. Each week Jonathan cohosts #FriFotos with Stephanie Diehl (@TravelDesigned), Charles Yap (@CharlesYap), and two guest co-hosts that change each week. Jeffrey Epstein (@jeffreyinmotion), CEO of HBIM was a key advisor in the creation of #FriFotos and continues to assist in the Forum’s growth and success.