When you're a car enthusiast, your first trip to a Formula One race is kind of a magical experience. OppositeLock's JonathonW8 and his wife had an amazing time at Circuit of the Americas this weekend, and the highlight of the trip was meeting up-and-coming Lotus driver Romain Grosjean. Here's the story of their trip.
What to say about this weekend, it was filled with loud cars, loud people, insane amounts of money and bugs coming out of towels! In other words it was the penultimate race of the 2013 season for Formula 1, and the second year for the Circuit of the America's to host Formula 1. It was, to borrow a song title from one of my favorite new bands, The Church of Noise.
(Full disclosure: COTA and indeed Bernie Eccelstone, wanted me at the race so badly that they made me first marry a girl that loves horsepower as much as I do, and indeed she wanted the safety C63 more than the Formula 1 cars, then made us last a full year, and called her up personally and told her that they wanted me their. So they promptly took her money, and off we went!)
(This is her)
So we got up at the crack of dawn, oh wait that's not right...we got up before dawn on a freezing cold morning in Chicago to grab our flight to Houston. I trying my best to not be a kid on Christmas tried to sleep and promptly overslept, missing my chance to actually go to my computer and email my work that I would be sick because of gastric distress. That turned into a more "heated conversation" in the car with me trying to scramble and remember how to type in my password from my phone since I really don't know my password I just do it off muscle memory. The woman pictured above, always the voice of reason found my bosses email and we got it all straightened out. The next bit is a bit boring so I will glance over it, security checkpoint, blah blah, wait for plane, blah blah, me sleeping and drooling blah blah.
One plane down, one to go.
We arrive in Austin finally and the fanfare starts at the airport. Which just brings my excitement level up to 11.
However, that excitment soon wanes a bit with the arrival at the rental car kiosk.
The Part with a Hateful Rental Car Review but Suprisingly Good Banana cooler: Also known as the Kia Soul
Let me be clear, I like small cars, I like bigger CUV's, I hate this thing. I feel much like Clarkson that rental cars can be the fastest cars on the planet given the right conditions, this however was not one of those times. I hesitate to call this abomination a car, it more a box with some wheels strapped entirely to far away from the body. It is a rolling death trap, and with a bad front left brake that didn't work at all, and torque steer like you would not believe, coupled with the fact that whoever was in charge of building Austin's infrastructure must have been a hot wheels fanatic growing up as a kid.
(Actual Texas road shown)
This car was aiming to kill both me and my wife. The dash was scratching, the gear shifts were abysmal and the side paneling on the doors actually read SOUL.
But enough about this dreadful car or its amazing banana cooling off abilities.
We got to the race just before the second practice. I had no idea what to expect since this was my first F1 race. I knew that it would be loud. I did not expect what I got. The first cars started their engines and every single hair on my body stood up. Plus an added bonus for my wife, the biggest smile that could possibly be on my face was then plastered for the rest of the day. The noise, the power, the everything, I never thought I would feel this about this race, but oh my dear lord was it amazing. It truly was a Church of Noise and Horsepower. When we picked up our tickets before entering they gave us earplugs, and I really wondered if we would need them, come on, how loud could they be? VERY
Although I still didn't because come on, racecar.
We stayed until they pretty much kicked us out that day, and went back to our hotel, where we promptly just dropped our stuff hoping that the hotel would look better maybe after a few drinks downtown. It didn't. It got worse. Bugs coming out of the towel worse. I will spare you the pictures because I just can't handle looking at it again.
Fanfest was super cool, 12 square blocks of Downtown Austin roped off for a sort of F1 festival. Booths with cars, paintings, lots of beer, bands like Los Lonely Boys and Everlast playing, and the Infiniti Redbull area, where I got to do a dyno pull of the new G37 and try to win Seb's boots. That didn't work out so well, but it was a crap ton of fun.
(Imitation Senna Helmet:want but it was like 3g's)
We walked around looked at all the vendors grabbed some great grub from Bar Louie around the block and headed back to the hotel. I slept in full clothes, long sleeves and all the whole night, and the whole night I thought I felt something crawling on me, lets just say I was a bit tired for the second practice and qualifying. However, I did get us the hell out of there and all our money back. So in the end we won, since we only paid for 1 night at the new place!
The parking lot
While most people would think "hey your at a Formula 1 race, wtf are you talking about the parking lot?" Well, the parking lot was just as cool as inside the track. It was a veritable supercar parking lot, and for as much as Texas hates Tesla, I saw probably about 30 of them at the race, also a Lotus Exige S, a million Porsche's, a few Ferrari's, a Bentley, two McLaren's and some awesome other exotica, the only one that I actually took a picture of was a 25k Seat Leon.
(I made the right choice right?)
Like any great gathering of car people, traffic was horrendous. What took us about 15 minutes for Practice and Qualifying, turned into a 2 hour ride from hell in a car from hell. But that did not spoil my day, hell no! We soldiered on and finally got to the race. We saw them warm up and got into position at turn 1. Let me tell you something, for those that say its just as good or better to sit at home and watch the race....you are a bunch of idiots. As a car person, you need to experience this, at least just once, although after the first time, I doubt you will not go the next. (We already booked our hotel and tickets for next year!) The race went like all the rest have gone in the last year, Vettel gets out in front and stays there. However, I did not go to see Vettel at all, I already figured, like most people that he was going to win. I went to see the rest of the cars race and they did not disappoint. The race between Webber, Hamilton and Grosjean was epic in my point of view. Grosjean has been killing it and would later blow my mind that day.
When I first went I didn't really know what to expect, I knew that it would be fun, but I didn't realize how much fun it would be. It wasn't just the race and the cars, and everything that went on at the track, but being with a group of crazy car people, as crazy or crazier than I am and being able to talk about Group B esoterica or how the McLaren MP12 really just doesn't do anything for me, or how we all think Seb is cheating, it was wonderful to just be able to talk and not looked at as a weirdo that I can't stand football! It was just an amazing experience and I highly recommend everyone that has a chance to go to do it. I will definitely be there next year, and hopefully you all will too.
My wife in conjunction with Bernine and COTA somehow pulled off one last awesome surprise, (she is great isn't she). While we were boarding our plane to Houston, one of the other group of F1 fans that I had been discussing old Ferrari's, group B rally cars, and the steering placement of the Lancia Stratos and how the 246 Dino was breathtakinly beautiful, they called me over while we were waiting in line, and said, "look thats Grosjean!" I was still far enough away and called BS on it, until I got closer and was like holy shit that IS GROSJEAN!!! Why he was on our plane I have no idea. First question that I know is on everyones minds, did I freak out. YES. I went up to him shaking, and just said "Mr Grosjean you were phenomenal today, I was routing for you to win, you were just awesome!" Which he then promptly took the wind out of my sails and said I was wearing the wrong hat.
In which I immediately said "I know I'm so sorry!" And ran away. All this is what I think I said coherently, but it most likely came out more like a Kimi mumble and "ohmygodyourromangrosjeanyourawesome!"
My wife did then tell me that I had to go get a picture of something and promptly shook so much that I screwed up twice taking the picture and had to go a third time and get the picture. I felt like a complete and utter idiot and such a little boy reaction. But I got it and ended the weekend on the best way possible. Getting a picture with a truly awesome dude.
Thanks Roman you made the weekend just that more special and one that I will truly not forget.
(I got pushed out of the way and was the person right behind the last person that got Damon's autograph, I didn't make the cut. NEXT YEAR HILL!!!! NEXT YEAR!!!)