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TrackChaser update

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  • Vanden Eynde Roland
    Hello colleagues, In 2011 I managed to get new tracks in all 12 months. That was the first time I did so and it spurred me on to try and do likewise in 2012.
    Message 1 of 331 , Jan 2, 2013
      Hello colleagues,

      In 2011 I managed to get new tracks in all 12 months. That was the first time I did so and it spurred me on to try and do likewise in 2012. In the second to last weekend of 2012, I succeeded in getting a new track for the 24th consecutive month.

      Unlike in the USA, the European race calendar is as good as empty between the end of October and the middle of March of the following year. If I want to see new tracks during that period, I have to either go to ice races or the occasional indoor race in Europe or travel to another continent. For my December 2012 addition, I opted for an ice race in the French Alps. It was an absolute first in one aspect: my very first new track for which I only used public transport (i.e. no hire cars nor taxis).

      I started my journey on Friday, December 21 at 6.30 a.m. by a 25 minute walk to the local railway station. It had rained all day on Thursday, but on Friday morning it had turned dry, but cold. After a 25 minute train ride to Brussels South station, I was largely on time to board the 8.18 a.m. Thalys high speed train to Paris. I arrived at the North station of Paris at 10.00 a.m. Because this is an end station, I had to take the metro to the Gare de Lyon, where I boarded another high speed train that got me to Grenoble at 1.30 p.m. I had lunch in the Grenoble station restaurant and walked the few hundred yards to the bus station. There I got on the 4.00 p.m. bus, that got me to my final destination, L'Alpe d'Huez in about the same time (an hour and 40 minutes) it took the train to get me from Brussels to Paris. Only difference is that the train covered 205 miles in that lapse of time, while this bus covered 38 miles. Not that the bus stopped a lot (only 10 stops), but it had to climb a mountain in between walls of snow. It had snowed a lot in the past three weeks, but it was dry and not too cold when I got off the bus. On the way to the town's bus terminal, we had passed the track, about half a mile out of town. I first headed to the Hotel La Christina, where I had found refuge. It was only a minute or so from the bus terminal and built in chalet style. I had a nice room for a decent price, which is not that likely in a lively ski resort. Time to get my warmest gear on and walk half a mile down the mountain to the Circuit de l'Eclose, the permanent road course used in winter for ice racing and all year round for driving tuition.

      The Trophée Andros, the long running ice racing competition, is having a lean year. Gone are former F1 world champion Alain Prost and the Skoda factory cars. Luckily, another former world champion, Jacques Villeneuve, made his first appearance of the season after having been absent at the first two races as well. Still the field in the prototype category was rather depleted and the racing in the trophy for identical electric cars was more exciting. Unfortunately, they had put even more emphasis on single car timed runs than in previous years. All cars, even those in the electric car trophy, had to take part in two heats of 4 lap time trials. Even though the nice winding track was not long at all, qualifying went on for almost three and a half hours. There weren't many spectators on a pleasant cool evening, but starting the wheel to wheel races at 11.00 p.m. is not a very good choice. Especially if one keeps in mind each race (two for electric cars and two for prototypes) only lasted for about 7 minutes. The prototype races were not great, but the two electric car ones were excellent. On the other hand, the track remained in mint condition with lots of ice and no asphalt appearing in the corners.. As I was staying local and all the spectators with cars drove into the valley, I only had a nice 15 minute walk to my hotel. I went to bed immediately, for I had my trip back planned for Saturday morning.

      When I checked out of my hotel, it was pouring with rain. It was a lot milder than the evening before, but the rain made everything very slushy. I praised myself lucky I hadn't gone for another day in the resort. By 8.15 a.m., I was on the bus back to Grenoble. The trip back went smoothly and by late afternoon, I was home.

      At the beginning of 2012, I put down a few targets and met them all. For 2013, I have but one real target: get to 1,000 tracks. Apart from that, my only ambition is to enjoy myself. If that should mean no new trackchasing country or no new state of the USA, so be it. May I wish you all a happy and healthy 2013.

      Roland


      -----------------------------------------
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    • Vanden Eynde Roland
      Hello colleagues, Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I ve
      Message 331 of 331 , Nov 12, 2013
        Hello colleagues,

        Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I've long since exhausted those new track opportunities, but still there are a few French road courses I have to visit. Last weekend I added a rather remarkable one to my portfolio.

        Why drive an entire day if a high speed train brings you there in half that time? Since I discovered the multitude of possibilities of the French high speed trains, I like to take advantage of their services whenever suitable. Unlike my two previous train travels, this time, I couldn't get round Paris, but still that wasn't such a problem. I boarded a train to Paris Nord just past 11.15 a.m. and 75 minutes later it got me to Paris. In the north station of Paris, I had 85 minutes to get to Paris Bercy station by underground. It only took me 25 minutes to do so and I had ample time to take my numbered seat on the train to Clermont-Ferrand. Another 90 minutes later I got there. I had booked a hotel (Hotel des Commerçants) only yards from the railway station. The weather was a little cold, but sunny and after a long walk I had enough of an appetite to go for an early steak dinner at a Hippopotamus. These are chain restaurants a bit reminiscent of Applebee's.

        On Saturday morning I got back to the railway station to fetch my hire car at Sixt. They gave an excellent rate and handed me a Renault Twingo with only 75 miles on the clock. Unlike in Montréal, I didn't add thousands of miles to it, as my target for the day was less than 35 miles from the town centre. The French tyre manufacturer Michelin has its roots in Clermont-Ferrand and the centrepiece of those roots is its research centre at Ladoux (Auvergne region). This complex, officially called "Centre de recherche Michelin de Ladoux", is a beauty. It's in lush green surroundings. Inside a 5 mile high speed trioval, it harbours several testing grounds for dry weather tyre testing, wet weather tyre testing, braking, etc. The dry weather testing is done on a 2770 metres long flat track with numerous corners. It is on this track that twice a year countable races are held. Last Saturday, two Porsche clubs (one local and one Swiss) held a sprint and endurance meeting. This being a tyre test track, it has neither pit lane nor specific paddock area. I had to park my hire car on a piece of concrete where trailers and cars of team members were parked. Another part of that concrete area was turned into an improvised pit lane. In the morning, they held three 20 minute sprint races for various Porsche classes, while after a two hour lunch break (although there was only a local hot dog stand to get food from), allcomers got on the track for a two hour endurance race. The twisty nature of the track made for good racing, but the track surface was rather slick and there were spins galore. But as this track was surrounded by large grassy runoff areas, no cars were severely damaged. Not being a great fan of Porsches (I like Ferraris and Maseratis better), I left halfway the endurance race and had a nice drive in the hills surrounding Clermont-Ferrand. The entire landscape consists of extinct volcanoes and it's really gorgeous. I got back into town at dusk, handed the car back in and after another nice dinner, I had a good night sleep.

        Sunday morning, I got on the train back to Paris. Just like on Friday, the journey went by smoothly. So much for my contribution to tracks in November, as the rest of the month will not involve any new trackchasing for me.

        Roland

        -----------------------------------------
        Visit our website! http://www.nbb.be

        "DISCLAIMER: The content of this e-mail message should not be
        construed as binding on the part of the National Bank of Belgium
        (NBB) unless otherwise and previously stated. The opinions
        expressed in this message are solely those of the author and do not
        necessarily reflect NBB viewpoints, particularly when the content
        of this message, or part thereof, is private by nature or does not
        fall within the professional scope of its author."
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