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TrackChaser update

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  • Vanden Eynde Roland
    Hello colleagues, When Aline broke her left ankle, I altered my August programme. Instead of two French and one Italian trip, I was confined to trackchase in
    Message 1 of 331 , Aug 19, 2013
      Hello colleagues,

      When Aline broke her left ankle, I altered my August programme. Instead of two French and one Italian trip, I was confined to trackchase in Belgium and the Netherlands. But last Sunday, Aline's niece Nicole and her Husband Ismael came over for a 9 day Belgian holiday. They volunteered to look after Aline and that lead to me resuming my Italian trip plan, even though one of my targeted race meetings had been cancelled.

      I left home at 4.30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 14 to drive to Charleroi airport for my early morning Ryanair flight to Bologna. I used to fly frequently with Ryanair up until some 10 years ago, but their recent safety (letting planes start with the strict minimum of fuel) and luggage policies (one pays more to check in a bag than the air fare), did nothing to endear them to me. But in this case, I had no choice. Suffice to say the flight was not comfortable and the service at Charleroi airport is below any decency. But all that changed when we touched down in my beloved Italy. Bologna airport is a nice and efficient one. It only cost me a few minutes to drive away in my FIAT Bravo hire car.

      I drove a little under two hours to my bed and breakfast in Misano Adriatico. Although almost two hours away from my late afternoon race target, I opted to stay in Misano because Italy doesn't has a lot of hotel accommodation and all the Italians take their holidays in August. Because I've stayed there so often and I know the place, I managed to find a bed and breakfast in the non tourist part of town. Misano is cut in half by a railway line. Every inch between that railway and the sea front has been abandoned to foreign (mainly German) tourists, but once west of the railway it's a typical Italian town. Before getting on the road, I had lunch at my favourite Misano spot, the Osteria Vecia. I have eaten dinner there lots of times, including one with the Smiths on their second European trackchasing tour, but this was my first lunch at the Osteria. It was a lighter menu, but just as good as their dinners.

      When leaving the restaurant, the sky blackened. As soon as I was in my hire car, the heavens opened. But I was in luck, as the further I drove south, the sunnier the weather became. My targeted track was just outside the village of Ponzano di Fermo and about 10 miles from the coast. But this is a mountainous region and it's situated about 300 metres above sea level. The surface is sand on a harder rock basis and the about 1 km long permanent course has lots of gradient and some nasty fast corners. This was a round of the second division Italian autocross championship and it had a nice field of well turned out saloon cars and buggies. They started the heats at 5.00 p.m. and the racing was spectacular, if a tad dusty. The format was heat races for every class (with only 6 cars in every heat) after with in each of the 5 classes, all cars started together in three championship races. The first championship race for four wheel drive buggies was a stunner with three cars side by side for half of it. The other classes had more participants (as much as 18 in the small saloon division), but less good racing. I left at 9.00 p.m., after the second round of championship races. It had been a long day but one that got me a very rare midweek evening race and a very good one. I arrived at my Misano base a little before 11.00 p.m. and slept like a log.

      Originally, I was geared up for another autocross at a more northern destination on Thursday, but it was cancelled about a week before. Instead, I headed for Buia San Stefano and my Italian family. My dad's niece Flora let me use the guest room for the night. As it was a public holiday, we stayed local and in the evening had a meal with Flora and her son Moreno. On Friday morning I drove Flora to the Slovenian town of Koper, where she used to buy her meat and vegetables when her husband Mando was still alive. Because Flora doesn't have a car, it was months since she last went to Slovenia. We spent the morning buying lots of food and had lunch at an excellent restaurant in the marina. In the early afternoon, I took leave of Flora and headed to another one of my favourite Italian hotels, Il Gallo (The Rooster), only three miles from Bologna airport. It's a small modern hotel with a traditional restaurant. I had a succulent dinner and a good night sleep.

      Saturday was another long day. It started early, because I had to be at Bologna airport at 6.15 a.m. for my flight to Charleroi. I might as well not have bothered, for the plane had a malfunctioning and it took five hours to mend it. Instead of being largely on time to meet Colin Casserley at the Raceway Venray, I only arrived at Charleroi airport mid afternoon. At least the plane was well mended and it didn't have to make an emergency landing because it was out of fuel. I was glad to get out of the Charleroi parking lot, but not after I had to pay EUR 92 for the car park (that's a bit steep for three and a half days of parking). After a stop at home for a shower and a change of clothing, I headed off to spend the evening with Aline, Nicole and Ismael.

      On Sunday, I stayed pretty local, because the meeting at Breisem - Kumtich (VLG) was only 40 minutes from my doorstep. This sanctioning body, the only one to exclusively cater for one hour enduros (in 4 different categories) has had a difficult year. For months, it looked as tough they would be going out of business, for they couldn't find suitable locations with the necessary permits. But in the end they managed to find several new locations and their season only started two weeks ago. As this was only their second meeting, car counts were a bit down on previous years, but with 12 in the buggy division, 21 in the small standard saloon one, 29 in the large standard saloon one and 47 in the modified class, they were way above the fields any other European sanctioning body gets these days. It had rained a bit during the night, but the weather cleared mid morning. There was plenty of action on this well prepared sandy and hilly course. It was also the very first such meeting where they tried to channel the paddock traffic through a sort of pit lane. A stroll in an autocross paddock is not very relaxing, as cars come in from all angles and slalom past the spectators. The new system is a marked improvement. The racing, on what became a warm and sunny day, was also very good.

      Next week, I'll stay local, as I have two autocrosses lined up, one each in VLG and WAL.

      And last but not least, some news of the project driver's front. On Saturday, August 17, Narain Karthikeyan added the Nürburgring Kürzanlage to his list when winning the first of two AutoGP races. Other drivers added tracks to their list recently as well, albeit as spectators. Mario Andretti went to watch grandson Marco race on June 8 at the Texas Motor Speedway, while currently "unemployed" David Brabham went to see his son Sam make his racing debut on June 8 at the Oulton Park Island circuit. He continued to follow him race at two other new British tracks or track combinations not on his list: Croft on June 23 and Snetterton 300 on August 3

      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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