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U.S. Grand Prix - Qualifying September 23, 2000

Yesterday, Brian, Jay, Steve and I rode together to the track in Steve's van. We did the same today, except E.T. and Kos went too. They had arrived in Indy the night before. It had rained the night before, but we were to see no further rain during the day.

They parked in the handicap area for Steve, who had a handicap sticker. I'd never met Steve before. He was a Buckeye that some of the other guys had camped with several times out at the Mid-Ohio track. He'd just had hernia surgery a week ago and had no business making this trip according to his doctor. He just brought along his triage kit and performed his own nurse duties on his wounds. He drank whiskey and chained smoked all day long.

We parked close and were soon sitting in the 2nd section of Stand H. This provided another interesting view. We could of course see them streaking to the end of the straightaway directly infront of us, but we were lined up with two of the short straights in the esses in the infield. One might see some racing down one of them. I'm regularly surprised at seeing things from different vantage points that I would not even have thought about seeing. People sometimes take my comments about a seating area too literally and think the area in question is the best place to sit. This isn't correct. There really is no best seat. Different areas offer different benefits and views. I recommend that if you sit in the same seats every year, that you come out to practice and qualifications and try sitting in different areas!

Brian was shocked at how many people turned out. I estimate that there were 150,000 people there for qualifications.

We were able to watch the F1 cars practice for awhile in the morning. There was a two-hour break between the end of their practice and the qualifying. Brian, Brian, and I decided to sit in Penthouse E for quals. The rest of our gang stayed where they were, so we three cruised to the far south end of E and found a seat. Brian talked to the girl next to him. She was from Belfast Ireland. From our vantage point, we could see the cars picking up the oval course out of turn 12 and continuing around through turn 13 and the main straight. I needed a ear plug for my left ear. This location also gave me a good view of what was going on behind the F1 garages.

I hadn't made it inside the infield yet and it looked like I wasn't missing anything up around the garages and tower. They not only had the entire area behind the F1 garages fenced off, they had tarps up so you wouldn't be able to look in! I'd noticed before how the area up around the winners circle was cleared out and devoid of life. This F1 group really set up a huge sterile area that had no fans in proximity. When you go to the Indy 500 or the Brickyard 400, you can get within a few feet of the drivers and cars and pits. There are crowds of happy fans milling about and the mood is festive and exciting.

At this F1 event, you must sit across the track to see the pits which mean you need binoculars. This entire weekend, I never saw an F1 car except on the track. I never saw one pilot. There was excitement about this event because it was the first. I guess we American fans are used to a more friendly format at our racing venues. This was more like the environment we find at our ball games, where you never get close to the players. I think the F1 race succeeds as is, but they could create a more exciting event in America by loosening up and getting more fan friendly. I heard all of this a year before they even hit town, but I didn't appreciate how cloistered they would be until I saw it sitting up there in stand E. I also saw that some of the teams had some type of displays setup over by the museum, but I was never able to get over that way this weekend.

Qualifying only lasted an hour and they come out and do a lap while other cars are present on the track. Every one of the 22 drivers (11 teams) will qualify, its just a matter of where they will start. Michael Schumacher seemed to get preferential treatment all weekend. He seemed to get more chances to practice and qualify. He seemed to be able to cut in front of people like he was king of the f1 drivers. It seemed to me that the F1 organization sets up an unfair advantage for him, apparently so that their most famous driver, (who hasn't won the championship in 3 years), in their most famous car, the red Ferrari, gets the best opportunity to appear to be the best. Needless to say, Michael got the pole position with a average lap speed of 126.265 mph. The lap time was approximately 1 minute 14.4 seconds. Mark Gene qualified in the last position with a average lap speed of 121.528 mph. After Qualifications was over and before the next event, 22 skinny attractive girls, obviously not midwesterners, came out holding a large sign with a driver number and proceeded to stand in the part of the grid where that driver would start from for tomorrow's race. The starting grid was moved back one row because the F1 drivers on the front row did not like trying to peel out on the slippery yard of bricks. Waaaaa.

This crowd contained many more foreigners than we normally see at the Indy 500 or the Brickyard 400, but of course, the majority of people were American. There were not many t-shirts in this crowd. It seemed half the crowd wore Ferrari clothing; Blacks, yellows, and reds. Many had Ferrari Flags. The Finnish flag was well represented too, and their fans seemed more festive, as I saw many of them with the blue cross on white background flag painted on their faces. It was neat to have the flags, that is something that normally they do not allow you to bring into the track. Some people would tie them about their necks like a Superman cape.

The crowd I was with was your traditional American Indy 500 gang. We all had on shorts and Indy 500 t-shirts and carried bags of junkfood and coolers of beer. I had on a tshirt that said "Show Us Your Tits" in 6 different languages, however I was to see absolutely nothing this weekend. We munched on Cheesy Poofs, Cheese, and Fried Chicken between sips of Budweiser while the skinny Europeans in front of us ate grapes and pears. Ok, sad to say, you could tell the midwestern Americans from the Europeans by the their absence of flab.

After qualifications, we ended up back in Stand H to watch the Porsche Race. I guess its understandable that guys that are not racing in this series normally, such as Mario Andretti and Al Unser, Jr; would qualify at the end of the pack, but it was quite embarrassing when Little Al spin off in the first lap. Luckily, he was able to get back on and thanks to some accidents, did not finish in last place.

Afterward, they brought out a parade of old F1 cars from the 60's & 70's. This was a diverse group and was interesting to see. And hear.

By 4:30 the last event of the day was the Ferrari Challenge qualifying. This was impressive. These cars looked and sounded extremely stock and yet they seemed to be zipping around as well as the Porsche racers (but I didnt' time them). Extremeily quick and agile. I now see what the big deal is about Ferraris. I want one.

Top 4 photos by
Lester L. Louthian

Once we got home, we were visited by a nice lady named Debbie. She was friends of Steve. She was staying in Dayton and going to the race. We cooked a lasagna that my sister had prepared for us. It was excellent! After we finished off the last scrap, Debbie drove the 2 hours back to Dayton to spend the night and we all headed down to Whiteland to race go-karts. It had obviously been raining down there, but had stopped by the time we arrived. The place was popular this evening and the line was long. We bought 3 sessions each. I went off the track once on the first lap, but stayed on course for the rest of the night. Wheeler did the best on passing people tonight. I got home about midnight.

Tomorrow: RACE DAY!

2000 F1 drivers

Here is an interesting picture. All 22 of the f1 drivers are pictured along with Tony George, his mom, and Bernie Ecclestone front and center!


Sept 22, 2000 - F1 Practice

Sept 24, 2000 - F1 Race Day

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