Our day began with a continental breakfast. A few pastries, some bagels, juice, cereal, and fresh fruit. Lovely. Even lovelier when another of the ladies and I discovered that the giant pitcher of "orange juice" was in fact....mimosas. I don't know how smart it was to serve free alcohol to a bunch of rowdy ladies at 9am in the morning on a day when they'd spend it standing around in near 30C blistering sunshine without a sliver of shade to be found. However, I didn't complain and drained my glass. Mmmmmm.
After breakfast, Global's morning traffic lady and our host, Daintre Christensen (below), introduced us all to our tour guide for the morning, who's name I have forgotten but I want to say its former Indy racer Mike Chandler, and our "special guest", Bronte Tagliani, wife of Canadian Indy driver, Alex.
We headed out en masse to what can only be described as the cleaniest, nicest smelling portapotties I have ever had the pleasure to wee in. Immaculate. After everyone had taken care of business (you know what ladies are like, we go to the potty in groups), we made our way to the pit area. For those of you not familiar with racing, this is where the cars come off the track to change tires, refuel, etc. Its one of the hottest spots on the entire track, tons of flying tires, lots of noise, and an inferno of activity.
The start of the pit area is a great spot and our first stop - the fence we were standing beside was mere feet from some of the cars coming in off of the track. Did I mention they go "vroom"? . Heee heeeee it was wicked. I don't know how I did it but I managed to snap one good shot of a car coming in. Below is Brazilian driver, Raphael Matos. I did get a few shots of front tires, back tires, and a plethora of absolutely breathtaking pics of the fence itself or the track - none of those pesky cars blocking the view... I said they go "Vroom" right?
As we made our way along the pit area, Mike (I'm going with Mike, I'm pretty sure its him) stopped at almost every other team, explaining various things they were doing, telling us about the fuel, the tires, the tail and nose pieces, etc. Very useful having a former driver along. It was difficult to hear everything and I'm sure I missed a number of important and interesting factoids but what I did hear was fascinating. We saw a number of the drivers in their cars including the other Canadian driver, Paul Tracy, two of the female Indy drivers, American Danica Patrick and Venezuelan Milka Duno, as well as this guy...who, I think, is Brazilian driver Mario Romancini.
At the end of the pit area, there was an open spot at the fence so Jenny Jenn and I popped over and looked down the line. Wow. Its quite the site to see many of the cars lined up in their pits. As we marvelled at the site, all the cars suddenly gunned their engines and pulled out at the same time (or at least it seemed). Hurtling towards us at ever increasing speeds (they go "Vroom", you know), we barely had time to whip out our cameras once more to try and catch a few more shots of ... the fence. Grrrrr. Damn those drivers. Fortunately for us, Raphael Matos obviously recognized our sunburnt, blistered faces from earlier because he actually slowed down as he drove past us. It resulted in what was my best car shot of the day. Thank you Raphael!!!
Leaving the pit area, we wandered through the shopping/concession area for a bit while the drivers came off the track, headed back to their team garage areas and debriefed with their crews on the trial runs they had just completed. We then hit the Firestone Tire trailer for an information session with their crew. Tires don't sound exciting but it was interesting to hear about the different types they use for different conditions and to learn that their Indy circuit crew includes a number of women in key postions. Firestone supplies all the tires for the Indy race.
From Firestone, we walked down the line a few trailers and got to meet the head mechanic for the Target team (sorry, not sure of his name but he was a great host). He explained a lot of what they do, post race/post trial run, to the cars to fix any little things that might not be working properly or to tweak things to help improve performance. He then took the steering wheel out of one of the cars being worked on and explained about the shifting mechanism, the controls the drivers have, etc. Too complicated for me. I could never go "Vroom". It was interesting to note that the driver had drawn a map of the circuit and placed it dead centre on the steering wheel for reference. The driver of that car was the winner of the very first Edmonton Indy back in 2006, Scott Dixon. Very shy, very cute, and very Australian. Va-roooom.
We had also received grandstand tix so Jenny Jenn and I grabbed a burger, some fresh lemonade and headed up to catch some of the actual car action. We stayed long enough to watch one run of the drift demonstration and had one of the cars spin out right in front of us. Coooool. They go 'vroom' too but not nearly as much as the Indy cars. By this point we had had enough sun and noise and headed home.
Turns out I missed a few spots on the neck and upper back with my sunscreen so by the time I walked through the front door, I had a lobster red circle around my neck. It looks hilarious. I also broke a number of blood vessels in the fronts of my shoulders and the back of my legs and knees. This was due to all that standing around and an extremely overloaded backpack weighted down with a litre of water, a change of clothes, sunscreen, camera, wallet, etc. However, I can't complain. I had a great time, learned a lot and have a new respect for the sport of racing. That doesn't mean I think NASCAR is a good idea but I appreciate F1 and Indy more (yes Alun, you read that correctly). It was also the perfect way to experience Indy racing for the first time ... for free. The behind the scenes tours and the racing education added so much more to the experience that simply showing up and sitting in the stands.
Big thanks to Global TV, the Edmonton Indy, and to my buddy Jenny Jenn Poo Poo Pants for coming with me and having such a great time despite not winning the ride around the track in the two seater race car...
PS: Global is on Facebook and will be posting their official photos from the Heels on Wheels 2010 event on their page. Check it out (as of posting this, it was not yet up but should be in a day or two).