By on November 11, 2013


Leave me here

Leave me here


Race Day.

The day prior, we had traded Chad for Susan, today we traded Susan for Joe. Clearly we are trading down; hopefully Sian would be there and brighten the day. The gates don’t open until 11, and after the last three late nights and (relatively) early mornings, we can use the rest.

The opening event is the 2nd GP2 Race. It’s the same as the last three days, the sights the sounds and the smells are getting routine.


…and it is AWESOME! It’s all so soothing to me. I feel so relaxed I could actually nap there next to the track, with the burble of the downshifts and the cry as they pull away. Of course that could be sleep deprivation. Each night’s free concert has been preceded and followed by observing the marina festivities, a pass through the Viceroy and some new personal adventure. Tonight is Depeche Mode and like every other 40-something who wore black in high school, I’m looking forward to it (spoiler alert, they don’t disappoint).


In any case, Bernie I am sold, I like your point of view and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

James Calado takes the win in GP2, but a Swiss driver Fabio Leimer take third and has secured enough points to win the championship. I bet he gets a promotion soon.

At 1430 The 2nd Porsche Cup race and final one of the season is set to start. The workers have again wheels the rubber tire barriers into place on the high points of the turns. The first one doesn’t last 2 laps before it gets popped. By mid-race it has claimed some turn signal lenses and I believe a headlight. Small bits of the cars that have struck it litter the track. Nicki Thiim wins confidently from pole to pole and is crowned the season champ. As we stand up to empty then refill our bladders, we notice a small squad of TCN women with brooms headed out onto the track.


We skip the driver’s parade, but by 4:25 the F1s are out warming up. They are off the track for the 4:40 opening ceremonies, the Etihad F1 festooned Airbus does a flyby. Actually it does three. The AMG Wagon is released onto the track, exiting turn 13; it bounces the rear wheels into the air to adjust the angle. The crowd cheers. The Gullwing leads them around and they line back up on the grid. The clock strikes 5 and the distant sound of 23 screaming mechanical specters are heard from the pit road.

Not Vettel

Not Vettel

Today is Vettel’s day, and then some. For the first 100 feet he was in second and then never looked back. At mid race prior to his pit stop, we clocked him at nearly 1:15 ahead of the next car. This was unofficial and done with an iPhone stopwatch, but there simply was no one contesting him. He was perfect. There are much better accounts of what I truly think was one of the most amazing drives of this year.

I’m not a sports writer, I am an automotive enthusiast who bought a ticket to the circus and I am doing a poor job of telling you about the experience.

In 1995 I managed to get a copy of Grand Prix on VHS. It was a 2 tape set and overindulgent gift from a friend who was prone to such things. I had been told it was the quintessential race film, it is.

But until today…Race Day…I never completely understood it. Sure, I got the story and was mesmerized by the pioneering film techniques. I had a 4 head stereo VCR routed through my stereo at the time and I got the oh-so glorious, glorious noise as well.

But what dawned on me was what John Frankenheimer was doing with those cinematic effects. He was trying to convey the uniquely hypnotic effect of F1. Even with such a runaway victory, the event was spellbinding. Even with the changes, the sound of an F1 engine is unique to this sport, and the Doppler Effect as they approach and exit will put you in a trance. That sound is everywhere; it permeates everything, the walls, the bathrooms, the lounge, the parking lot. It bounces off the concrete walls turns corners and finds a very special part of your brain like a dog whistle and you are struck. The brutal sudden mechanical clash of the rapid downshifts, the haze from a locked tire, the glowing brakes, the aroma of fuel, the impossible cornering, the unreal speed, the compelling dance, the arresting majesty…

The Spectacle.

I grew up attending the SCCA runoffs every year at Road Atlanta. Somewhere in a dusty South Carolina attic is a picture of a young me in front of Paul Newman’s 280ZX. I have done track days, LeMons and drug my knee on a track prepped Yamaha R6. I have spectated NASCAR, CART and NHRA both in the US and overseas. I camped at the 24 Hours of Daytona and World Superbike at Miller Motorsports Park. Of course I have attended dozens of other regional and local events and I loved every one of them. But you know I am going to finish this by stating there is simply nothing is like Formula 1.

It is just another world. I am not a newly minted fan, I am not going to type that I will be back here next year. I won’t.

But if you are remotely a gearhead, F1 is simply a must do experience.


W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, once exceeded the speed of sound and was corrected twice about stupid mistakes he wrote for this four part submission. Aside from the free beers Bernie unknowingly bought him the first night, neither TTAC or Mental revived any compensation for this coverage. In fact it cost Mental plenty;

The Numbers

Three-Day Plus Pit Lane Walk Tickets for the Yas Island Circuit Formula 1 – $710

This also included Club Level access (so we didn’t have to walk as far for food or wait as long for beer, and it was air conditioned as opposed to the outdoor beer garden. It was $50 extra and totally worth it.)

All food, water and beer for 4 days, including concerts – $491

(This included at least one $17 Stella at the Viceroy Hotel)

Four (including one Depeche Mode) Shirts – $150 (ish)

 And while hardly compensation, he did get some swell swag….

 Free Stuff

“Inner Circle (roughly 300 feet closer to the stage)” tickets to Jay –Z (I skipped this one)

“Inner Circle” tickets to Muse concert

“Inner Circle” tickets to Depeche Mode concert

2 Coffee Cups to a jewelry store (given away on the Marina by scantily clad hostesses)

2 pairs of chopsticks (yeah, with the cups. I have no idea why)

Bad fabric jewelry (OK, so it was really wristbands for the concerts)

6 pairs of Porsche posters (1 each for me, 1 for the EIC)

1 autographed track map with every GP2 and GP3 driver

1 autographed poster with ½ of the Porsche Supercup drivers

And hearing loss courtesy of the Porsche Supercup. (I deliberately didn’t wear my earplugs.)






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One Comment on “Mental At The Money Circus – Race Day...”

  • avatar

    Very well done. I’m in Texas right now visiting family before going to the Grand Prix next weekend. I went last year and cannot wait for again this year. You really can’t convey the spectacle that is an F1 race. The sounds, the energy of the crowd, the sense that whole world is watching where you are, the production, the speed, did I mention the sound? I know I’m biased here, but with the exception of their marquee events like the Daytona 500, I’ve never felt NASCAR has really mastered the art of making each event something special. Maybe it’s because all the names are corporate, maybe it’s because the series visits the same tracks more than once in a season, or maybe it’s because in F1 that race is that host country’s one chance in the spotlight and the variety of different nations gives each race a unique feel. Dunno, but somehow I get more excited and more butterflies in the stomach at the thought of saying I went to 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix, the 2002 Australian Grand Prix, the 2010 British Grand Prix, the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix, the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, etc than the 2013 (insert corporate sponsor here) 400. I finally went and saw Rush this past weekend, and it really got me in the mood for the Grand Prix – kinda glad I waited till right before. I thought Ron Howard did a great job of capturing the feel as well.

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