Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Daytona Speedway Rolex 24 hour race

Our reason for coming to Daytona was to make a trip to its famous speedway track.

Our timing coincided nicely with the Rolex 24 hour race, which is actually quite well priced, especially compared to the more popular Daytona 500, so that is what we came to see.

Our ticket covered the Saturday and Sunday that the race was run on.  Unfortunately we had  misunderstood the race information and thought that you could only stay during the night if you were actually camping there; we only realised that was wrong after we got there, by which time it was too late to have appropriate stuff with us.  But still, I think we saw enough of the race on both days.

The race is not that well attended, so we could easily take advantage of the various things going on, whilst still being able to then go and get a good seat in the grandstands.

We had got there well in advance of the race start, so we had the chance to walk around the paddock and see the cars being prepared.  We were surprised at the access that we had.  We could walk right up to the entrance to each garage and as the car was often outside, we could be right next to the car.

The technicians were happy to answer any questions and let you take photos too.  Whilst this was great to get a good look at what was happening, we were a bit unsure about how safe all this really was when the guys came out in all of their flame proof gear and helmets to put some fuels into the car right next to us.  We decided to take a step back at that point, just in case. After all, our regular readers will know that we don't have the best track record with fire!

There were a couple of demo races before the main event, including one from the Formula V class, the single seater Volkswagen, fifty years after they first raced here.
There is supposedly a carnival of rides and stalls in the infield, but to be honest the stalls were only really any good for real racing fans, and the couple of rides that they had just didn't cut it!  But we got a couple of free Chevrolet t-shirts.
Nic then sorted out his lunch for today by trying out the fifteen entrants in the chilli cook off.  It was only a very small sample of each but as he doesn't generally eat much chilli it was enough.

As the time for the race neared, we decided not to bother with milling around the pit lane as the cars and drivers had their final preparations, but went straight over to the grandstand.

As the pre race announcements were made, and the national anthem sung - rather badly in my opinion - an bird flew overhead.  I make no pretence at being an expert in birds, but it did look a bit like a bald eagle to me.  I rather cynically think that perhaps they have a trained one just to add a sense of national feeling to the moment!
The race is an endurance race where teams of drivers race a car continually for 24 hours.  There are three categories of cars taking part, the Daytona Prototypes, the GT Tourers and for the first time this year, the GX.

We found the race quite confusing as, without being able to hear a commentary (the was one but you can't hear it over the noise of the cars) it was hard to keep track of who was where in the race, especially as not knowing the look of the cars, you couldn't easily catch the numbers as they went past.
In the evening we went along to the wine and cheese tasting that was on offer. For the relatively small price of $10 for twelve samples, we could taste the various wines on offer.  Some of the samples we're sample sized, but others were more like a small glassful.

Most of the wines weren't that great, but we found some good ones and used up the extra tickets that we were given by a few people on those.  The event also gave us the chance to meet a few people and we had a good chat with a couple of guys.
After the tasting we headed back to the grandstand to watch a bit of the night time racing and the fireworks display, before heading back to the house for the night.
The next morning we were glad we had not stayed overnight as it had been cold and foggy, with the significant chunks off race behind the safety car.  We got back in time for the race to get back up to speed in the sunshine.
The race was won by the Chip Ganassi owned Prototype, driven by Juan Pablo Montoya at the finish, along with team mates Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Charlie Kimball.  The first Tourer was the Alex Job Racing Audi R8, coming in in ninth position.

We were a bit disappointed that one of the few things that you can't get a decent view of from the grandstands is the podium, and they don't have a big screen that you can view it on either.  It seems to me rather a shame that you see all of that racing, and then most people can't see the presentation at all.

So did we enjoy it?  Yes and no.  We enjoyed the fact of going to a speedway race as a new experience, and the overall event was fun.

Montoya wins
In terms of the racing itself though, there is a limit to the number of times you really want to watch cars going around a track, especially when you can't easily follow where they all are.  Having a radio commentary would definitely have improved the experience.

The frequency of the safety car coming out didn't help, although it did mean that no one ever pulled out an insurmountable lead, which did give us a fun few closing laps, with a number of lead changes up to the chequered flag.
And whilst we enjoyed seeing the odd bump and collision, we were pleased that we didn't have an incident like the one a couple of weeks later, when a car hit the rails between the track and the grandstands, sending a tyre and other bits of chassis flying in amongst the spectators.

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