(Originally posted by Steph to Planet-IRL.com.)
Another race weekend means another epic road trip! This time, as the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to American soil, I’ll cross the border along with it to take in this weekend’s events at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
While hearing that it’s time to run at Mid-Ohio rarely strikes rapture into the hearts of the television viewing audience, this track is very popular among those fortunate enough to visit it in person. The facility is a spectator’s dream as it makes full use of the naturally occurring rolling hills that are common in central Ohio to create numerous excellent viewing locations. Whether it’s the Keyhole, the Esses, Thunder Valley or the Carousel, it’s rare for fans who have watched a race here to not have a favorite spot from which to do so (and they will likely argue with you about why theirs is the best place until you beg them to stop). The crowd is easy-going and friendly, the grounds are easy to traverse (provided you rent a golf cart or don’t mind doing a fair amount of walking), and between the garages, the manufacturers’ midway, and the full slate of on-track activity as the IICS shares time with the ALMS this weekend, there’s plenty to keep a race fan’s attention all weekend long.
This is my second visit to Mid-Ohio. Here’s a list of mistakes I made last year that I don’t plan to repeat:
- Hotel rooms in the nearby town of Mansfield book up very quickly, but I’ve managed to snag one, which means I should actually manage to get some sleep this year. Sleep is generally overrated (especially on race weekends), but if you like it, don’t expect to get much in a tent in the tightly packed main camping area. “Quiet hours” start at 11 PM, but try telling that to a bunch of fired up, jovial, and intoxicated race fans. (There is a family camping area that’s probably a lot quieter, but what fun is that?)
- I also don’t plan to arrive at the track with my gas tank down to fumes this year. Last year, I learned that when you leave the facility after the race you get funneled out in whatever direction is convenient for the folks directing traffic, regardless of what’s convenient for you — and that direction doesn’t necessarily lead you toward the Interstate (or, to be honest, civilization). That was a dicey half hour spent desperately hoping that a gas station would materialize over the crest of every hill. (I found both gas and the Interstate eventually, but it was a very close call!)
- And, above all, I need to make time to visit more spots around the track during practice sessions. The Keyhole is very convenient to the camping area, and my grandstand seat was in the Esses last year, but those are the only two spots I managed to check out. My goal is to venture out a bit more so that I can adequately report on what a spectator can expect to see from any of the most popular viewing locations.
As always, I’m pleased to be able to provide on-the-ground updates as the race weekend progresses through posts here and via my Twitter account @99forever (provided the cell service at the track cooperates). And I’m also looking forward to meeting many of you! If you’ll be at the track on Saturday, please plan to attend the tweetup, where you’ll meet some of the drivers, crew members, and fans of the extended IndyCar community. It’s an opportunity not to be missed!
I’ll post the first of the updates after track activity ends tomorrow. Please watch for that and other news throughout the weekend here at Planet-IRL.com!