Motorsport Wonderland

Central Europe is lousy with racing, and I have made it a point to attend as much of it as I can during my time here. It is home to some of the biggest and most significant events in motorsport, as well as a lot of somewhat quirky smaller scale local events that can be even more fun. It has been not only thoroughly enjoyable, but in many ways inspiring as well.

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One of my dreams for Europe was to spectate a lot of motor racing. That may seem a bit unambitious, just to go watch some races, but as a longtime race fan and aspiring motorsport photographer, central Europe is something of a Mecca in that regard. Spa and N├╝rburgring are regarded as two of the most scenic race courses in the world, in addition to hosting a number of high-profile events each. Not to mention the other slightly lower-profile tracks nearby that host their share of events, as well as local hillclimbs and rallys. Between all these options, there was some kind of motorsport to see on almost every weekend from February through November if I wanted to. I just had to pull up the schedule I put together, and see what I was in the mood for.

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Track Days (Here and There)

Lots of people have travel blogs. I hoped to do something a little different, and make a motorsport-oriented travel blog, but that hasn’t quite come together like I wanted. Between the shipping delays and a couple of abortive attempts at track days last year, I’m about eight months behind on the track-touring experience I wanted to pursue. But finally I’ve had a mostly successful day driving at Zandvoort, so things are getting underway, and boy is it a different experience than going to tracks in the US.

 

Back in the States, I went to to 5 track days at 5 different tracks with 5 different organizations. So far in Europe I have done 4 track days at 3 tracks with 1 organization. And even though two of those have been largely unsuccessful, with one noise violation and one minor accident, it’s enough for me to be able to spout some more-informed-than-average nonsense about it on the internet.

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Road Trippin

Undoubtedly, America was built for road trips, and vice versa. I’ve enjoyed my share in my day, short, long, and multi-day. To be sure, they still have their place in Europe, but I have found that there are a number of factors which make them feel like more of an afterthought in the transportation network, a means to an end rather than something to enjoy in themselves.

Train travel is great. High-speed rail is a wonderful way to travel. Air travel here is ok too. Security is usually far less aggravating than anything involving the TSA, and higher gas prices make it easier to justify the cost of a plane ticket. But if your destination is far enough outside the main rail network, and not far enough away from your origin to want to deal with the temporal overhead of flying, then it’s time for a drive.

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One Possible Future

I have now been in Belgium for six months. I very nearly have a normal life here now! Hopefully it never gets fully normal, because it seems like that would be a dreadful waste of being-in-Europe. At any rate, I’ve gotten into at least some kind of rhythm of life, trying to incorporate miscellaneous European adventures along the way.

Can you believe it’s nearly September? They say time is relative, and never is this more apparent than when reflecting on the past. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday I was totally psyched about buying tickets in March for this weekend’s Grand Prix, but there’ve been plenty of days and sleepless nights along the way that seemed to take fffoooorrreeeevvvvveeeerrr. The first month here was probably one of the longest months of my life (despite Februrary only having 29 days), yet now it seems so distant. In the last few weeks I have finally again gone mountain biking, cooked some stir-fry for friends, done some table-top gaming, and drove at a track day…Just about all I want out of life, really.
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Regarding Dreams

Achieving your dreams takes a lot of work. There’s paperwork to do, bureaucracies to overcome, packing, moving, travelling, shopping, planning, and of course the constant daily grind of maintaining a life and having a job. That’s not even going into all the foundational work of performing at work, interviewing, getting a degree, and everything before that, including deciding what your dreams are in the first palce. Amidst all of that it is easy to lose track of the fact that you have actually achieved your dreams.

Back in 2004 (high school days), at a car show in Corning, New York, I saw a Lotus Elise for the first time outside of Gran Turismo. (Wait, don’t go, I’m not writing out my life story, I promise!) It was somewhere around there (maybe a little before or after) that I got it in my head that I wanted to buy an Elise someday, and drive it on racetracks. Racetracks like the N├╝rburgring (which I also learned about through Gran Turismo).

Somewhere around 2008, I decided I’d like to try working and living in Europe sometime, because that’s where most of the cool racing happened, and there was just a lot I wanted to do over there here.

In 2016, I took this photo:

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Le Mans 2016

For years I have wanted to attend the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I finally made it this year, and I don’t think I was ready for it. It was my first time camping at a racetrack, first time at a race longer than three hours, and first time spectating at a track longer than 4 miles. Not to mention my first road trip in Europe. All of this a mere two weeks after getting my car back. Altogether it added up to a pretty overwhelming experience, but I kind of think that’s the point of Le Mans.

For those that don’t know, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s greatest motor race. It is the only motorsport even on National Geographic’s list of the World’s Greatest Sporting Events, and it tops the list at #1. Teams enter the race by invitation, and push themselves as hard and fast as they can for 24 hours straight on a track that’s twice as long as most. It is a race of attrition as much as speed, as cars inevitably break down or crash, and limp back to the pits if they can, where team mechanics replace turbos, transmissions, or suspensions in as little as five or ten minutes.

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Recent Outings

As I mentioned previously, not having a car for the last four months was really cramping my style, and generally interfering with things I wanted to do. I didn’t let it stop me entirely though; I did manage to get myself out of town for a few day- or weekend trips in that time, and each one of them helped drive home why I moved here.

Ardennes

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