As many of you may know, I had the privilege of going to Elkhat Lake, WI to the Road America track for the Road Race Showcase last weekend with a pair of my good friends. Over the course of the weekend I heard and recorded lots of great sounds, shot tons of photos, and met plenty of people. I thought it’d be cool to share my experience with you.
First things first. We took my friend Jason’s 3-series BMW. Cramming three people plus camping stuff plus photo gear plus bikes into a 3-series is terrible, but believe it or not it was the largest car among the three of us. We set out on Thursday morning at ~7AM so that we wouldn’t miss too much of the Thursday activities. (If the campgrounds would have been open Wednesday night we would have left then.) On the drive we did the radio station shuffle until settling on using an FM tuner to play Bo Burnham off of Ben’s ipod. He’s really funny.
We arrived at the track at about 1pm, and pulled up to gate 4. When we rolled down the windows for security check at the gate we heard the sweet, sweet sound of F2000 in the middle of their qualifying heat. From there we quickly found our campsite, set up tents, and headed to the track.
Our campsite was right next to the carousel (labeled turn 9) so we watched the tail of the F2000 race from there, before wandering the track to get a feel for where things were. We grabbed lunch at the concession stand in front of the Hurry Downs while the Porsche GT3 Cup ran its qualifying.
We eventually wandered to Turn 6 and then down to the inside of Canada Corner (turn 12) while ALMS open practice went on.
Finally, we wandered back up through the paddock for the end of the day, where we met up with Kelly, the PR Superstar from the Falken Tire team. Ben is an avid twitterist and had been given an opportunity to take an on-track ride-along the following day in a Porsche. Kelly let us into their garage bay and get a good look at the 911 GT3 RSR, and bump shoulders with an engineer or two, which was definitely the coolest experience of the weekend.
After our time in the paddock we hit up a grocery store for grillable foods and then headed back to camp to cook said foods. (It was hot dogs and potato salad if I remember correctly.) We then settled in to try and sleep. For what it’s worth, the sounds of minibikes and golf carts seem a lot louder and a lot closer when you’re in a tent and attempting to rest.
Friday we all woke up by 6AM and tried drying off from all the dew. We made pancakes on a griddle on a campstove, and they came out pretty good if I do say so myself. I threw on my TTA shirt and loaded up my sound gear for a day of recording. We headed out to Turn 1 for the Trans Am race, which started bright and early at 8:30.
I got some recordings from Turns 1 and 2 as well as the Sargento bridge, before we wandered down to turns 5 and 6 for the F2000 first race which was up next.
Then we headed toward the paddock so Ben could get his ride-along. In the meantime Jason and I crossed the Caterpillar bridge over the main straight for the IMSA Lites race,
and then headed down to Turn 14 for the final ALMS practice.
Between final practice and qualifying there was a half hour break so we headed back to camp to unload some gear before heading into the carousel to catch qualifying, which is basically done one category at a time so the sounds of the different classes are isolated.
(The most interesting sounds are in there!)
Finally it was dinner time so we skillet-cooked bacon and cheeseburgers. I shot some awesome photos of the GT3 Cup race from the carousel.
Then Ben and Jason were participating in the Tour de Road America, a bicycle ride around the track. They made it 3 laps before getting too tired and headed back.
Just as they were returning, we heard an unusually loud rumble and saw unusually bright headlights approaching our campsite. Lo and behold, the Corvette #4 car rolled down right next to our site! We assume they were doing radio testing and needed to leave the paddock area to finalize the tests.
Saturday was race day and we started off in the bleachers outside Turn 1, where we met up with a friend of Ben’s and mine from college.
We watched the final IMSA Lites race and then headed into the paddock and eventually the grid walk, where the cars and drivers hang out just before the start of the race and fans are allowed to walk right up and say hi. We quickly headed back to the Sargento bridge to watch the start of the race, which was relatively drama-free.
We then headed back up to the Hurry Downs for lunch and to watch the action, and then swung around to the outside of Canada Corner for some great pics.
After an hour there we visited turns 5 and 6 again, which is where most of the racing drama takes place.
For the last half hour we headed back out to the carousel for final pics. The last laps were really exciting in the LMP1 field! The finish ended up being the closest in ALMS history.
After the race we headed out to Siebken’s, a restaurant and pub attached to a hotel of the same name. The bar is famous for its collection of racing memorabilia and general awesomeness. The food was great, the beer was good, and the environment did not disappoint. They also had the world’s best carrot cake. I only wish I had been hungrier so that I could have eaten more of it. Wow.
After returning to camp we cleaned up and pre-packed as best as we could before sleeping. We woke up early Sunday and threw the tents in the car and drove away from what was definitely the best weekend of my life (so far).
For more sounds, listen to the full set:
and for more pictures, check out the full album. Or watch this. Best viewed if you hit “play” on either of the “from the woods” track above, by the way.