Archive | September 2013

2013 Formula One Singapore Grand Prix – My story from the racing weekend

Thursday

The racing weekend usually starts on Thursday not because there is something going on with the circuit officially (well there was the Driver Autograph session and the Pit-Lane walk but I didn’t win either tickets, so much for paying back to die-hard fans), but just to look at the circuit and see if I can bump into one of the drivers. In previous years I’ve met the likes of Heikki Kovalainen, Narain Karthikeyan, Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel in either 2011 (for the first two) or 2008 (the next two). This time, I didn’t get to meet a current F1 driver but I did meet a possible future F1 driver in James Calado, who’s been doing well in F1’s feeder series GP2, and is the new Force India test driver. Also saw Daniel Abt but he just walked away.

Also got to meet Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers Yuey Tan and Rodolfo Avila, big thanks to a friend of mine for allowing me to just talk about racing with those guys like we’re just fans of the sport, you don’t always get to do that with professional racers like those two. I didn’t get to walk around the circuit due to the heavy presence of security, but I did get to see the GP2 cars almost up close, they’ve moved to the support paddock opposite Marina Square. Also went to Millenia Walk later on the day to catch a glimpse of Mercedes F1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. No luck with getting their autographs.

ImageGP2 car of Daniel Abt up close

Friday

That Friday was possibly one of my longest days, starting from leaving the house at 9am to getting back home at about 12.30am! I didn’t just enjoy the action at the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the first two practice of F1 and also GP2 practice and qualifying (also staying back to watch Korea’s Big Bang at the Padang stage for my cousins) but also the UBS Go-Kart Challenge with David Coulthard. I did one post just for the UBS go-kart challenge before this post so check it out.

After the super fun but extremely tiring go-kart race with David Coulthard, which I finished side-by-side with him. We got dropped off at the same place they picked us up, and guess who I saw there? DC himself, he had just finished a appearance for UBS, giving prizes to the winners of the simulator challenge (I didn’t do so well for that one). It was cool that he noticed us and I said to him to enjoy the weekend and he said to me to enjoy my weekend too. After my lunch/dinner at Burger King, it’s off to the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

I started my “adventure” at Gate 6, just opposite the Fullerton Hotel, with a good view of the Turn 13 hairpin, the same place where I stood to watch my first race live back in 2011. I missed the first session which was the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia practice and barely made it to the start of the GP2 practice session, watching the future F1 starts making their way through Turn 13, and this time, getting much better pictures there than I did back in 2011. That day I saw a number of guys making mistakes there, this time, I didn’t see any mistakes. That’s because I wasn’t there when the mistakes happened in the first F1 practice session, I had moved elsewhere.

DSC_0161Really liking this shot of Alex Rossi’s Caterham, all green around!

I made my way down to the Esplanade Straight, just before Turn 14 to see the final bits of the GP2 practice, hearing the cars at full power. For that reason, I stayed there for the first practice session for the F1 guys. I do like that spot as you can really hear the cars working, downshifting going into Turn 14 and even see sparks coming off these cars. I would have moved around if not for my friend letting me know that he was coming along and wanted to meet me. Still, I did get to see the cars (if I could catch them) at their very best down that straight.

After that session, my friend wanted to get his dinner at Macs, which I knew would be packed, so I told him to get it dinner while I enjoy GP2 qualifying, which I missed half the session because of the long line going into Gate 3, which is the popular spot (just off Raffles City mall). I caught the GP2 qualifying action from just after Turn 8 and didn’t realise that the spot I chose was actually not bad, so I stayed on for the start of the second practice session. We moved over to the Bay Grandstand next as my friend wanted to see what view he would get from his ticket. Of course, I had to check out the view too so we swapped tickets for a while and I have to say, even from the second last row of the Bay Grandstand, the view isn’t all that bad!

DSC_0185Daniel Ricciardo driving under the grandstand!

After checking out the view, we made our way to the Padang stage, trying to get a good view to catch K-Pop stars Big Bang. First of all, I’m not big on K-Pop but some people in my family are, so I was trying to get some pics and videos just for them. Those guys aren’t that bad, just their fans there were a bit too crazy, pushing around just to get a better view, I nearly dropped my $1,000 Nikon camera thanks to one idiot. I got so pissed off I just left after 30 minutes, I just couldn’t take getting pushed around for no reason anymore. Plus, I was freaking tired at that point haha!

Saturday

Not an early start for me on Saturday luckily but I still went earlier than usual, I got to Gate 2 just off Millenia Walk by 3pm and didn’t realise the gates only opened at 3pm so I was one of the first few lining up. I didn’t know this was also a good spot to see a number of F1 personnel. I was walking right behind McLaren’s Sam Michael the whole way to the Singapore Flyer and also saw the likes of Stefano Domenicalli of Ferrari and Guillaume Roquelin of Red Bull. That wasn’t all the people I saw.

I moved over to the GP2 support paddock and saw all the cars lined up, but not the drivers. I stood by near the entrance of the support paddock and then saw GP2 drivers one by one, walking out of the support paddock and to their cars. The one person I almost got to ask a pic for was the one guy I was hoping to meet, Alexander Rossi. I was a bit too starstruck to even ask him initially and when I started moving, he was heading off to his car. Damn my luck.

I made my way to a viewing platform just opposite pit-lane, all the way to the right of the pit grandstand, meaning I got a good view of the cars going past at the start. I had hoped to catch the action from Turn 3 but for some reason the viewing platform wasn’t there. I stuck around for a few laps, just seeing the cars fly past before heading off Turn 23, the same place I had decided I would watch the race from for Sunday. On the way I got to see one of my classmates working at the pit granstand so that was a nice surprise. After a short while of watching the action from Turn 23, I moved over to Turn 22, I might as well wait for the action at Turn 23 till Sunday.

The spot I found at Turn 22 wasn’t that good with many catch fences as it was for the photographers but interestingly none of them were there for the GP2 Feature race, giving me some good shots from that angle. For the last few laps, I went over to Turn 21, that’s one of the better spots to take pictures of these cars. It was there that I saw Felipe Nasr lock up, and one lap later, his team-mate Jolyon Palmer overtook him for the win. Good to see James Calado finishing on the podium too, hope he gets a drive in F1 soon.

DSC_0240Lots of close racing going on here

I headed back to Turn 22 for the first part of Practice 3 before heading back to Turn 21. This time, the pro photographers did block my view, making it more tricky for me to get some good pictures but when I had a gap, man were those pictures great! Plus, there’s something about the last two corners at Turn 22 and 23 that always attracts me there, the two quickest (and proper) corners on track, you get to see the cars at their best (and worst for those cars that are rubbish).

DSC_0349Really liked this shot of Paul di Resta going through Turn 22, one of my better shots

After the session, I headed over to the Esplanade Outdoor Theater to catch The Dhol Foundation in action. Those guys are just simply awesome, the were probably the only ones for the off-track entertainment that I wanted to catch (and that includes The Killers and Rihana). How awesome were they with their dhols? They didn’t just play Bhangra songs, they also did Reggae and even Irish Folk! I thought their acoustic set was awesome too. I had to leave before their show ended, hoping I had a good spot for F1 qualifying at my usual spot of Turn 16.

I had a decent spot but the place changed the last time I was there (2011), so I didn’t get as good views as I used to but hey, they still had a superscreen there, so that’s all good for me. I thought I’d have some fun by trying to get close up shots of the driver’s helmets, I sure need more work on my timing and my focus to get them just right. Q3 was an interesting session, Sebastian Vettel did the one lap and never went out for a second run. That nearly backfired with Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg all doing quick laps but Rosberg just missed out, which made the Vettel fan-girls next to me scream like crazy. Jeez, it’s just a pole position.

DSC_0753Seb Vettel and his sparkling helmet on his way to another pole position

Sunday

Last day of the racing weekend and once again, I’m making my way through the circuit from Gate 2, realizing that’s the best place to spot drivers or personnel. I did get to see PCCA driver Earl Bamber but couldn’t get a picture of him. I headed straight for my spot at the viewing platform at Turn 23 and guess what, no-one else was around, giving me enough time to find the right spot. Soon I was joined by a couple of Aussie peeps, and hey, it’s always good to be around these Aussies, they’s always the ones who make the atmosphere more fun. Makes it better for me that I’m also a Mark Webber fan and sporting his shirt. Heck, even an English lady next to me was a Webber fan, we were turning that spot to the Mark Webber fan zone haha! That was until other fans joined in.

The first piece of action was the GP2 sprint race, the one were pit-stops are not needed but strangely enough, there were a lot of pit-stops in that race, the tyres just didn’t go well for some guys. It sucked to see Alex Rossi with wing damage at the start, he was the first to make his way to pit-lane with his broken front wing. I also spotted Stefano Coletti with front wing damage before he made his stop. It was another good race, the mid-grid action was the best with cars closely following each other. Great to see Sam Bird taking the win, his fifth of the season. The guy deserves a shot in F1.

DSC_0120Sam Bird on his way to his 5th GP2 win of this year

Next up was the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia race and well, we didn’t get much of a race because of a strange incident. A one car crash on Lap 2 didn’t look big, it caused the safety car but it looked as if they could get the car away quickly but it took them 6 or 7 laps out of the 12 scheduled to get the car to a safe place, the car was badly damaged. There were a lot of good racing there too, and Rodolfo Avila got some overtakes in front of me, thanks man! He and Yuey Tan even raced with each other for a while, both those guys sure were friendly when I met them on Thursday. Bamber won the race ahead of Craig Baird, who had won this race for the last two years.

After that was the F1 driver’s parade and this one was a bit different for me. I hadn’t realised that right opposite me was the spot where the drivers would drop off after the parade and that meant I had a bit of trouble trying to get some of the drivers in my video. I missed Lewis Hamilton in my view as he went off his parade classic car right away, some of the fans were not happy about that haha! Of course, Mark Webber and Jenson Button got some of the louder cheers along with Raikkonen, Vettel and Alonso. And well, being around a bunch of Aussies, there were loud cheers for Daniel Ricciardo too, and he gave us all a thumbs up!

I got a great view of the last two rows on the grid but the only guy I could see was Max Chilton, who walked past opposite us for his little break for the race. Turn 23 turned out to be a good spot, you can tell which cars were great around the last two quick corners and which ones were rubbish. The Marussia cars always looked like it would go off, they were really unstable at times. So it was pretty funny that apart from Chilton’s second lap off moment there, they didn’t go off at the corner. Esteban Gutierrez nearly hit the wall in front of us in his Sauber, I really thought he would head straight for it, but he saved it! Valtteri Bottas also went off but wasn’t as dramatic as Gutierrez’s off moment.

DSC_0906Close call for Gutierrez

After the safety car, the race got more interesting and everytime Mark Webber made an overtake, there were loud cheers going around my area. There were even louder cheers when Paul di Resta crashed with a few laps to go. Not the fans didn’t like him, but it looked like the safety car might come out and cut Vettel’s huge gap and mean Webber would be right in front of Raikkonen for the last podium spot. We kept looking at the marshals, some even shouting at them to put up the “SC” board haha!

It never went up and Vettel had an easy run to the flag. Alonso finished 2nd with Raikkonen taking 3rd, amazing drives by both former champions (Alonso started 7th, Raikkonen started 13th and had back issues), and they’ll be Ferrari team-mates next year! Webber didn’t finish 4th. Heck, he didn’t finish the last lap. I saw smokes count out of his car with one lap to go and he stopped with two thirds of the circuit to go. But hey, he gave us that classic shot when Alonso gave him a lift back to the pits, that rarely happens! I never thought my last picture of Mark Webber would be that of him being on Alonso’s car getting a taxi ride back to the pits.

DSC_0071Webber getting a lift from Alonso after his Red Bull car failed on him on the last lap

After the safety car went through the circuit, mayhem ensued! Fans running to the podium, hoping to catch the podium finishers up close. I did join in when they were playing the Austrian national anthem for Red Bull, I mean that anthem was freaking long. So long that when I got to the track, Raikkonen just got this 3rd place trophy, so I got a good shot of the guys spraying the champagne! Of course, we had the whole controversy of the booing of Seb Vettel on the podium but that only happened the second time Martin Brundle spoke to him. And at the same time, there were a lot of Alonso chants too, need me to tell you who were booing Vettel? No surprises there I guess.

After checking out the pit-lane, seeing the Sky Sports doing their thing just outside the Red Bull garage and seeing the cars at parc ferme, it was time for me to head back home. I got delayed when I saw The Dhol Foundation playing at the Village Stage, so why the heck not? Just stay back a little bit more to watch them playing their awesome dhols, these guys are just mega! 2013 Singapore Grand Prix is done, I can’t wait for the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix to start already. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the sights of another race before it, bring 2014 on!

DSC_0107Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen celebrate their podium finish at the 2013 F1 Singapore Grand Prix

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UBS Go-Kart Challenge with David Coulthard – My story of that event

I couldn’t tell you how excited I was when I found out that I was one of the lucky five chose to compete in this event. I mean, we got a chance to race with David Coulthard! Yes, that same guy who drove for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull and have won 13 grand prix in his career! And being a McLaren fan myself, I had always been a DC fan during that era so I got a chance to race one of my favourite drivers in the early days of me watching F1. I’ve done some runs in those fun Go-Karts a couple of times but this was my first time being in a “competitive” racing sessions, those guys treated the whole thing like one. I’ve done some runs in those fun Go-Karts a couple of times but this was my first time being in a “competitive” racing sessions, those guys treated the whole thing like one.

The kind people at UBS picked us up at their offices at Raffles and we made the long trip to Kartright Speedway (which is at Jurong, the very west of Singapore). Kartright was the first “race-track” t o be opened in Singapore in 2010 but this was my first time racing there. The track itself was not bad, best go-kart track I’ve driven at so far. I asked my brother to accompany me to the event and get some pictures for me but the UBS people were lacking some racers to fill the grid of 20, so they asked my brother to join in the fun, that lucky bugger. The first session was the practice session for us contests winners and just before it started, David Coulthard showed up, and of course, I had to meet him right away, it’s DC damn it!

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David Coulthard! Seen him race many times, now I get to see him race real up close

I only realised as we were getting ready for the practice session that most of the people I was up against we were pro-karters themselves or have driven go-karts on a regular basis, with me being the least experienced. I knew I had to do my very best to get into the grand final, my best practice time was just 57 seconds, not good so far. For the qualifying session, I did find some time and got a 53 second lap. All there was left to do was watch the second session and hope I’ve done enough.

I didn’t keep track of my time for most part of that session, just seeing what my brother was doing. He had been doing laps of 62+ seconds for the most time before he did a 57 second lap on his last effort. There were a few guys who did 52s laps and some 53s laps, so I had to wait to know if my time was good enough. I would know if I made it when the published the grid for the “mini-final” and my name wasn’t on it, so I made it. My brother didn’t do so well and finished a lap down but he was suffering with his wrist, just like I was. We didn’t have gloves like most others. Now it was time for the grand final, and I’m happy that I’ve got into that grand final, that’s all I wanted because I knew I wouldn’t be competitive against the others haha!

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Me and the legendary David Coulthard!

I was bound to start 7th and I had the legendary David Coulthard starting next to me. I wished him luck just before we got into our karts and he told me “just have fun out there”. It was a 10 car grid with two guys starting in pit-lane (one was supposed to start on pole but was penalised). DC had a mega start, squeezing his way through the field already and I was trying to pick up the pieces but I couldn’t do much. I tried my best to keep up with the rest but I just couldn’t. Then again, this was my first “race” against people who’ve raced many times before, all I wanted to do was to finish on the lead lap and hopefully not last.

I did get past one guy who was struggling more than myself with a nice outside pass, showing that I can race these guys, too bad I didn’t have the speed. DC had made his way to the front in just two laps but after a while, he drove through pit-lane just to have some fun. The two fastest guys the whole way battled for the lead and finishing 1-2, just not in the order most expected. DC was fighting for 3rd before he slowed down just before the line, allowing everyone to pass him. I didn’t want to beat a legend like him that way so I slowed down too just before the line, trying to make it a dead heat between us but I messed up, David beat me by some 0.2 seconds. I finished 8th in the end but hey, for my first race, I finished side-by-side with David Coulthard, no matter the situation, no-one can ever take that away from me haha! Still wondering if anyone had a good picture of it.

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Ok, so they spelled my name wrongly but that’s ok, my name is just below David Coulthard’s! Now that’s freaking cool.

I was a bit dissapointed with my own race, hoping I could at least fight for a top 5 spot but then again, I never really stood a chance. Oh well, I did get to race with David Coulthard, so that was super cool, and I got to speak to him as if we were good friends. I also got him to sign his book “It Is What It Is” and his 2000 McLaren F1 Minichamp diecast! People have called him the gentleman racer, he sure is a gent! I didn’t win anything but I did get some stuff from UBS and also the cake but that never made it home haha! Big thanks to UBS for setting this up, never had so much fun at an event like this in a long while. How I wish I could do go-kart racing or any kind of racing for a living, now that’s my dream job.

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If only I could do this for real!

Great September so far

I can safely say I’m kinda enjoying this month’s holiday break for me. The way my school works, we study for two months, rest for one, so September is the third “rest” month for me, and so far, the fun one too haha! Not just because the Singapore Grand Prix is just next week, but a few things have been happening too.

This time last week, I was looking forward to seeing WWE legend Booker T in Singapore for the first time ever in a meet and greet session and I got to meet him. This time next week, I won’t just be looking forward to the first days action of the Singapore Grand Prix with Friday Practice but also I’ll be looking forward to meeting F1 legend David Coulthard! Yup, I won some UBS Go-Kart contest to race with him along with 4 others, so I can’t wait for that. The contest theme was about “I love racing”, no surprise that I won right? The picture that won it for me was my 70+ F1 diecast collection. Then again, it does show how much I love racing!

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That’s the picture that won it for me.

Also, this time last year, I wasn’t quite looking forward to returning back to Singapore from my two month stay over in Sacramento, California at my cousin’s place. I had just finished my two year National Service, I had two months of nothing to do, might as well visit my family overseas, better than rotting at home and doing nothing in this hot weather. I do love the weather there, especially at the Bay Area (San Francisco/Berkeley), would love to stay there!

With nothing to do, I’d usually turn to my games and I finally bought White 2 after a year of waiting. The second version feels a lot different than the first version, that much I’ll say. It’s like playing a different version with a few similarities. And yup, I’ve already beaten the champion, easiest league match ever (too much training helps). Also been playing Football Manager 2013 and got Scottish side Queen’s Park from the 3rd division to the 1st division and on course to make it to the Premier Division. Now, what other games can I play before school starts. WWE 2K14 and F1 2013 won’t be coming out soon, so that sucks.

So next week in the Singapore Grand Prix, I can’t wait for it as always. I still have not made up my mind on where I’ll be watching the race from (Sunday’s action I meant). I thought watching the action from Turn 7-8 would be a great spot, too bad my view was blocked by some tall buggers the whole time, should have gotten there earlier. This time, I might decide on Turns 22-23 or Turn 3 (I’ve got walkabout tickets if anyone is wondering). I’ll be walking around the circuit as usual, just enjoying the event. Hopefully I’ll get to meet one of the drivers again, I’ve bumped into one or two in the last few years (nobody last year in Singapore, a number of guys in Melbourne though). Bring on the racing weekend!

Booker T in Singapore

Before last weekend, I had not once seen a wrestler up close and that all changed last Saturday, and it wasn’t just any wrestler, it was the legendary Booker T. I had been looking for that day a long time if I’m honest, I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was young, so it sucks to have waited this long to meet one wrestler but hey, some things are worth the wait I guess.

The venue was Bugis+, a place I hadn’t been to before even thought it’s right next to Bugis Junction which I used to go to all the time seeing as I stayed over at Rochor as a kid just a stones throw away from Bugis Junction. I knew I had to go early if I wanted to meet Booker T, only 50 lucky fans with some StarHub bill would get in and luckly for me, I was the 40th or 41st to show up. Yeah, I showed up at 11.30pm, when the event was only due to start at 3.30pm. Being a diehard fan of wrestler, I didn’t mind the long wait one bit. At least I brought my DS to keep me entertained with the new White 2 game (why the heck not?) and just wait.

It was pretty cool to see Booker T live for once, I’ve watched him during his days in WCW (yes, they did show WCW here in Singapore) and I thought it was crazy that I get to meet someone I’ve seen wrestle for a long time and he’s not just any ol’ wrestler. He’s a 6 time world champion (well, he is the FIVE TIME, FIVE TIME, FIVE TIME, FIVE TIME, FIVE TIME WCW Champion), 15 time tag champion, King of the Ring winner and he’s achieved many things in the crazy world of professional wrestling. The little mall with thousands of fans went nuts seeing Booker T when he showed up, and yup, YES! chants took over Singapore too haha (I’m jumped on Daniel Bryan’s YES bandwagon long before anyone else did, when he was still a heel, I always thought that YES chant was funny and chatchy).

They had some trivia questions, all of which I knew but of course, they’re always picking some kid or someone that doesn’t look like they know the answer. Heck, the “impersonation contest” was kinda rubbish, I could have done a better job. And everyone said the same thing, “can you dig it, sucka”. Come on, no “Tell me, you didn’t just saw that” or the awesome “oh shucky ducky quack quack” or even “the fave five”. Come on people. Oh yeah, the new WWE 2K14 game was on demo but I couldn’t try it, too many clowns around haha. It does look similar to the previous game though.

Still, I did get to meet Booker T during the meet and greet session which was super cool, didn’t think I could get in as one of the first 50 but it happened! I got up to the table and the first thing I did was bow to Booker T, he was King Booker at one point. I told him “All hail King Booker” and he got a good laugh about it, gotta entertain him a bit too after all the years he entertained me. Told him I was a big fan of his to which he said “thanks man, I appreciate it”. Didn’t get to talk to him all that much but I can tell he’s a nice guy, and I got my picture and a signed poster of him, so I’m more than happy after that day! A bit dissapointed that there was no famous Booker T spinnerooni on show for us that day, but as some of you may know, he did have surgery on his elbow so he couldn’t do it but promises not just to come back to Singapore one day but pull it off for us, and hopefully I’ll get to see it haha. Finally I got to meet a wrestler and it happened to be Booker T, I can dig that sucka!

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Booker T and myself!

One thing Booker T did say was that WWE might come to Singapore for a house show next year, which would be awesome. I did get to see the December 2002 show many years ago, but it’s been a while since the WWE was in Singapore (mid 2007 was the last time they were here). The moment I hear WWE is coming to Singapore, I’m getting those tickets no matter what. Still, if Wrestlemania is heading to San Francisco in 2015 or 2016, I might go for that one too. Big thanks to StarHub and WWE for making this meet and greet happen and giving me the chance to meet the legendary Booker T.