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Author Topic: 6 Ore di Roma 2012  (Read 11198 times)

Offline Ian

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2012, 08:54:46 PM »
Ali, I will never class myself as European, I am English first and British second.
An aircraft landing is just a controlled crash.

Offline Alianora La Canta

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2012, 04:47:08 PM »
Warning! Long post alert!

Time for Part 2 of the travelogue for my adventures in and around Vallelunga :D

I woke up nice and early in my comfy bed and packed my track bag for the day. My snacks got divided up into what I planned to eat on what day, my support gear arrayed appropriately... ...and then I remembered what Mum had told me about Italian restaurants. Feeling my Force India/Fisico T-shirt was a tad informal for the hotel restaurant, I put a thick red blouse-style top over the top. Then I went to the restaurant for breakfast.

Then I discovered everyone else was in racing gear. Two people were resplendent in bright red Kessel Racing jackets, others were in support gear for AT Racing, Ferrari (a general supporter T-shirt), Porsche and another team I couldn't identify. Nobody was in AF Corse support gear, though from the snippets of conversation I could translate from the rapidly-spoken Italian in the room, there was at least one fan of Gianmaria Bruni in there.

Everyone else was Italian except for one bloke from Russia (he'd checked in immediately after me, and it turned out he was there to help out with one of the Eastern European teams expecting to be halfway down the grid). It wasn't clear if any of them spoke English and I didn't feel I had enough Italian to properly participate, so I simply enjoyed as much of the banter as I could while I ate.

And what a feast! There were 3 kinds of cereal: cornflakes, museli and Coco Pops. There were about 6 different types of cake on offer (I ate a strawberry flan slice and a miniature chocolate cake), croissants, Danish pastries, ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit and lots of different types of bread. (There were also things like marmalade, but I didn't touch those). I had 2 plates of cakes, croissants and pastries, a sandwich, an apple and a bowl of mixed cereal, washed down by 2 glasses of orange juice and a glass of grapefruit juice. Hey, if it kept me from trying to eat my lunch at 10 am, it had to be worth indulging...

Then I grabbed my gear and went to the reception to tell them I was going to the track and hand in my hotel key. They were not happy about this. Eventually it was explained to me that the original route I'd planned to use (2.5 miles in an almost straight line, then turn right) was not an option. This is because most of that route turned out to be a motorway. Oops.

They explained the alternative route, which was 4.8 miles long and fairly wiggly because of a large hill, and advised against it. They checked the bus routes... ...and told me there was no buses to Vallelunga on weekends. This seemed a bit odd considering what Vallelunga is primarily known for, but there was nothing I could do but accept it and the hotel's recommendation to await a lift from them.

So I waited... ...and waited. 9 am passed, then 10 am. I was finally collected at 10:20 am. The route took just under 10 minutes. So why was I worried?

Because I was supposed to be meeting a friend from France and my Italian contact, Gianluca, at 10:30 am by the main entrance. So when I got to the track, I quickly thanked my chaffeur and ran, with my ticket in a bright red Force India lanyard, to the only entrance I could see. The ticket inspector checked my ticket, nodded, and gestured down the path.

I ran down the path, vaguely wondering why it was dipping under the circuit, and reached the second ticket inspector. Then I started looking for Gianluca and my French friend. I couldn't see them. All I could see was a rather large bunch of lorries and a few people milling around. I waited 5 minutes, then tried asking the ticket inspector for help. He thought my ticket was OK, but couldn't help me, possibly because my Italian wasn't good enough to understand him.

There was a map of Vallelunga next to him, but reading it did not tell me where the main entrance was. It did, however, prove I wasn't at the main entrance. I tried phoning Gianluca to find my phone was flat. I tried going back to where I'd come in and couldn't get past the first ticket inspector - he just got confused when I tried to explain the situation.

I had to face it. I was trapped in the paddock.

I had been reassured by everybody that there was only really one entrance to Vallelunga*, but hadn't paid much heed to the "really". In hindsight, maybe I should...

It is entirely possible I may be the first motorsport fan to type a sentence of that nature and mean it. I was supposed to get my paddock pass from Gianluca after I'd met him, but I could not meet him because we were in different places with no particular prospect of meeting. So much for Plan A for the day.

Time to take stock. There was a toilet block I could access between the two lots of ticket inspectors. I had enough food and drink to get me through the day. So I braced myself for a day of trying not to be spotted by anyone likely to get me arrested or trespass or something.

I took a few photos of the AF Corse area (which was right opposite the paddock entrance), which was as much as I dared to do before I spied a nice hidden area of the paddock. It had a sign up saying "Pedestrians only" (it was nice to know my ability to understand Italian had not completely abandoned me in my panic). I settled down in there, using my rucksack as a seat, ate a banana and got my portable radio out in hopes of finding the circuit PA**.

Then I heard a car. A big, meaty car. I looked up and saw a bright red thing with a "1" pasted to the side. Gianmaria "Gimmi" Bruni^ had just gone past, doing a practice installation lap. I left the radio on, playing its Italian pop music I didn't recognise, at low volume and let it be drowned out by the wonder of automotive magic.

I got up, found a decent place to stand and pretty much stood transfixed for the next hour as over 50 very rapid sportscars and touring cars zoomed by (in this race, they compete together - with the touring cars competing for the Silver Cup and the sportscars try for the Gold Cup). There were lots of different shapes of car, reflecting the 12 or so classes featuring in the race. A few of them were quite large, especially for the touring cars, and the average sportscar class appeared to be about 4. There was at least one class that had only one entrant - the plucky #66 car looked like a London taxi and seemed to spend half its time limping back to its pit, but there were no others of its class in the field, so I felt it only right to hope for good things for it, just as I did for Gimmi, Fisico and Toni (Gimmi had the #1 AF Corse, Fisico had the #5 AF Corse and Toni had the #6 AT Racing).

My viewing spot was right next to the pit entrance, giving me a fantastic view of the cars braking for the speed limit. I could also see how people were approaching the final turn (which was a parabolica, but most of it was closed off to spectators on the inside, and only accessible to marshals). There was some variation of style going on - Gimmi, for example, seemed to have a relatively early turn-in, while Toni tended to take the wider line and Fisico went for a compromise between the two. All three gradually took lines more closely resembling one another as the day progressed.

There was also a view of the back straight and the penultimate corner. A couple of people spun off luridly during practice and the #66 had a quick spin there in qualifying. So it was a good balance between lots of different aspects of the lap.

Between the practice session and the qualifying for the support race (2-litre touring cars), I risked a peek at the AF Corse garages. The first attempt did not go well, as I nearly got ran over by the touring cars moving into position. So I ended up waiting for them to pass me, with the AF Corse hospitality tent behind my back. During this point, I spotted every single AF Corse driver at some point, either talking to other members of their team or crossing the busy thoroughfare. I spotted Fisico getting across to the hospitality tent, and unlike me, he expertly avoiding inconvenience to the other cars or himself. I suppose that if you spend long enough living in a traffic-filled place like Rome, you end up good at that sort of thing...

The support series qualifying went well, by the look of it, but I didn't really understand what was going on. My preparation materials that I'd read were for the main race, not the support one. It didn't help that nearly all the cars were either silver or a very light shade of blue. So all I can really tell you is someone got pole and two other people nearly crashed in the penultimate corner.

After the support series qualifying, I saw Fisico go to the hospitality tent a couple of times, but on both occasions he was clearly busy talking to other members of the team. I had a card to give him and Gimmi, and the Fisichella Forum had a letter it wanted me to give Fisico too. I would have loved to have got his autograph on one of the photos I got on Friday, but as a fan, I also have to remember he's got a job of his own to do. Knowing how important swapping information and maintaining friendships is in motor racing, I felt that stopping him from doing something that might help him win in order to indulge my desire would be hypocritical. Maybe later...

Then it was time for qualifying. I resumed my position at the pit entrance and enjoyed another 60 minutes of furious action. Marco Cioci (one of Fisico's team-mates, the other one being Joe Gerber) was on pole for much of the session, until the "big guns" - the Fisico/Gimmi/Toni trio - got in for the last 20 minutes. I continued to get fantastic views from the paddock, perhaps 20 cm away from the cars (there was only a concrete wall between me and the pit entrance), lost in wonder at the spectacle.

Yet I was left in peace. Only one marshal was seen there all day, and I think he was there largely because he wanted somewhere interesting to spend his cigarette break (I don't think smoking was allowed anywhere else in the paddock). We exchanged greetings halfway through qualifying, as I was eating my lunch. Nobody else seemed interested, which seemed a waste of a viewing spot. Even granting that most people in the paddock would be busy with their teams, I was puzzled as to how I could have found somewhere virtually nobody else wanted to be.

At the end, Fisico nearly got pole until Toni and Gimmi just edged him off the front row. Firstly, Toni put in a marginally faster lap, then Gimmi grabbed pole with the chequered flag already waving. At that point, I decided to stop worrying about whether I was going to get into trouble for being in the wrong bit of the paddock. AF Corse celebrations are something to see, and with Gimmi getting pole, I wanted a good view of something I sensed even then was going to be unforgettable.

I positioned myself next to the AF Corse hospitality suite, figuring I'd be able to see the happy mechanics and drivers better there than anywhere else I was likely to be able to reach. I think most of the initial celebrations happened in the garage, which I couldn't see, but I did get to see the team members gradually drift through into the suite. Fisico was animatedly discussing something with Marco Cioci, so again I could not speak to him. I did, however, get to say "Congratulazioni!" to Gimmi. 

Thinking quickly, I gave him the card I'd done for him. He read it there and then, which amazed me because I'd always thought of drivers of having about a zillion things to do at a time and not being in a position to do nice gestures like that. Then he gave the card back to me. I was puzzled by this and told him he could keep it. Then he went into the suite.

I got my folder out to put the letter and other card away, the ones I'd intended for Fisico. Then I caught a glimpse of the card. It was trimmed in red. I'd designed both cards and used the pens I'd brought with me to decorate them. The point of the card being trimmed green was that I'd planned to use the trim to help me know whose card was whose. Gimmi's card was red because his helmet was mostly red. Fisico's card was green because unlike Gimmi's it has a secondary colour and green is that secondary colour. And I'd just given Gimmi the green one that was supposed to be Fisico's. No wonder he'd tried to hand it back  :fool:

But how to sort out the mess I'd made?

I decided I had to at least try, so I went to the doors of the hospitality suite, just to the side so other people could get in. I didn't get to spend long worrying because I was distracted by what I could see through the big transparent doors. Gimmi had been smiling throughout the time he'd spoken to me, but he started grinning properly the moment he stepped through the doors. His family had come to the race to support him because, like Fisico, he's from Rome and it's his home race. And what's better than getting pole in your home race? Getting pole in your home race and being able to share it with the people you love the most. Gimmi hugged his wife and his 2-year-old daughter Stella, then tossed Stella into the air a few times. She looked as happy as he did. Everyone else in the suite stopped what they were doing to watch them. It's wonderful to see someone so happy.

After that, Gimmi came back to the door and I gave him the other card and letter, explained what had happened and congratulated him again. He agreed to deliver the card and letter to Fisico and thanked me for his card. He's a really nice man.

I went back to where I'd been watching the qualifying and saw the start of the 2-hour support race. I knew I couldn't watch the whole thing because I had a 4.8 mile walk back to the hotel.

* - For those of you who are wondering, there are two methods of getting to the main entrance in Vallelunga. There was apparently a large road going past the entrance I used, which cars could go down and eventually find the gates. Also, there was, somewhere in the paddock, a bridge connecting the paddock with the main entrance. I never managed to find the bridge, and I didn't realise there was anything down the road except for more car parks. I am put into mind of the bloke who got lost in this Buttersafe cartoon "The Detour"...

** - If Vallelunga had a radio PA system, I never found it. The circuit PA appeared to rely on big speakers, with the downside that even my ears couldn't pick up anything if more than 3 cars were going by at once.

^ - Gianmaria Bruni is Fisico's team-mate in WEC sportscars, and they are also very good friends. Gimmi has won two titles this year, because he got the GT Open championship as well as helping Fisico (and third driver/occasional substitute Toni Vilander) get the WEC GTE-Pro one. I've been quietly supporting all three for some time. Of course, the race I went to see them, they were in 3 different cars, in a GT2 class numbering 4...
Percussus resurgio
@lacanta (Twitter) (Blog/Tumblr)

Offline lkjohnson1950

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2012, 05:12:50 PM »
 :good: :good: :good:

Can't wait for the next installment.

Offline Alianora La Canta

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2012, 05:48:45 PM »
Part 3 of the travelogue here.

I left you last time with a big smile on my face and a very long walk ahead of me. Long enough that it needs its own section.

I checked I'd got everything I should have, then walked out of the paddock, greeting the staff as I passed them. I got to the exit and turned left. Not because I was 100% sure of where I was going, but because there was a garage (of the sort that sold petrol and not much else) and I figured the staff would know which way to go to Compagnano. Happily, it turned out I was walking the right way.

Just over a mile down a quiet peaceful country lane, I got to Compagnano. Technically, it's called Compagnano di Roma, but anyone in the area will know exactly what you mean if you call it "Compagnano". After all, the other one in Italy is in Sicily*. The first thing I saw was an Italian supermarket called "Dico", which appears to be their equivalent of a British Aldi or Budgens, except slightly bigger. I bought some more supplies: some pre-cooked fish slices and small, crusty baguettes for some proper sandwiches, a box of small Kinder chocolate bars, some chocolate bars for friends at home, some posh chocolates for my parents and two giant bottles of fruit squash (with 30% fruit juice). Supporting drivers is thirsty work. I barely got my shopping into my rucksack.

Then I made my way down Compagnano's medieval main street, with charming squiggles and three-storey terraces (tending to have shops or facilities on the ground floor and housing above). There were not many people about, though there was one gang of teenagers that made me feel slightly uncomfortable. For some reason, they brought me to mind the British "hoodies" - teens that group together to cause others bother because of boredom, avarice or similar motives.

Round the corner was the village's main bus stop, a newsagent, two pharmacies and a general stall. There was also a group of zebra crossings. I needed to cross the road, but I must warn you that many Italian drivers don't give pedestrians priority when they cross unless they are squarely on the road when they approach. Confidence is vital when crossing roads in Italy.

I got to the end of Compagnano and was able to stop for a moment to enjoy the fantastic views. You could see much of North Lazio (the communi/county where Rome, Compagnano and Vallelunga are) from there. If you squinted hard enough, you could even see Bracciano Lake's** eastern shore. Of course, there's a reason the views were so brilliant. Next I had to tackle Compagnano hill - a place cyclists use to get fit - along pavements that ranged from poor to non-existent and where the verges often featured large ditches. While the sun was setting. I had to cross the road 6 times on the way down, not counting the one at the bottom to get to the correct side of the road.

Eventually, I reached the bottom of the hill. I felt a big sense of achievement until I read the sign. I thought the sign was suggesting I was walking away from Rome and towards Viterbo. That would mean I had been walking the wrong way all along. And now it was dark. Oh no!

I tried to get directions in the restaurant I could see but failed. So then I went a bit further, to the next restaurant, and got a payphone. I called the hotel to tell them of my predicament and where I was. They seemed a bit confused about the situation and kept asking me whether I wanted a lift or to walk there myself. I politely explained that I was phoning them because I was completely lost and my sense of direction had completely failed me^ . Eventually they agreed to send someone to fetch me.

My rescuer was gracious but appeared to be struggling not to laugh. The reason became obvious 90 seconds after he collected me... we reached the hotel car park. I had managed to go 4.8 miles in the right path and got lost 400 metres from the front door. Indeed, I'd called from the hotel's secondary restaurant. In fairness, I didn't even know the place had two restaurants, but that did not prevent hilarity ensuing once I told my story to the disbelieving hotel staff.

I was too stressed to eat dinner and too late to watch F1 qualifying. So I went to my room (nearly tripping on a step), had a shower and tried to distract myself with some Italian TV. What is Saturday evening Italian TV like? Much like the British version. Which for me means "not very good". I settled for swapping between two music video channels, listening to some nice Italian pop music alternating with some more annoying American rap. In the meantime, I read the Autosprint I'd bought from a newsagent the previous day, enjoying the Gimmi interview in it even more thanks to the fantastic experience I'd had earlier.

At 9 pm, I couldn't believe my eyes, because one of the stations (MTV Italia) did a 2-hour special on the bestselling 20 Queen songs in the UK. So I went to bed with Freddie Mercury's rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in my ears, and memories of harmonic engines and unbridled joy running through my head.

Tune in another time for Part 4, where I find a better way into Vallelunga, get scared silly, find myself with the best seat in the house and find another excuse not to dress up to go to the hotel restaurant.

* - As it happens, the other Vallelunga in Italy is also in Sicily, though unlike Compagnano, it's large enough that it occasionally appears in conversation, even among people from the Vallelunga near Rome.

** - Bracciano Lake is about 15 miles wide, has a perimeter of 20 miles (as long as the distance between it and north Rome) and has 17 sailing clubs. It's the second biggest lake in Italy and very popular with Italian tourists and fitness-seekers. Fisico has been there on his bike at least 3 times this year because it is such a good route for keeping fit.

^ - Anyone detecting a theme here?
Percussus resurgio
@lacanta (Twitter) (Blog/Tumblr)

Offline Alianora La Canta

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2012, 05:49:08 PM »
:good: :good: :good:

Can't wait for the next installment.

Luckily, your wait is short ;)
Percussus resurgio
@lacanta (Twitter) (Blog/Tumblr)

Offline F1fanaticBD

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2012, 07:12:47 PM »
Wow Alia, that was really great story telling. I am waiting for the racing part of your story..
Keep running the fast cars, you will be never out of girls

Offline Ian

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #21 on: December 18, 2012, 07:15:22 PM »
Great stuff Ali, keep it coming.  :good:
An aircraft landing is just a controlled crash.

Offline Alianora La Canta

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #22 on: December 18, 2012, 10:53:57 PM »
Thank you, F1fanatic and Ian :)

Wow Alia, that was really great story telling. I am waiting for the racing part of your story..

Don't worry, that should be the next part.
Percussus resurgio
@lacanta (Twitter) (Blog/Tumblr)

Offline lkjohnson1950

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #23 on: December 19, 2012, 04:30:41 AM »
OK, Alia, just ignore Ian.  :P  Take us in your own way in your own time. I'm really enjoying the journey.  :D

Offline Alianora La Canta

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #24 on: December 19, 2012, 01:00:51 PM »
lkjohnson1950, glad that you are enjoying the journey.

I have notes on my computer so that I do not forget anything. The trick is finding big enough blocks of time to tell the story. I hope to finish this before Christmas, though maybe I should leave the last part as a Christmas present...
Percussus resurgio
@lacanta (Twitter) (Blog/Tumblr)

Offline lkjohnson1950

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #25 on: December 20, 2012, 07:30:24 AM »
You can call me Lonny. It's in the sig.

Offline Alianora La Canta

Re: 6 Ore di Roma 2012
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2012, 12:39:51 PM »
*Santa runs through front door, deposits parcel, mutters "sorry" and doubles over to catch his breath*

Sorry for the delay. My browser keeps locking up every time I try to do anything more significant than post a tweet today, so I'm putting this summary of what happened on Sunday morning online and hoping this actually works:

Ate buffet breakfast
Taxi arrived 11 minutes early
Bought Sunday ticket
Followed people ahead of me and still couldn't find the main entrance
Wished Marco Cioci and some other drivers good luck for the race
Went up to the tower by the podium to watch the race; could see pit lane, start/finish straight, back straight and most corners
Found phone was flat
Foggy, so first 26 minutes behind Safety Car
Sun soon came out, glorious day
Gave people notes and earplugs
Drank 2.5 litres of carrot and orange juice during the day
Bruni's car gave plume of smoke on lap 91; retired 7 laps later
Ate bananas, yoghurt and fish sandwiches for lunch

I'll write about Sunday afternoon when I've knocked some sense into this computer.
Percussus resurgio
@lacanta (Twitter) (Blog/Tumblr)


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