1. My first Formula 1 grand prix from the stands!
  2. The deafening noise of race cars in the circuit
  3. Watching Hamilton race. A super talent to fill the void created by Michael Schumacher?
  4. The Indianapolis race crowd
  5. Catching up with school friends from India in mid-west America
Qualifier Saturday

What's the first thing that hits you when you see a race in racing circuit? Not the Sunday afternoon heat. Not the hot girls in the crowd. No, not the blistering pace of the cars. It's the sound! The roar of engines, the screeching sound of tyres and blasting sound of brakes. And I think this is what makes the entire experience so exciting.

It's sad that I lived in an era when Michael Schumacher raced and I never got to see him (except on TV). It's like living in the era when Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd performed and you never heard them live. Anyways, US Grand Prix was my chance to catch race action live for the first time in my life. And thanks to Malik, I booked my race tickets and flights two months in advance.

We spent Saturday seeing the grandstand, familiarising ourselves with the stands, parking spots etc. Parking your car around the speedway can be tricky - its a landmine. Rates can range from $50 to $10. We paid $10. Just look for a quiet home some 100m off the road with an old man sitting in his yard. Some people had arrived in their RVs and the atmo was festive with BBQing and drinking. We tried visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame (entry $4), but were too late for it on Saturday. We tried the next morning on Sunday, but we didn't have much time before the race. It turned out that luck favoured us. All cars were out of the museum for the race drivers parade. But I guess there is more to the museum than just vintage cars. Next time.

Warming up to Raceday Sunday

We arrived in time for the drivers parade, which meant we had two hours before the actual race. The girls were hot. So was the weather. We looked for some shade below the stands, found a shower, and drenched ourselves before coming back to the seat. It felt so good! Our seats were in Stand H (in the circuit map, Stand H is where Turn 1 is). Another great place to see the race from is Stand J (in the circuit map, Stand J is where Turn 3 is). H offers full views of the straight, cars going into first, second and sixth corner and partial views of fourth, fifth and seventh corners. J possibly offers a better view of cars in turns 1-4, but H is much closer to the track (deafening sound!) and you can see the cars come in from the straight as well as the pit lane exit. And higher your seats in a stand, the better is the experience. Luckily, our seats were in third row from the top.

Just before the race was flagged off to a start, Miss USA sang the American national anthem. Coinciding with the end of anthem, two fighter jets zipped over the audience at very low altitude. The coordination was great. And I am sure it gave the American audience a patriotic boost. I wondered about two things - How a little thought from the government will go a long way in helping citizens love their country and feel good about it. And how far away were the jet fighters when the anthem started?

It's race time folks!

We never sat down till the race started. My idea was to sit down after the few intial laps (say about 5). At lap 32, I realised I was still standing and craining my neck to catch the action. I finally sat down at lap 55 but this lasted just 7 laps. I was off the seat on lap 62 and stood up till the race finished 72 laps. Such is the excitement of seeing race in a grandstand. Hamilton led from start to finish (except during the pits). More importantly, Alonso trailed Hamilton from start to finish. Even more importantly, Ferraris need to find their pace as they were about 15 seconds behind the McLarens. It was Hamilton-Alonso-Massa-Raikonnen. Read the full race report at www.grandprix.com. They are not just race news and reports. They are beautiful commentary.

Indianapolis - The Crossroads of America

Indianapolis is called the Motor Racing Capital of the World. Now I think that's a tall claim.

Let's look at the GP venues this season - Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Shakir Bahrain, Barcelona, Monte-Carlo Monaco, Montreal, Indianapolis, Magny-Cours, Silverstone, Nurburg, Budapest, Istanbul, Monza, Spa, Oyama, Shanghai, Sao Paulo. If you were to ask me to pick the three least exciting F1 GP venues, Indy would be one of them. Now let's look at some the big cities in US - New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis. Again, if you were to ask me to pick three unassuming names, Indy would be out there. So? The bottomline is that Indianapolis doesn't hold much on its own as a city. But once you are in Indianapolis Motorsport Speedway, its a much better atmosphere. No wonder I got my Sunday race tickets in the best stand for $105 + tax. Checking on the web, I reckon the asking price of race tickets for French, Italian or European GP is about $400 - $500!

As I write this, there are rumours that Formula 1 will not return to the US in 2008. And there is also news that Delhi might host a race in 2009. So Indianapolis - the Crossroads of America and Motor Racing Capital of the World - will have to be content with just Indy 500 and Allstate 400. And by the way, did you know that Indianapolis Motor Speedway is actually located in Speedway, IN - a separate town completely surrounded by Indianapolis!

For everything else, there's MasterCard

Flight tickets from New York to Indianapolis - $260
Car rental in a walk unfriendly city - $240
Sharing a cheap hotel room with friends - $140
Race tickets to the grandstand - $125
Souvenirs for friends back home - $70

Watching your first Grand Prix with a school-time friend in a city that's in middle of nowhere - Priceless

Tags: North America, Sports

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