I Read the News Today Oh, Boy
Sports car teams come and go as the seasons change, that fact is a given
without any doubt. A professional team, whether as a long term investment or
just a seasonal one off has to look the part and act like they belong in the
show. People such as Sylvia Proudfoot are indispensable in getting that
aspect right. Her resume includes the great names and manufacturers of the
sport as well as the tossed together late entries who run the major endurance
events. She treats everyone with respect and simply, gets the job done as
only a professional can do. However, even in the heat of the on track battle,
she still finds the time to flash that famous smile of hers.This season has
been an especially taxing one as she is covering Farnbacher Loles
adventures in North America. Yeah, so what you may be thinking. In
motorsport, what you see is never the actual reality of it. Here is a brief look
at a day in the life of Sylvia Proudfoot.
Sylvia Proudfoot: Six days On The Road
Wednesday 14 May
The chilly Salt Lake air wakes me as I stumble off the plane. I usually get
several hours of sleep on two flights from my home in Calgary to wherever
we're racing. But Utah is close, so I'm here in one flight and it's not yet 10
Two weeks ago, I took on new duties with Farnbacher Loles Racing. I'm now
responsible for logistics and administration for the team's seven to 10 entries
in the American Le Mans Series, IMSA Challenge by Michelin and Grand-Am
Rolex Sports Car Series, plus the pro team's support of a seven-car entry in
an upcoming Porsche Club of America race. That means race entries,
credentials, crew rosters, flights, hotels, rental cars, uniforms, catering, golf
carts and whatever else is needed to take care of our 50 team members on
the road. It would be a challenge to set up off-season, definitely daunting to
My first task was to coordinate seven interlocking races in four weeks,
starting with this week's triple challenge of ALMS and IMSA Challenge races
at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, and a Rolex Series race at Mazda
Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. From here, the crews will merge
and regroup into teams for Rolex Series races at Lime Rock Park and
Watkins Glen, an IMSA Challenge race during the Formula One week in
Montréal and the PCA race at Watkins Glen.
Our crew are based in 25 locations worldwide. For this seven-race run, they
will criss-cross North America in an intricate pattern of 220 flights. Somehow,
I managed to get them all to the same airports about the same time, so they
can share rental cars. I've done my best to cover their airline frequent-flyer
numbers, favourite seats and preferred roommates. Oh, and I still have my
day job as the team media officer. See why I crave extra snooze time?
I go straight from airport to track. The big sky and snow-capped peaks
remind me of home, so it's always a relaxing drive. Farnbacher Loles is
fielding three IMSA Challenge cars in addition to an ALMS GT2 car, so our
transporters get early paddock access and we're soon setting up. We were
told to leave transporter awnings at home because all teams would be
working in garages, but we've been bumped to a distant spot beyond the
grandstands, with no garage and no cover for our second transporter. The
ever-ready Farnbacher Loles crew test several options before settling on a
tent to replace the missing awning.
I help pick up golf carts, stop at Vanessa's to confirm team meals, try to
assist two crew members stranded in Chicago, start a list of crew uniforms,
then head to the media centre. My phone buzzes Ben Brown, the master
administrator for Wheeler Television (the company that produces the series
telecasts) confirms plans for dinner.
Yikes! The day is gone, so I race to check in at my hotel, shower, change
and out. Dinner with the television crew is always a delight, but I still have
flights to book, so back to the hotel. More work, then lights out.
Thursday 15 May
The hotel Internet is working at a decent speed! I know I'll be drawn in too
many directions when I get to the track, so I steal a few minutes to work
before I head out.
Today is setup day for our ALMS and Rolex teams in Utah and California,
IMSA Challenge test day in Utah. I talk by phone to our team manager,
Frank Resciniti, who's at Laguna Seca. All's in order, so I use the day to
work on surprise more travel.
I join the crew for dinner at Vanessa's. They're eager to talk about the race
program, so I stay as long as they want to share ideas. Back to the hotel,
handle urgent messages, crash.
Friday 16 May
Practice and testing for the two series races in Utah, qualifying in California.
My Miller clone covers practice and testing, reviews future plans with team
management and helps with as many crew questions as possible. Dirk
Werner posts the fastest GT2 time, so I grab a quote from him and remind
him he has a jet waiting to take him to Monterey for tomorrow's Rolex Series
race. My Laguna persona watches qualifying online, sees an exciting front-
row result for Pierre Kaffer, calls the team's three qualifying drivers for quotes
and zaps out a story.
Then I run to our distant transporter and back with Marc Basseng, who is the
solo driver for this evening's Free Prix in pit lane. If you haven't attended
Miller's Free Prix, do it next year. Every ALMS team is required to have race
cars, drivers and crew members on hand for the fans. During the hour-long
session, our mega-crew Paul Bauer and Sam Dunlap invite about 50 kids
(and a few young-at-heart) to sit in the Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3
RSR. The looks on their faces are incredible and their gratitude
overwhelming. Wow! Marc signs an autograph card for every fan and we talk
about the terrific experience as we leave pit lane.
Fast dinner at Vanessa's, back to the hotel, more travel stuff (does it ever
Saturday 17 May
Now it gets intense. IMSA qualifying and race. ALMS practice, autograph
session, driver meeting and qualifying. Rolex race. I distribute the last of my
CD media kits, then practice the fine art of split focus between the ALMS
autograph session with Marc Basseng and the Laguna Seca race online.
Because we're paddocked away from the other ALMS teams, Marc has
moved to sign autographs just below the media centre. I'm grateful!
After the autograph session, I zap back to the media centre where our team
owner, Dino Loles, joins me to watch the Rolex Series race online. Porsche's
Jared Schupack sets his screen to Rolex timing/scoring, so I can work on
my computer and still follow the California action. Thank you!!
We're elated as Eric Lux, then Dirk Werner (driving with Pierre Kaffer), lead
the GT class. But the excitement dissipates as Eric and his co-driver Leh
Keen relinquish their position to a stronger Mazda and Dirk is bumped off
track. Balancing the bad news, Steve Johnson and Dave Lacey finish seventh
after racing as high as fourth. I start my media report as I watch, but I miss
the last half-hour of the race because it's time to qualify at Miller.
After recording the quickest GT2 practice lap of the day matching Dirk
Werner's lead in Friday testing Marc Basseng handles qualifying duty. He
notches second place in a few laps, then pushes a faster lap, only to spin off
track, settling for fourth on the GT2 grid.
Tom Moore (Tafel Racing) and I optimistically hoped to get together for dinner
this eve. Both overwhelmed covering three series at two tracks, we see each
other in the media centre and know we're still hours from the finish. Our
solution is typical of our race world we take a 20-minute break for dinner
together at Vanessa's. Pretty glam Saturday night, yes?
Sunday 18 May
I'm at my computer at 5:30 am, but I hit traffic (on Sunday??) and miss the
early ALMS warmup. Yikes! I make the driver briefing, then collect strategy
info for our ALMS team manager, Peter Goebel.
Back to pit lane, then the media centre, where I watch Tom Pank dominate
the second IMSA race of the weekend, relinquishing the lead only on the last
lap. I meet him at the victory podium, where the other drivers are
congratulating him. The kudos are appropriate he's the only driver who has
competed in every IMSA Challenge race since the series inception.
Now to the final race of the weekend ALMS and the bad news that we're
starting from the back of the grid. Although both our drivers have been on
track at Miller this week, Dirk's Friday sessions don't count because it was a
promoter test day, meaning we paid the track, rather than IMSA, to
participate. Other teams have been hit by the same rule in years past, but it
doesn't make it easier to accept.
Next challenge, the flag girl. A flag bearer is required, but it's always a last-
minute chase for teams who are focused on preparing cars instead of finding
the right person to carry the flag in pre-race ceremonies. We're fortunate
Mary McGonigal has offered to help at Salt Lake, so we head to the grid
together. I introduce her to our crew members, then race back to the media
centre to don my borrowed firesuit men's size large. I can't wait 'til my
Sylvia-size suit arrives!
Marc starts the race, quickly moves to third and hands off to Dirk, who
returns to the track seventh. He charges to second, setting a lap record on
the new track configuration. The crew is elated until the last lap, when the
low-fuel indicator forces our technical director, Horst Farnbacher, to call Dirk
in for a splash of fuel. That drops him to fourth in class at the checkered flag.
I run to the announced parc fermé at pit in, but no cars. An official directs me
the long run back to IMSA tech, where I find only our car. The other cars
must be lost, just like me!
Back at the media centre, I cover the immediate post-race stuff, then run to
our paddock, where I find IMSA officials hovering over the race car. Not good.
Charlie Cook delivers the bad news the fuel cell appears to be over-
capacity, giving the team the option of tearing the car apart for a precise
reading or signing an agreement that the cell is over-capacity. Horst opts for
the latter and Peter goes to sign.
Discouraged, I head to the media centre to rewrite my report. It's always
difficult to get driver and team quotes after a race, near-impossible after a
tough race. I piece together a rough draft, zap it to our team owners for
approval, then run back to the transporter. John Gardner, the dynamic
overseer of Miller's media program, lends me his golf cart so I can move
quickly. I'm grateful! The crew help me return four of our five carts, but one is
missing. A precious 40 minutes later, I find it, parked near pit-out. Strange.
Back in the media centre, I get fast approval from our team owner, Gregory
Loles, so I send the media race report. Done! I stop at Vanessa's, where I
join the Risi Competizione crew for dinner. They also had a tough race, so we
talk about scandalous stuff happening elsewhere, then I head back to the
hotel. I work 'til almost midnight, but my eyes are closing ...
Monday 19 May
This should be an easy run home. I check in early for my flight and head to
the gate, boarding card in hand. An hour before departure, we learn the flight
is oversold and three people have to stay until tomorrow night. Delta's rules
require bumping in a specified order luckily, I'm safe because I booked
flights early, had a confirmed seat a month ago and checked in early this
morning. Good thing I have only a day at home before I leave for the next
race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
But wait! The gate agent doesn't know the rules, so she randomly selects
three people to bump from the flight. I'm one. NO!!!!! One of the three has
never flown before, so meekly accepts a coupon for a flight 36 hours from
now and leaves. The other bumpee, Clinton, and I carefully explain the rules
and use the agent's own paperwork to prove we should be on the plane. But
she stands by her decree and the plane leaves without us.
Ms Agent says there is no way to get home until the next night, but Clinton
and I disagree. I fire up my computer, we get online and find options she
hasn't considered. Almost two hours later, she finally has us booked on other
airlines, we sign acceptance and head to Delta's lounge, where we've
negotiated day passes while we wait for our flights. Double-checking, we
discover we're not booked on any aircraft to go anywhere! Hours later, with
the immense help of the lounge staff, we find ourselves on a tiny regional jet
But Ms Agent gets the last kick we get to Calgary, but our luggage has
been sent on the flights we weren't on, so it's in California. I find a helpful
agent and eventually get my bags back at 1 am. Last I heard, Clinton was
still trying to locate his ...