15 Hours of Motorista: Lone Star Le Mans

Last Saturday, I claimed a personal record that probably no one else cares about: I spent 15 consecutive hours at Circuit of the Americas, that amazing racetrack less than 45 minutes from my house. If you count travel, that makes for a  16 1/2-hour day. It was delightful.

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The occasion was the Lone Star Le Mans, the “Texas” version of endurance racing. You may remember that I attended this event last year, when it took place on two days: Saturday for the American series and Sunday for the European. This year, those estimable race organizers decided to squeeze all that racy goodness into one day, resulting in a 2 1/2-hour American series race (the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship) a little after 11 a.m. and a six-hour European series race (World Endurance Challenge) beginning at 5 p.m. and, yes, ending at 11 p.m.

You may wonder where I got the other three hours. Well, my good friend Derek, an auto journalist, scored an invitation to attend the TUSC race as the guest of SRT Motorsports, and invited me to attend as his guest. SRT is/was the American performance brand of Fiat Chrysler – it used to be a performance division across the brands, so that you had the Chrysler 300 SRT, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, etc., etc. Then SRT became its own brand, and the Dodge Viper sports car became the SRT Viper. Clear as mud? To complicate things even further, SRT is now being subsumed within Dodge, so that the Viper will now be…what? The Dodge Viper SRT? The Dodge SRT Viper? I don’t know. The long and the short of it is, we were hanging with Viper people. And the Viper people were there because there were three Vipers racing in the TUSC race.

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Three salutes to Derek, who, through his invitation to me, made the following possible: I got to hang out at the SRT Motorsports VIP area (right by the start/finish line) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., meet the owners of the world’s largest private Viper collection, tour the SRT paddock area, meet some of the drivers, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, use a clean, private restroom, charge my phone and cheer the Vipers on to a 1,2 victory in the race.

It was mega.

First, we met Wayne and D’Ann Rauh, who own perhaps the world’s largest private collection of Vipers. D’Ann has 75, Wayne has 22 or 24. I forget the exact number. It doesn’t really matter. D’Ann is a gal after my own heart – she drives almost ALL of her 140 cars (including two Lotuses) and maintains her collection in six large warehouses on her property. THAT’S what I’m talking about.

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The Vipers on the left and in the middle belong to Wayne and D’Ann.

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This photo kind of cracked me up – I got the owner’s body perfectly framed in the rear glass!

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Here was my view for the first race:

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Oh, look – the start/finish line. And the Viper pits were directly across from us.

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We got a tour of the SRT paddock, for an up close and personal look at the cars (and the crew!)

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We didn’t know it at the time, but here is your race winner!

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And the gentleman on the right, Jonathan Bomarito, is one of the drivers of the race winner! Marc Goossens, on the left, drove the second-place finisher, the first time SRT Motorsports has come 1-2 in a race. I am the good luck charm (as Helio Castroneves knows)!

Here are some snaps from the TUSC grid and race:

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And we’re off!

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If everyone can get through Turn 1 of Lap 1 without going boom, it’s a good day.

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Eating lunch and watching the dark clouds accumulate.

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I was thisclose to all the cars!

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The Vipers sandwiching a BMW Z4 that, for unknown reasons, has literally lost its ass.

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Prototypes go zooooooom!

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My vantage point looking up toward the Turn 1 Grandstand.

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The swank SRT setup.

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One of the Flying Lizard Audi R8s, and one of my favorite liveries.

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Two Vipers at the top of Turn 1 (the white Viper is a customer-owned and -raced car; it came first in its class!)

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Taking the checkered flag!!

Next, the 6-hour WEC race!

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The Corvette gets prepped.

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The clouds loom.

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What my kid would look like if I had one.

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A rainbow of Ferraris on pit lane.

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Flyover/menacing cloud time.

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I’ll let my Twitter feed take it from here:

So, yes. The heavens opened, I wore leopard-print rain boots, and COTA offered to build me a log cabin in the support paddock. That pretty much sums up Lone Star Le Mans. Here are a few more photos to wrap up the day.

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The amazing Toyota hybrid race car, the only Toyota I like.

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The racing Aston Martins make an exceedingly delightful sound (see prior tweet).

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Hi, people in the COTA Tower. Notice anything behind you? LIKE THE WEATHER APOCALYPSE??

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Race cars be like, we don’t care.

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Until suddenly they cared a lot.

It was such a cluster they red-flagged the race until the rain stopped.

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Finally we got back to it.

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Then we had fireworks for no reason.

And there you go. Best day ever, no?

 

 

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