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The First US Formula 1 Grand Prix in Austin (Day 2)

Thanks to my father, I was indeed fortunate to be given the opportunity to go to my first Formula 1 race in person. I’ve been a huge F1 racing fan for many years. I love it so much I even wrote a young adult novel about the sport. What made this event special was that the Grand Prix race was held at a brand new racing circuit called, The Circuit of the Americas. It was built specifically for Formula 1 cars, a first for North America. The circuit was raised from the ground up during most of 2012, then polished up just in time for the Formula 1 race weekend on November 16th-18th of this year. The following is part two of my first-person account of the race weekend. Hope you enjoy it.

(Click here to read Part One)

5:45am Sunday morning. Race morning.

We get up and our brains are still on snooze, but we get dressed and hit the road anyway. Our hotel is in Temple, Texas which is about an hour north of Austin, only place we could find under $150 a night. And we booked months early too. It’s all water under the bridge as we chow down on a quick McDonald’s breakfast and make it to the downtown shuttle bus location in Austin. It’s a forty-five minute bus ride out to the track, then a few miles walking after you get off. And then another mile or two walk to our seats. No one can say that we aren’t getting our exercise during this trip.

We make it to our seats at 9:30am just in time to see the first race of the day, a 10-lap all GT-3 Porsche race. It’s fun watching these Porsches thundering down the racetrack. But one thing I notice is these cars look slow going through the S-curves compared to the lightning fast speed of the Formula 1 cars, which is strange because these GT-3 Porsches are quite fast in their own right.

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Next race is an all Ferrari super-car lineup. These showroom Ferrari’s are slightly modified to handle this circuit. The honor of driving them falls on a bunch of Ferrari dealers who get to pitch these cars around in this amateur race. It’s fun to watch one of them crash a brand-new Ferrari. The crowd also pity-applauds the Ferrari in last place. 

Hunger tickles our bellies so I convince Dad to go grab our lunch now so he doesn’t miss the start of the Grand Prix. The food choices here are interesting. The jumbo corn dogs that you can get at the state fair for about $6 are $10 here. That’s nuts. What’s that a 95 percent markup? It’s a hotdog with batter.  The big sausage sandwich is $15. Someone also sells Krispy Kreme donuts at a very high price too. Dad found a hot dog place yesterday that was only $5 a dog, a bargain here. Unfortunately today, everyone found out about the hot dog place and now it’s too busy. So dad gets us nachos which comes with a cup of cheese, a cup of peppers, and a bag of Tostitos Tortilla chips. Oh well. We’re not here to enjoy lunch. We’re here to see some racing action!

The pomp and circumstance for the Formula 1 race begins. The University of Texas marching band plays at the Start/Finish line. We see them on the jumbo-trons, pounding on their drums, smashing on their cymbals, and blowing their trumpets. But we’re too far out and can’t hear them at all. Guess the show is not really for us.

Now a line of vintage American cars forms on the grid. All convertibles. Each Formula 1 driver sits on the back to wave at the crowd as the cars make their way around the circuit. Except driver Kimi Raikkonen‘s Mustang, it’s having some issues so he hops on-board with another driver.

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After the tour on the track ends, we wait.

The race cars form on the Start/Finish grid. The crews make last-minute checks. The national anthem plays as a man with an American flag parachutes down.

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A flight of three World War Two aircraft and an F-16 do a diamond-shape formation over the circuit. The parachute guy realizes he’s taking too long and dives down quicker to get out of the way of the low-flying aircraft.

Finally the safety car (or pace car as we like to say in America) leads the group of cars for a parade lap around the circuit. Cars weave back and forth to try to warm up their tires so they’ll stick to the pavement better.

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I’m way past excited. The cars are right in front of me. I’m not seeing all this on television. It’s in-person and it’s wonderful. In the stands, I can feel the anticipation in the air. Over 120,000 fans collectively hold their breath, like 120,000 antsy children waiting for the teacher to call recess.

The cars do their parade lap and line up to their places on the grid. We have to watch the jumbo-tron for this part. But that’s okay. Five red lights come on one by one and I know what’s coming next.

Wait for it…

The lights go out and the cars are moving. Many fans are ooing and awwing at the screen, but my gaze falls to my left. I’m not missing my first glimpse of all those cars screaming down the S curves in front of us for the very first time.

Here they come. Fast. Very fast. The leaders at the front. My favorite Ferrari driver Fernando Alonzo had a great start on the grid, managing to jump from 8th place to 4th going before going uphill to the first turn. The screaming engines fill the air, piercing my eardrums, and it feels soooo damn good.

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The race is fast and furious. My head swivels, trying to check out everything that’s happening. The cars on the S-curves in front of us. The faraway straightaway on the other side that funnels cars to the action-packed Turn 12. The series of turns out of turn 12. Lots to keep up with and it’s awesome.

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 Kimi Raikkonen makes an amazing pass on the tricky S-Curves in front of us. How cool is that? It was so gutsy that no one else tries to duplicate it during the race.

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Sebastian Vettel, who is leading the World Championship, keeps the number one spot. But second-place Lewis Hamilton reels Vettel in lap-by-lap while Alonzo and Kimi make their own charges up the black pole. Soon Hamilton catches up to Vettel and zooms around him going down the long straightaway towards Turn 12 opposite us. And we see it right from our seats!

Hamilton keeps his lead. Alonzo climbs to third-place but can’t make any more ground on Vettel and Hamilton.

Hamilton goes on to win, joining Vettel and Alonzo on the winner’s podium. Normally, each driver wears a cap from the Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli  with #1 #2 and #3 on them. But Texas always has to be different. The Pirelli caps have been turned into black cowboy hats. It looks funny on all three of them. I’m sorry that Alonzo wasn’t able to win. But it’s nice to see Hamilton win because lately it’s been all Vettel and it’s kind of boring. Still, what a fantastic race! Now all of us have to leave…

All 120,000 of us.

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The human traffic jam is enormous. Waiting to go through the two pedestrian bridges takes awhile, in some places you only move four feet every five minutes. Yet, we still make it to the other side and walk down the long, gravel pathways to the long bus shuttle lines. Saturday’s lines were long, but it doesn’t compare with these. Almost a half a mile I would say, maybe longer.

So we wait.

But the cool thing that we all get to witness is world democracy in action. Our line is filled with every nationality and ethnicity one can think of, forming a true melting-pot of the world. And in this world the one thing that can bind people together…is their outrage of seeing a-holes trying to cut in line. Especially THIS line.

One by one, people in line rat out people who try to cut in. And we always know when these little line-dodgers are getting near us because the crowd takes turns booing and verbally mocking them all the way down to the end as they do their walk of shame. It’s hilarious.

Finally we climb aboard our bus and get to our car in Downtown Austin. We are tired but in extremely high spirits. The weekend is the best I’ve had in a long time and I think my dad would agree.

As an American fan of F1, I’m glad to have our race back again. 

A huge thanks to the people of Austin, the people who run the Circuit of the Americas, and all the people involved in Formula 1 for making it a special weekend! I hope to be back for more next year.

Courtney Summers Author Interview!

My first introduction to Courtney Summers occurred inside my local Barnes & Noble bookstore. I saw the cover of her debut novel, CRACKED UP TO BE, which featured a headless teen girl stretched out on a bench with a soccer field behind her. I was curious. Why is that girl missing her head? Does she play soccer? Is she thinking about playing soccer? Does she dream about a world without soccer?

Curious, I picked up a copy and read the first chapter. I was then introduced to Parker Fadley, a girl who was smart, sarcastically hilarious, and didn’t take crap from anybody. But what really got me was the writing. As a reader, I clicked with the no-marshmallow, to-the-point, no-apologies way Ms. Summers writes. It was refreshing and made me a fan right then and there. Although, I did find out that CRACKED UP TO BE has nothing to do with soccer.

Since then, Courtney has written three young adult novels, SOME GIRLS ARE, FALL FOR ANYTHING, and her new book coming out on Tuesday, June 19th… 

Here’s a description from Ms. Summers’ website:

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

I’ve already had the pleasure of reading this book and you can read that review here. (without spoilers) But basically…I LOVED IT!

I asked Courtney if she would stop by my website and answer a few questions about her writing, her books, and about THIS IS NOT A TEST. I was floored when she said yes. And I was humbled when she offered to send a free copy of THIS IS NOT A TEST to one lucky person for a giveaway! So keep reading for your chance to win!

Let’s get started…

Instead of going for the standard, survivalist-type horror heroine, you went the opposite way with Sloane. In the book, she starts off as a character who really wants to die. How did you come up with that choice? Was it the way you always envisioned Sloane or did her character change as you were writing the book?

I thought about how I’d (honestly) react during a zombie apocalypse. I like to think I’d be totally awesome at it but if I lost everyone that mattered to me, I’m not so sure I’d want to keep going. I always envisioned Sloane as girl who didn’t want to survive. How much she wanted to die became more pronounced from the first to second draft, but the core of her character, her motivations, remained the same.

One central element of this book is how the characters relate to each other and how that shifts throughout the story. My favorite relationship is between the twins Trace and Grace. Why did you pick a set of twins?

Thank you! I think of Trace and Grace as the characters the other characters want to be. Everyone in THIS IS NOT A TEST is aching for their family and those two represent what the others have lost. I thought having siblings would emphasize this void and I chose twins because I felt that would also intensify it.

What is your favorite horror film? And why?

I love Kairo (Pulse). It’s J-horror and it’s brilliant. I didn’t like it the first time I saw it but I made myself watch it again and it blew me away. The pacing is very slow, but it’s incredibly atmospheric and so lonely. It’s about ghosts and they’re taking over the living world through technology, forcing those who come in contact with them to commit suicide. It’s chilling.

Why do you like to write young adult fiction? What is it about the genre that appeals to you?

I love writing YA fiction because the stories demand an immediacy and intensity that is so fun to explore. I also love writing YA because I love reading it. So many YA books out today are fresh and exciting. I also adore the community–it’s so supportive and enthusiastic.

When faced with a new book, what’s your writing process?

My process is all over the place, to be honest! It really depends on the book. I could outline, I could just dive right in. I never know. THIS IS NOT A TEST was outlined extensively twice, for example. The book I’m working on now has been outlined more than that. Right now it looks like I settle into a new book with outlining, but Book 6 could change that up!

Who is your favorite fictional heroine and why?

That’s so hard to pick! I adore Luna Lovegood. She operates on this whole other level and nothing seems to touch her. I love every female protagonist Melina Marchetta has written because they’re always so honest and realistic. Andrea from Blake Nelson’s Girl has an incredible voice and is so likeable and wonderfully flawed. I’d read any book she narrated.

You write very compelling female heroines. Sloane in THIS IS NOT A TEST. Eddie in FALL FOR ANYTHING. Regina in SOME GIRLS ARE. Parker in CRACKED UP TO BE. Of these four fictional characters, which one is the closest to the real Courtney Summers?

Thank you! I don’t think any of them are by the time I’m finished a book, to be honest! I relate to some of my female leads more than others, but all of them are pretty far away from the type of person I am… I think. 😉

You can tell this next question is a bit…leading. But, if you were given a choice between an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas or one to Volcano National Park in Hawaii…which one would you choose and why?

Hah! WELL. Volcano National Park all the way! Best ever.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m wrapping up the first draft of my fifth book, ALL THE RAGE, which is due out in 2013. It’s about a girl who blackmails a rich classmate and then wakes up on a dirt road with no memory of the night before.

To wrap things up, I would like to borrow five quick questions from the great James Lipton, host of Inside The Actor’s Studio. Here we go.

Now, Courtney…

What is your favorite word?
Fisticuffs!

What is your least favorite word?
Lolling.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Fearlessness.

What sound or noise do you love?
Thunderstorms.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Snoring!

And we will leave on that noisy note. Courtney, thank you so much for stopping by!

Thanks for having me on your blog, Doug!

Courtney has allowed me the honor of giving away one copy of THIS IS NOT A TEST to one lucky reader!

To enter, all you need to do is leave one comment on this post by Midnight (CST) on June 16, 2012. I will announce the winner on June 19, 2012. Please list your e-mail on your comment so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I will not use your e-mail for any other purpose.

You can only enter once. UNLESS…you mention this interview on Twitter or your blog and I’ll give you one extra entry! BUT please let me know you did this by either adding my twitter name (@DougSolter) to your tweet. Or put a link to your blog post inside your comment to get credit.

This giveaway is for US/Canada entries only. Sorry. :(  

Good luck!

An Evening With Ray Bradbury

This is a must see if you want to be a serious writer.

This is a wonderful hour with the funny and insightful science fiction author Ray Bradbury, writer of such masterpieces as FAHRENHEIT 451 and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. The entire hour is filled with great advice for young writers starting out and some of us who are still hammering on the keyboards. Grab a pad and pen because you’ll want to be writing stuff down.

This was recorded in 2001. But every word is still relevent for writers today.