Story and Photograph by Vickie Miller
While it was Thanksgiving in America, I missed out on turkey and dressing and attended the last race of the 2014 season for FIA (FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale de lâ€™Automobile) WEC (World Endurance Championship). Â The race was held at AutÃ³dromo JosÃ© Carlos Pace, also known by its former name of Interlagos, a motorsport circuit located in the city of SÃ£o Paulo. Â The circuit was renamed after Carlos Pace, a Brazilian Formula One driver who had died in a 1977 plane crash.
The FIA WEC Six Hours of Sao Paulo race was emocionante (which is Portuguese for thrilling and exciting!) While all race fans knew it would be Tom Kristensenâ€™s (TK) last race before retirement, you could feel the emotion of the moment building throughout the paddock area as race day grew closer. Â This was not my first FIA WEC race, but even I could tell a strong sense of getting everything right in the Audi garage. Â The engineers seemed even more structured, precise, and deliberate in their movements. Â The mood around the Audi garage and paddock area seemed subdued and people were nervous. Â It was noticeable even to a novice fan like myself. Â I imagined how long time Audi fans would soak in this moment trying to keep their emotions in check as race time grew so near. Â Â
Since Emerson Fittipaldi was in the race as a driver in the No. 61 Ferrari 458 car with Alessandro Pier Guidi and Jeff Segal, much of the pre-race ceremony was dedicated to him. Also receiving much attention was Mark Webber, some guy who used to drive F1 car from what I hear! Â But with â€œgood-byeâ€ decals on the cars and many people stopping by the Audi garage, TKâ€™s last race was in everyoneâ€™s thoughts. Â After experiencing a memorable grid walk and chatting with Jorg Bergmeister, the Smoke Squadron provided an amazing flyover performance! Â The air demonstration squadron is a group of pilots from the Brazilian Air Force similar to our Blue Angels.
The race weekend also ended the season for the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series and the Marcas e Pilotos race, which can best be described of Brazil style of Continental Tire. Â To learn more about this series and see photographs of their cars, I invite you to visit the series website http://www.marcasepilotossp.com.br/
The Interlagos track had been newly repaved, but the venue is very â€œhistoricâ€. Â America race fans might be shocked to know there are no places to buy track or event souvenirs. There are no manufacturer or team trailers selling t-shirts or hats. Â I saw a few people with a program on Sunday, but unsure where it was purchased. This was the same situation when I was at Interlagos earlier this year in March for the Stock car race. Â While my suitcase was prepared to bring home track treasures, I left with a baseball cap given to me by a camera man who became my friend on race day.
There is only one food stand for the two main big grandstands, and it only sells their version of hot dogs and very limited on beverage selection as well. Â And you will need to buy a â€œfoodâ€ type credit card. Â There are no ropes for any sense of organized line at the autograph session so its push your way to the front. The grandstand is basically cement steps, pigeons fly in and out for scraps of anything left behind, most restrooms are not functioning, but I loved it.
Since this was my second visit to the track, most of it I expected and prepared myself for the return. But given the choice, I would much rather return to Interlagos than some tracks in America. Many times over the race weekend, I was overcome with emotion as I felt the sense of history of where I was standing.
Attending the race weekend was enhanced by meeting up with my Sao Paulo friends Leo and Wellington, who both love racing and are very knowledgeable of the sport and series. Â Leo and Wellington use the articles written by John Dagys and Marshall Pruett to learn English which are both better resources than the Simpsons, which was quoted on a regular basis. Â Leo also listens to Motor Week LIVE! show with Patrick Reynolds as a tool to learn English. Wellington was so happy to show me his photo taken with John Dagys! Â Itâ€™s funny how race fans are so similar no matter what part of the world you are inâ€¦.if you LOVE Audi you HATE Toyota! Â The Brazil fans asked about Ryan Dalziel, Enzo Potolicchio, Bob Varsha and Jordan Taylorâ€™s hair! Â With very few people in their school or home who speak English, Leo and Wellington were eager to practice talking to an American. I owe a big thank you to Leo, Wellington and Caio for helping me with transportation and navigating some difficult Portuguese only speaking situations!
I wonâ€™t go into the race details as I hope you all watched it on-line or television, and you can catch the details from Sportscar365 or the FIA WEC website. I will, instead, give you a bit of insight into one of the most important people in the FIA WEC organizationâ€¦.the person behind @FIAWEC twitter account!
So, if you are like me, you have been following @FIAWEC twitter account for a long time and rely on this account for up to date information for races times, links, qualifying results, photographs, etc. Â Â Have you ever wonderedâ€¦â€¦who is the person behind this account? Â At the Six Hours of Sao Paulo race, I had the pleasure to interview the personâ€¦the secret is about to be reviledâ€¦her name is Juliet and she is the biggest and tiniest person in FIA WEC!
I met Juliet at Circuit of Americas for the FIA WEC race, while she was doing one of her many roles of greeting fans and make them feel appreciated and welcome. Â What a concept! Â I was very happy Juliet had a few minutes to meet with me at Interlagos so I could learn more about the person with whom we all interact.
Juliet scholastic background includes a bachelor degree from University of Shanghai and an MBA from France. Â She was in the job hunt when she came across the opening on Linkedin for a â€œSocial Media Managerâ€ with FIA WEC and applied.
Why didnâ€™t I see this!??
Juliet has over 10 years of communication and digital marketing experience and a background in literature which all helped her pass all the other applicants and secure this valued position. I hold two bachelor degrees and one MBA myself andI have always said education is very important.
While this is her first year working for FIA WEC and in motorsports, she has watched racing and loves all variety of sports (maybe not soccer fan so much) and participates in swimming. Â She enjoys her husbandâ€™s passion for motorcycles and MotoGP. Â Â Juliet was born and raised in Shanghai, and watched NBA when she was growing up. Â She speaks three languages English, French and her native, Chinese. Â Her favorite cities are the ones she knows bestâ€¦. Shanghai, her hometown, and Paris, where she lives now. Â Â Her favorite tracks include Fuji, from an infrastructure point of view, and Spa for the track views. Â Â Juliet keeps physically fit in order to adapt with time change and long days at the track, and has learned to sleep on the plane.
Julietâ€™s role with FIA WEC is varied and hectic. Â As Social Media manager, she is in charge of the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, but is thankful for her small team who help write longer articles and professional photographers who provide excellent racing shots.
Juliet loves to come out from behind the laptop and interact with fans. Â She is the first line of contact with fans and tries her best to ensure they have the information needed to follow along at home for the race by providing web links, or meet with fans at the track.
Sometimes the information highway can be bumpy. Â During qualifying at Sao Paulo, the web site experienced problems and she had to handle the complaints. Â I hope fans understand and appreciate the environment in which she has to work. Â For Interlagos, the track is â€œhistoricâ€ meaning old. Â The technical infrastructure is not able to handle the demands to keep up with all the traffic on the digital highway. Â I noticed this when in the media center and how the Wi-Fi crawled along as more and more people tried to upload their videos or articles to keep race fans informed.
Instead of publicly blaming the track in her replies to the app issues, she calmly stated the issue was being worked on and provided frequent Twitter updates. Â With this being her first year in this role, she is quickly learning to deal with all fan attitudes and the technical stress. Â I was amazed to see her in action and feel she is doing an excellent job! Â I got tired watching her run around Interlagos between the media center and the paddock, while being ever mindful of the time and track activities to provide up-to-the-minute race status and feedback. Â She is very passionate about making sure race fans at the track are having a memorable experience. Â Againâ€¦what a concept!
One of her biggest challenges is uncertainty of the race and being prepared to handle any situation and respond quickly.Â This interview was completed the morning of the race with no knowledge of the upcoming accident with Mark Webber and the huge impact an accurate and quick status would mean to the race fans holding their breath around the world.
Juliet realizes not many fans can travel to attend the FIA WEC races so she strives to help the far-away fans feel they are a part of the race experience. Juliet welcomes your comments and suggestions as she builds the FIA WEC â€œfanshipâ€ even stronger for 2015 !
Please follow the series at:
Facebook page: FIA WEC
Twitter during Race: @FIAWEC_Live
For those of my followers keeping track, yes I was asked three times, â€œAre you Vickie Miller?â€ while walking around Interlagos track! Â It always surprises me when people are excited to meet me!
While there are many â€œwritersâ€ who publish articles recapping the races, I attend all races and write from my own experience. Â I do not copy from others and ask that same consideration in regards to writing or photographs.
Thank you all for reading and I welcome your comments. I have no affiliation with FIA WEC, IMSA, TUDOR, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is â€œjust the way I see itâ€. I am working on one more article to wrap up the 2014 race season so keep watching. Â I welcome your comments and suggestions as I look forward to 2015 race season!
Got a response? Follow and tweet me Â @viclovesracing