Grand Prix – Day 4

Lots of fun had today down at the Grand Prix – I wound up crewing the domestics this morning then came home and met up with the guys outside on the street. We packed into PUF and drove onto the track, setting up on field we had the balloon on previously (at turn 13).

Not long into the morning, a few of the pilots decided to come on site with us. Driving in with Van #1 (it had the other access sticker) they used the staff passes from the crew that didn’t come on site today. Security staff were just checking that people had access passes – they weren’t checking that the photos on the passes matched the faces of those holding the passes. Hmmmm….

We all hung out on site with the other guys taking walks here and there while I stayed with the vehicles and watched the helicopters come & go. Oh, there were cars out there too??? :)

On the lead up to the race, we had the Roulettes, the F18 and the 747 low pass until finally the cars hit the track. The race itself was uneventual and, afterwards, I took Marlon over to the track tower to meet ATC team. From the top of the temporary tower I was able to get a lot of great photos of the helipads.

So much for my time at the Grand Prix – wish we could have had the F1 Racer balloon up on the race day, but c’est la vie…

Flying over the GP

“Well, we may not be at the GP with the F1 Racer balloon but at least I got to fly over the track. The fine folks at Professional Helicopter Services are running the helipad and offering joy flights – 5 minutes for $80. I went up yesterday with Andy as our pilot – I asked for (and received) the front seat – not cheap but it was a fun little flight :)

Definitely time to think about saving for my rotary license :)

No shape for Day 4 either :(

Well, the AGP have not been able to come up with a space where we can set up the F1 Racer balloon so they’ve pulled the plug on Day 4 for us. A few of us are going down there anyhow but we’ll only have a few chairs and a small eskie of food & drink. Not quite the same without all the vehicles and the BBQ, oh well…

Maybe tomorrow I can go for a walk and get some shots of the grid girls and some of the other helicopters that are there :)

No shape for Day 3 of the AGP :(

Sadly, we’re not going to have the shape at the Grand Prix on day 3 :(

While we were inflated on Day 2, Jamie from the on-site air traffic control tower came over with one of the guys from the helipad. Seems that they hadn’t been told we’d be at the race this year, let alone inflated in a field right under the approach path to the pad. Turns out that their AGP contact hadn’t been told either (no comment needed here re: planning, organisation & communication within the AGP :(

ATC and the helipad team were OK with us there provided we didn’t get the basket more than 10′ to 20′ off the ground. They would have preferred knowing about us a long time before so they could plan the approaches differently, but on the whole, they could survive our presence.

Sadly, the AGP didn’t want to take any chances and have pulled the pin on the shape for day 3. They’re going to try to find another place for us to inflate on race day (day 4) but it’s possible we’ll be cancelled all together :(

2007 Australian Grand Prix – Day 2

Once again we’re trackside at the Grand Prix with the F1 Racer balloon. When we arrived, there wasn’t much wind but there were showers of rain coming through so we put the van and trailer next to each other, rigged a tarp and set up the BBQ to cook up some breakfast.

Shortly before the start of the first F1 qualifying session, we spoke with the met bureau and they confirmed that we had a few hours without rain and with relatively light winds, so we dismantled the “camp ground” and started setting up the balloon.

The winds were a little high but less than they’d been on the day of the race last year, so with two heavy 4WD’s upwind and the van downwind, we managed to keep it tethered. Rob was taking it up and down so the bottom of the basket was around 20′ to 30′ off the ground and giving the crew rides so we could see more of the track – I got some photos on my ride but the fence was still in the way :(

We were getting lots of attention from the public with people taking photos of the balloon or shots with themselves in front of the balloon, etc. A couple of people came over to say that they were renting a corner apartment in one of the buildings over the road and we were blocking their view of the last few corners – ooops :)

After a couple of hours, the winds got too high so we pulled it down, leaving it out in case winds eased and a couple of us went to refill the tanks. On our way back, we could see the rain coming so we packed it up quickly, getting it mostly away before the rains came. We then took the trailer and van over to the fence and set up the BBQ for lunch.

Standing on the roof of the trailer we had a good view of the track but again, that damned safety fence was in the way :(

After a short time it became clear that the wind wasn’t going away and the odd rain shower was still coming through so we called it quits for the day, some of the guys heading home right away. I took advantage of some clearing weather to take a ride in one of Professional Helicopter Service’s JetRangers. I called shotgun and was up front with Andy (the pilot) and shot some video (I’ll link it once I sort it out – it’s in MOV format and at 90 degrees ‘cos I was holding the camera on its side – DOH! :)

After all that, I left and took the last of the crew back to the shed before heading home for the day.