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A Gallery of Memories - Part 26

2023 was a special year for me, motorsports-wise. Besides my travels to F1 Races ( Spain & Belgium ), I had the opportunity to attend the Centenary Edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. However, What was more amazing was seeing racing return to my homeland in September 2023.

India ( now Bharat ) hosted its first-ever MotoGP race at the Buddh International Circuit from 22nd to 24th September. The purpose-built racetrack returned to hosting an international motorsports event for the first time since 2013. MotoGP, the pinnacle of racing on two wheels, was my first exposure to motorsport in the late 1990s. Back then, the exploits of Mick Doohan made me a Repsol Honda fan and ever since I have been following their performances avidly.

Attending a MotoGP event was always on my wishlist and when the opportunity to attend the inaugural edition of the Bharat GP presented itself, I simply couldn't refuse. The icing on the cake was that I got invited to the weekend as a guest of Repsol Honda!

As always, the first post from the experience documents all the known motorsport fraternity from the world of MotoGP. 

So here goes!

Alex Marquez, Gresini Ducati Racing :

Joan Mir, Repsol Honda Team :

Augusto Fernandez, Gas Gas Factory Racing Tech3 :

Miguel Oliveira, Cryptodata RNF MotoGP :

Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Factory Racing Sports Director :

Jorge Martin, Prima Pramac Racing :

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda :

Mr Julia Marquez, the Father of the Marquez brothers :

Marc Marquez!! Massive Fan moment for a Repsol Honda loyalist :

Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Ducati Racing :

Sam Lowes, Marc VDS Racing, Moto2 :

Somkiat Chantra, Honda Team Asia, Moto2 :

Lin Jarvis, Team Principal for Monster Energy Yamaha :

Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha Team & 2021 World Champion :

Marc Marquez' Crew Chief, Santi Hernandez :

Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda :

Six-time World Champion & Aprilia ambassador, Max Biaggi :

Pol Espargaro, Gas Gas Factory Racing Tech3 :

Luca Marini, Mooney VR46 Racing Team :

Davide Tardozzi, Ducati Racing Team Manager :

Aron Canet, Pons Racing, Moto2 :

Jack Miller, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team :

Deniz Oncu, Red Bull KTM Ajo, Moto3 :

Daniel Holgado, Red Bull KTM Tech3, Moto3 :

Celestino Vietti, Fantic Racing, Moto2 :

Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM MotoGP :

Tony Arbolino, Marc VDS Racing, Moto2 :

Marco Bezzecchi, Mooney VR46 Racing Team :

Ducati General Manager, Luigi Dall'lgna :

Albert Arenas, Red Bull KTM Ajo, Moto2 :

MotoGP World Champion Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Lenovo Team :

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team :

Lucio Cecchinello, Founder of LCR Honda Team :

Darryn Binder, Husqvarna Intact GP, Moto2 :

Raul Fernandez, RNF Aprilia MotoGP :

Razlan Razali, Team Principal, RNF Aprilia MotoGP :

Jaume Masia, Leopard Racing, Moto3 :

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing, MotoGP :

Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing, MotoGP :

Mr Paolo Simoncelli, Team Owner, Sic58 Squadra Corsa :

Jake Dixon, Gas Gas Aspar Team, Moto2 :

Ana Carrasco, Boe Motorsports, Moto3 :

David Munoz, Boe Motorpsorts, Moto3 :

David Alonso, Gas Gas Aspar Team, Moto3 :

Franco Morbidelli, Monster Energy Yamaha, MotoGP :

Simon Crafar, former racer & Ace Commentator :

Jose Luis Martinez, Assistant & Best Friend to Marc Marquez :

Pablo Nieto, Team Manager, Mooney VR46 Team, MotoGP :

Joe Roberts, Italtrans Racing Team, Moto2 :

Dennis Foggia, Italtrans Racing Team, Moto2 :

Piero Taramasso, Michelin Motorsports Wheel Manager, It is Such a pleasure to meet him :

It was truly a special experience and a blessing to be at the inaugural edition of MotoGP of Bharat. A big thank you to Repsol Honda Racing for being kind enough to extend invites to my friend and me for the weekend. The Friday, Saturday and Sunday experiences will follow soon, so watch this space!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 25

 The Belgian Grand Prix held at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is my favourite race on the F1 calendar. Every year, I make an effort to be present at the Grand Prix and a trip to this beautiful circuit in the Ardennes has become like an annual pilgrimage. The 2023 Belgian Grand Prix was the second F1 race that I attended in the year. 

As always, I kickstart my experience from the weekend with "A Gallery of Memories" post, where I share my memories with all the famous and well-known people from the motorsport world and beyond!

Davide Brivio, ex-Yamaha, ex-Suzuki in MotoGP and Racing Director in Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Pierre Gasly, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Alexander Albon, Williams Racing F1 Team :

Reigning World Champion, now a Triple World Champion, Max Verstappen, who races for Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Sergio Perez, Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Beat Zehnder, Sporting Director, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake :

1983 Cricket World Cup Winner, Indian Cricket Legend and now an ace commentator, Ravi Shastri :

Liam Lawson, Reserve Driver for Red Bull Racing F1 :

Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake :

Tom Kristensen, WEC Champion & Record winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans :

Jakey Benham, Dani Bereznay, Jarno Opmeer & Marcel Kiefer, Sim racers for Mercedes F1 E-Sports Team :

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team :

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake :

Sophia Floersch, Van Amersfoort Racing, Formula 3 :

Oscar Piastri, McLaren F1 Team :

Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team :

Jerome d'Ambrosio, Development Driver at Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Jason Cozzetto, one of the senior mechanics at Alpine F1 Team :

Friends and mechanics from the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team! 

Tiffany Cromwell, Australian Road & Gravel Cyclist & Valtteri Bottas' partner :

Pietro Fittipaldi, Reserve Driver for Moneygram Haas F1 Team :

Mr Fritz van Amersfoort, the founder, Team Principal & F3 Team Manager for Van Amersfoort Racing :

Nico Hulkenberg, Moneygram Haas F1 Team :

Papa Perez! Mr Antonio Perez Garibay :

Hannah Schmitz, Principal Strategy Engineer for Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Diego Ioverno, Sporting Director at Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Jack Doohan! It is always a pleasure to meet him, he is a thorough gentleman & an even better racer :

Mohammed Bin Sulayem, former Rally Driver and Current President of the FIA :

Some dear friends from Belgium, such a blessing to know them!

The Hosts at the Ferrari F1 Club, such amazing moments with them, so gracious and welcoming as always :

Jamie Chadwick, development driver at Williams Racing F1 Team & the triple-world champion in the now defunct W Series :

Daniel Ricciardo, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Timo Glock, ex-F1 Driver and now a commentator for German TV :

Carlos Sainz Jr, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

An eventful and inclement weather-filled weekend!

A big thank you to the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team and the hosts at the Ferrari F1 Club for having me over the weekend. 

Although this was the last post of "A Gallery of Memories" from an F1 weekend, there remains a surprise, from a new event that I had the opportunity of attending in 2023. More on that later, so watch this space!

Motorsport Weekends - 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans - Sunday

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a test of endurance. The hallmark event of the FIA World Endurance Championship, Le Mans is a motorsport event like no other. Man and machinery get tested to the hilt and finishing the race remains an achievement in itself.

My friend and I had decided to soldier on and stay awake for the entire duration of the race and as we headed into Sunday and the critical hours of the morning, our eyes began to feel heavy & we began to get drowsy.

The only way to beat this lethargy was to do some activity and we decided to head to Casa Ferrari from the Paddock and watch the racers and their rides navigate through the circuit at night!

Driving through the night, relentless endurance displayed by the drivers and the teams :

The AF Corse Ferrari Hypercars operating in tandem :

After an hour, we decided to head back to the Paddock again and this time, we took a different route.

The Ferris Wheel was fully illuminated as we walked back to the Paddock :

Once we made our way back to the Paddock, we took a short stop outside the Porsche Hospitality. The Hospitality had a large screen outside with the race feed being relayed live.

Incidentally, the broadcaster was showing onboard footage from Car Number 51, a lap around Circuit de la Sarthe!

Onboard with Ferrari Hypercar 51, for almost a lap ( Video Link ) :

As we headed back to the Ferrari hospitality, we got invited to spend some time in the garage. As the only guests present with the team overnight, we had the liberty and the luxury to spend as much time as we wanted, to see the team perform up close!

Spending a couple of hours in the garage was a special experience. The views from the box were amazing. The Pit crew tried to get some rest, as and when the opportunity arose.

After we exited the garage, we went up the stairs to the highest level of the Pits building. The views rivalled that of the Pit Grandstand, and we could see the cars go full throttle down the start-finish straight!

Some Stills from the highest viewing gallery above the Pits Hospitality :

The drivers continue driving as the dawn breaks :

The Ferrari Hypercars racing in the early hours of Sunday morning :

Video Link of the drivers racing with dawn arriving :

The light kept improving as dawn approached and we were slowly feeling hungry again!

Dawn breaks over the circuit :

Breakfast in the Hospitality, always been a fan of Lotus Biscoff! Healthy grub is always available in the Ferrari Hospitality, after all they are catering to the drivers and the team personnel!

As the morning hours crept in on us, people started returning to the paddock from their overnight slumbers.

The light improves as the Paddock begins to become a busy place again :

We decided to head to Casa Ferrari and enjoy the early morning views of the track from the penultimate corner, along with some more indulgent breakfast treats!

Some breakfast treats at Casa Ferrari :

The cars navigating through the penultimate chicane, on a glorious Sunday morning :

The AF Corse Ferraris soldiering on. Car number 51 was in contention for victory :

The guests of Casa Ferrari had the opportunity to watch the action from other parts of the circuit at appointed times. We too enrolled for one such tour and this tour took us to Hunaudieres, a high-speed section followed by an S-chicane that opened up to the legendary Mulsanne Straight!

Shots of the cars through the high-speed Hunaudieres-Mulsanne section :

After we returned from Hunaudieres, we decided to head to Casa Ferrari for the final time. Car Number 51 was leading the race and we hoped to be in the garage for the celebrations.

Walking from the Paddock to Casa Ferrari for the final time on the weekend :

En route, I met an ex-F1 Driver!

Will Stevens, Hertz Team Jota, Hypercar :

Grabbing some stills for the final time from Casa Ferrari!

Back in the hospitality, and lunch was ready!

A quick lunch but a tense one too!

Car Number 51 had been leading from the Toyota Car Number 8 comfortably. The final pit-stop was completed but an electrical shutdown ( due to a malfunctioning steering ) caused number 51 to stall in the pits. With Alessandro Pier Guidi frantically trying to re-activate all systems, all of us in the hospitality were reciting our prayers and gasping with fear. Finally, the car roared back to life and the Italian emerged from the pits, still in the lead, but the gap truncated considerably. Thankfully, that was the last stop and we hoped for no more hiccups in the final hours of racing.

As the clock ran down, we headed to the garage to get ready for the celebrations ( once car number 51 took the chequered flag of course ).

The agonizing wait!

Finally, Victory!! There were jubilant celebrations, tears of joy, hugs and ecstasy as we celebrated this victory for Ferrari AF Corse, on Debut!!

It was time for the drive of honour through the pit lane for the winners of the Centenary Edition of Le Mans.

We lined up on both sides of the pit lane to get a good view of the winners :

Getting a glimpse of the Le Mans winners as they drive through the pit lane!

Drive of Honour through the Pits ( Video Link ) :

Like in F1, we then ran towards the Podium for the celebrations!

As we waited for the podium finishers to come onto the stage, Charles Leclerc got invited for a quick interview.

Charles Leclerc talks about attending the race and his experience as a spectator. The Monegasque expressed his desire to race in the future :

Video Link of the Interview :

The podium finishers from the Hypercar Category make it to the podium :

2nd and 3rd Place Finishers ( Video Link ) :

Winners of the Centenary Edition of Le Mans ( Video Link ) :

The trophy and wreath presentations begin :

Ferrari AF Corse car number 51 finished ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing car number 8 and Cadillac Racing car number 2.

Well done to James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alessandro Pier Guidi ( Ferrari AF Corse ), Sebastien Buemi, Brendan Hartley, Ryu Hirakawa ( Toyota Gazoo ) & Earl Bamber, Richard Westbrook, Alex Lynn ( Cadillac Racing ) for finishing on the podium!

The winners of the Centenary Edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, AF Corse Car Number 51 :

Trophy Presentation & Podium Celebrations ( Video Link ) :

Walking back to the Hospitality after the Podium celebrations :

Time to add 2023 to the list of victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Ferrari AF Corse :

The team personnel brought the constructor trophy to the hospitality.

The Winning Constructor Trophy :

This got shortly followed by the drivers of Car Number 51 - James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who took the Chequered Flag at the end.

The drivers of Car Number 51, returning to the Hospitality amidst some applause!

Video Link :

Signatures of all 6 Ferrari Hypercar drivers, mission accomplished!

My friends bid adieu as they had a train and plane to catch! I decided to loiter around the Paddock for one last time!

As I made one final round of the Paddock, I had the opportunity of meeting two more drivers!

Neel Jani, former Le Mans Winner & P3 in LMP2 this year with Oreca-07 Gibson :

Sebastien Buemi, Great P2 for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the Hypercar Category :

Having said my farewells to Ferrari, I headed back to the tram station, via the same entrance that I had come through the previous day.

The circuit and the fan zones bear a deserted look a few hours after the race finished. It was a long walk back to the tram station, but also a memorable one, as I bid goodbye to this iconic circuit.

The sun sets over the town of Le Mans. What an end to a beautiful weekend!

I have also compiled a Vlog on my YouTube Channel about my Sunday Experience.

Video Link :

This was a special special weekend for me, personally. As an ardent motorsports fan, attending the 24 Hours of Le Mans was on my bucket list for quite some time, and what better way than to attend the Centenary Edition and see the Ferrari AF Corse Hypercar win on debut!

A big thank you to the team for the amazing hospitality over the weekend, and for an all-access experience that allowed me to enjoy all that this event had to offer! 

It was great to have my friend Raul and his son for company the entire weekend and as guests of Antonio Giovinazzi, we got treated like Royalty.

Always thankful to God, truly blessed! Motorsport Weekends will return, from another event in 2023 that I had the privilege of attending, so watch this space!

Motorsport Weekends - 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans - Saturday

Friday at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was quite a memorable one as we enjoyed meeting a host of drivers at the city parade, but what made it even more special was to meet F1 team personnel from past & present who had congregated to the town of Le Mans to enjoy their bit of endurance racing!

We met personnel from Cosworth, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1, Ford and so many others in the trams, in the cafes and even in the bars! To rub shoulders with these heroes & hear their stories, no holds barred, made the trip worth it.

Eventually, we headed to bed to prepare ourselves for the marathon that beckoned us on Saturday.

Saturday morning arrived sooner than we expected and our day began at 7 am. After some coffee and croissants for breakfast, we headed out to the circuit, prepped and ready for the 24 hours of endurance!

Leaving for the circuit and taking the tram, which turned out to be a convenient conveyance :

Welcome to Circuit de la Sarthe! It was a 30-minute walk to the paddock from this entrance but it was well worth it!

Walking towards the paddock, also getting a chance to walk on the track tarmac ( which wasn't being used for the weekend of course) :

En route, we got to explore various fan experiences and stations erected by the organizers for the weekend!

The Manufacturers Village, an area consisting of makeshift pavilions created by the manufacturers competing in the WEC Championship :

NASCAR, Garage 56 featuring the winning team Hendrick Motorsports had a special entry at the Centenary Race of Le Mans, and was the star attraction in the Village :

The list of winners and our walk to the Paddock continued :

Finally, we reached where we needed to be!

The Ferrari Hospitality in the Paddock is quite a big area!

Lunch was almost ready and famished as we were, we went full send!

Post-lunch, I couldn't stop myself from running over and meeting some Ferrari superstars!

A moment with Pole Sitter Antonio Fuoco, Ferrari AF-Corse, Hypercar :

Exploring the vicinity of the Ferrari Hospitality and taking selfies too!

As the race start time neared, we had the opportunity to get onto the Grid! It would be my first grid walk ever and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it. We made our way to the grid through the garage and then the pit lane.

Helmets and gear are ready for the big race ahead!

Ferrari had a special guest for the weekend, Charles Leclerc! It was such an amazing feeling to see him up close and in a relaxed mood, not having to race but enjoying one as a spectator instead!

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Walking through the pit lane as we make our way to the grid!

Moments on the actual tarmac, oh what a feeling!

Selfies on the Grid!

The grid walk is a busy place to be, and navigating through the crowd was an issue :

Cars from the grid walk, shot with the Sony RX10 IV :

Shots of the cars from the grid walk, taken with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra :

Some stills of the Ferrari Hypercars on the grid! The Ferraris secured a front-row lockout!

We made our way back to the Paddock and then decided to rush over to Casa Ferrari, the team hospitality at the penultimate turn to witness the race start.

The stands and balconies of various hospitality buildings were full as the fans waited for the Centenary Race to begin!

The Centenary Race is a go & we already got a Safety Car on the Opening Lap!

Video Link to the Race Start :

Video Link to the Safety Car Deployed :

Race Restart ( Shot with the Sony RX10 IV ) ( Video Link ) :

Video with the Samsung S23 Ultra :

Shots of the cars navigating the Ford Chicane while a Cadillac Hypercar has front body damage and enters the pits :