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2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix April 10, 2012

Posted by Dru in East Asia, Sports, Travel.
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Author’s  Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2012 Formula Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Os

This year I decided that my grand trip would be to head to Malaysia to watch the 2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix.  After going to the Singapore Grand Prix in 2011, I talked about what our next trip would be with my girlfriend.  We decided that it would be cheaper overall and probably more enjoyable to head to Malaysia to watch the F1 Grand Prix than to go to the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.  In Singapore, we had a great time and I enjoyed seeing and doing many things.  I had no expectations whatsoever in Malaysia and after doing some researching, I found a cheap flight and ordered tickets online to the F1 Grand Prix.  I wasn’t expecting too much from what I had seen but I did expect a typical F1 experience.  Unfortunately, whether it was due to the promoters or Malaysia itself, I was let down in many ways.

The atmosphere of the Malaysian Grand Prix was similar in many respects to the other Grand Prix I had visited.  The need for a party like atmosphere with many familiar overtones was dominant.  First, there were the typical shops where you could enjoy buying various F1 merchandise at F1 prices.  It is safe to say that almost every F1 race has the exact same shops when it comes to merchandise.  You will find shops that sell all of the various team clothing and accessories but you will be hard pressed to find a lot of it at the Malaysian Grand Prix.  I found that the Singapore GP was a little better overall in terms of what I could buy.  It could be because the F1 season is just starting when the Malaysian GP is being held so many of the teams don’t have enough merchandise on offer, but that is just speculation on my part.  Then there is the food.  You can’t go to any F1 event without noticing the types of food that are on offer or trying it when you are there all day.  In Japan, there are a lot of standard foods that I eat at the race all the time and they are usually delicious.  At the Malaysian GP, I found the food to be sub-par for what I would like to eat.  While there are a lot of good things to eat, there was too much bad western food and the Malaysian food that was available was just average.  I didn’t mind it too the food in Malaysia too much but after eating at the Japan GP or even the Singapore GP, I was a bit disappointed with my experience here.  Maybe in the future the circuit organizers can improve their food offerings as other areas of Kuala Lumpur had very good things to eat.

In terms of facilities, the Sepang International Circuit is a nice place.  The circuit is very interesting with a lot of good racing.  They have several sections and going to the GP is relatively cheap.  You don’t need to buy a ticket to just go to the races and enjoy the atmosphere.  The only time you need to show your ticket is when you head into the grandstands, but even then it doesn’t matter too much.  The layout is a little strange as they have a large parking lot that serves as the drop off and pick up point for the various buses.  You then walk up or take a shuttle up a hill that leads to the main entrance.  The main mall is basically a public area that has a welcome centre and shopping leading to the main grandstands.  It is a nice setup that allows people who haven’t paid for tickets to still experience a bit of the GP itself, but I was amazed that they didn’t have a few basic merchandise items that were exclusive to ticket holders.  Once you are in the grandstands, you get to figure out where you are sitting, which is not very easy depending on which area you are in.  The signage was very poor for a world class circuit but that is very easy to improve if they invest a little money.  The main flaw to the design layout was the fact that the grandstands were sectioned off by security.  I had to cross security to get to my seats and to buy food, but if I wanted to go back and get a shirt or a program, I had to leave the security area.  While they did provide UV stamps so we could re-enter, it was very troublesome to get through security, and with the heat and humidity, I was worried my stamp would “melt” away from my sweat.  I do wish they had a few shops in the grandstand area, but there wasn’t a lot of space either.  While the layout of the plaza area wasn’t ideal, the seats were great.  I had a great view of the entire back half of the track from the back main grandstand.  The front and back straights were covered by a canvas roof, but the roof had two big flaws.  The first was that the roof wasn’t UV protected.  I continued to tan a bit in the sun even though I was in the shade.  It was unexpected but for a 13 year old circuit, I can’t complain too much.  The main problem was the rain.  While I was under the roof, the roof leaked a lot.  Whether it was the seam or the steel girder holding up the roof, during the rain it just dripped water all over me.  There were two or three seats that were really bad and I had the unfortunate luck to be in one of them.  Thankfully Petronas handed out free ponchos to whoever could get their hands on one and I had a small cover for the rain.

The race itself was pretty interesting.  There were 4 races that I knew of for that day.  The first was an amateur race that lasted just a few laps.  It was fun to watch but not the best race in the world.  Next was a Malaysian racing series, I think, with various GT cars.  It was a better race but half of it was run under a safety car due to a tremendous crash at the start of the race.  After the restart, it was somewhat procedural.  The last support race was a GP2 race.  It is the feeder series into F1 itself with many drivers in GP2 graduating into F1.  It is a bit of an up and down series with many drivers deciding to go up and then after failing to survive in F1 they return to GP2.  For the older drivers in F1, they tend to change series completely with little to no chance of returning to F1.  This is an unfortunately problem in F1 today with a lot of teams requiring drivers to bring sponsorship money into the team before they can be considered a member of the team.  It is an unfortunate problem of a world where the economy is still lagging and many car companies don’t have enough money to support their own teams.

The main event was, of course, the F1 Grand Prix itself.  The entire weekend was a build up to a race that started at 4pm on Sunday March 25th.  The hour before the race was a scorcher.  Over 30C and high humidity meant that I was sitting and sweating at the same time.  I kept as cool as I could and just relaxed for most of the day under the shade of the back grandstand.  As the race was about to get underway, a huge thundershower was rolling in.  It seemed okay at first and a little hard to see for me in my seat but some parts of the circuit had rain and others didn’t.  As the race got underway, people were cheering and watching intently.  After a handful of laps, and some frantic pit stops to change tires, the race was suddenly stopped due to the amount of rain flooding the track.  Malaysia is a country that expects rain and has good drainage but when there is a thundershower, all bets are off.  There was too much standing water so the race was red flagged and delayed almost an hour.  However, when the racing got back underway, it was very intense.  The rain was still falling when they restarted but it was lightening up.  It then stopped and allowed the track to completely dry by the end.  There were a few accidents on track but nothing that would completely stop the racing.  There was a big battle between the Sauber of Sergio Perez and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.  A typical David and Goliath battle where most of the people were cheering for Perez to slay Alonso and win the race.  Unfortunately, due to a small mistake at the end of the race and the team and driver agreeing to hold second place, Perez failed to win the grand prix.  It was sad but understandable for such a small team to value the safety of a guaranteed podium over the chance of a win.

Overall I would say the race was a lot of fun.  It met all of my expectations but unfortunately it didn’t exceed them.  My expectations were set a little low but I was expecting it to be a tough challenge to rival Singapore in terms of fun.  The circuit itself is not difficult to access and there are a lot of positives about going to a grand prix in a foreign country.  I don’t regret going to the Malaysian Grand Prix.  All of the problems I had with this race were pretty small.  While the problems were small, they all added up and they need to be improved before I consider going back for either F1 or MotoGP in the future but if they do fix enough of the small things in the next few years, I will be back for the races.  Otherwise, I’ll have to find another excuse to go to Kuala Lumpur.

2012 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix is part of a series of posts detailing my experiences of visiting various F1 races around the world.  To read more about the various races I have attended, please follow the links below:

Japanese Football aka Soccer (Tokyo Verdy VS FC Tokyo) November 8, 2011

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Japanese Football aka Soccer (Tokyo Verdy VS FC Tokyo)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-KQ

It has been quite a busy year for me and I almost couldn’t make it to a football match this year.  On a bit of a whim, I finally found a date, October 30, 2011 where a friend and I could make it to a football game.  For those who have read my previous posts on football, this will not be too different.  I went out to my perennial football game out in Chofu, western Tokyo.  This time I attended what is called the “Tokyo Derby”.  The Tokyo Derby has several meanings.  There are three major definitions for Tokyo Derby.  The first is a horse race that is run in Tokyo in June.  The second is a match between the Yomiuri Giants and the Yakult Swallows.  These are the two major baseball teams in Tokyo with their own respective stadiums.  Whenever they play each other, it is part of the Tokyo Derby.  The baseball derby is not as famous as the teams meet many times over the season so it doesn’t receive much press.  The third and recently the rarest is a match between FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy.  Both are football teams representing Tokyo and both play in the same stadium, Ajinomoto Stadium.  The last time there was a Tokyo Derby for football was 3 years ago in 2008*.  That was the last time both clubs were in the same league.  This year, FC Tokyo was relegated into the J2 league which gave both teams a chance to play each other twice.

Note:  There are two derbies in 2011 and the game I attended was the second derby of the year.  Prior to that, it had been 3 years since the last Tokyo Derby.

FC Tokyo is currently the more popular club in Tokyo.  They have more fans and you can see their merchandise throughout Tokyo.  Tokyo Verdy is like a neglected adopted child, please pardon the simile.  In fact, Tokyo Verdy is more prestigious of the two clubs having more championships to their name.  The biggest problem was that the club lost a lot of their fans when the owners decided to move the team to the current location.  At the end of the 90s, the club itself had been suffering.  They were in a very competitive situation.  Originally located in Kawasaki, and called Verdy Kawasaki at that time, the team had to fight with another team from Kawasaki as well as two teams from Yokohama.  Kawasaki is located between Tokyo and Yokohama but for most people, Kawasaki is considered a suburb of Yokohama rather than Tokyo.  The club made a bold decision to move to Tokyo but the timing couldn’t have been worse.  Their move was at a time when FC Tokyo was starting to attract more money and fans and FC Tokyo had just been promoted to the J1 league the previous year.  In fact, FC Tokyo has always had more fans since Tokyo Verdy moved into Ajinomoto Stadium.  For a few years both teams were in the top league, J1.  In 2005, Tokyo Verdy was relegated to J2 and they have languished as a midlevel team in J2 ever since.  They did get promoted in 2008 for just one year before being relegated back to J2 the following year.  Unfortunately, I doubt that Tokyo Verdy can return to J1 anytime soon but who knows.

As for FC Tokyo, last year was a terrible season for them.  They had struggled and were relegated by a 2 point margin.  At the beginning of the 2011 season in J2, they didn’t do so well but they recovered.  At the start of the year I thought I would punish FC Tokyo by not attending a game.  I thought they needed some “tough love” but towards the end of the season they were dominating the J2 league table with only 5 games remaining.  They are nearly guaranteed to be promoted back to J1.  With this in mind and the fact that it could be the last Tokyo Derby in a while, I decided that now was the time to head to a game.  I pretty much decided just a few days before the game itself and picked up my tickets at the venue.  I have been to Ajinomoto Stadium three times now and this would be my fourth.  I figured that I knew everything there was to know about going to a game at Ajinomoto Stadium, but I was wrong.

The details of the stadium and my experience is very similar to my previous posts about going to Ajinomoto Stadium.  One of the first new things that I experienced was purchasing tickets.  I had both pre-purchased tickets and purchased tickets at the venue.  I thought that arriving an hour early would be more than enough for me to get tickets and a seat.  We had started by standing in line at the box office but learned that they set up a special tent for home team fans.  The lower bowl of the stadium was mostly reserved for the home team, FC Tokyo in the game, and there was no need to reserve seats.  It was all free seating.  I never knew that a small side tent was set up for quick sales of unreserved seating tickets and saved myself a good 20 minutes.  Upon entering the stadium grounds, everything was typical.  Souvenir shops and expensive food and beer could be found everywhere.  We kept getting side tracked with various souvenir shops but we eventually made it to the main area.  I had hoped to sit near the centre line as we were a bit late, but we had to keep going.  The area behind the main goal was reserved for the “visiting” fans but since FC Tokyo had the “home” advantage, Tokyo Verdy was limited to one small section.  In fact, there were so many FC Tokyo fans that they had to keep opening up sections until there was just half a section to separate the fans.  It was the first time I had seen that happen and it was nice to see that they would open up sections when necessary.  Unlike the previous games, FC Tokyo had a good turn out and the attendance for the game ended up being just under 36,000, a very healthy attendance for a 50,000 capacity stadium.

The game itself was somewhat surprising.  I was commenting on the game with my friend and we both agree, FC Tokyo didn’t deserve a win that day.  They had played with several of their top players being rested and they didn’t seem to be able to control the ball properly.  In fact, Tokyo Verdy was the dominate team and very hungry for a win against their rival.  The game wasn’t as interesting but thankfully by the end of the first half FC Tokyo scored a goal in extra time.  In the second half both teams seemed to pick up their game a bit.  The game had lots of spirited playing at points followed by a lull.  Tokyo Verdy kept applying pressure on FC Tokyo.  They had a corner and FC Tokyo had scored an own goal.  It was really depressing but somewhat expected from a strong Tokyo Verdy.  The game continued with a few opportunities on both sides and ultimately, the game ended in a 1-1 tie.

It was the first time that I had watched a J2 game and I am happy to say that the quality of the game was pretty similar to J1.  It doesn’t matter if the team is in J1 or J2, as many of the teams in Japan are of similar quality.  The bottom half of J1 and top half of J2 can easily fight with each other.  In fact, Kashiwa Reysol was promoted to J1 this year after being relegated to J2 for a year and they are currently at the top of the leaderboard.  It seems impossible to think of a J2 team becoming J1 league champions in their first year back but anything is possible when teams are of similar calibre in both leagues.  With ticket prices being the same for FC Tokyo, be it J1 or J2, I would say that the prices are worth it regardless of which league the team plays in.

Japanese Football aka Soccer (Tokyo Verdy VS FC Tokyo) is part of a series of posts talking about the football games that I have attended.  To read more about these games and football in Japan, please follow the links below:

Information:

J-league (Division 1) (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._League_Division_1

Tokyo Verdy (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Verdy

Tokyo Verdy (Official Site):  http://www.verdy.co.jp/

FC Tokyo (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.C._Tokyo

FC Tokyo (Official Site) (Japanese):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/index.html

FC Tokyo (Official Site) (English):  http://www.fctokyo.co.jp/english/index.phtml

Related Posts:

Japanese Football (Urawa Reds VS FC Tokyo) (2009):  http://wp.me/piUxk-jk

Japanese Football (Kashima Antlers VS FC Tokyo) (2008):  http://wp.me/piUxk-3Q

2011 Grand Prix of Japan October 18, 2011

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2011 Grand Prix of Japan” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Jg

The 2011 Grand Prix of Japan was originally scheduled to take place in April, but due to the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, the race was promptly postponed.  It was tentatively rescheduled to October 2nd, its traditional spot on the Moto GP calendar.  In the last 3 years, the Grand Prix of Japan was scheduled to take place in March/April.  The first year was run without a problem, but the following year it was moved to October due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland.  The volcano prevented teams and some of the equipment from flying out to Japan due to safety concerns.  This year, while rescheduled to take place from September 30 to October 2, the race had been in doubt for some time.  Twin Ring Motegi Circuit is located just over 120km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and with that distance it made the riders and a lot of their crew nervous about coming to Japan.  There were only a few people who were advocates for Japan and the loudest was, naturally, Hiroshi Aoyama.  It doesn’t hurt that he is Japanese and his feeling is that the Grand Prix would help Japan and the riders would be safe.  After Dorna, the rights holder for Moto GP, along with the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme) contracted an Italian University to conduct an independent survey of Motegi and the surrounding towns for radiation levels both at the track, in the soil, and the food, most of the teams started to feel safe.  Unfortunately, while the scientific study said things were safe, the riders and many of the crew were still nervous about going to Japan and up until the last few weeks prior to the race itself, there were still big questions marks over who would or wouldn’t be attending.  In the end all of the riders came to Japan but not all of the teams.  Some of the teams, two as far as I know and both in lower classes, decided to not bring their mechanics and used local mechanics instead.  The entire Moto GP tour also brought their own food and water to allay any fears they still had.  It was an interesting compromise that provided a great event.

If you read my past posts about the Moto GP events, things haven’t changed too much.  This year there was no presence by Kawasaki.  They still had a very small booth last year but that has all disappeared.  Suzuki has also significantly reduced their presence at the event with just a tiny booth that showcased a couple items for sale.  Honda was still the largest manufacturer on display with Yamaha and Ducati a close second and third.  Since I have been to this event many times, I feel as if I’m an expert in what to do when visiting these events.  I typically entered the event and just did a lot of shopping on qualifying day.  I spent more time walking around the event than before as I wanted to check out the vantage points from various places.  Saturday is a great day to check out the various grandstands as they are all open to the public.  On Sunday, the reserved seating areas are closed off to those with valid tickets so watching the warm-up or parts of the race from other locations is not allowed.  This year I decided to change my tradition.  For the last several years, I joined the Yamaha Supporters group where I would get free swag for supporting Yamaha.  My favourite racer, Valentino Rossi, had changed teams this year to ride for Ducati, so I felt I couldn’t support Yamaha completely.  I am a huge Rossi fan so I decided to return to the grandstands that I visited on my first trip to the Japan Grand Prix, the 90 Degree Corner.  The 90 Degree Corner is considered to be the most exciting place on the track to watch the race.  It is named 90 Degree Corner because it is a 90 degree right turn that follows a downhill section.  The turn is also slightly off camber making it very tricky to get around quickly and smoothly.  Many riders have run off at that corner and many have crashed.  The other main corner is corner 3 where many other accidents occur.  The main straight may have the advantage of being where other supporters are as well as the podium, but for real enthusiasts, heading to other corners can be a lot more fun.  I always enjoy trying new areas just to enjoy the racing.

This year, as mentioned, the event was under a different air.  People were their regular selves and attendance seemed to be average.  The booths were a little different as more secondary sponsors were present and some of the traditional Japanese sponsors had pulled out.  Things are slowly changing, including the food.  I noticed that while the barbecued steaks on a stick were the same, and so was the beer, I never noticed the curry rice before.  I also never noticed how difficult it was to get water at the event.  Most of the places were selling sports drinks, coke, tea, and beer.  It was difficult to find anyone selling water anywhere.  In terms of interviews and such, it was pretty standard.  Suzuki’s test rider was one of the most prominent figures doing interviews and many others were going around.  The most important people had huge crowds.  Trying to watch interviews with Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, or even Casey Stoner was next to impossible unless you were waiting for nearly an hour before the actual event.  I was pretty content to just enjoy the interviews from far away and just listen to them.  Most of the things they talked about were pretty standard.  “It’s good to be here.  The track is a very stop and go track.  You need a lot of horsepower and a good setup.  I hope to do well.”  You really can’t get much more out of a rider who must be very careful with their words.  One of the best characters in Moto GP has to be Colin Edwards.  I had been a fan of his since I first “met” him in a rider’s clinic in Vancouver prior to the 2005 season.  I would discover that Colin has a remarkably frank way of speaking as well as being comical.  He was pretty honest about his opinions without getting into too much trouble.  He praises the bike all the time but hits out when he knows he has troubles.  He is also very honest when it comes to his own mistakes and does what he can to improve.  Next year will see him move from the Tech 3 Yamaha team to a new team that hopes to use his skills to develop their new bike.

In terms of the race, everything was pretty standard.  I was very happy and enjoyed the first two races.  It was the last year of the 125cc class as next year they move to 250cc 4-stroke engines and calling the class Moto3.  It was a nice race and somewhat predictable.  Motegi isn’t well known for its exciting 125 races as the long straights mean the riders can stretch out a bit and get away if they are lucky.  Unfortunately that was the case and nothing much happened.  The only special event was the fact that Frenchman Johann Zarco finally won his first race in Moto GP.  He had actually crossed the finish line in first near the beginning of the season but that was cancelled as he made a dangerous move on the last lap resulting in a 20 second penalty.  A second time he crossed the line tied for first but lost the win because his fastest lap of the race was slower than the other rider.  It was the first time that he was allowed on the top step to celebrate with champagne as the winner of a race.  In Moto2, the race was more interesting.  Marc Marquez has been showing his form and has made a charge up the championship field to take over the championship lead after this race.  The race was won by Andrea Iannone who has a lot of talent but tends to make too many mistakes.  The big event is Moto GP.  It was time for the big boys to come out on to the track.  The Moto GP race was an incident filled race.  It started with a crash by Valentino Rossi in the 3rd corner of the first lap.  He ran into Jorge Lorenzo as he tried to avoid Ben Spies which causing him to crash into the sand.  He retired before he could even finish one lap.  Needless to say I was very disappointed.  Casey Stoner was leading quite well until he had a tank slapper on the back straight which caused his brake pads to move which resulted in him losing his brakes for a second and subsequently running off course and into the sand.  He did rejoin in 7th place before finishing the race in 3rd.  3 riders were given a ride through penalty for jumping the start and 2 other riders crashed before the end of the race.  The field was reduced by a large margin and the winner would eventually be Dani Pedrosa.  It had been a long time since Honda had won on home soil and Jorge Lorenzo did his best to steal the win at the end but couldn’t keep up with the dominant Dani Pedrosa.  There were some spirited passes throughout the field the entire race and it was one of the more enjoyable races I saw.  I usually get a little tired about halfway through the race in the main grandstands but this year was much better and easier at the 90 Degree Corner.  I think I found my new home unless Valentino has his own supporter’s tour that will stay in another grandstand somewhere.

I have said it many times before.  If you love motorcycles, you should watch the Grand Prix of Japan in person.  It is a very fun experience.  Racing in Japan is very similar, be it F1, WRC, or even Moto GP.  I have watched all three now and while they are all different, the feeling is similar.  The fans carry flags and wave them feverishly.  People love their heroes all the time and do their best to will them on.  Like any country, the races themselves are exciting to watch and the food can be expensive.  With the right mindset, you will have the time of your life and memories that will last a lifetime.

2011 Grand Prix of Japan is part of a series of posts recounting my trips to Twin Ring Motegi and the Japanese round of the Moto GP series.  To read my other posts about this race please follow the links below:

Information:

Moto GP Official Site:  http://www.motogp.com/

2011 Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix October 11, 2011

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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2011 Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Jc

For anyone who has read my blog over the years, you know that I am an avid race fan.  I have been to the Japan GP for Moto GP (motorcycles) almost every year since I’ve been in Japan.  I have also been to the F1 Grand Prix in Japan 3 times as well as Rally Japan in Hokkaido last year.  This year, I decided to take a trip to Singapore to watch the F1 race.  Singapore does not have the same history as Suzuka or even Fuji Speedway but it is quickly growing.  The location has been likened to an Asian Monaco Grand Prix due to the similarities of a road course on narrow streets.  Like Monaco, the race winds its way around historical buildings but unlike Monaco, the race also passes new modern buildings that were finished very recently, or are still being completed.  The Singapore GP has also built up a lot of entertainment for both casual and diehard fans alike.

The run up to the Singapore GP lasts roughly a week before the actual GP.  While the F1 circus probably doesn’t arrive until the Wednesday before the race, the event starts roughly 7-10 days ahead.  Many of the shopping malls start by getting their decorations up and many shops have grand prix sales.  It is an exciting time to just be in the city and you can easily feel it in the air.  I didn’t arrive in Singapore until the Thursday before the race, which gave me three and a half days to soak up the atmosphere of the race weekend.  At that time, everything was in place and things seemed to be running smoothly.  Most shops had a minimum 20% discount on items.  It was great to see and many shopping malls had outdoor shops of various F1 sponsors.  Tag Heuer had a portable shop erected outside a shopping complex in the Orchard district.  Puma had a small container ship transformed into a portable shop located near one of the main entrances to the circuit.  While walking around the various shopping malls, you would be highly likely to also run into a previous model of F1 cars on display.  I only saw three, Lotus Renault, Force India, and Ferrari.  I would assume that there were more, but I didn’t run into them and there was little to no information on where they would be.  That is the only challenge when visiting Singapore during the F1 season, some of the public locations around the city are hard to find and you just have to stumble upon them.

The actual circuit is split into 4 fan zones.  Zone 1 encompasses the main straight and grandstands as well as the paddock.  Zones 2 and 3 are located in nicer viewing areas, and Zone 4 is the general area at the far end of the track that is closer to the city.  Most of the casual fans will flock to Zone 4.  This is the largest zone with many viewing platforms, a few grandstands, and the concert venue.  The entire weekend is filled with various concerts on each day.  They set aside a large grass field and built a temporary stage at one end.  During each concert, it is nothing but a sea of people in the entire field.  In fact, I’m sure many people buy tickets just for the concerts, rather than the F1 race.  Being more of an F1 fan than a fan of the musicians, I didn’t go to any of the concerts.  By the time the race ended, I was too tired to push through all the people and barely watch a concert.  I thought that by the time I walked from Zone 1 to Zone 4, the field would be completely full and I wouldn’t be able to see anything.  Zones 2 and 3 are pretty boring to be honest with only a few entertainers roaming around.  The only difference between the two zones is the fact that Zone 2 has one of the famous grandstands facing Marina Bay itself.  These grandstands face a floating platform and the cars themselves race under the grandstands at one point.  Otherwise, both Zones 2 and 3 are almost no different to Zone 1.  Zone 1 is for the real race enthusiasts.  It is where you will find all of the people hanging out waiting for the race.  While both Zone 1 and 4 have F1 villages where you can buy merchandise, Zone 1 has better viewing platforms and it is around the most important corners in the race.  I also found that more kids and families stayed in Zone 4 than Zone 1 and a lot more F1 merchandise was carried around in Zone 1.  It was noticeable difference but not by a huge amount.

The experience of the F1 weekend is something that I can’t explain.  It is a thrilling and exciting event that must be experienced to understand.  Every day is filled with people.  The streets are filled with F1 enthusiasts just roaming around wearing their favourite team colours.  Inside the circuit area, you can see so many people.  After going to F1 at Suzuka and Fuji Speedway, I must say the level of noise in Singapore was much greater.  They had “survival kits” for $2 each that contained a poncho and earplugs.  On Friday, I was walking around and experienced just one practice session.  At first, things were okay.  My ears were fine and I thought it wasn’t bad until I headed up and crossed the track at one of the overhead passes.  The scream of the engines were deafening and I could feel it shaking every cell in my body.  I had to plug my ears just to keep them from ringing.  I went to another location located under a bridge where the sounds of the engine echoed.  It was so deafening that without plugging my ears with my hands, my ears felt as if they were starting to bleed.  It was terribly loud due to the echo, but it was extremely fun.  The other experience of the race that must be felt is how close you actually come to the track.  In regular tracks, you are in grandstands that are metres away from the track itself.  There is also a large runoff area for the driver’s safety.  In Singapore, the track is narrow and the viewing areas are usually no more than a metre or so from the track barrier.  It is exciting to see the cars miss a turn and probably more so to see them crash.  I was not in a corner where a car had crashed, but I was in a corner where the cars missed the corner a couple times.  It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either.

In terms of the race itself, qualifying was a bit of a disappointment for me.  I was hoping to see Kamui Kobayashi do well but he crashed out in the second round.  The race was nice and interesting and the first few laps were exciting to see cars go through the turn two by two.  I was camping out at turn 5 as I liked the position for photos.  Things seemed to be going well and there were no problems at all, from what I could see.  I heard a few things but didn’t see much as there wasn’t a TV screen nearby.  Thankfully some people had Fanvision portable TVs and I could sneak a look from time to time.  I wish I had spent money on renting a Fanvision as I would have been able to see much more of the action.  I’m not sure if I would be as happy as I wouldn’t be able to use my earplugs, but who knows.  If you don’t have a screen to watch the action, I would highly recommend a Fanvision in order to keep up with what is happening around the track itself.  At turn 5, there really wasn’t much action happening for the entire race.  Cars would go by really quickly and that’s about it.  I enjoyed it a lot but had to guess what happened a little when Michael Schumacher crashed into Sergio Perez and brought the one yellow flag of the race.  I also couldn’t tell when the race would end either.  It was a difficult time to keep track of the race but in the end, Sebastian Vettel won the race with Jenson Button in second and Mark Webber in third.  As of writing this entry, Vettel is leading the championship and needs just 1 point to win it.  Jenson Button is in second and needs to win every race to win the championship.  It is more than likely that Sebastian Vettel will win the championship in Japan on October 9th.

All in all, the race was a great experience.  It was the best race I had ever been to, albeit I have only attended 3 races in my life now.  It could be a combination of a vacation and how close I was to the actual action.  Singapore really knows how to throw a great party and they should be patted on the back for it.  I am reminded of a story about the Olympics themselves.  When I went to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, everyone, including foreign media, reported how much fun it was to be in the city.  It was a real party atmosphere.  When people went to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, they said it was a great event but outside of the event it was very boring.  When going to the races in Japan, I found it to be more alike Beijing than Vancouver.  While the location of the course itself is partly to blame, I feel that having more F1 related activities in Nagoya or Osaka could help a lot.  The same goes for Moto GP.  They cities near the events need to make it a destination in order to bring people in and keep them in.  Doing so would help increase the number of visitors as well as people who visit the area for more than just a passing weekend.   The Singapore Grand Prix is a race I would love to see again, but not sure if I’ll do it anytime soon.  You will get a race that is held at night so that you can enjoy the city by day.  You can party it up with all of the F1 related activities both inside and outside of the circuit itself.  It is a non-stop weekend that I highly recommend.

2011 Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix is part of a series of posts detailing my experiences of visiting various F1 races around the world.  To read more about the various races I have attended, please follow the links below:

Information:

Official Website:  http://www.singaporegp.sg/

2011 – Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows September 6, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2011 – Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Il

It has been a few years since I had last been to a baseball game in Japan.  I had always wanted to watch another game, and in fact I enjoy going to these games every year if possible.  It is not an easy task to get to a game and the two times that I did visit, they were different games.  The first time, I went to Chiba Marine Stadium in Chiba to watch the Chiba Lotte Marines.  That time I was somewhat behind home plate.  The next game was at Meiji Jingu where I watched the iconic Hanshin Tigers take on the Yakult Swallows.  I was sitting in the Tigers reserved seating near third base.  Both of those games were fun and exciting and I was able to enjoy the game as well as the fans.  On August 14, 2011, I watched my third baseball game.  It was the same game as before, Hanshin Tigers versus Yakult Swallows.  I was at Meiji Jingu again, but this time I was sitting in the outfield.

The outfield area is an open area where people can sit anywhere they’d like.  You basically show up when the doors open and grab a seat anywhere that is available.  Being a Sunday game during obon, I decided to head there early, but it was not early enough.  I arrived about 10 minutes after the gates opened.  There were no lines but at the same time, there were no seats.  Lots of people reserved seats and the only seats available were singles.  I was lucky enough to find a couple seats open in the top corner of the outfield.  Since I was in Meiji Jingu, it didn’t really matter where you sat as almost all of the seats were good.  While my seats were a little far from the infield, it was a good vantage point as I nearly had the same view as the pitcher.  It was much easier for me to tell if the pitch was a strike or a ball.  This made analysing the throws much easier.

If you read any of my previous posts, you will know that the outfield is reserved for the hard core fans.  This is where people stand and jump all the time.  There is a small section for people to stand up in the back and there is usually a trumpet band as well.  This game was no exception.  It was literally standing room only.  The people around me were all crazy supporters.  A couple rows in front, we had a major Hanshin Tigers fan who would do a dance and help lead the cheers for each of the batters.  He constantly wore puppets on his hands.  These puppets were of the Tigers mascot and he would do a little dance with them.  Behind me, standing on the railing the entire game, was a typical Hanshin heckler.  He was hyper critical of the play.  He would shout crazy things and I think some of the kids shouldn’t have heard some of it.  To give an example, one of his more interesting rants was to tell the catcher to use his beautiful face to get a hit.  That way he would walk out to first base.  He taunted the Hanshin players when they made a bad play as well as the Swallows.  His “anger” was focused almost completely at the Hanshin players.  Hanshin is infamously known for having the most loyal, yet aggressive, fans in Japan.

While the hecklers are always present at the game, sitting in the cheering section was a brand new experience.  There is an energy that I can’t explain.  When I was in the reserved seats a few years ago, I was cheering with everyone but it wasn’t as loud.  The people weren’t really doing their best.  It was strange when we chanted for the ball to come as behind third base would have been a foul.  In the outfield, it was very natural to do it.  I learned a very valuable lesson as well.  For Japanese baseball, the fans carry plastic megaphones.  This isn’t so they can yell better, although this does happen.  It is so they can cheer and be noisy without clapping.  As I didn’t have my own set of megaphones, I had to clap only.  By the end of the game, my voice was raspy and my hands were red and in pain from all the clapping.  I highly recommend visiting the park and going to the fan section as you will get a completely different experience.

The game itself was very long.  It lasted over 4 hours to complete the standard 9 innings.  It started off well with Hanshin getting a 2-0 lead.  This eventually became 3-1 by the end of the first half of the game.  There were a lot of hits for both sides and a lot of misses.  Hanshin had capitalized on a few errors throughout the game but the final inning provided a lot of drama.  Hanshin had converted for 5 runs at the top of the 9th.  They were doing really well and all of the players were hitting well.  They had the game in the bag until the Swallows came up for the bottom of the 9th.  The crowd was ready to go home and call it a night but the Swallows had other ideas.  A couple of poor errors by the Tigers, along with 2 pitcher changes in one single inning lead the Swallows to come back.  For a tense 3 player run the score became 8-7 in favour of the Tigers.  The crowd were chanting “Only one more person”, then “Only one more pitch”.  It was heartbreaking to see Hanshin fail to get the necessary outs before they final player was finally struck out.  It was one of the tensest games of the night and Hanshin ended on top.

Watching baseball in Japan has always been fun for me.  I never expected it to be fun as I never enjoyed baseball, but going to a game has been fun since I went to my first game.  Sitting in each area is very different.  The “serious” people tend to sit behind home plate.  They don’t cheer so much but they are interested in the game.  Some of them are corporate seats/tickets, so the people aren’t as connected with the game or team as other fans are.  As you move to the reserved seats on the side, you have people cheering all the time.  They are also more serious but they are also fans of the teams they support.  Wearing the wrong colour in this area is a bad idea.  The outfield is where all the action is.  You will get the big fans wearing all of the crazy costumes.  You will see all of the flags being waved and be in the middle of the loudest cheering area in the stadium.  Each area is different and it is worth trying each area.  For a tourist just visiting Tokyo for a short time, I recommend getting reserved seats.  That way you can show up a few minutes before the first pitch and use the free time to do some sightseeing.  For others, the free seating area is great.  You can get there early, enjoy a few drinks, and just soak up the atmosphere.  Either way you will be entertained.

Japanese Baseball (Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows) (2011) is part of a series of posts on baseball in Japan and my experiences going to various games.  To read more about other games I have experienced, continue with the posts below:

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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