Indy pit walkabout a hit with fans

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, June 17, 2004 - Many of the thousands of fans at the 2004 United States Grand Prix pit walkabout were as much of a spectacle as the Formula One cars and drivers they were there to see. The festive event June 17 at the ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, June 17, 2004 - Many of the thousands of fans at the 2004 United States Grand Prix pit walkabout were as much of a spectacle as the Formula One cars and drivers they were there to see.

The festive event June 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway provided a fitting kickoff to the United States Grand Prix weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

While thousands of fans converged on IMS in "traditional" race fan wear - team and driver T-shirts and hats - many die-hard fans showed their allegiance to their favorite F1 teams with face paint, Jaguar-green and Ferrari-red wigs, flags and other gear.

Sam Grasso, from Philadelphia, took devotion to Italian team Ferrari to new heights with a Roman centurion costume, complete with helmet, plastic body armor and a staff. Grasso adorned the body armor with select decals of the Ferrari F1 car, the classic "Prancing Horse" logo and Shell Oil, one of the Ferrari team's corporate sponsors. Being an American of Italian descent, Grasso even had Italian music playing from small speakers on his belt.

"To be honest, I wore this because nobody else did last year," Grasso said. "I walked around and I saw people's faces painted, I saw costumes I loved and took as many pictures as I could."

Grasso attended the inaugural USGP pit walkabout in 2003 and praised the track for improving the 2004 event.

"Last year we were all kind of sardines on pit road, but it was great, don't get me wrong," he said. "It is 10 times better this year. I don't know where you (the track) can go with it, to be honest with you. I love what they do here."

Grasso, a Ferrari fan because "they don't accept anything but being the best," said any fan of racing - Formula One or not - should participate in the pit walkabout.

"Where else are you going to get the opportunity to get right up next to these people?" he said. "To get right up next to the cars, to get pictures, take video? There's almost nothing you can't do, it's fantastic. Especially when you have the opportunity to do something that doesn't happen everywhere, I want to be here to support it."

In addition to walking along Indy's famous pit lane and viewing the cars and team garages of Formula One, fans were treated to an expanded pit walkabout entertainment lineup for the 2004 event. Past and present Formula One drivers signed autographs in the plaza behind the Bombardier Pagoda control tower, including American World Champions Phil Hill and Mario Andretti and current F1 stars Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli, among others.

Speed Channel's Formula One broadcast talent - Bob Varsha, Steve Matchett and David Hobbs - played host to an entertaining question-and-answer session with many of the same drivers.

"It gets me fired up for the race," said Sherry Pryor, from Richmond, Ind., about the walkabout. "I'm looking forward to qualifying and the race Sunday. I love to just come here and watch the people today."

Pryor, enjoying a warm day at IMS dressed in a red Ferrari tank top, attended the pit walkabout with Roland Weckenmann, a native of Germany and fellow Richmond resident, and Walter Gausser, a longtime friend of Weckenmann's and resident of southwest Germany.

Gausser, who lives 30 minutes from the Hockenheim F1 circuit, flies to Indianapolis from Germany each year for the USGP and cites the affordability and fan-friendliness of the circuit as reasons to make the trek.

"I don't have a lot of time, as I travel around the world with my job, but the only thing that I can make sure is (to be here for) Indianapolis," Gausser said. "Even if I will have the opportunity to go to Hockenheim, it would be too expensive.

"The (Indianapolis) circuit is great. There is enough space to walk around. It's not crowded like circuits in Europe or South America. That's what I like."

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Tickets: Tickets for the United States Grand Prix can be purchased online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari