Finally, the big weekend had arrived! Planning for this all year proved to be a lot of work, as expected, however it all paid off in the end.
Wednesday, October 8th
By this time, many of the foreign racers had been in town for a day or two already, acclimating themselves to the time change and the weather. The forecast called for high temperatures in the low 90's, which meant that the racers from Europe and Japan would have to get used to the dry heat very quickly!
The HPI crew left the HPI USA headquarters before lunch, with plenty of time to make it to Las Vegas by dinner time. The drive is normally about 4 and half hours at a moderate speed, barring any traffic jams or desert storms. Passing out of the winding highway through the San Bernardino mountains, it was almost a straight shot to Las Vegas through a couple hundred miles of desert scrub country.
Meeting up at the Alexis Park Resort hotel was easy - next came the task of helping some of the Japanese racers find a hobby shop they could get supplies from! Letting them roam through the store to get the stuff they need, I spoke with the HPI Japan Challenge coordinator Hitoshi Ishikawa about some of the differences between our various events and how we could homologate the rules further to make rules similar throughout the series and around the world.
Driving back, I pointed out to Hitoshi-san some of the good places to eat so the Japanese racers could experience some of the better eating establishments: Macaroni Grill, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, In n Out Burger and others. Hopefully they were able to sample some of these places to really round out their visit!
Arriving back at the hotel, the HPI crew walked to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to grab some food at the Hard Rock Cafe. Although there are Hard Rock Cafes around the world, all with unique rock and roll memorabilia, it's easy to see they saved the coolest bits of rock history for the Vegas location! On display was a suit worn by Frank Sinatra, one of a few guitars burned by Jimmy Hendrix, articles of clothing worn by Prince, Elvis, Carlos Santana and countless other music celebrities.
After dinner it was bedtime for some, as we had to help prepare the track, unload shipping boxes of prizes and handouts and other things early in the morning. Others wandered out to sample a bit of the nightlife before the crowds really hit the town over the weekend.
Thursday, October 9th
The morning dawned bright and clear, with not a cloud in the sky. Today was the first official day of practice for the racers that were registered in our first ever Endurance Challenge, so we expected a few teams of racers to be at the track. We expected a few more packages at the Hobbytown USA at Sahara and Decatur also, so we allowed the racers to practice as much as they wanted for a couple of hours beyond our scheduled practice time.
While we waited for the delivery, the brand new HPI public address (PA) system was set up, the track was prepped and sprayed by members of the 4 Aces club, the HPI canopy was set up and our rental tables and chairs were delivered. Everything seemed to be coming together just fine...
...until we received our timing equipment delivery and discovered we were missing a critical part that is required to count the transponders in the cars. Although we wanted to properly test the system and did everything we could to get the parts we had to have, we had to make a late announcement to the racers that the Endurance Challenge would have to be postponed until after controlled practice on Friday.
After everything was packed away, some of the racers and the HPI staff at the event decided to head to a local karting track that is located just off the Strip. At $20 for a 10-minute race using professional French gas-powered karts, most of the racers signed right up! Thad and Dan Trnka battled it out for the lead in the first race, while Pascal battled a couple of the Japanese racers in the second.
Afterward, it was off to eat at the America restaurant at the New York New York casino, then walking for a bit up and down the Strip.