What are the marshal roles?
Generally speaking F&C marshals rotate through positions/roles in a course of an event or race, especially during long endurance races. However, it is possible to request a role when registering for some events at some tracks. Similarly it is possible to request a position on your station if you are not comfortable performing a specific role. And yet at some events people will claim designated roles specifically for this series, especially the Blue Flag or Communicator roles. It is worth noting that IMSA often plays a support role to a larger event like IndyCar or WEC, and within IMSA rules there are different series that play a support role to the main TUSC event.
IMSA consist of the following Series:
- Tudor United SportsCar Championship (TUSC)
- Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC)
- Porsche GT3/Carrera Cup
- Ferrari Challenge
- Lamborghini Super Trofeo
All IMSA series are multi-class racing series, and each class is color coded to represent whether it is a Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans, GT Daytona, Gold vs. Platinum, Pro vs. Am, etc. Even if the cars look identical they may be in a different class with different speeds on track.
IMSA uses the modified North American FIA flag rules.
What are the IMSA flag rules?
Shades of flags are used to represent different track condition. A particular flag may be 1) held stationary 2) rocked side-to-side, up-down or 3) waved as required.
Stationary Yellow flag is used when a vehicle is stopped or crashed off the racing line and possibly well off the track. Or in an event of a large piece of debris present on racing line that cars cannot simply drive over. Watch for and report passes under stationary Yellow flag.
Rocking Yellow flag side to side or up and down is used to get a driver’s attention to reduce speed. This flag is used when there is an incident off the racing line or even well off the track but another vehicle is approaching the turn full speed, especially if it is a blind turn. Watch for and report passing under rocked Yellow flag.
Waving Yellow flag is required when a vehicle is crashed or stopped on track, on the racing line. Vigorous waving is required when the disabled vehicle is in a dangerous position, attempting to re-enter the race while facing counter race traffic, or there are marshals present on course responding to an incident. Watch for and report passing under waved Yellow flag.
Double Yellow flags are displayed stationary in a side by side manner when Race Control calls for full course caution or safety car period. Race control must give the command for double stationary Yellow flags to be displayed. IMSA does not use an SC board. Passing may happen under full course caution when Race Control calls for passaround’s or waveby’s. Remember to wave your incident as per normal during a full course Yellow to warn drivers of danger, you will remain waving a Yellow flag because likely marshals will be present on track performing the recovery. Once the recovery finishes and your part of the track is clear, you may downgrade to Double Yellow flags in a stationary position.
Double Waved Yellow flags are displayed in an extremely dangerous situation warranting urgent and extreme caution to be displayed. In race conditions double waved yellow flags would tell the drivers that there is a major incident and immediate braking is required especially if marshals are exposed on the track. Double waved Yellow is an “Alert” type scenario in a major emergency.
Race Control may request a station to display any kind of Yellow flag, this includes stationary and waved Yellow flags preceding a station with an incident to show extra warning to the drivers. At some station automatic backup Yellow flag is required to increase the warning period. Follow the instructions issued by your Flag Chief and your Corner Captain during the morning meetings. If you are not sure then do ask!
Green flag is waved at the station following an incident displaying a Yellow flag. The cars may not overtake until they reach the station with a waving Green flag. Watch for and report any cars that pass before your Green flag. Green flags are also waved at the start of the practice sessions.
Any shade of Blue flag is displayed only for lapping during a race and as required during practice and qualifying sessions.
Stationary Blue flag is displayed to a slower vehicle when a faster vehicle is quickly approaching. This is done especially to GTD cars when a P car is about to catch it on a straight. The P car may be some distance away from the GTD car.
Rocked Blue flag side to side is displayed to a slower vehicle when a faster vehicle is directly behind but is looking for the right opportunity to overtake. This is done especially to GTD cars when GTLM cars are directly behind but don’t quite have the power to pass.
Waved Blue flag is displayed when a slower vehicle is being overtaken by a faster vehicle. This is done to any lower class being overtaken by a higher class vehicle, or any of the lapped vehicles in the same class. The cars are nose-to-tail or even side by side. Passing is imminent.
Stationary White flag is displayed for a slow moving vehicle that is significantly off pace. If the vehicle is so slow that it looks stationary to fast approaching traffic, a waved Yellow should be used. White flag is also displayed for emergency vehicles moving on track. When the emergency vehicle stops or when it stops and marshals enter onto the track surface then a Waved Yellow is displayed taking precedence over the White flag.
Surface or Lack of Adhesion, also sometimes referred to as Debris flag is used when oil or small debris is present. Surface flag is always displayed stationary and never waved. If the debris is too large and cannot be driven over then a Waved Yellow flag is used suggesting imminent danger. White and Surface flags may be displayed simultaneously to warn of service vehicles on track and slick or oily condition. Yellow and Surface flags may be displayed simultaneously when marshals are working on the slick or oily track and are not yet finished laying down kitty litter.
Waved Red flag is displayed to stop or end a session. The command to wave the Red flag must come from Race Control it is not a discretionary flag. All cars should proceed to the Pit Lane as the result. Passing under Red flag is of no major concern. Report any passing that isn’t safe in nature but keep in mind that tying up the network with a minor call interferes with a far more important call that actually caused the Red flag.
What are the Full Course Yellow & Restart procedures?
Full course caution is a lengthy process with IMSA’s TUSC and CTSCC series and slightly shorter with the GT3 Cup, Ferrari Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo. The procedure takes a number of laps to complete giving each class the opportunity to make pit stops once the pit stop window is open. Each class or a combination of classes pit during their designated pit window. Waveby’s and passaround’s may occur before the start of the pit window period and at the conclusion of the pit window period depending on the class. The safety car vehicle must pick up the overall leader during a full course caution, but the restart happens with a class leader from any of the classes that remain at the front at the end of the pit window period. So it is possible that a GTD car may lead the field for a re-start with a Prototype directly behind it.
Once the safety car lights go out all Double Yellow flags are removed from display. No flag is displayed on restart, except for sections of the track where cars from the back of the field are present to inform them the race has resumed. With a large field of cars the leaders may be at Start/Finish while the last car is significantly further back, the cars in the back must be informed of the restart by waving a Green flag. Usually this is displayed at the last few stations before Start/Finish.
Be extra caution on restarts because IMSA series are famous for major incidents as soon as Green flag is thrown, and the full course caution is resumed as a result.
What are the response procedures?
IMSA does not want safety marshals to respond. Whenever possible, track safety is used in their response vehicles. However, situations arise where it makes more sense to deploy a safety marshal for a quick debris run or to push off a stalled vehicle behind the safety barrier if that vehicle is really close to the opening anyway. Remember any response is only done with Race Control permission. Ask first, do later.
In the event of a debris run, be on stand-by near the closest available point of entry to the track with a clear route in mind to recover the debris and continue to safety. Remember to fetch the debris quickly but not at full speed to avoid tripping and falling on the race track. Be sure to empty your pockets or remove any loose hanging articles so you don’t drop them on the race track causing more debris. Also keep in mind that often it is easier to kick off the debris off the track, which may be flat and hard to pick up while wearing gloves. So long as the debris is off the racing line your job is done. It can be removed after the event concludes.
When responding to a stricken vehicle or vehicles, place the vehicle between yourself and the oncoming traffic. This way if someone else were to crash, the vehicle would shield you. Push the stricken vehicle to the nearest point of safety which could be behind a safety barrier or far enough along the safety barrier that is considered a safer spot.
When responding to a stricken vehicle and a Wrecker is used. Be sure to use the Wrecker (Manitou, JCB or Gehl) to shield yourself form the oncoming traffic. Keep in mind that the Wrecker driver may not see you so your most important job is to look out for your own safety. Don’t rely on the driver to look out for you as he may be focused on the vehicle and other aspects of the recovery. Don’t make his job more difficult, stay well away from wheels, boom, or the stricken vehicle once it is up in the air.
If there is debris during a wrecker recovery, a team of safety marshals may be required to either clear up the debris by picking it up, kicking it off the racing line or using kitty litter to soak up any fluids and oil off the racing surface. The less marshals that are present track side, especially under a local Yellow condition, the better. It is important to cover any marshals on track with a waved double Yellow flags at all times.
When track safety vehicles are used in a response to an incident, they take priority over a safety marshal, so it is important to remember to stay out of their way and not interfere. They are far better equipped to deal with whatever the incident may involve than a track marshal.