Advice Request: Newbie training for Singapore GP

I got a curious question from a reader earlier this week that I don’t have a good answer to. So I would like to pose the query here to seek the best course of action for the reader, whom I’m going to call Bob.

Bob is not his real name.

Bob is a young man that lives in New York City. He has never marshaled before but has developed an interest in volunteering for the Singapore Grand Prix as an “observer” marshal. Bob asked me what training is available in the NYC area for him to qualify as a marshal for the upcoming Singapore GP event in September.

It’s a loaded question that I will break down below along with the advice I proposed to Bob. Unfortunately I am not completely happy with what I told him and that’s why I want others to share their suggestions.

Suggestion #1: If Bob is able to attend the training in Singapore that would be the best course of action. He should apply for the SGP, and if accepted take advantage of the FIA certified F1 specific training.

However living in NYC that is not a realistic option for Bob.

Suggestion #2: Forget Singapore this year and sign up for the US Grand Prix in Austin, TX. The likelihood of getting in is much better than SGP and he could use his experience at USGP as a reference when applying for SGP or any other event in the future.

However, Bob is most interested in Singapore GP this year.

Suggestion #3: Last resort option: Join SCCA. Bob referred to my blog by saying that he read that I’d recommend joining SCCA because they are the only governing body in the US capable of issuing a marshal license. But I wanted to make it clear to Bob that SCCA does not do F1 specific training. There is a significant cost involved with joining the club. And the emphasis of the local marshals that would train him is more focused towards Club events than anything else. And in the NYC area SCCA offers very limited training  no training (I did also make it clear that I left the NNJR SCCA Region and joined Guam Region instead because no training was offered in the last 3 years of my membership here). Bob and I live in the same region: NYC/Northern NJ. So relying on SCCA is a time consuming endeavor that may or may not result into anything, and is certainly not the optimal option when thinking of volunteering at Singapore GP or any other major international event in the immediate future.

Bob is frustrated!

And so there’s the dilemma. Having volunteered Singapore GP for a few years myself. Having participated in a few SCCA events and having argued relentlessly with the local club for ages about the lack of training. I have no good suggestions for Bob to help him out in this situation.

Bob mentioned he’s been reading forums and has reached out to some SCCA folks in this area that suggested he go to a “crash and burn” school at Summit Point with the Washington DC region (Saturday, March 14th). But according to Bob it wasn’t a realistic idea on short notice, factoring the distance (5-6 hour drive each way) between NYC and West Virginia. He’s quite surprised that for an activity that is so short on volunteers it’s definitely not easy to get started for someone brand new. Which echoes the point I have been stressing for a few years now. But recognizing or confirming a problem and seeing no obvious solution doesn’t help me help Bob.

And while it is true that many volunteer organizations around the world, especially here in the US, struggle to muster up good marshal numbers for various events. Singapore is not one of those struggling organizations because Singapore receives far more demand (supply) then the supply (demand) allows. It’s common knowledge that each year over 3,000 applications get submitted for SGP and only 1,200 to 1,300 marshals get selected, of whom a good 80% are returning marshals. So applying for SGP even with experience is no guarantee of getting accepted. But how do you even get to the point of applying for SGP with no experience like the situation Bob is in?

I am very curious to see what Bob ends up doing. I hope he does follow through with his desire to marshal and joins another event that would accommodate him in terms of training for the future. And I would really appreciate if people share their thoughts on this subject. I will also acknowledge that it will undoubtedly take time for Bob to get anywhere. But following the traditional SCCA route of doing club races, say at Lime Rock which only hosts 2 or 3 races per year, it would take him many years to be even in the position of considering an event of the Singapore GP magnitude. I don’t know if Bob would have enough patience for that. If only there was F1 specific training, or at the very least an avenue with the local club that fast tracks people specifically interested in Pro events vs. slugging along via Club events. Because let’s face it, there are plenty of first time volunteers at various F1 events already including US and Singapore. If only there was training in the NYC area period…

Interesting dilemma…