Malaysian GP was the first F1 event I attended, as a spectator. I booked a cheap grass pass ticket, along with an even cheaper round trip AirAsia flight for my Sunday (race) day trip from Singapore to Sepang. Having started my Singapore GP training I was hoping to bump into someone I could ask about marshaling there but with the spectator access I got nowhere near the marshals.
Fast forward a year while living in New Zealand I started researching the possibility of volunteering at the Sepang International Circuit. No one I knew seemed to have any solid contacts so I started e-mailing anyone and everyone with a Sepang e-mail address I found on Google. Eventually someone replied, forwarded me on to another person and another, and it seemed like I was just being bounced around. But as luck would have it I found the right contact.
The communication was pretty frustrating because being a visiting marshal I could not attend the required Sepang training to be certified as a marshal there. Apparently they offer a two day training course with a written test at the end. I booked my flight not knowing whether or not I’ll actually get to marshal, so just in case I also bought a cheap grass pass walkabout ticket.
When I arrived, albeit late as my flight via Singapore landed about an hour after the scheduled report time, there was no one from the marshals that I could ask for help. So I hounded the people in the general Sepang offices until someone took me on a back of their scooter down to Race Control. And only then did I receive my welcome package which consisted of a single orange overall and the F1 tabard. After working Singapore GP and Australian GP this seemed quite minimalist, but as I later found out elsewhere each country does their own thing.
In Malaysia I learned that I was one of two foreigners volunteering among the 300+ strong local, mostly Malay and Indian marshaling crew. Bahasa Malaysia was the primary mode of communication so there was an obvious limit to what role I could fill. But thanks to a fantastic crew I was paired with, I was treated like family. This camaraderie I appreciated more than anywhere else.
What impressed me the most was the fact that the crew has been working together for many years and had a very established operation at their turn. They even had a pressure cooker to cook fresh rice for our meals, nowhere else had I seen that before. Track food provided for the marshals was also the best tasting I’ve ever had. I later found out this was because much of the food was bought by the crew. Though even the organizer provided lunches were super tasty.
So how do you apply to marshal in Malaysia?
I would only recommend it if you are really really really eager to experience a new place. I will explain why. Malaysian marshals are paid for their services. Many of them work the weekly events held at Sepang Circuit besides F1, MotoGP, SBK Superbikes, Malaysian Merdeka Series, SuperGT, etc. there are weekly track rentals. Some of the marshals rely on that salary in their personal life. So you volunteering potentially takes away a slot from a local to make a living. And that’s tough. While by western standards they don’t pay much, a local may cover their monthly rent with that money.
If you have your mind set, then I would strongly encourage you to experience what I have experienced for yourself. It’s a treat like no other. Very unique perspective. And contrary to popular belief that criticizes the local marshals, from what I saw they are very organized, experienced and take their job seriously. There may be different approaches to problem solving, but ultimately they get the job done. I have high praise for the many Malaysian marshals I’ve made friends with. Register here: http://www.sepangcircuit.com/ You probably will not hear back after signing up, so continue hounding them until someone does.