South Korea

Everything about my  trip to South Korea in 2012 made me feel like a jetsetter. I was invited to volunteer the Korean GP as part of the Singapore GP visiting crew. This was mere weeks after I had volunteered at the Singapore GP and gone home to marshal the Grand-Am season finale at Lime Rock. And then embarked on a second round-the-world journey in as many months, before returning directly to ATL to marshal Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, for the season finale of American Le Mans Series.

The experience was fantastic not just for the marshaling, but for the sheer volume of travel I was doing when I chose to volunteer full time (as I couldn’t find paid work). I cashed in my frequent flyer miles to fly the double-decker A380 with Singapore Airlines. Used hotel points to spoil myself at the InterContinental hotel in the Gangnam area of Seoul (yep, and Psy was the feature artist headlining the concerts at KGP). And used CouchSurfing to splurge on all the delicious authentic Korean food both at restaurants and in the markets. And all this in a period of just a few days.

The marshaling experience was outstanding also. One of my colleagues whom I worked with in Singapore and Australia gave me a ride to Yeongam International Circuit in Mokpo, about four hour drive south. And invited me to stay at the marshal hostel with all the local Korean marshals. It was fantastic because I completely immersed myself into their culture, sharing meals, stories and floor space to sleep on the neatly organized mattresses that were folded away in the corner of the room to free up center floor for social functions every night. The food was fantastic. The people were even more so!

It was a complete contrast to what the Australian CAMS officials were experiencing on their trip. They were the trainers and advisers to the locals, a role they serve well in other countries including Singapore. But from what I saw they strictly stuck to a western hotel / restaurant experience, which to me felt like a waste of a perfectly good trip to such a different cultural area of the world. They were kind enough to let me bum a ride in one of their coaches back to Seoul on my trip to the airport, so I am forever grateful to the Aussies!

Besides Formula 1 at Yeongam, South Korea has other racing circuits and series. My favorite event of the F1 weekend was actually the Korean V8 SuperRace support race. Asian Le Mans Series, Super GT, and other popular regional series regularly race in Korea and it’s worth getting involved as a volunteer. It is my understanding that the local marshals were paid for their services besides getting accommodation and food taken care of. But unlike Malaysia where payment is made in cash, the Koreans received electronic payments which required a local bank account. So neither I nor any of my Singaporean colleagues received any money or other perks like guest passes. Which was fine.

To learn more about how to volunteer in Korea, visit their ASN: Korean Automobile Racing Association (KARA) web site:  http://www.ikara.co.kr/