Getting started volunteering in the US was a frustrating experience, and sadly unnecessarily so. Because most tracks and events in the US are pretty damn desperate for workers, but those that participate often have the wrong attitude to recruit new people. There’s almost a fanatical club following that is convinced things will never be as they were decades ago in the golden age of racing. And once they get some fresh blood they tend to abuse them, so the system needs fixin’. Or at least the marketing efforts must be stepped up.
I first inquired about “helping out” in the early 2000’s at an AutoX event at the Meadowlands. I saw some friends doing auto cross in their cars and thought it would be massively cool to hang out there, and pick up cones which was mostly done by off duty drivers. But it was not meant to be. Whomever I asked brushed me off and I didn’t follow up with my interest in volunteering until I saw an open opportunity in Singapore. But it’s a damn shame considering I could have been a marshal for at least ten years longer had I started then.
Ironically after returning from Singapore and New Zealand, I reached out to all the local clubs in the Northeast and was encouraged to attend every event they put on. Suddenly I was somehow better qualified to volunteer. Or maybe I had developed a level of enthusiasm that wasn’t radiating previously.
So how to get started marshaling (or corner working) in the US if I were to start fresh knowing what I know now?
There are a few options. First, if you live close to a race track the obvious step is to reach out to the organization providing marshals there. Which if you live in the NYC metropolitan area like I do, doesn’t give you a lot of options. Lime Rock is perhaps the closest track to me. They used to be organized by SCCA. Two different regions were in charge of different events, club vs. pro. Now however, they’ve gone the paid route like the other track in my area, New Jersey Motorsports Park. There, corner workers are employees of the track and work on a schedule. Which for major events means you could work Friday and Saturday practice but may be off the schedule for Sunday’s race. Or since NJMP has two tracks, you’d be scheduled to work for a feature event at Thunderbolt Friday and Saturday practice, but for Sunday be moved to Lightning for a track rental or club event. So if you’re an enthusiast that is actually interested in the racing you participate in, you may find yourself missing out. Working for the track doesn’t require you to join the SCCA. So not only do you save yourself a membership fee, you get paid for what you do. Not much, but still. Tracks like Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas have a similar arrangement, though for major events like MotoGP, WEC and F1 they mix and match employee marshals with volunteers.
I can go on and on about pros and cons of working for the track or joining the clubs out there (at one point I was paying nearly $150/year in membership fees) but I’ll leave that for a private conversation. For now here are some important links:
Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) is the largest club in the US offering club and pro event volunteering opportunities, and is the most obvious organization to join if you have no local track that will hire you directly (or you wish to travel around to volunteer): http://www.scca.com/
United States Auto Club (USAC) is the archrival to the biggest club in America, but their influence is mostly centered around Indianapolis Motor Speedway and some major professional events around the country. Instead of the annual membership fee, you pay a fee per individual event you volunteer (getting a discount if you choose to volunteer multiple events). It is my understanding that USAC helps organize major events like Detroit GP and the United States GP, however there is no fee involved with those races. Unless you are visiting from another country in which case SCCA may hit you up for a $30 event fee. But results may vary, some Canadians I spoke with suggested they refused to pay the fee as a group and were allowed to marshal anyway. USAC web site: http://www.usacracing.com/
Some tracks have their own membership based marshaling clubs that are not affiliated with the two major clubs in the US. Race Services Inc. (RSI) is a perfect example, they operate exclusively at Watkins Glen International. United States Auto Race Marshals (USARM) is another example that works motorcycle events at Laguna Seca in California. RSI web site: http://www.rsiwgi.com/ USARM web site: http://usarm.org/
Similarly, car clubs like Porsche Club of America (PCA) or BMW Club of America (BMWCCA) may organize their own marshals for a private track rental. Sometimes they pay for those services, and as you can imagine they have deep pockets. National Auto Sport Association (NASA) is the true archrival to SCCA when it comes to club racing, however when it comes to marshaling, I think they’ve chosen to give up the battle to SCCA and rely on marshals the track provides for their event instead of recruiting their own volunteers. Eastern Motor Racing Association (EMRA) has a similar arrangement as far as I know, but may have one-off events when they require volunteers. Links to:
So basically the plan of action to volunteer in the US :
- Is there a race track that you wish to marshal at?
- Is there a specific event you wish to marshal?
- Is there an organization that you wish to marshal with?
Once you decide, then start researching contacts and most importantly go out there and start putting in some hours volunteering. Despite the bullshit, the personal satisfaction from participating in some of the best racing in the world is quite rewarding and fulfilling.