In my recent chat with a representative of the marshal club at the Red Bull Ring in Austria I discovered a few things… 1) there’s no camping at the track and hotel rooms nearby are really hard to come by during the F1 weekend so the club relies mainly on marshals that live nearby (i.e. visiting marshals would have a harder time finding accommodation during F1 than say DTM weekend) and 2) the circuit provides those fancy looking Red Bull logo blue and white overalls to the marshals that participate in their events. That’s really cool!
Why is it cool?
Well, as a visiting marshal you could travel to an event lighter, and travelling lighter makes your travels easier and more convenient (less bags to check when flying, less crap to pull around when you navigate a public transport system in another country, less luggage to worry about when storing stuff during an event, etc.) So in this post I would like to run down through a list of places you could volunteer where the uniform will be provided, and more importantly which places offer the best uniforms out there. Obviously this post is very subjective.
One of the most recognizable uniforms a marshal could wear anywhere is the 24h of Le Mans overalls that are provided by the ACO and are yours to keep after volunteering the event.
Fantastic deal right? Yes, certainly. Although slightly problematic for those of us that are overweight or that are fat like me. You see the ACO issued overalls look beautiful, and for a fashion forward country like France it is very fitting. But I have a hard time fitting into mine. Primarily because the crotch area is a bit painful with the seam riding way up into my scrotum. I don’t know if that’s by design or not, but it’s less than comfortable. Similarly I can’t raise my arms wearing these in either of the pairs I got. Design flaw or I’m not proportioned correctly for them, I don’t know. But damn do they look good! And more importantly we are FREE to keep them after the event, which has been fantastic wearing them in Germany for the Nurburgring 24h and in Portugal for the Maxi Endurance 32h… painful but beautiful 🙂
Closer to home, Circuit of the Americas has one of the better looking designs out there made by the same company that provides racing suits to the drivers: OMP Sport. And even though the overalls aren’t without their critics (there was one incident last year where someone complained so much about using the blue suits for WEC race that COTA caved in and required people to bring their own white uniforms for the event, which sucked!) I love those smurf suits! What’s not to love? The overalls are properly proportioned and run slightly on the larger size giving you good freedom of movement. The sleeves and pant legs have an elastic band that keeps the uniform in place without being too loose. There are plenty of pockets and the zipper works perfectly.
The “Speedway” brand blue overalls issued by USAC at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have many of the same properties of the pricier OMP suits from COTA but they work similarly well. Even when “some” critics don’t like them, I like them a lot.
YAS Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi issues a similar style (possibly same material weight) overall for their events. The famously grey colored suits with the embroidered logo on the back, sleeves and front pocket are quite useful and yet they have their critics too for being too warm in the heat of the desert. But when I volunteered for the Gulf 12 hour in December a few years ago, they were absolutely perfect!
What I liked most about them was the freedom of movement. There was plenty of extra space so the pant part didn’t ride up my crotch, I could raise my hands above my head without pulling the pants into my crotch, pockets were great, etc.
In New Zealand, the Chicane brand uniform is of a very similar design and works absolutely perfectly for the marshals wearing them. Notice the giant pocket for the radio on one side of the chest.
Although it’s important to note that not all visiting marshals get the fancy Chicane uniforms from The Motorsport Club. I was really lucky to try on a few different sets, both for my recovery work the one weekend I rode around in an FIV car, and another time I snuck away from my grid marshal duties to get a ride along in the Chase vehicle with the rest of the fire marshals working that role:
The most generous allocation of overalls you get is in Singapore for the GP. You are provided with 3 sets for the 4 day weekend, where the first day is really just a systems test or a full dressed rehearsal. The Singapore overalls are your standard orange worker overalls you can buy for $30 bux on ebay with loose fitting wrist and pant openings. Each overalls is collected by the post chief at the end of the work day. Sadly you don’t get to keep them.
The SGP issued overalls are loose fitting, light (I believe either 100% cotton or mostly cotton blend) and have great pockets, especially on the side of the legs. They also feature a reflective band around the elbows and below the knees. Similar style overalls are issued in Malaysia for events at the Sepang Circuit, though they don’t have the reflective stripe. A separate “Marshal” reflective vest is issued for night events there:
Interestingly enough for night events Sepang Circuit uses reflective boards instead of flashing lights (F1 style) though a yellow flashing lights at strategic locations around the track are obviously common. The blue reflective board is very effective at night, so long as the station is in direct headlight angle to the cars on the track.
South Korea, Australia, and Bahrain also issue standard orange work overalls to both their own and visiting marshals for a particular event.
In Korea, like Singapore marshal roles are color coded, where Orange is the standard color for flag & track marshals, Red is for fire crews and Green is for Medics. However unlike Singapore, in Korea, Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia you only receive one set of overalls for the entire weekend, no matter how hot and how likely to sweat you are in the sweltering heat of that country.
So which uniforms were best, and where?
It’s not easy to say or pick one over another. Certainly most uniforms I have been issued with made perfect sense for the country where they were issued. The light uniforms of Singapore, Malaysia and Australia made sense there. The heavier material uniforms in the US also made sense here though like I mentioned people criticized such choices on a hot summer’s day in Texas when some events are ultimately run. Many Americans and Brits would be vocal proponents of bringing your own uniform to events where you volunteer. But personally I love the diversity of wearing the “track’s” uniform for a particular event, especially when travelling.
I would love to hear about what other tracks are doing around the world for their marshals, so please share your experiences below. Keep in mind the information I shared above was only current at the time when I volunteered at a specific track, that information may change with time.