Category Archives: UAE

MX-5 Miata Road Trip

I launched a new Facebook Page for my favorite pastime: MX-5 Miata Road Trip’s: www.facebook.com/MiataRoadTrip

I’ve been blogging quite frequently about the trips I’ve taken in my NC Miata, mainly to get to a race track Upstate New York or up to New England. But that hobby is about to take me internationally, with a trip to Southeast Asia booked in early December 2015 and another to the Pacific in February 2016. I’m making it a priority to meet up with any and all MX-5 owners I can on the road. Hence the MX-5 International Road Trip.

I’m hoping that the facebook page would allow me to make new connections as well as to share some pictures from my meetups without mixing the content with my Motorsport hobby that I also blog about frequently: Marshal Cam (#MarshalCam) as well as the Foodie Tours that I enjoy very much and also blog about separately. I have a feeling people visit this site for each of the things that interest them most and perhaps not all of them want the Marshaling, Foodie Tours and Miata stuff mixed.

For the International trips, except of course for my future drive up to Canada, I won’t be taking my car. So my goal is to meet other owners and take as many pictures and videos of their cars as they would let me. I am also planning on perhaps renting a few MX-5’s and sharing those experiences in the blog and on the facebook page as well. I think it would be pretty awesome to read and based on a few searches I did thus far, there’s nothing like it out there (except one kiwi page from a few years ago that promoted MX5 Roadtrip’s – it was hard to find perhaps because of “roadtrip” used as one word).

So hopefully this works!

Go ahead and like the page to have all that content pop up on your Facebook feed automatically. www.facebook.com/MiataRoadTrip

mx-5 rmiata oad trip

Where Can I Rent the New ND MX-5 Miata?

With several trips coming up in the near future, I’m curious to learn where is it possible to rent the new Mazda MX-5 Miata for a few days of driving?

It might sound like such a simple idea but save for a few “MX-5 rental” exclusive places like those in New Zealand or the UK, I haven’t really come across many major rental car chains advertising the new ND Miata in their fleets. I’ve read about the possibility of renting a track spec Miata for the big Mazda MX-5 get together at Laguna Seca in California, which is neat. I’ve also seen plenty of other track rental Miatas like those pictures I posted from Flatout Racing at Thompson Speedway, but nothing from Hertz or Avis, Budget, National, Europecar, Sixt, etc.

Why?

I would really be interested in considering a Miata rental while, say in the Cook Islands. One of the TripAdvisor reviews mentioned a tourist talking about their green MX-5 convertible hire in Rarotonga. How cool would that be. How expensive would it be? The rates posted on the Kiwi MX-5 Hire Car web site on the North Island of New Zealand were in the $50+/day which is crazy expensive. On the other side of the spectrum, South Florida is where I regularly rent cars for $10-$20/day and while searching for my own Miata have come across a number of cars on eBay with “Fleet” designation on their car history report. But when it comes to rental car companies, I can’t say I’ve seen any MX-5’s as rentals in a sea of Chevy Camaro’s, Ford Mustang’s and of course the Ferrari and Lamborghini exotics that you can easily find on every corner of South Beach. Who’s got the Miata’s?

Would love to find out more about this…

Planning my 2016 Marshaling Calendar

It’s never too early to start planning next year’s marshaling calendar. And I hope to do more endurance events in 2016 specifically return for the Bathurst 12h race at Mount Panorama, go back to Germany for the Nurburgring 24h and introduce a new event I haven’t done yet: the Dubai 24h season opener in the UAE.

dubai sunset

I’ve come pretty close to volunteering at the Dubai Autodrome in December 2013 when I went there for the Gulf 12h at Yas Marina Circuit and a side trip to Bahrain for the 6h WEC event there. But it never materialized. This time I’m ready to add it to my calendar, and hopefully the organizers would be open to the idea of having me participate there.

bathurst

Bathurst 12h is a familiar event because I’ve visited Mount Panorama quite frequently when I first lived in Australia in 2009 and have worked this very event back in 2013 as part of my two month long visit to Australia and New Zealand. It would be really nice to participate there again.

nurburgring 3

And as far as Nuerburgring goes, I can’t rant and rave more about it, it’s such a fantastic experience I wish I could participate in more events there.

This year I’m down to one event per month and I have to say it’s a reasonable strategy to manage with a weekend job that I’m holding currently. Next year I may cut down more events from my calendar just to make Dubai and Bathurst a possibility.

So stay tuned and if there are any suggestions please leave them in the comments below.

How I Undermined my Reputation as a Marshal

As I’m watching the live stream of the Bathurst 12 hour race in Australia, I read an interesting comment from a friend currently marshaling on Mount Panorama that made me want to write this post. It is entirely possible that I have misinterpreted the comment, but it’s worth writing my thoughts down because they reflect the way I feel at this point in time. My opinions definitely change with time, based on the circumstances and with any new knowledge gained from experiences at various events, so I want to write this down to see how I felt when I read it in the future.

Over the past few years of my volunteering in motorsport I have noticed that depending whom I worked with my reputation did not reflect what I intended to project to my colleagues and coworkers. This feeling was magnified but was not limited to events and people in the US. I made a comment about marshals boycotting a karting event in Singapore that was received negatively, which wasn’t my intention at all. And before that, my comments about being prevented from registering to marshal the F1 race in Abu Dhabi allowed some people to form the opinion that I dislike ATCUAE and the Yas Marina Circuit which couldn’t be further from the truth, because after finally visiting the circuit and working the Gulf 12 hour event, I found it to be the most amazing facility I have ever been to.

But events in the US, and certain interactions with people that I felt treated me badly (and ultimately blogged about it on this web site with all the unedited posts still available for the reading) caused retaliation. I’m not just referring to the physical threats by the former flag chief of the region that I dumped with my local club, but also comments by friends which makes me wonder: at what point did I cross the line and undermined my reputation as a marshal?

I say this because obviously in my mind I never set out to volunteer as a marshal and be a dick to other people. I have never intentionally did things “wrong” just to fuck with people. But that’s the vibe I get from people that judge my character and form an opinion of me as a person. The line must have been crossed when I took the whinging that everyone else seems to do over a beer at a post-race party and brought it online in the form of a blog post.

Everybody complains about something. There’s no doubt in my mind that people bitch, moan and complain far more than I do. But I became the enemy of the Motorsports for talking about things publicly on a web site that nobody reads. People complain about everything, from being treated like shit while volunteering by the event organizers or the circuit, or the security staff; to the sloppy food that is provided sometimes, the early meetings, or the fellow marshals they work with, etc. I know this because I have heard it from Singapore to Australia, to Canada and certainly around the US. Blogging about it undoubtedly undermined my reputation. But I don’t agree with writing “rosy” posts just to please people that treat me badly. Or to censor myself. It really makes me wonder how in a country that has OSHA, events/circuits can get away with inhumane treatment (long hours, no breaks, poor working conditions, etc.) But they get away with it because ordinary marshals complain only among themselves at beer parties and not where it actually counts apparently.

The other act of course was picture taking. It was the first nail in the coffin of my career and even though I’ve stopped (or rather changed my focus with the Marshal Cam project) it became the last also. And its ironic. The rules don’t change from track to track or event to event. Marshals aren’t allowed to take pictures while cars are on track whether the event is Formula One, WEC, V8 Supercars or the Australian GT race I’m watching right now. And yet, my facebook is filled with photos posted by people that are currently volunteering track side. And those pictures show race cars, on the racing tarmac. There’s little difference from what I’m seeing now while at my desk at work watching the live stream on one of the screens, to what I did at Montreal during F1 that got me in so much trouble thanks to an overzealous post chief. But me doing it was far worse apparently than anyone else doing it, because I got a web site that no one reads. And that’s a shame, I think.

So what do I intend to do to change my reputation in the future? It’s hard to say at this point because of the awful situation I find myself in, in my personal life. I certainly do not intend to go do club racing exclusively just to kiss ass of the same people that went out of their way to spread rumors about me and then got all bent out of shape because I refused to “respect” them as a result. The bully flag chief pointed out to me that PERCEPTION = REALITY, and I don’t agree with that at all. There are plenty of trolls out there that think they’re cool spreading a rumor to undermine someone they don’t like because all of their buddy buddies adore them for it. It’s absurd. I will choose my future events more carefully. There’s no reason to do every pro event out there because it features something amazing. It’s unrealistic both logistically and financially. I will have to ultimately pick and choose events that I know will make me happy, not someone else, but me – personally. I will work with people that don’t smile to my face and then back-stab me because they’re jealous of the events I’ve done in the past. I will have to volunteer smarter, that’s for sure.

I also want to open an opportunity for feedback from people I actually work with (Not someone that overheard, someone else who overheard another person’s opinion of me. But actual coworkers) to tell me what they feel I did wrong at an event and what I can do to improve, or if I did something right – I should continue doing it. I like the idea of references, like those used on CouchSurfing that help both hosts and travelers to form their opinion on whether or not to deal with someone directly. Maybe the same approach could work well with Motorsport volunteering. I doubt others would jump on the concept because as this blog has clearly pointed out, everyone is very sensitive to even the most innocent amount of criticism. But I am happy to use myself as a test subject to prove that this would be worthwhile in marshaling. In other countries a simple Log Book serves just this purpose, but the only log book I have been filling out is the same one that pisses people off on my web site, because they perceive it as “bragging” so hopefully the reference idea takes off.

Have something to say about me? Post it in the comments below. I will respond to you. Just don’t delete the comments like the old lady from Florida did, when I responded to her comment that called me a “disgrace” or something along those lines. IF I’m wrong, I have no problem admitting it and hopefully learning from my mistakes.

I am very interested to read some feedback about my performance.

The Best Marshals!?!

As my Facebook Timeline is flooded with real-time photos from the beautiful Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, with F1 cars taking to the track for the final time this season. Or from Putrajaya street circuit in Malaysia, with Formula E cars making their debut in my favorite Southeast Asia destination. I wanted to share a thought about the notion of “the best marshals” out there, many of whom are sharing these photos with me and the world. I will also make some comparisons to myself, and tell you – the reader, why I am not the best. And if you’re also a marshal, why you probably aren’t either. But we certainly can become better!

According to a recent article quoting Mohammed bin Sulayem, the famous Arab rally driver and an influential FIA official who claimed UAE marshals are ready to prove they’re the best in the world, you would be right to think that they  probably are. Of course if you ever watched a broadcast of any race from the UK, they would certainly have you believe that the British marshals are the best in the business. I have written extensively about the quality of the marshaling Australians tend to provide, as they are constantly contracted to train and supervise newbie marshals throughout the Asia Pacific region, including most recently Russia. So who is really the BEST?

Well, as I see it: the BEST marshals are the one’s that are trained well. Which pretty much eliminates me from that candidacy because in the past year of volunteering I have not attended any training sessions in my local region. Not because I didn’t want to. But because it wasn’t offered. So there you have it. If you live in a region that doesn’t offer regular training you have little chance of honing your skills to become a better marshal. Of course I’ve nagged my region to offer training, not just to me but to the entire marshal base of my region. And the most common response I’ve received was to organize it myself or travel to another region. Fair enough! (or not fair, considering I pay an annual membership – presumably for something?) Lets say I take the initiative and organize my own fire training with my local fire department, or first aid training with the local ambulance corps. But then I have to translate this into my Motorsport volunteering, and hardly all road accidents are similar to what we see in racing. So the optimal solution is to travel to receive training where it is actually relevant.

Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 boss everyone loves to hate, once said that if you don’t have the money to race in Formula One – you shouldn’t! And I think the same applies to marshals. In a sense, if you can afford to travel to various events around the world, you become a better marshal because you pick up skills new to you. Assuming something actually happens in the post you have been allocated so that you either see a proper handling of the incident taking place or you are actually involved in it, hands on. If you don’t see anything happen, you haven’t learned anything new. So training is still paramount to your “quality” of skills as a marshal. The “quantity” of events you have attended is only relevant if you have hands on experience. Classroom training, demo’s and simulations are critical. So does it make sense to travel to receive proper training? Yes! But it depends on whether or not you have the funds to do it. Personally, I would rather spend my hard earned money on a pro event with the hopes of having a hands on experience I can learn from, than spending the same amount to travel somewhere where I’m guaranteed to learn something. Is it wrong? Probably… but when applying or registering for events to marshal, you are asked what events you’ve worked previously and not what training sessions you’ve attended. Maybe that’s wrong on the part of the organizers to assume that attendance = experience?

So what can I and others do to be considered “better” or “best” marshals out there? Well, as I pointed out above some factors are well within my control and some are not. For example, I think I would be a much better marshal if I was just a little bit taller, just a few inches. But that ain’t gonna happen. Likewise, I would definitely be a better marshal if I lost some weight. It is totally within my control though talking about it is far easier than actually doing something about it. Ultimately, the best motivation to become the best marshal possible is having training provided. It encourages you to do many things, and most of them positively improve your skill set. And as I’ve written before about the CAMS Young Officials program in Australia, it’s up to the top level of Motorsport organizers to push down to the grassroots level. If the FIA demanded better “quality” marshals for it’s events, and coughed up some money around the world to facilitate such training. The marshals it would create would not only shine for the single F1 or WEC race held in their area, they would certainly seek other events available around them to keep them busy throughout the year, including other pro races and club events. They would probably travel to volunteer races outside of their area. And all in all the “quality” of the pool of marshals worldwide would be improved.

In closing, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the best marshals are not necessarily those that are the most experienced but those that have the means to travel to and participate in various events. Yas Marina marshals will prove to the world they are the best this weekend not just because they receive amazing training locally, but because the organizers welcome a whole army of visiting officials from around the world that will help the locals prove their worth. There are plenty of British, Canadian, American, Australian, Hungarian and many other nationalities represented alongside the Emiratis in Abu Dhabi this weekend to help the ASN run the event smoothly and professionally. It would be nice then in the future to not hear that the UAE or British or Australian marshals are the best in the world, but that the FIA marshals are the best in the business… I would love to receive some FIA training to make me a better marshal because relying on my local club certainly hasn’t resulted in much.

 

Photo credit (Bernie Ecclestone) unknown, if it belongs to you please provide a hotlink that I could link to giving you credit. Thanks!

Marshal Log Book Project: #MarshalLogBook

It’s been a while since I had my log book signed.

Oh you’ve never heard of a log book? Well, marshals around the world record their event participation in a little book which they bring to the track to get signed each weekend by their flag chief or post chief, to validate that they indeed volunteered the event.

You may have tinkered with the idea on the SCCA web site if you volunteer in the US and are a member of the club. Because you get a worker incentive for participating in club events. Work 12 cumulative days and get $45 discount on your membership renewal. Work 8 days get $30 bucks credit, etc. But what about those pro events you worked? Nobody cares right? Wrong!

Registering for events thru DLBracing.com or Motorsportreg.com keeps track (a historic record) of events you signed up to work through those web sites. But again there’s no One/central database of all the events you volunteered: pro, club, international, etc.

It’s time to create a new Digital Marshal Log Book… I’ve been a long time user of several flight tracking databases like ba97 and OpenFlights for years, and there’s no reason such a simple solution can’t be used to quickly and conveniently keep track of all my Motorsport volunteering. Of course automating this process is a little beyond my programming skills so I’ll definitely need some help from the readers of this blog. But I have put together some samples manually, and the results are stunning!

So the simple list view of my Motorsport volunteering is:

marshal log book list Google Docs list: click here.

But here’s the cool part… the Analytics! You want to know the stats of Circuits by Days I spent at each event? I do:

circuits by day Google Docs: click here. The pie chart is interactive. Go ahead and play with it! Interestingly 7.7% (18 days) of all of my days spend at the race track happened at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut and at Hampton Downs in New Zealand. 6.4% (15 days) at Circuit of the Americas, and 6% (14 days) at Watkins Glen International.

How about Circuits by Frequency of returning to that track:

circuits frequency Google Docs: click here. Looking at these stats 10.6% (9 times) of all the time I returned to a particular circuit, it just happened to be to Lime Rock Park – my home track in the US. 7.1% (6 times) to Hampton Downs my former home track in New Zealand and to Watkins Glen International in New York. 5.9% (5 times) to both Circuit of the Americas in Texas and Summit Point in West Virginia. Quite a different perspective considering most events at Lime Rock are 2 day events, while the rest of the world it’s typically 3 days because there is no racing in Connecticut on Sundays.

How about Country stats by Days worked? Let’s see:

country by days Google Docs: click here. It turns out more than half of all the time (123 days out of 234 days total) I spent trackside, happened right here in America! (‘murica!) 15.2% (35 days) in New Zealand which is an amazing number considering I only spent less than half a year there and have been marshaling in the US for over three years now. And 7.4% (17 days) spent in Australia, which is cheeky because most of that came from the one month long trip I made down there in 2013 where I did something like six back to back events in a row.

How about Country by Frequency of participation:

country frequency Google Docs: click here. Number of times in the country correlates to the number of days on track. 56.5% (48 times) of all the events I’ve marshaled were in the US. 15.3% (13 times) in New Zealand. 7.1% (6 times) in Australia. 5.9% (5 times) in Canada. 3.5% (3 times) both in Malaysia and Singapore. Go ahead play with the interactive charts by following the Google Docs links, and see all the other stats.

I am working on integrating Circuits and participation onto Google Maps, but it’s a slightly more complicated process here are samples:

map countries

If you have any suggestions for creating fancy stats please share in the comments below and I’ll be happy to post them. More importantly if you’re really good at writing Google Docs Scripts I’d love to get some help in creating a usable Form and subsequent database that I will make available to all the marshals around the world. It’d be amazing to see people’s stats from Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, France, the Netherlands, the rest of Europe, Asia, the Pacific and of course the Americas.

Remember to use #MarshalLogBook on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. And like the new facebook page I created just for this project:  facebook.com/pages/Marshal-Log-Book/910500628968577

The Wishlist

With a crappy station assignment for the upcoming USGP in Austin the thoughts of “is it still worth it?” loom as I’m about to depart for Texas early next week. Of course it is! One potentially disappointing trip will not deter me from continuing to volunteer. Especially when there is something better to look forward to. This post therefore is my “Wishlist” – the events and places I would really like to marshal in the near future, in no particular order.

I believe I have narrowed the list down to just five (5) items. However before I proceed to list them, I should cover a few places and events that, while I’d love to volunteer I probably most definitely could. And some that I have lost interest in for a variety of reasons. This should illustrate the way I look on volunteering at this point in time, which would be an interesting concept to revisit at a later date especially to compare how feelings change with time and experience.

kirribilli australia sydney

To start, there are a few places I’d really really really like to marshal. High atop that list is the Spa 24 hour race – the feature event of the Blancpain Endurance Series (BEC) at the famous Spa-Francochamps circuit in Belgium. I can totally see myself going there if only I could get all the ducks in correct order. Malaysia Merdeka 12 hour endurance is definitely high on that list of races I “could” marshal also. I love Malaysia! I love everything about it and cannot wait to work with my friends again in Sepang. And to visit Thailand or Singapore on the way over there. The Bathurst 1000 would be nice to do, because it too is the pinnacle of Australian V8 Supercars series. I have yet to do the Dubai 24 hour race, my first visit to the UAE made a great impression and I genuinely look forward to returning one day.

The “would be nice” list:

f-belgium Spa 24 hour Blancpain Series at Circuit Spa-Francochamps

f-malaysia Malaysia Merdeka Asian GT at Sepang International Circuit

f-australia Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars at Mount Panorama

f-uae Dubai 24 hour at the Dubai Autodrome

f-hungary Hungarian Grand Prix F1 at Hungaroring

There are also events which I would NOT bother pursuing. Chiefly among them is Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I feel that way not just because it was a total pain in the ass experience the last time I attempted to put my name on the volunteer list there. But mainly because there are much better events at the Yas Marina Circuits that I would focus on. And to be honest I would return to do the Gulf 12 hour in a heartbeat, because I really enjoyed the circuit and the racing the last time I worked there. Monaco Grand Prix is also not on my list at all, even though everyone suggests it as a “dream” destination. I wouldn’t event attempt it, not just because it would require to learn French, lose a lot of weight and have to audition through a very physical obstacle course with a heavy fire bottle on my shoulders. That actually sounds like fun. But more importantly because of the arrogant atmosphere surrounding the recruitment process and the perceived recruitment processes spread like fire word of mouth at events I’ve participated at already. I have found myself enjoying Sports Car events far more than I do Formula 1. I would however, totally do a new (to me) F1 circuit like the Hungaroring especially since I was invited directly to participate there. Similarly, I would love to volunteer at the Virginia International Raceway (VIR) since I’ve been invited to marshal there many times now. But the one event I would like to start with isn’t actually open  to volunteers like me and instead is handled by VIR employees which bumps this track off my wishlist.

The “no thanks” list:

f-uae Abu Dhabi Grand Prix F1 at Yas Marina Circuit

f-monaco Monaco Grand Prix F1 at the Monaco Street Circuit

f-usa Oak Tree Grand Prix TUSC at Virginia Int’l Raceway

singapore

I think since I started my marshaling hobby in Singapore, there are two prominent places on “The Wishlist” in Asia and both have rejected me. But, I will not be deterred and aspiring to volunteer there will hopefully get me a more welcoming result in the future. As I’ve mentioned before since Western teams eagerly participate in the series there, there’s no reason for a non-local to marshal there either. So without further ado, I present to you…

The Wishlist:

f-macau The Macau Grand Prix – Guia Street Circuit is a very desirable destination for me personally. I have visited, driven on (albeit on a shuttle bus) and walked the actual street circuit used for this fantastic event. It is one of two country Grand Prix in the world that are not affiliated with Formula 1. And I have done the other one already, which just happens to be New Zealand Grand Prix. It is also one of the few events in the world featuring both car and bike races over the same weekend. Not only that but you have sports cars, open wheelers and motorcycles using the same circuit to compete. Talk about variety!

f-japan Pokka 1000 – Suzuka Circuit also turned me down because I don’t speak a lick of Japanese. Boo Hoo… Despite a very international field of drivers participating in this SuperGT endurance race who like me, probably don’t speak a lick of Japanese either. But what a fantastic event it is. You’ve got the best of Japanese technology on display with the GT500 field and a healthy mix of European and Asian tech in the GT300 field. Would totally love to be there one day wearing orange overalls and a white helmet with a big smile on my face.

f-germany DTM! The German spec supercar series is like a dream to marshal even though everyone I have spoken with about it, suggests that the atmosphere is reduced to Formula 1 style dictatorship where everything is controlled and mostly forbidden by the organizers. The good news, my not speaking German would not be a deal breaker. So there’s a shimmer of hope and a strong desire to volunteer for a DTM race in it’s current glory before it is completely changed… (like the upcoming races for the Australian V8 Supercars series). Worst case scenario I could probably marshal DTM without a language barrier at the Moscow Raceway. But I’d prefer Germany.

f-brazil Stockcar! The Brazilian Stockcar is no NASCAR of South America. While a Chevy Sonic or a Peugeot 206 stuffed with a big V8 obviously differentiates it from the American Toyota Camry, watching clips of the Brazilian races on YouTube makes me want to participate. Sure the language would be a problem, but much like Germany I think the locals would be welcoming and allow me to play. The location doesn’t particularly matter to me, though Interlagos in São Paulo would be an obvious choice for a number of sentimental reasons. One day I shall make it happen.

f-southafrica The African 6 hour. There’s something about South Africa that really intrigues me. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a bunch of people from there at various Australian, New Zealand and British events (and by British I will lump the Gulf 12 hour into this experience as the busload of Brits were imported to marshal at Yas Marina circuit specifically for that event). And I can’t wait to visit the actual country and some of their famous circuits. There was a time when even Formula 1 ran there, but with current level of competition between Asian, Middle East and American circuits… it seems SA has been forgotten. The African 6 hour keeps the legacy alive, featuring a good grassroots level machines from Sports Cars to Prototypes in a form of I guess Radicals and home grown variety. I really want to go there and join the team in orange at least once in the near future.

Motorsport Marshal Spotter Guide

For those of you that enjoy sports car racing as much as I do, you will no doubt be familiar with Andy Blackmore Design & Spotter Guides and his excellent Le Mans, WEC and ALMS/Tudor SportsCar prototype/GT as well as the occasional DTM, F1 and other racing series spotter guides. I enjoy them so much, I make sure to get one of the freebie ones that are put in each station’s “book” from every event I marshal. The collection is growing.

I liked the idea of the spotter guides so much I created a Motorsport Marshal Spotter Guide with help from Andy Blackmore, who generously provided an excellent template, as well as fellow marshals that posted reference photos on Ten-Tenths Marshal Forums and Flag Marshals of the World Facebook Group.

A sample of the resulting spotter guide is here:

asia sample

Lots of Sparco suits used in South and Southeast Asia, for most marshal specialties except for actual flaggers/track marshals. international marshal spotter guide

Of course there are about a hundred more that I will add while I’m not trackside (read: at work). So stay tuned for updates. I think this is wonderful recognition for people that are meant to be invisible when you go to a racing event. Unless of course something happens. Now you can easily recognize which marshal comes from where when you see them at an event or on TV.

Please share any unique finds (including TV race screen shots) of marshals that I don’t have on the spotter guide and I’ll be adding them to the growing list.

Many thanks!

marshal-cam-spotter-guide

#MarshalSpotterGuide

I have created a permanent page on this site devoted to the International Motorsport Marshals Spotter Guide (click here) The spotter guide will also be used on various facebook groups as well as on Ten-Tenth’s forum and MarshalsGuide.com wiki.

Rejected!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be rejected… And yet when it comes to Motorsports rejection is quite a common thing. It’s important to manage your expectations when attempting to volunteer for various events because rejection is a definite possibility.

My only real rejection letter (e-mail) so far came from Singapore GP. I know what you’re thinking, how could that be…. you’ve worked the past few SGP events. This is true, but when I first applied I received a response stating that I was not selected but that I was added to a waiting list and should a spot open up I will have an opportunity to join the organization as a marshal. I could only but speculate why I received such a response, and whether or not it’s a common tactic used to make the event seem far more oversubscribed than it really is, but it certainly worked for me. Rejection makes you desire something even more when it’s harder to obtain. A forbidden fruit.

I’ve caught a lot of flack for criticizing ATCUAE the organization behind the marshals at the Abu Dhabi GP in the United Arab Emirates for preventing me from applying in the first place. It sure felt like a rejection even though I didn’t even fill out an application, a crucial first step and requirement to be properly rejected. Since voicing my complaints I’ve learned that the way the process works there is each applicant receives a tabard number and even though not everyone gets selected or more importantly actually follows through with their commitments to show up as a marshal, once that finite number of applicants is reached no more are accepted as candidates for the “security clearance” and that was my case. Did I decide to apply too late? Not really. I first learned of an opportunity to marshal in Abu Dhabi from a British expat working there whom I met while marshaling the Malaysian GP. He suggested I join him at the UAE event and who was I to say “No?” I was quite happy with the idea of exploring a new country. But as the event drew closer and I never heard back I began to make my own inquiries, and that’s when I learned I couldn’t apply. I have to say I was really glad when I wasn’t rejected for the Gulf 12h. Granted I wasn’t strictly going to the UAE but instead wanted to piggyback the event onto an already exciting trip to the Bahrain 6h of WEC and my first Asian Le Mans Series event at Sepang in Malaysia, Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi made a fantastic impression on me.

Sometimes you get rejected even when they ask you to come back. This happened to me with the Canadian GP. Last year and the year before it, I documented my trip by taking and sharing photos on social media and this blog alike. This was not to the liking of my post chief who nearly a year after the event took place complained of my camera use (and by camera I mean a discreet cell phone shot here and there, and not a full blown Digital SLR like one of our Canadian colleagues on the rescue team who had that thing whipped out for an entire F1 session at a time, and no one said a peep even though everyone saw it) So I was invited to come back (please come back and bring friends who can marshal we really need you) but only on condition that I never take pictures again, a probation if you will. What’s the sense in returning to that? Part of the perk of volunteering is keeping a visual memory of your participation in the form of pictures or video. I’m certainly not condoning blatantly mocking the rule, but I’m not spending the money to travel and the aggravation of getting harassed at the border year after year just to take mental pictures. (as was suggested) No thanks!

More recently I wanted to try my hand at marshaling for the SuperGT series on their home turf in Japan. Pokka 1000 an endurance race held at the famous Suzuka Circuit was my goal. I reached out to some folks I knew and was introduced to the person organizing the marshals there who quickly and confidently rejected the whole idea I could join their team as a visiting marshal. “Not possible!” Why? officially because I don’t speak Japanese. And would not be able to make any of their prior training sessions to be up to par to their standards. But more realistically I will venture a guess that nobody wants to deal with a liability. And being a foreigner pretending to know how a particular organization runs, in any official capacity – as a volunteer marshal, makes me a liability. Nobody wants to be stuck babysitting a guest, who doesn’t speak the language, will probably require help finding accommodation locally, and need to be transported to and from the track to make the early morning meetings. It’s a lot easier to say “No!” than to say “Yes!” and then worry about the logistics.

car show odaibaToyota City Showcase where I watched the 2011 Japanese GP, next to the big lot on Odaiba where I attended my first JDM car show.

odaiba tokyo car show

Similarly, now that the United States GP and Macau GP don’t share the same dates for their race weekend, I reached out to the organizer of marshals for the Guia Circuit to see if they’d have me, but the response was very similar to that from Japan. Since I don’t speak Cantonese and will not make any of their training modules, I am not a welcome guest to their marshaling crew. And that’s that.

Ironically it took a lot of convincing for me to finally volunteer the Malaysian GP. There not only language but religion were a major obstacle which were overcome because when it comes down to it, the role of a marshal doesn’t change from country to country. I’ve worked alongside people whom speak different languages in many countries, including the United States. English is a pretty universal language nowadays in Motorsport and most of the drivers and riders racing along the streets of Macau can only be addressed in English in an emergency situation, I’m fairly sure strictly speaking Cantonese to them will have little effect. If racers are encouraged to perform their craft abroad so should the marshals.

macauShuttle bus to the Macau Ferry Terminal along the front straight of the Guia Circuit… on a quick visit to Macau & Hong Kong.

guia macau

I have been to Japan during the Japanese GP weekend, and while I watched the race from Suzuka on a big screen at a Toyota Superstore in Tokyo, I’ve always thought that one day I may come back as a marshal. I got to walk around parts of Guia Circuit on a visit to Macau, even drive down the front straight on a shuttle bus back to the ferry terminal/airport, and there too I thought one day I will come back wearing orange. I guess that day will have to wait.

So if there’s any Japanese marshals currently working at Suzuka who would like to take responsibility for me and help me marshal along-side them (while translating what’s happening) I would love to join. Similarly if there are Macanese marshals willing to do the same for the Macau GP, I would love to hear from you! I will be happy to share my experiences from those events here on this blog in the naive and straightforward fashion I share all my other opinions.

PS. I know marshaling as a foreigner in Suzuka isn’t impossible. I know this because there was an Aussie marshal I worked an SBK Superbikes event at Phillip Island who wouldn’t stop yacking about his experience volunteering at Suzuka. Though as expected he was quite critical of the event due to the lack of language, him and a friend were basically spectators while the locals did everything. Go figure!

Top 10 Circuits to Marshal

Having read one of the most ridiculous Top 10 lists about someone’s interpretation of the best circuits in America, here’s one I’d like to present to you – the reader, from a marshal’s perspective. So Buzzfeed eat your heart out!

I will of course start out with a tie for tenths spot, out of the 30+ tracks I’ve volunteered over the past few years it was a really hard decision to narrow down a list of my favorites. Keep in mind of course that depending on the event or even weather conditions this list may change quite dramatically:

#10(a) Manfeild Circuit – Feilding, New Zealand

new zealand manfeild

The reason this fairly unknown track (if you’re a motorsport fan or marshal outside the Pacific) made it on my Ten Best List is because of “food!” In fact it tied for tenths place with the other track because of the same reason: “food!” Now let me tell you why I think this track is an amazing facility to marshal if you happen to live or visit North Island in the beautiful country of New Zealand. Location, location, location. When living in Auckland, NZ and marshaling almost on a weekly basis I became a huge fan of the Toyota Racing Series (a development open wheel series run in the off season or European/North American winter – Australpacific summer). I learned about the New Zealand Grand Prix and without hesitation booked a flight to Palmerston North, bound for my first flagging experience in Manfeild. The facility itself is fairly small, flat and unremarkable… playing to the saying I once heard somebody say: “How could such a rugged country full of rolling hills, mountains and excellent driving roads have such flat circuits.” However, the good thing is you could see most of the track from just about any station, so you can always keep abreast of what’s happening. But my favorite part was the hospitality. The food! Even though the facility seems quite glossy and gleaming with fancy modern buildings all around, we were herded into a shed that I think is normally used for auctioning sheep. How authentic? Speaking of authentic we were served big trays of home cooked kiwi food. That was the highlight of my visit, no doubt and I highly recommend it to anyone to experience such beauty for themselves. I know my friends will think I’m a massive pig if I don’t mention the amazing kiwi hospitality I received marshaling Aussie V8’s on the Hamilton Street Circuit, but since that place is no more, Manfeild takes the cake.

#10(b) Mosport (CTMP) – Ontario, Canada

mosport alms 2

Mosport = Poutine! For me anyway. I know I’m geographically in the wrong province for the tasty, gooey, cheesy goodness that is Quebec’s national dish… but having great poutine at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) or Mosport as everyone actually still calls it, is an absolute must. (there’s a fantastic place selling the best poutine I’ve had in Ontario at a gas station a few kilometers north of the track) I know people will say that there are much better reasons to visit this facility because it is a genuinely great racing circuit, I agree… but again for me poutine hits the spot, every time! The locals are incredibly friendly and super welcoming. There is quite a community of marshals with their own camping area which I called home for several race weekends. And I really enjoy coming to Ontario because they never give me such a hard time that Quebecki immigration does. I appreciate how well organized the marshaling operation is at CTMP, there’s a clear hierarchy and a chain of command. An expectation to act professional, and designated roles with the appropriate expertise level. I love this place! And the best thing to do after you’ve balooned from a big styrofoam box of hot french fries smothered in cheese and gravy, is to take a long and relaxing stroll around the whole circuit… it’s great exercise!

#9 Laguna Seca – Monterey, California, USA

laguna seca alms

Laguna Seca had been a rather illusive place for me to visit for many years. Long before I started marshaling, and by long I mean a period of time no more than five years. I had yearned to come drive the corkscrew as part of the SRT track experience. Tried and failed. Four times I ended up doing the experience at alternate tracks and the closest I’ve come to experiencing the corkscrew was at the Thunderhill version of that turn called the cyclone. But from a marshaling perspective it is a fascinating facility and working the actual corkscrew was a dream come true, especially once I actually ended up working the corkscrew. You see, as a turn the corkscrew has several positions. The local club: San Francisco Region SCCA does an amazing job of fulfilling your requests to station you on the turn that you like, and I received my orders to work the corkscrew every time I visited Laguna Seca. Unfortunately, there are parts of the turn that don’t actually allow you any visibility of the famous landmark even when you are working that turn, I’m speaking about the uphill area leading up to the corkscrew. Amazing place to blue flag your heart out, but without the actual view of the turn (and how the right front wheel of each race car gets high up in the air before it drops three stories heading down hill). The best place to work the corkscrew is at the very top of the turn, standing on a concrete block next to the famous tree that is on the logo of Laguna Seca / Monterey or at the very downhill looking straight up at the corkscrew. As if I didn’t mention the word “corkscrew” enough times, go to Laguna Seca for the corkscrew!… and the beautiful California countryside that surrounds it. (You can see the Pacific Ocean from the corkscrew)

#8 Marina Bay Circuit – Singapore

singapore gp

Singapore gave me my start as a marshal, I would be a major Dick if I didn’t bother mentioning it. However, as luck would have it: Marina Bay street circuit is actually an incredible place to marshal. It is well set up, everything is walking distance to everything, and it is smack in the middle of town which is one of the best reasons I absolutely love working street circuits in general ever since. And one of the top reasons I kept returning to Singapore, it’s the heart of Southeast Asia and was my launching point for exploration of all the cities and countries I visited as a result of living there. The most incredible attribute of the Singapore GP and Marina Bay circuit is the buzz or atmosphere it creates leading up to, during and post event. It is the talk of the town, it dominates every aspect of life for the majority of the people directly affected by the race even if they’re not fans of motorsport. As with anything else in Singapore everybody takes up a liking to the racing because it’s there, conveniently placed for the taking. I love Singapore. I love everything about Singapore. I love the food, I love the people. I wish I still lived there. I highly and wholeheartedly recommend this track and this event to anyone.

#7 Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), Bahrain

bahrain

Bahrain like Singapore is blessed with the same gift I call the small-island syndrome. I adore Bahrain. I love the people I met. I love the food I tried. I loved almost everything about my visit to marshal the Six hours of WEC in Bahrain. The track fascinated me. I got to visit it before working at the Yas Marina Circuit so it seemed like one of the most advanced tracks I’ve ever been to. Everything was well thought out, properly laid out, and intuitive. Each hard station was properly designed, featured great visibility without anything blocking your view, good access to flagging, good access to working response. Excellent lightweight flags, good size and weight SC boards. A locker for the equipment under each station. Even a light above the cutout for the drivers to distinguish which flag is displayed in a dark setting. BIC had just completed installation of the flood-lighting system around the track so it looked absolutely magnificent all lit up for night racing. I loved the pastel colors of the run off areas, the beautiful race control building and the driver/team party I was generously invited to by the organizers… a perk certainly not every marshal gets. But I was treated with such great respect and love I would return at any time, given an opportunity again.

#6 Sepang International Circuit (SIC), Malaysia

malaysian gp 1

A lot of my Top Ten contenders place great emphasis on food, but given the fact that most  of us volunteer for these events free of charge and bad food genuinely creates a terrible impression of the event and of the facility (yes I’m mostly talking about Singapore and their Delifrance obsession), good food leaves an excellent remark as well. To me, Sepang was always the best “food” track in the world, bar none. Nevermind the idea that the facility is stunningly beautiful and exotic (sure even Ukraine is exotic to most Asian people I mentioned my home country)Sepang is Super! I’ve worked a number of events there, including several F1 races and an Asian Le Mans Series enduro and never had a bad time. The people are incredibly friendly that make you feel welcome. It was a pain in the ass trying to get in, but once in they treat you like family and I appreciate that. The location is super convenient being based on the grounds of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with only five minute drive to the old LCCT terminal which I used quite frequently when I lived in Singapore. And the city of Kuala Lumpur is only an hour ride by a cheap shuttle bus opening the doors to even more exotic variety of finger licking good cuisine from the Chinese, Malay and Indian palate. But back to marshaling, everyone I’ve ever worked with were professional and seriously devoted to the hobby. It was inspiring. I would go back in a heartbeat, and you should too if you can! Just to try for yourself.

#5 Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Austin, Texas, USA

austin v8s 8

Because… ‘Murica!!! I absolutely love Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX America’s newest and most advanced racing facility (probably most expensive too, but as marshals aren’t paid talking about money here is kind of useless) I really enjoy marshaling at COTA every chance I get because of the brand new smell the track got, the design, the facilities. It’s a great place to feel good in. I love the racing series that come to COTA. So far I was lucky enough to experience F1 and Aussie V8’s only visit to the States. As a marshal you get a different experience depending on who is running the show, but I can genuinely say that you make an effort to make the best of whatever situation is dealt your way. Being prepared is probably the best advice I would give for anyone considering marshaling here. Go in with low expectations and you will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised. Admission to the Mullet of the Americas is free for marshals so definitely take that in as one of the perks!

#4 Mount Panorama – Bathurst, NSW, Australia

mount panorama bathurst

Bathurst is the most famous track in Australia… nay, the Pacific! Everybody knows Bathurst even if they know nothing about racing. The photo above was taken long before I started marshaling because one of the first things friends wanted to show me when I moved to Australia was their famous circuit. When I first marshaled there a few years later I realized exactly what it was I was falling in love with. The beauty of Mount Panorama is the fact you can drive the track on any given day as it goes along the road dotted with driveways of the local farmers and vineyard owners. Driving it is breathtaking. Watching professionals drive it, does take your breath away too. And I’m not exaggerating. For the 12 hours of Bathurst endurance race I was stationed atop the famous Brockie’s Skyline. From there you can see a few hot spots prone to incidents one leading up towards you and the other going down the hill into the “Dippah”. Not to mention the whole rest of the track below you, down the mountain, and the occasional Kangaroo that comes for a visit. As a marshal you are stuck for the duration of the event on a thin strip of land, though the hard station is paved and covered, walking up and down is tough (it was so hot on my visit that my brand new Sketchers soles melted off the boots… yea I know, crazy!) But what a freaking experience. I especially enjoyed walking down closer to the Dipper and helping the guys there. Lots of visibility to see overtaking and therefore lots of chance to blue flag. Absolutely loved it! I rented a car at Sydney airport and thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing four hour drive through the Blue Mountains and down the track every morning, coming to the event from nearby.

#3 Phillip Island GP Circuit – Victoria, Australia

phillip island sbk 5

My favorite aspect of the Phillip Island circuit is the view from Siberia. Now, this turn is notorious for the reason it got such a namesake, but when you are volunteering a very specific event which means you’d be stationed right where this photo was taken (at the exit of the turn driver’s/rider’s right), you’d absolutely love the view on a warm sunny day with amazing machinery racing in a snaking fashion towards you. (Quite frequently crashing at your feet). Besides the excellent racing Phillip Island offers, which by the way you can see a great deal of the track from this position since it’s so flat and fairly small. (as well as the incredible ocean views with multiple shades of turquoise waters, funky wind shaped trees and sandy hills) The spectators are fantastic, especially the biker crowd. The organizers really wisely allowed riders to park their personal bikes just behind our post creating a mini bike show in a specifically designated area near the hospitality suites. What a great concept and idea! Besides spectators, fellow marshals are really hospitable and welcoming to foreigners. The track isn’t the easiest place to get to without a car, being some two hour drive outside of Melbourne with no reliable public transportation option. But nevertheless when there’s a will there’s a way to get there, and I would highly recommend anyone to experience marshaling at Phillip Island.

#2 Nordschleife, Nurburgring – Adenau, Germany

nurburgring 1

Nurburgring… Nordschleife… need I say more? Well, yes I do. They call it the “Green Hell” for a reason. And getting my super awesome ride around the extra long circuit it, looked like there are many places around the track that would be quite hellish to work. But not “posten 120” in Adenau. The station is in the village… not near a village, not adjacent to the outskirts, but basically in the village. Which means all the creature comforts that a marshal may crave during a race weekend are only a short walk away. I camped meters from our post’s mustering tent. There were several GOOD cafe’s within a short walking distance to the station. There was a proper toilet and running water available in the nearest cafe which again was just meters from where we camped. Showers were available in the spectator area a very short walk away. There were several supermarkets also a short walk away with any supplies you may need which basically required you to bring nothing along for the weekend event (I worked the Nurburgring 24h). The shuttle bus stop to go to the paddock/pits area was across from the cafe near our camping spot. It was as perfect as perfect gets. And I haven’t even said a word about the racing. Fantastic views of a great turn on a bridge below us, lots of action, lots of overtaking and blue flagging. Hands down my second best circuit I’ve ever been to. Or first best in Europe.

#1 Yas Marina Circuit – Abu Dhabi, UAE

yas marina circuit

Yes baby! Yas is by far my favorite circuit as a marshal. I always said that when money was no object this is what a circuit should look like and that’s exactly what it is. Each station is a proper hard station complete with full toilet and running water. There is shade, there is electrical supply, a shed full of equipment including everything from brooms to fire extinguishers and of course lightweight flags, SC boards, and my favorite: light panel! The light display is nearby, hard-wired and functioning perfectly without much delay like a typical FIA system. I love this track, and truly wish it was my home track. Too bad I’m not “based” in the Emirates. In addition the track looks magnificent with spectacular views around the marina, the hotel (with free wifi wafting to the nearby station, which I found to be very useful) it’s just a great place to be at, and enjoy. The city of Abu Dhabi was my favorite spot to go sightseeing in the Emirates and the organizing body ATCUAE even offers a free shuttle service to Dubai for anyone working their events. You also get a nominal pay for participating which was a nice touch.

Having read and re-read this list several times, I’m really sad I didn’t put Lime Rock Park or Watkins Glen International on the list. Both are my favorite “local” tracks to marshal… Maybe there will be a follow up Top Ten list with a different Twist?

Top 10 Circuits to Marshal:

#1 Yas Marina Circuit – Abu Dhabi, UAE
#2 Nordschleife, Nurburgring – Adenau, Germany
#3 Phillip Island GP Circuit – Victoria, Australia
#4 Mount Panorama – Bathurst, NSW, Australia
#5 Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Austin, Texas, USA
#6 Sepang International Circuit (SIC), Malaysia
#7 Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), Bahrain
#8 Marina Bay Circuit – Singapore
#9 Laguna Seca – Monterey, California, USA
#10(a) Manfeild Circuit – Feilding, New Zealand
#10(b) Mosport (CTMP) – Ontario, Canada