Congratulations CAMS on growing Volunteer base!

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) has recently posted a really kind message on their web site thanking the growing base of volunteers in their organization: “CAMS Gives Credit to Volunteer Officials for 2014 Milestone” read all about it: click here.

To quote the best part of the article:

“CAMS has witnessed a 21% increase on the 2013 number of officials. Remarkably, 1647 more have obtained a CAMS Officials License in 2014, with the overall membership now totaling 9374.”

That is fantastic news! 21% or 1647 more volunteers is a big BIG number especially for a country whose size is similar to Continental US but the population is closer to that of the NYC Metropolitan area. CAMS is fortunate with the great success of it’s home grown V8 Supercars series as well as the Australian GT championship with it’s amazing Bathurst 12 hour headliner event which undoubtedly attracts race fans and enthusiasts to put their hand up and volunteer. But CAMS also attracts people by offering FIA accredited training, uniforms and swag at various events, and typically little or no membership fees to participate.

I mention this aspect because while I was marshaling in Portugal I received a message from an SCCA official that I have been communicating back and forth about my issues with my home organization. He suggested I should leave the F&C (flagging and communications) part of the club. He recognized I am not happy with the lack of training in my local region, and it would be better for me to leave so I can be happier. So after three years of paying $85/year membership fee, and getting no formal training whatsoever in return, it’s the end of the road. Or is it? I’ve posted a request on the SCCA marshals facebook group to see how I can improve myself based on the grievances people have of me. And the only response suggested that I should stop “bragging” about where I’ve been and change my tone of voice and choice of words when I talk about the club.

So maybe this is a good opportunity to address the actual complaints I’ve had against me. Though none of them were addressed with me face to face by the senior staff in the club who accused me or even by the DA that send me the message to leave the SCCA. Instead everything has been done secretly. Same time last year I found out about some of the accusations strictly by accident, because I needed an SCCA release to marshal the Le Mans 24h with the ACO in France. And the outcome was for me to lay low, keep hush and things will blow over. They haven’t, since there were still no training and no sign of it being offered in the near future I published a few posts about it and made some comments on facebook pointing out the incompetence of the people that run the club, and it seems I’ve hurt some feelings. The powers that be would rather get rid of me than actually solve the problem of the lack of training.

So what have I been accused of? And what have I done to resolve it?

1). Taking photos at pro events. Specifically at the Canadian GP. My SCCA post chief warned me against it. I took some shots anyway when I saw a local Canadian whip out a DSLR and blatantly disregard the photo rule. And I got caught posting my pix on facebook. The SCCA post chief claimed to lose all trust in me and refused to ever work with me again. The Canadians invited me back the next year under probation to work with a different post chief, so long as I didn’t take any pictures. But couldn’t guarantee that I will have an opportunity to take some photos to keep as a souvenir. So I didn’t go back. Since then however I have cut my picture taking down almost completely. I’ve discovered that visiting the paddock and pit lane gives me an opportunity to take all the pictures I would ever need. (And not just mental pictures like the Canadians suggested, real pictures) Problem solved!

2). Taking pictures in the paddock has introduced a new problem. I’ve been accused of being late to the station. Specifically at Lime Rock and more recently at Daytona 24h. But at both events I was there early enough for the shuttle vans but the vans weren’t big enough to take all the workers to a station. Especially at Daytona, our 6 passenger van was meant to take 10 people to the turn. I didn’t fit. The post chief and his wife jumped on a golf cart when one showed up, leaving me and another marshal behind. Later I discovered that the post chief started the morning meeting as soon as he arrived which I and the other marshal missed. This begs the question: if he left us behind why the hell would he start the damn meeting? So maybe some basic people management training is in order. I certainly need to improve my time management myself. But trying to contort myself to cram into a tight van typically results in me ripping my pants or shirts. And since the SCCA doesn’t pay for my uniforms I don’t want to do damage to my own property.

I’ve also requested to work Start/Finish, this way I am not always on duty and with any free time I could take all the pictures I want. But the few events I did with the club this year, the flag chiefs either forgot my request or disregarded it. So maybe I’m expected to kiss more ass, or maybe the Starter role isn’t as accessible as people claimed it was, by simply asking to do it.

3). In Daytona I got kicked off my station. The post chief that accused me of missing the morning meeting didn’t trust any of us on his team to assume the leading role when he went off station to take rest, so he requested the local Central Florida Region to provide a temporary post chief. And the guy they sent started cracking the whip and barking orders at us. To me he said not to blue flag, which was the main reason I came to Daytona, so I didn’t appreciate it at all and wished I was at a different station where the post chiefs were more reasonable. Long story short there came a point where I’ve had it with the orders, and I refused to listen. I considered walking off the station and asking to be moved, or refusing to listen to the orders and hoping I be moved at the post chiefs request. I figured the latter would be less bad of the two horrible options, and so it happened. The flag chiefs of the event moved me to a better station, and said personality clashes were common and it was a simple solution. But what happened in Florida didn’t stay in Florida because I stand accused to this day, and have heard people talking about it not just in the US but also in France during Le Mans. So what did I learn from this experience? There’s no reason to work with an asshole when volunteering. If I see a personality clash possibility I request to be moved immediately, and if it’s not possible I would rather go home than be abused. It absolutely sucks paying money to fly to another part of the country, spend more money for transportation and accommodation only to have a shit time. Or be punished, unfairly.

4). The most recent accusation that arrived with the suggestion to leave the SCCA was that I claimed participation credit for an event that wasn’t SCCA sanctioned. It happened in Pocono, SCCA had a three day race weekend, but since I work Saturdays and Sundays at my job, I only came to marshal on Friday. Turns out Friday was a track employee day and even though I stood there for the whole day waving flags at incidents, it didn’t really happen. As far as the SCCA is concerned I wasn’t there, even though I spend $50 in fuel and tolls to get there. When I signed up for the event through the web site nowhere did it say that SCCA didn’t welcome me, but it turns out it didn’t. Fine! I’ve seen this before overseas, I understand. The difference being overseas we used a physical Log Book, and if the flag chief didn’t sign off in your Log Book, the event wasn’t club sanctioned. Of course the SCCA doesn’t do the log book anymore, because if it did I wouldn’t be accused of trying to steal $5 that I could only use towards my outrageously high $85 annual membership fee and nothing else. Bring back the Log Book dear SCCA and this problem is nipped in the bud. But No! We do things secretly! Nobody is told anything in fear of losing them as volunteers, but everyone that does something that the upper management doesn’t agree with they get torn a new asshole, and then nothing happens except more secret abusive treatment and bullying. Unless of course you’re me, then I get asked to leave and not cause problems. Because you know, training is so detrimental to everyone. We’re only dealing with safety, human lives… no big deal!

Why can’t the SCCA be more like CAMS in Australia so I can be proud of it? Why not give back to the volunteering officials? The main reason I must have been asked to leave is because I was criticizing how SCCA spends it’s money both from my membership dues and from fees billed to the venue for providing marshals, like me. Pro events pay the club for the marshals, that money rarely finds it way back to the marshals instead the SCCA uses it as scholarships and incentives. Funds to grow car fields in club racing and to help up and coming drivers. I think that’s pretty ridiculous considering how bad the volunteer situation is in the US. In New Zealand the drivers not only took care of the marshal club needs, but provided food and drinks and even did hot laps at the end of the race day to show their appreciation for the volunteers. In the US, forget the volunteers we need bigger car fields… Good riddance.

I wish the SCCA was more like CAMS! Especially since SCCA holds the monopoly on issuing marshal licenses like the one I need to volunteer overseas. From my recent post about helping me choose a different license, I discovered no one but SCCA can actually give me a marshal license, even though in the eyes of the SCCA the highest you can go as a marshal is to a “National” level… because you know, USA is a bubble, there’s no such thing as “International” level.