I wish the Motorsport Safety Foundation would focus as much on promoting investment in marshals as they are in the improvement of trackside safety equipment and driver aides.
The Motorsport Safety Foundation, not to be confused with the Motorsport Safety Fund out of the UK that published those outstanding marshal training videos on YouTube (click here), is an American non-profit started by Henrique Cisneros of NGT Motorsport in memory of his co-driver Sean Edwards that tragically lost his life coaching an amateur racer in Queensland, Australia. MSF had a visible presence in the IMSA – Tudor United SportsCar Championship and the Porsche GT3 Cup last season with several Porsche 911 GT3’s sporting the MOMO red and black livery with MSF backing, including that beautiful #30 car in GTD class.
I strongly applaud the Motorsport Safety Foundation for their initiative in making head restraints available for rent at a track for drivers that may not be able to afford to purchase those crucial safety devices themselves. I love their “Adopt A Corner” initiative with the TEPCO barriers supplementing aging tire walls in impact zones at various American tracks. That’s fantastic! But let’s not forget about the marshal team. There was a story of brand new MOMO race suits that were donated to some pit lane marshals that were described as volunteers who had to pay their own way to events and previously had to provide their own marshal gear. I’m not sure if this service is related to the pit marshals but they seem to publish detailed track notes on the web site http://pitnotes.org/ that seems to be a service of Webteams LLC so I’m not sure if they are infact volunteers or a for-profit group. But kudos to MOMO for providing safety (fire proof overalls) equipment to them nonetheless. That’s great!
However the half a dozen pit lane marshals are but a fraction of the team of marshals necessary to put on a safe racing weekend. And the rest of the flag, track, fire, recovery, communicator, observer marshals shouldn’t be forgotten either. I’m not saying $1,000 fire proof overalls for everybody, that would be unrealistic. But I am saying that it has been my observation that US racetrack operate with skeleton crews to staff the marshaling needs of their events, and that’s totally unsafe. What the Motorsport Safety Foundation could do is recruit new marshals, younger marshals, more athletic marshals. Using their high profile organization for an equally important initiative as the modern safety barriers and neck restraints. They should focus on training the marshals they recruit up to international standards. If the drivers can race in America, Europe and Australia (among countless other places) why shouldn’t the marshals be trained to those standards also?
Why would trained marshal teams be as important for Safety?
Because they are an integral part of Motorsport. I’m not going to go into a song and a dance how marshals are the unsung hero’s of racing, or that without marshals there would be no racing, because we all know that isn’t true. Event organizers, race tracks and marshaling clubs will cut corners to make due with what they have. And that’s a damn shame. I know that people often look at NASCAR and how flag marshals could simply be replaced with lights controlled by race control. And rescue marshals could be hired to man the safety vehicles for quick recoveries as they are needed, deployed for anywhere on the track instead of being posted at each corner. But circuit racing isn’t NASCAR. Using the available volunteer base should be optimized. The recruitment process should be advertised. New recruits should be trained up to the same professional standards that the drivers in PRO events are expecting of them. Do not short change competitors on their safety. The TEPCO barrier could only do so much when it bounces a car back on the racing surface which could result in an even harder impact with another racing vehicle. Marshals – all marshals! flag, fire, rescue, communicators, observers; are very important and shouldn’t be overlooked when talking about “Safety!”
I urge you Motorsport Safety Foundation please focus on Marshals!
Volunteers are by the very definition people that are willing to work for free, but some capital should be spent to recruit them. Current efforts clubs put on to recruit spectators at an event are akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Yeah you’re going to get some, but I’m sure most of those spectators would rather watch the race with a beer in their hand than stand trackside for 12 hours a day or more with a flag. New marshal recruitment is critical.