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.
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.
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!