It has been over eight months since my last Motorsport track visit. Finally! Something came along locally that I actually wanted to be a part of. MotoAmerica Championship of New Jersey at NJMP is always amazing and I’m super happy I was able to take part this weekend even though I’ll miss out on a full day of racing (Sunday) due to work.
Work has certainly put a damper on this hobby. By the time I finished Thursday night I only managed to get two hours of sleep before driving down south Friday morning for the ridiculously early 6:40am meeting at NJMP. Luckily it was good weather, sunny and only a small chance of weather that did not materialize, except for one instance of lightning that had us briefly evacuated causing a shortened practice session. I had a great night of rest at a local cheap motel… “cheap” when it comes to quality… not the price which they jacked from $56/night normally to almost double $96/+ tax because a pro race is in town. Thanks Quality Inn. But I can’t complain too much. NJMP pays for this event so my expenses will be covered. Saturday it was rain all day long. And to be honest I missed it. I missed the experience so much I thoroughly enjoyed the misery. Had to change my whites at lunch time because even with rain gear it was getting cold and uncomfortable. But all in all a fantastic weekend. Tons of action, lots of good fun. Now my feet are burning and I’m back to sitting on my ass all day at work tomorrow. Happy with the memories I made.
Blue must be the most suitable bike color…
My first and last local race in the books. Until next year!
Greetings from a beautiful weekend in South Jersey volunteering for my only bike race of this season with MotoAmerica Championship Superbikes, Superstock and Supersport bikes supported by KTM RC Cup and Vintage Bikes.
Enjoy the over 100 pix from Race Day on Sunday… and stay tuned for more to come about this awesome event.
I got to work Turn 7 which is probably the best station at Thunderbolt and certainly for me, because during our long lunch hour I was able to just walk into the paddock area and check out all the bikes… spectator bikes, bikes for sale, racing bikes, etc.
The young kids riding… that is really inspiring!
notice the missing BMW engine behind the cowling…
These KTM spec series bikes are really neat!
Love seeing all these vintage bikes, many of them for sale!
And of course lots of new stuff for sale, Suzuki and others had a great test ride opportunity with customers going on a cruise in a convoy of new bikes around Millville, New Jersey
NJMP offered a good discounted lunch option for us, all for $5 bux
Philly Cheesesteak, fries, chips and drink.
By the time I finished my lunch, the grid walk was wrapping up… so I did some drive-by shooting of pix as the bikes were getting ready to grid up and race.
The kids riding area was super cool… I think a few racers actually joined them which looked pretty funny but must have been an amazing opportunity to inspire the young riders to pursue this hobby further.
Greetings from New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt home to this weekend’s MotoAmerica race… the season finale of the Superbikes, Supersport and Superstock series along with KTM spec racers. In this post I’ll share some walkabout photos while the other posts will give a better description of an amazing event. So glad I had an opportunity to be a part of it!
Bright and early morning meetings at the NJMP Officer’s Club.
Awesome station assignment at Turn 5, station 7 that didn’t require me to offroad my Miata on the back of the track to get to flag point.
Great place to set up camp near the pub… I think I was the only one tenting there among many VIP’s in RV’s.
Weather was perfect and lots of Motorcycle vendors were displaying their wares including offering prospective buyers the chance to test ride their machinery. That was neat!
The cozy feel of NJMP Thunderbolt paddock and the open garages to spectators made everyone feel very much part of the event:
Demographically this was probably the most diverse Motorsport event I’ve been to in a while, and of course, lots of chicks!
Super happy I was able to make this event. Highly recommend it!
For a last minute trip, my visit to COTA for MotoGP and MotoAmerica racing was as good a trip as it gets. I’ve said this to a few people over the past few weeks of marshaling and I don’t think they can really wrap their brains around this statement so let’s break it down here.
I was set to go to Watkins Glen for the NASCAR Motorsport Safety Seminar… I chickened out when I saw snow and freezing temps on the forecast. It did indeed snow and was freezing Upstate New York but I didn’t sit around at home sulking. I booked a flight the day before my departure for Texas. Austin was expensive… of course it would be, I’m only competing with tens of thousands of spectators, teams, officials, etc. So I flew to Dallas. It cost $63 one way on American Airlines and $62 on the way back flying United.
Unlike the last trip a month ago for PWC, Megabus was pricey and the scheduling didn’t work. So I elected to try Greyhound… it still cost almost $30 bux round trip, and the experience was crazy to say the least… I was pretty surprised by the type of folks that ride Greyhound, especially those that make their journey across the whole country, but that’s a story for another time. Lucky for me the Greyhound station is very near to my friend Joaquin’s home and it was quite convenient to get a ride to and from the track there.
Joaquin had a full house so I used my tent that lives in Texas to camp at COTA which worked out very well. It was especially convenient since I told Jeanie that I’d be happy to flag, be a track marshal or deliver lunches and she snagged me to help out with track ops, where among other things I really did do deliver lunches. It was the hardest I had ever worked at a track while volunteering. I was running around so much I had to change my shirt during lunch time because it was completely soaken wet. But it was such a blast.
Probably the coolest experience for me was driving around on track delivering marshals to their stations. I got to use the Toyota Tundra to take a small group to Turn 20A and 20B, and then raced back around the track to see if more people needed rides. I also used a golf cart to run many errands driving around the inner and outer rings of the circuit as well as multiple trips to the paddock. Unlike other series, Dorna really enforced the rule of nobody but officials in pit lane and garages. Everyone got scanned in and out. And since we didn’t get the credentials the only time I got to go there was during the pit walk which we shared with spectators.
But I feel I really got my money’s worth. I was issued blue overalls and a tabard so when numbers were short Saturday morning I was the only flagger at Turn 16. Then I got another track ops person to join me. Then I got pulled off when a real flagger turned up. And as I was leaving I got to help push a striken bike onto the gator transport. It was pretty awesome. On race day I got to spectate from Turn 1 and when things went crashy I got to push another bike up on the transport while the track marshal who was working there was trying to get his hand looked on which he burned by accidentally touching the smoking hot exhaust pipe under the seat. Apparently it burned right thru the glove.
All in all it was the best time I had ever had at COTA and I wouldn’t rule it out that I would sign up again for this position for another big event like Formula 1 later this year.
Every year, without fail, I get a thick envelope in the mail from Australia inviting me to marshal the SBK Superbike World Championship round at Phillip Island. And since I’m invited, you’re invited through this blog post!
It’s such a heartwarming experience opening the envelope and seeing the invitation letter and application forms… it’s awesome! No other organization has had such a great follow up like the team staffing this FIM event at an incredible racetrack: Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit about 2 hour drive outside of Melbourne, Victoria. And I wish I could have tacked on this event to my upcoming trip to Bathurst in 2016, but there’s just too much time between the two events.
The last time I participated at Phillip Island for this event was 2013, working rescue at “Siberia” turn. It was incredible!
I highly recommend this event to anyone interested in marshaling. The racing is fantastic. The crowd of spectators is huge and very enthusiastic. And the marshaling team treats you really well.
Interested? Get in touch, I’ll forward on the application paperwork.
This morning the FIM MotoGP official YouTube channel featured a beautifully put together video titled: “GoPro Behind the Scenes: A day in the life of a Marshal” from the Assen TT featuring a whole bunch of happy Dutch marshals in their respective roles during the race weekend. Behold the masterfully done video that ought to be used to recruit Moto marshals worldwide:
Neither FIM MotoGP nor Assen TT are directly affiliated with the Marshal Cam project, but this video captures exactly what #MarshalCam ought to be if more sanctioning bodies and marshaling clubs embraced the idea of marshals wearing small action cams to record their actions (whether for entertainment purposes like the video above or for more professional purposes like training or incident analysis).
Assen TT club has been a big supporter of this web site having the link to my blog very early on when I first launched it, so I’m forever grateful to them for being so awesome!
So let’s analyze the video… starting with this little gem:
Not a lot of marshals have the luxury to pedal a bike to their nearest race tracks. But folks in the Netherlands and Belgium frequently do. I’ve met them! And I’m infinitely jealous of them. It takes me at least 2 hours to drive to my nearest circuit. Although to be fair, I walked to the circuit when I started marshaling in Singapore. Some marshals are much luckier than others.
The morning equipment inspection is shown, with the flags laid out to demonstrate that the whole set is there. A flag point station is shown, and interestingly enough Flag marshals get to sit while they work. That’s pretty unusual in the flagging world. (normally we must stand)
There’s the morning meeting with what looks like FIM officials. Way too few marshals to be the entire crew so I’m going to speculate that this is just for the post chiefs and chiefs of different specialties like the marshal wearing the blue bib which is typically pit lane, marshal in red bib which is medic, and of course orange bibs are flag and track marshals.
Welcome to Assen TT Circuit! Watching this video I definitely want to marshal there at some point in my career as a Motorsport volunteer.
I especially love the sequence in the video where a track marshal adjusts his gloves followed by a rider adjusting his gloves. Goes to show that marshals are not just unpaid spectators but in fact an integral part of the event, and a crucial part of the event promoting safety as job #1!
Another shot of the Flag marshals with the full flag set in front of them, sitting comfortably observing the race and quickly displaying the correct flag to reflect track conditions. Judging by the guys face it is a relaxed and comfortable environment to do the job professionally.
This is one of my favorite screen grabs, a track marshal runs over to lift a bike off of a pinned rider. In the shot you see a fire marshal respond with a fire bottle ready to deal with whatever situation arises. It’s pretty scary to watch riders get hit or pinned under their own crashed bike, and unlike many other events with MotoGP as a track marshal you just respond to the scene first and notify Race Control of whatever happened later.
Another shot of track marshals responding to an incident, with Moto racing there’s always plenty of action, and lots of bikes to be picked up in various state of disrepair to be either sent off back on track with the rider or leaned against the ARMCO at the station to be picked up and transported back to the paddock on a back of a pick up or a little trailer like the one shown in the Assen TT video. It’s always a busy event… MotoGP
The video concludes with marshals huddling up the race winner. In this case Marc Márquez of Spain who received a flag with his racing # to take around the track on a victory lap. This activity is so common worldwide but try doing it in the US and someone will chew your head off. Why can’t things be consistent globally… marshals deserve to celebrate with the riders any opportunity they get, why not?
I think this is such an amazing video and I hope it does get used to recruit future marshals worldwide. This is what you can be doing when you volunteer as a Motorsport official (in Assen at least) come out and join in the fun folks!
I forgot to add a Motorcycle race to my wishlist in 2016.
So here’s a post reminding myself to do it!
This year I did express interest in MotoGP at COTA but I did it way too late and it didn’t materialize in time even though they accepted me to marshal there. The irony from that experience is that I also reached out to MotoAmerica to see if they needed any staff while I waited on a response from COTA and MotoAmerica turned me down. It’s ironic because it turns out COTA were really short on marshals and could have used any help MotoAmerica were willing to offer, unfortunately it seems that they were not willing to offer help, at least based on my experience. I also did send my interest to marshal a Superbike event at NJMP with MotoAmerica in September, I don’t have very high hopes of being accepted and it won’t be a terribly big loss if they don’t. I have marshaled an AMA Superbikes event at NJMP twice before the series went out of business.
But I do want to do a Motos race in the future. And if I don’t get accepted to marshal Dubai 24h in January I think I will definitely apply to marshal a MotoGP event in Doha, Qatar.
Because Losail International Circuit is famous in the world of two wheel motorsports. I worked with a Portuguese marshal from Estoril last year who proudly wore his Losail hat while marshaling and had nothing but good things to say about it. Qatar would also be the 15th country on my list of places I volunteered as a marshal, so I’m looking forward to adding that flag to my resume.
I flew through Doha what feels like a dozen times a few years ago when I marshaled in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, sadly I never left the airport in all my time spent there. I really want to check out the country. The craziest bit I flew back from Bahrain to Dubai via Doha, spend a few hours in Dubai, then flew back to Doha to connect to Sepang in Malaysia.
Speaking of Portugal, I would really love to come back to marshal at the Algarve International Circuit in the south of the country. I had such an amazing time in Portimao last year that I cannot wait to return. And like many other places in Europe they are absolutely crazy about bikes. I met a British expat that marshals in Portimao that raved about the time FIM visits their humble little track. So when stars align just right I will be heading back to Portugal!
Autodromo Interncional do Algarve is very open to the idea of International marshals so I would strongly urge the Motorsport volunteers of the world to consider adding this gem of a track to their resume. The track is located in a very accessible part of the country just a few hours south of the capital Lisbon, but only about an hour’s drive for the resort city of Faro. It is famous for it’s elevation changes and my favorite feature: elevated marshal posts. If anyone needs some contact details please do not hesitate to contact me and I’ll put you in touch with some really amazing people. I had an amazing time working there.
There was a time when the event organizers mailed a DVD training video to prospective MotoGP marshals. Now the FIM is hosting the videos on their web site, and I would encourage anyone to watch them to see what is expected of marshals working a motorcycle event, specifically the highest profile event on two wheels: MotoGP.
The videos are posted for the public on the FIM web site:
To find the videos choose Galleries on the top menu bar, then select GP from the drop down menu of Categories, and choose the Super License Seminars – Video Incidents 2015. The following videos are listed:
You may watch the video by streaming or download them to your computer. The size is 186MB which should download pretty quickly on broadband. The videos were shared by Marco Domeniconi and are shared under license whatever that means. Hopefully they are there for good so anyone can reference them whenever necessary.
I always think it’s a good idea to refresh your skills by watching some training material before traveling to an event. At the very least it shows you specifically what the FIM expects of you at their event because without a doubt the rules may differ from whatever you are used to locally, like AMA. Be sure to roam around the spectator area to pick up a very nifty FIM MotoGP produced spotter guide.
There’s one thing I have always wondered: Do race car drivers care about the quality of the marshals that are responsible for track safety? Ultimately, their safety?
I’m not a race car driver, so I can’t answer that question with confidence. I have asked a few friends that race on an amateur and professional level and the answer is an overwhelming “Yes!” especially from those that have had some marshaling experience as they were coming up in their racing careers. But seeing how training is limited especially here in the US, I wonder if the drivers are aware of the situation and should they be concerned? Shouldn’t they demand better training for marshals? To me it only seems logical.
This concept isn’t limited to pro racers, amateur racers participating in club events have just as much stake in the quality of training as some of the famous F1 or WEC celebs. Everybody has a stake, it’s safety we’re talking about here, human lives! And it doesn’t matter if you are getting paid millions of dollars to jet around the globe and put on a show for the TV audience and all those fancy sponsors. It doesn’t matter whether you have the best quality kit: helmet, fire proof suit, gloves, shoes and underwear. Neck restraints, arm restraints and state of the art roll cages, strong carbon fiber cockpit, etc. If you’ve crashed you’d want the first responders – the closest marshals to you, to know what to do rather than just call for help from race control. Sure depending on the severity of the impact a simple call to race control may be an appropriate action (it usually is), but if the scenario isn’t given sufficient priority or there is a delay in dispatching rescue crews to the incident, someone could be severely hurt. That’s you: the race car driver I’m talking about!
So what can be done?
Two things in my view: 1) awareness and 2) discussion.
Awareness is not the same as paranoia. I think many drivers, especially those that were either wronged by a bad call from a marshal about a particular incident, or those that had their car damaged more by the rescue crews than what the car sustained from the impact of the accident itself, are already aware that there are some marshals better than others. But I could only speculate they assume that the event organizer, or the sanctioning body that pays for the marshaling services to the organization that provides the marshals, would improve the quality of the marshals. In my opinion that doesn’t always happen. It’s like outsourcing. The FIA requires marshals for F1, they outsource this task to the local ASN. The local ASN turns around and compiles a crew from it’s own clubs and any other clubs it works with. And the clubs recruit (hopefully) people to make up their numbers to facilitate the requirements of the ASN. So the F1 marshal at US GP does not work directly for the FIA who pays for their services, but instead for USAC, SCCA, RSI, or directly for COTA. As a result, depending on who the marshal actually volunteers/or works with determines the quality of the training that marshal received. In the US nobody is trained specifically for F1. Sometimes your corner captain may forward you some FIA regulations passed on to them from the ASN, but that’s not always the case. So you as a marshal are on your own. Does a Formula 1 driver know this? Should they be concerned? And this is not limited to F1, MotoGP in Indianapolis is even looser with whom they let work as marshals for the Grand Prix, being a motorcycle enthusiast might be the only prerequisite it seems.
Discussion therefore is the appropriate solution I can recommend. We’ve all seen the movie SENNA and how the drivers have a direct impact on whether a race takes place. If the drivers aren’t comfortable with racing in a monsoon for safety reasons, perhaps the race could be delayed. If the drivers aren’t comfortable with the set up of a tire wall in a dangerous corner, they can get that wall modified to better suit their needs. If the drivers are aware that there isn’t consistent marshal training, they can certainly request it to be done.
How can drivers demand better trained marshals? Simple, ask to see what training material is used to educate marshals.
In this day and age, teaching marshals word-of-mouth with on-the-job training is primitive, especially in the US. There’s got to be supplemental materials created for each series, not just FIA F1… but WEC, IMSA, WC VISION (SCCA PRO), FIM MotoGP/SBK Superbikes, IndyCar, NASCAR, etc. It is the responsibility of each series to facilitate learning for the marshals that take part in their events, assuming the marshals have common sense and learn shit from Club events is foolish! Many drivers, especially the famous ones race in multiple series. Go nudge whomever it is responsible for trackside safety in each one of the events you do, to better prepare the marshals that have the potential to be the first responders at YOUR crash site wherever you race, and tell them you want them to be sufficiently trained. Demand better training. Often times marshals don’t have a voice because they are mere volunteers. Well, race car drivers certainly have a voice… use it!
No… not mine. But it’s still rather harsh to hear a story of a fellow marshal losing his personal property while volunteering for a MotoGP event at the Circuit of the Americas.
It could have been me. It’s not a secret that I have taken photos at previous events. I share them on this very blog. I hope that they help in promoting what we do – marshalling to others who may not have known volunteering in motorsport is possible. Certainly the marshalling clubs don’t do enough to recruit new people, this is quite evident through the dwindling numbers of marshals/corner workers. And after the news of this confiscation I bet more racing fans will be turned away.
Is it wrong to take pictures at the track? Some say “Of Course!” unequivocally. But to me it is one of the perks of being so close to the action, of being a volunteer. I’m not saying I or others should take pictures the entire race. But certainly during our downtime it must be one of the privileges of the job. One of the perks. A way to make a keepsake memory. The whole idea behind the photo books I publish after each F1 race. It preserves my memory.
I’m afraid the current attitude of the folks that have been marshalling for many years: “I’ve seen everything, it’s just another race.” There’s no excitement in this logic. They do their task like robots. Without much appreciation for what they are a part of. And yet watching the social media pages of people who always preach the no photo rule, they tend to have a great deal of their photos in action from each event. What about the little guy? The newbie trying to get started in volunteering. We all want memories, and not just mental ones.
I strongly disagree with what took place at COTA. Whether FIM or Dorna confiscated the GoPro, or one of the COTA officials. I feel that by not returning it to the marshal after the event they send the wrong message. You want to teach someone a lesson, kick them out of the event before the start. The person was caught red handed, punish them right away. Don’t steal their $500 camera equipment. That is wrong on so many levels!