Tag Archives: fire fighter

My New Role as a “Hooker” Working With Fire Rescue for PWC at VIR

Oh man, I thought I hit the highlight of my marshaling career working Pit Fire at VIR for IMSA last year. This year the bar has been raised as I found my new favorite marshaling role: “Hooker” with VIR Fire Rescue.

First, huge thanks to Cowboy for allowing me this opportunity. The man runs VIR Fire Rescue as a well oiled machine. I’ve never heard anyone more calm and collected and cool under pressure than this man. Every call to dispatch trucks he made was precise and purposeful, a man in complete control of otherwise chaotic scenes around the track. I absolutely loved the experience.

What is the “Hooker” role?

It is the person in the Fire Rescue truck that hooks a stricken car to the truck for a flat tow. This person also assists the Wrecker with hooking a car that requires to be lifted off the ground because of damaged suspension, like was the case with many open wheel cars. And it’s the person that assists the flat bed driver getting a mangled vehicle winched onto the tow truck. That person this weekend was me…. and boy was it an awesome rush of adrenaline!

It wasn’t the first time I worked in this role. Back in 2011/2 I was on the rescue truck in New Zealand working at Hampton Downs. But the situation was a little different. We had a truck full of people and my role wasn’t to “hook-em” but instead to carry a fire extinguisher and help in case something ignites. At VIR it was only me and the driver, so it was totally a much more hands-on role.

VIR fire rescue has several locations to stage. The most visible probably is by pit exit. Another at the half-way point on the Patriot track that could respond from Turn 7 or Turn 14. And finally on the south paddock/pit lane near Turn 12. Throughout the day the trucks rotate positions to get a different view, and an opportunity to respond to different incidents around the track. That was fantastic!

Here’s some pix… Day 1;

On the rescue truck at Turn 7 staged on the Patriot track.

With an awesome view of the uphill esses, the VIR resort and spa, and the Oak Tree turn (missing the Oak Tree which fell down)

Day 2: On the Avalanche fire rescue truck in Pit Out:

A much busier day on Saturday. Got to respond to a massive incident where I actually ran up to the car with a fire bottle… Ended the day by removing a blown off frunk off of the Acura NSX GT3:

A/C so cold in the truck the camera lens was all fogged up…

Day 3/Race Day… no assignment, asked to stay in the office to see if I’d be needed to jump into a rotation somewhere. I pitched the idea of working on a Wrecker since the driver was just by himself, but instead was paired with a Tow Truck driver, which worked out fantastically… we had quite a few incidents to respond to. It was so awesome!

Staged at Turn 12A

I got a whole new appreciation for VIR after having driven the track at high rate of speed. My goodness how much elevation changes this track has. Far more dramatic than other tracks I love because of their hilly nature like Watkins Glen or Mosport in Canada. VIR takes the cake with it’s snaking turns, climbing esses, roller coaster down to the last turn. Just impressively incredible up and down ride. I can see why the fastest cars running here at the likes of GTE in IMSA or GT3 in PWC. I would imagine prototypes would take flight here.

Anyway, I was very privileged this weekend to find myself working in this position. A new learning experience for me. Especially riding in the same rescue truck as the track doctor who shared a lot of knowledge in terms of approaching a driver after a crash. I’m very lucky to have experienced this and am extremely thankful.

Love VIR and can’t wait to get back!

Thanks Cowboy!

Track Familiarization during RSI MSS at WGI

Track Familiarization module is a beautiful thing. It’s an opportunity for flag marshals to drive the track at speed and see what the driver’s see (at a higher rate of speed). And I must say with all the things to consider and the visual information you take in while driving the track, the flag station is but a tiny spec that you fly by. That’s why flagging, especially displaying yellow flag in a dangerous situation requires apeshit effort because just dangling a piece of yellow cloth out there won’t get anyone’s attention. I thought that was the biggest lesson to be learned today.

And even though I have absolutely no intention of doing any driving, I learned I had no future as a race car driver long ago, and that marshaling is the closest I ever want to get (it is expensive enough for me and I could barely afford volunteering). Driving on track today totally made my day. What an awesome adrenaline rush!

We staged in the Winner’s Circle before taking to the track, so it’s a great opportunity as any to take some pretty Miata pix:

This lip spoiler is really growing on me…

Oh hey! Another B-spec Mazda.

Heading up the Esses

Going into the Bus Stop

Heading down into the Boot

The final turn

The Starter Stand, looks like you can reach out and touch it, but while working up there the cars seem quite far down

Turn 1

The Shoot

Pit In

Thank you WGI. Thank you RSI. And thanks to the NASCAR folks for a wonderful weekend at a beautiful race track!

New WGI signage on NY 414

Watkins Glen Motorsport Safety Seminar by NASCAR

The 2017 Watkins Glen Motorsport Safety Seminar is in the books, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to participate.

Training is crucial in this highly dangerous hobby that we choose to do, and not a lot of places provide it on a regular basis. Certainly none is offered by the SCCA in the New York City metropolitan area, but five hour drive north at Watkins Glen International, RSI and NASCAR put a very thorough and educational program together every year to both teach the newbies and refresh the skills of the old hands that attend. There were newbies for all specialties, from flaggers to fire fighters. And there were plenty of old hands who wanted to handle a fire extinguisher which we seldom get a chance to do with “on the job” training. The fire rescue folks had about half a dozen cars they got to cut up with the jaws of life, AMKUS tool – the official tool of NASCAR. People from Pocono Raceway helped with the training and rescue folks came from as far as Calabogie Canada to receive this training. It was essential and awesome at the same time. I really enjoyed it!

This is a two day event. Day 1 it snowed… not much when I arrived, but there were icebergs and fresh snow on the ground at the track.

It was also freezing!

The beauty of this training, whether for fire fighters or us flaggers, many of the things taught were meant not just for the track, but everyday life. Street cars were used for extrication practice to show how they ought to be cut correctly… whether for road accident or track accident (for track and club days, non-pro events). similarly caged cars were cut to practice specifically race car extrications.

I cashed in a favor and CouchSurfed in downtown Watkins Glen.

My host invited me to check out their neighbors barn bar… it was pretty awesome. Always nice to nibble on venison sausages and beer! These are real NASCAR fans… “So who’s your driver?”

Day two was significantly warmer. We got to shoot the extinguishers:

Same cut-away car from two years ago, but it works well!

That’s me.

Not sure what this fella was up to.

Chief really knew his shit, and presented it in understandable manner.

The wind was coming in from the front, blowing the extinguisher powder back at us. So some adjustment in positioning was required.

Everyone had a go… I went last.

By the time I got the bottle there was barely enough pressure to reach the fire.

So I sprayed, and I sprayed, and I sprayed… and I have a feeling one of the fire fighters cut the propane so the flame went out on its own.

But boy was it fun just doing it. Pulling the trigger. The excitement of fighting a fire. Better to do it under these circumstances and knowing what to expect than during a racing event when a car pulls up on fire and you’re the closet one with a bottle there. It’s nice to know what to expect from it once you’ve called for help.

Thank you RSI. Thank you WGI. Thank you NASCAR!