I am not bragging in this post, I’m simply counting my blessings!
Thanks to the powers that be this season, I got an opportunity to work four different PWC events so far. And as luck would have it each one of those races I performed a different role as a marshal. That is a massive accomplishment personally in my book. (Log Book if we were doing those things here)
Race 1: St. Petersburg Grand Prix in Florida: Pit Marshal
PWC ran as a support race to IndyCar… and I was there in pit lane.
Race 2: Grand Prix of VIRginia International Raceway (Fire Rescue)
PWC was the headlining event at VIR and I got a chance to ride in the fire truck and tow truck over the 3 day weekend, hooking cars and picking up debris on the hot track!
Race 3: Victoria Day Speedfest at Mosport (Blue Flag Marshal)
PWC sort of competed for the headline event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park sharing the spotlight with local Pinty’s NASCAR series… I think most people went there for PWC but definitely stock cars brings it’s die fans too. I was there flagging over the weekend.
Race 4: Grand Prix of Lime Rock Park (Backup Starter)
The most recent PWC experience at Lime Rock Park over Memorial Day weekend was a cherry on top moment for me working as a Backup Starter to the series Starters. Ahhmazing!
This really is an awesome time for me in my Motorsport volunteering career. If I were to stop marshaling now I’d feel that I’ve done everything I wanted to do with this hobby!
Of course, as many would say and as I totally firmly believe myself: “The Best is yet to come….”
The 2017 Racing season is in full effect now and it looks like it will be a pretty busy one for me… but with the whole NYC Formula E recruitment woes and the anticipated rejections for Macau GP I’ve been reminiscing about a post I made at the end of 2014 called the “Wish List” and all the events I would love to work… So in this post I’d like to take a look back and totally Trump-style pat myself on the back for all my accomplishments and failures.
Spa 24h at Spa-Francorchamps… Big mission accomplished with this event… for two years in a row actually! The track and the race are some of my favorite events ever… in the world. Period!
Malaysian Merdeka… or perhaps the renamed Sepang 12h race at SIC: Sepang International Circuit. Mission accomplished on that one… almost by chance, because I worked two events in the Middle East but it was too expensive to stay there, so I flew to Southeast Asia to work an awesome 12h race… and then I came back to do it again in 2015 while on a trip to Bangkok for a wedding, which was amazing… highly recommend that event. Especially since it’s affiliated with Blancpain Series and SRO as part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Oak Tree Grand Prix is a massive accomplishment which was totally unexpected… Why? Because on the previous Wish List post I suggested this was a “no thanks!” event since they don’t want volunteers for their paid events. Well, an opportunity came up last year not to flag, but to work as pit fire. I jumped on it and had a time of my life. I loved it so much I returned this year for the PWC race to work with VIR fire rescue and this time I was the “hooker” riding around on a truck and hooking crashed cars to the tow truck. It was soooooo amazing! Would highly recommend this.
DTM! My plan was to work Deutsche Touring Cars in Deutschland… but I got the next best thing working DTM at the Zandvoort Circuit in the Netherlands super close to the beach and just an hour outside of Amsterdam which turned out to be an amazing opportunity and event overall. Mission accomplished for the series, but also added 15th country to my list of places to volunteer. Still would love to do another German track besides the Nurburgring, or better yet schedule two consecutive events involving the Nordschleife and something else. Will see…
Dubai 24h race in the UAE…. I signed up and then didn’t go. And that’s a horrible, horrible thing to do! I hate when people cancel on events they register for. But I did, and it was bad. But I’d like to fix this in the future and participate in the awesome Dubai 24 hour event in the future, perhaps?
Pokka 1000 didn’t happen for me. I even enlisted help of a famous Ukrainian race car driver who was huge in Japan, Igor Sushko… whom put me in touch with the head of marshals at the Suzuka Circuit and I was rejected. Maybe expected. Maybe not. I heard people talking about working there who weren’t Japanese, but to me it was suggested that the track requirements forbid it. Sad! Igor suggested bigger events than Japanese Super GT… for example Formula 1 or MotoGP would be easier to sign up for. But I truly really want to work a Super GT race in it’s current format.
So my 2017 Updated Wish List of places to marshal in the future is:
I want to do this event soooo bad! The Macau Grand Prix is still #1 on my list… Will it ever happen? Maybe…
So this is an interesting one… I wanted to work Super GT at Buriram or wherever it was run in Thailand but that seemed like a one time deal. Now the Asian Le Mans series runs in Thailand and even though the country is super welcoming to tourists it is not necessarily as friendly towards “workers” or “volunteers” for Motorsport. Despite my numerous trips there, I have failed to establish a Marshaling connection to volunteer in this country, and I would really really like to!
MotoGP at Losail International Circuit is really growing on me. But I haven’t made it happen yet. I must do it one day!
DTM at the Red Bull Ring. I established a contact there and was told they would welcome foreign marshals. But it hasn’t happened yet. One day though… it’s a must!
Supercars on the streets of Gold Coast. My last wish list included V8’s around Mount Panorama, the Bathurst 1000 but I think the same cars on the streets of Gold Coast would be a million times better for another visit back to the land down under.
Would be Nice:
Brasil and South America sort of dropped a peg from my previous Wish List. Why? Not quite sure but I certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to work there except I still refuse to pay the outrageous reciprocal fee they charge to get a visa for most of the Latin American countries. So Sao Paolo is on ice. But maybe one day?
Much like Latin America not much is really happening in South Africa. I really really really want to go there. I think it would be a fantastic opportunity but nothing has jumped out at me to sign up and go just yet. It’s on the list, but it’s more of a long term plan than something that will happen imminently.
WTCC goes to Marrakech, Morocco. I’ve been to Marrakech before and it was an amazing experience. Flew there on Ryanair and almost didn’t leave because the Spanish Air Traffic Controllers went on strike potentially leaving us stranded in North Africa. It was a great experience and cars racing on the streets of the beautiful city would be quite a site to see. So if South Africa doesn’t happen to me in the near future, maybe Morocco could be more doable? Who knows… but I wouldn’t mind.
Screw Quebec… Always giving me shit at the border to go to Montreal for F1 and all that jazz at the track about taking pictures, but I would really love to check out two tracks one of them in QC… Trois-Rivières! The other Calabogie, in nearby Ontario. The first track is Northeast from Montreal and holds some cool events I wouldn’t mind marshaling. The other is several hours north of Canadian Tire Motorsports Park which I love to visit and it too holds interesting events. I would love to add them to my list!
Meh! Sure, why not?
Something in Mexico City… Formula 1 or WEC? I thought Mexico would be easy to marshal. It hasn’t been. The people I reached out to in order to sign up for Formula 1 event when it came back to Mexico didn’t help me one bit which really sucked because they sure talked a lot of shit when we worked together in Canada or Long Beach… but perhaps it would happen in the future. I would love to add Mexico to the list of countries I marshaled.
Baku F1 was going to be one of those super practical events because American Airlines treat Azerbaijan as Europe (so does F1 calling it GP of Europe) which means award flights only use a ridiculously low amount of points, half in fact what they charge for Bahrain which is really nearby. But I never got invited here, even though there seems to be a ton of traffic coming to my blog from that area and since there’s such a close relationship with Bahraini marshals. Surprised it didn’t happen yet, but maybe it will in the future?
Despite working with a whole ton of Czech marshals from Le Mans to Spa-Francorchamps I have never heard… “hey, come join us at Brno!” Weird how that happens. But their track looks fantastic, Moto events there seem amazing. Maybe one day?
The problem with Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia is that nothing seems to happen there. I almost booked a flight once to correspond to the Asian Le Mans Series round at Sentul hoping I could volunteer there but the round got moved to Sepang in Malaysia instead. I would love to add Sentul to my list. I’ve been to Indonesia a bunch of times, Bali, Jakarta, Batam (by boat from Singapore)… and it’s a beautiful country. It would be so cool to work an event there. Maybe MotoGP would come back? I know it would be super appropriate there, everyone uses Motorcycles and Scooters.
What else? Am I missing places I should add to my Wish List? Some I have consciously bumped off like Monaco, because why bother? But I’m sure there’s something I’m overlooking. Like Isle of Man… or?
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
Thank you WGI. Thank you RSI. And thanks to the NASCAR folks for a wonderful weekend at a beautiful race track!
I would really love to plan a Southern Road Trip to Alabama and Virginia for some awesome car racing. The trip would be approximately 2,000 miles long and last two weeks with a weekend at Barber Motorsports Park volunteering for the Global MX-5 Cup and it’s parent sanctioning body IndyCar. Followed by a fantastic weekend at Virginia International Raceway volunteering for some classes of the Pirelli World Challenge which would include Sprint X, GTS and the TC/TCA/TCB support series which all feature Miata’s.
How cool would that be?
I think it would be fantastic! But how do I make it work?
Challenge #1: Money!
My concern isn’t just driving down 1,000 miles to Birmingham, Alabama… that’s actually an easy part, and I could make it happen relatively cheaply. There’s only $1 in tolls crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and then smooth sailing all the way down i81 which is my preferred route to travel to Florida. The problem is if I plan this now when I’m still unemployed it would be super tough requesting time off from an employer if I do find a job which obviously presents a predicament… should I make contacts now hoping to be accepted or wait until later time when I know for sure I am not committed to actual paying work… I don’t know.
Both the Barber event and VIR event pay for participation. At Barber Motorsports Park, Flagging by Faynisha organizes marshals. They pay some money which would certainly offset the fuel and some of the accommodation costs involved in getting there. Similarly, VIR pays employees for participation at non-club events. And even though last year both the Global MX-5 Cup and Pirelli World Challenge were under the SCCA Pro umbrella, this year neither one is. The MX-5 Cup went with IndyCar as it’s sanctioning body while Pirelli World Challenge switched to USAC for the same reasons. And that will be interesting to see how and what, if any, will the differences be within the series. I suspect little to none, but I am curious to say the least.
There would be a few days to kill between the event in Alabama and the next event in Southern Virginia on the North Carolina border, which is about 500 miles drive from Barber. I would imagine instead of heading directly to VIR I’d make a few day stop in Georgia and maybe spend some time exploring Atlanta. It’s a nice city with nice food and I would love to have a few delicious meals there, like the amazing Fried Chicken and Waffles I sampled on my last visit to Barber where I flew via Atlanta and spend the night before flying back through Philadelphia (hey, the flight was cheap… $35 bux cheap). Anyway, it would be pretty amazing.
And I think I’ll put this high up on the list of events I’d like to participate in this year.
Since neither event is SCCA sanctioned and neither of the marshal bodies are run by SCCA people, I wonder if I should even renew my SCCA membership this year?
I always wondered, with the popularity of Sim Racing among Motorsport fans and race car drivers of all skill levels (from amateur to Formula 1), and visibility of video games like iRacing at many American and international events, why don’t the series/clubs incorporate the “Marshal” role into the experience?
iRacing bills itself as “the most authentic racing experience…”
At first glace I would agree… Yep! looks realistic as fuck. But there’s something missing, isn’t there?
No marshals… I see fans. But where’s the flaggers?
And that is a missed opportunity. The way I see it, not only would video game designers/programmers/marketing companies coax more users to their already popular products, but they would serve a very useful purpose too by incorporating this role into the games. For the drivers, whether professional or amateur, it would feel more realistic because you’d have the human factor in there… another real person who could do something with a flag. This would be far more real-world than a pre-programmed computer role that follows real rules instead of a human that interpret what they see and make decisions based on their common sense, which may not necessarily be consistent among all participants. The implications of having an actual human flagger represented in the game could change outcomes of races, as they do in real life.
But most importantly to me, this sim flagging could be used as training material for real Motorsport volunteers that want to get more involved in the sport but have limited access to a race track. If you only do one event a year, like say Singapore Grand Prix, I think it would be most helpful to practice on a simulator at your own leisure or through organised iRacing events, to bring your skills up before the actual F1 GP. The value of Sim Flagging would be tremendous. Besides training I think it would be a useful recruitment tool to get the young (and young at heart) video game players who didn’t know it was possible to volunteer to try the real thing. Everyone wants to be a Race Car Driver, but not everyone playing video games may be able to follow through with this dream. When it comes to Flagging, a much greater percentage of Motorsport enthusiasts that play video games could actually make the transition to real life events. Volunteering is cheaper than racing. It’s (theoretically) less dangerous, and it’s just as enjoyable to be on the race track looking at race cars, up close and personal.
I think this is worth pursuing!
PS. a disclaimer… I personally don’t play video games. But if there was a Simulator to practice flagging, especially learning new concepts like Code 60… or Slow Zones in Le Mans. I would totally embrace the idea myself, and I’m sure others would too.
This morning’s Grand Prix of Lime Rock started with a group photo shoot for the marshals to be featured in a new documentary about marshaling in North America.
The fella behind the photo shoot is Herbert Paul of Herbert Paul Productions who seems to be enthusiastic about doing this project to highlight the work of various marshals around the country including flaggers, communicators, emergency services, etc.
Being a marshal himself, Herbert Paul claims we are long overdue for a feature about this hobby and I couldn’t agree with him more. To me that’s kind of what my own project “Marshal Cam” is all about.
So I’m happy to support this idea. If anyone has a story to share do reach out to Herbert Paul directly! He will be traveling around the country to various events. Laguna Seca was specifically mentioned.
At Lime Rock Park he’s working with a group of at least two videographers and at least one still photographer. For a PRO weekend, with so much focus on marshals, it’s pretty impressive effort and like I mentioned above I support it fully.
Can’t wait to see the finished product!
Good luck Herbert Paul…
Oh and if you want to have your face featured on the #MarshalCam social media channels… go ahead and make a video of your interview and I’m happy to share it!
UPDATE MAY 2: Looks like the IndyCar NOT-Boston Grand Prix may be happening elsewhere in New England. Please stay tuned as Jessie Lynne Honigs works out the details before starting her work on staffing the marshals for this event.
For those in the Northeast of the US there’s a new Grand Prix option to volunteer, on the streets of Boston, Mass.
That’s right… the Grand Prix of Boston is scheduled for Labor Day this September and its an event I’m eagerly awaiting even if I may not have an opportunity to attend as an actual marshal.
Best of all Jessie Lynn Honigs is the flag chief of the marshals so there will definitely be some quality organizing going on behind the scenes.
There’s nine months left to plan! I’m a huge fan of street courses because you as a marshal don’t get any closer to the cars than you do at a city circuit. The cars are just on the other side of the crash barrier, inches from you sending all sorts of shock waves thru your body as they fly past. The adrenaline rush is out of this world.
I would highly recommend this event to anyone interested.
Forget marshaling as a Blue Flagger, working as a Starter is the most involved job while marshaling there is. Thanks to Jessie Lynne Honigs I was able to finally get a chance to experience working the Start Stand and I don’t think I want to go back to working regular F&C ever again. The Starter job is where it’s at!
So a little background about my plan on becoming a starter. I got the bug more than two years ago where after much thought about my “picture taking” issues from the previous season I thought all my problems would go away if only I could get a job marshaling closer to the paddock, right near the pit lane. Start stand was the obvious choice. I knew I couldn’t just jump into the role at any old Pro event and I’d have to work my way up by participating in some Club racing, so I asked the flag chief of the New York Region to give me the opportunity to learn the next time I come up to Lime Rock Park. He agreed but when the events came around I found myself on some random station working F&C and was very disappointed and discouraged to come back. This year I didn’t go back to Lime Rock at all. But I did go up to Thompson Speedway after Jessie invited me with the thought that maybe there I’d get a chance to finally learn. I registered through MotorsportReg.com for a club event, ticked the box for Starter, but knew full well going in that if they were terribly short on F&C people it’s likely that’s what I’d end up doing. And sure enough I got put on Station 3. This was cool because I wanted to help out in the time of need, and actually got to work with Jessie. We had a hell of a good time, but it wasn’t the Start stand and I had to delay my plan further. Until of course the second time Jessie invited me up to Thompson Speedway for another NER SCCA club event, where finally I got a chance to work Start.
What did I discover working as a Starter at Thompson Speedway?
I learned that it’s the best possible job there is marshaling, bar none, for me anyway… Here are the top few reasons I find the role of a Starter to be incredibly awesome:
You get to Blue Flag!
You get to keep track of all the cars in the field through Charting
You get to throw the Checkered Flag
You get to throw the Green Flag
You get to Black Flag and Meatball Cars
You get to work out the timing of Last Lap and when to Checker
You work on the Front Straight and Pit Lane
You are close to the Paddock and Garages
You have a lot more Responsibility than any other station
Your Mistakes are more visible than any other station
I could probably come up with a dozen other reasons why the Starter role is awesome but I’m too excited to think about them right now.
Suffice to say I was blown away with how awesome that position was and a little bit sad that I waited this long to finally try it. And I’ll say a few words about that:
F&C or any other specialty volunteering a club event will always be short on people. Hardly anything is done about recruiting, and the participation numbers are insufficient at most events. There’s nothing noble about being a nice guy and trying to accommodate the flag chief to work a random turn especially those that don’t make you personally happy because chances are after a bad or even less than good experience you won’t come back to work another race again, or at least not return frequently. So what’s the point? I think the most important thing to do while volunteering is to do a job that makes you personally happy. And for me that is working as a Starter.
The irony about being selfish is that SCCA as a club advertises volunteering positions by saying there’s a job for everyone! Of course in practice that isn’t always the case. I asked to work Start, someone didn’t feel it was worth it for them to oblige to my request, and so instead of having a satisfied volunteer working a position that person enjoys doing, they lost a volunteer altogether. And that’s stupid. But people do get that way. I pissed people off by taking pictures and calling some high ranking club members incompetent because they refused to offer training which the club should provide, and they would rather get rid of me as a volunteer than to put me in a position where I would receive the training I was after and perform the role I wanted to perform. Of course before they decided to “get rid” of me, they wanted to teach me a lesson against picture taking by placing me at the most remote areas of the circuit, so that when I did want to take pictures legally during our lunch break I had to chose between trekking all the way to the paddock or to actually eat lunch. It’s hard to change the politics of any organization even those where nobody gets paid to work. And volunteering is very political, clique’ey, and not always welcoming to new people.
So, I’m glad I got a chance to discover a role that I think I would really enjoy doing from now going forward. If I can’t get that role again in the future I simply won’t go to future events. But my goal is to do what it takes to master the role of a Starter so I could do it at Pro events. I definitely could use more practice. Even though waving flags on the start stand is no different than that on a random station as an F&C marshal, there’s definitely more work to be done, and I had made some mistakes while learning this weekend. For example: keeping time is a very important job of a Starter. The experienced starters I was learning from had two stop watches set to 18 minutes each to time the race. My job was to push the start button as the cars crossed the start line, and yet I pushed it when the cars received the Green flag even though the starter explained to me what I was supposed to do a few times. Why did I do it? I have no idea, I knew better and yet I did something anyway. Maybe from being nervous, or maybe from being premature and worried that I’d miss the correct start time by doing it too late. Starting the clock early is as bad as starting the clock late, so to get it right consistently requires practice. I also ran into a situation where the leader of the race was about to take the Checkered flag but was fast catching to a back-marker of the race. I threw the checker too early without pointing at the leader, who in turn wasn’t convinced it seemed that he was the leader because he drove around and took the checkered flag again. So I learned to point at the car that is about to win the race to inform them they are about to receive the checkered flag. I even made a mistake with blue flag which I enjoy the most. In a group of a combined field of fast wings and things and slow Formula Vee racers, I displayed a stationary blue flag to a slower FV car where I should have waved it because a faster Formula car caught it well before Turn 1. The starter told me to do this but for some reason I hesitated and he reminded me of his instructions immediately after my mistake to correct it. Props to the chief starter of the New York region for being patient with me and giving me good advice and training. I really appreciate the opportunity!