Tag Archives: Flag School

Why No “Sim Flagging” in Sim Racing on iRacing?

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.

How about it iRacing?

(or others)

Flag Marshal Training Videos (new) from the Motorsport Safety Fund

Over the past few months the Motorsport Safety Fund out in the UK has uploaded a bunch of new Flag Marshal training videos to their YouTube page, and they are bloody brilliant! I firmly believe they should be mandatory training material to all flag marshals regardless where you live in the world, even as a refresher.

Go. Watch. Now!

The videos are very brief and to the point, and quite enjoyable to watch. Even if you feel you know everything there is to know about flagging, it’s worth watching them again. I would highly recommend these especially to American marshals looking forward to marshaling in Europe to see the little differences we have with them. Check them out please!

NASCAR Track Services On-Site Training

Following some thirty (30) self-paced online training modules hosted by NASCAR & IMSA Track Services this is the final, on-site module: Motorsport Safety Seminar at Watkins Glen International.

watkins glen rsi nascar mss

Why is this such a big deal?

Because, since I started marshaling in the US back in 2012, this was my first opportunity for some proper classroom training. I had gone through a very similar set of modules over a course of a few months in Singapore back in 2011, in preparation for the Singapore GP but as far as I knew nothing of this sort was available here in the states, and I was vocally critical of the lack of such training. Turns out I was wrong. RSI, WGI and NASCAR have been hosting this MSS event at Watkins Glen for the past twenty-seven (27) years.

I couldn’t be more wrong. To be fair I didn’t know where to look. People mentioned MSS to me as early as 2012 when I first volunteered with RSI at Watkins Glen, but I didn’t know what “MSS” meant. And frankly I was busy scheduling events to volunteer, so when the MSS was hosted I was elsewhere, being trackside flagging an event. Not this time. And I can say with some confidence that I will give this training priority in years to come because it really is important.

watkins glen rsi training 2

What did I learn from the MSS?

Much of the theory behind subjects covered in the actual seminar were already covered in the online training modules. However, some things were new, especially those presented by fellow volunteers with the RSI. My favorite were the videos that Jimmy Wheeler showed the room full of people while doing a mock Race Control call with Terry. Jim did an excellent job of capturing some real incidents over the past year (or possibly more) using his GoPro. And having those videos in this learning environment proved their worth because quite a few videos showed incidents that Wow’d the crowd. From simple spins to actual impacts. From sports cars to open wheelers. Incidents happen in all forms of racing. And its out job to deal with them. Seeing the video allows people to learn a lesson that they would only otherwise learn when being at that incident themselves. I believe in videos so much more than just telling stories and making people imagine an incident, because hardly ever are incidents just like what you picture in your head, whereas the video shows exactly what actually happens.

The presentation on OSHA compliance was an eye opener for me because it explained a lot of things. Many things that people badmouth WGI about, but when it comes to OSHA compliance the track has done an excellent job of doing the right thing. And I totally commend them for it. Most importantly the crucial role of Communication was repeated over and over again, and that to me was the most important part of the training.

Our training concluded with a thorough description of fire extinguisher capabilities, the types of fires and how to fight them (as well as knowing your limits, knowing when to back off, and importance of calling for help immediately before making the decision to fight the fire). The fire chief that made the presentation was perfectly clear in his message and engaging with the audience. I thought it was very valuable. But the hands on training was the highlight of my entire trip. I wrote a separate post about it, but I’ll say it again that after five years of marshaling it felt good pulling a pin on the bottle and spraying the fire because it felt quite different from what I thought it would feel like.

watkins glen rsi nascar russ

I want to take this opportunity again to thank Race Services, Inc., and Watkins Glen International for facilitating this training. And to NASCAR for providing training materials and props for us to learn from. I appreciate this training and can only wish it was offered to all marshals that volunteer around the US. Knowledge of how to do things properly wouldn’t hurt anyone. In fact it would save lives!