A few thoughts about my last event marshalling the big American race: 12 hours of Sebring.
To start, I had missed the last two Sebrings because the event falls on the same weekend as the Australian F1 Grand Prix, and I chose to do those instead. I heard amazing things about this race, so 2014 was the year I committed to doing Sebring finally. Did it live up to the hype? Not particularly. I mean, the event was significantly better in comparison to my experience at Daytona a few months earlier, that’s for sure. But it was not exactly the best event I have ever done in my life. It certainly wasn’t AGP. I will list the things I liked and disliked about my experience at Sebring.
First the things I liked. I was placed on a very good crew of local Central Florida SCCA marshals at turn 15, which proved to be quite active and very exciting for blue flagging. It was perfect. The atmosphere was very relaxed, everyone was professional and it was a joy, simple pleasure to work with everyone. We did have a mishap during a race when just as we changed shift there was an incident that could have been flagged better, and it was as much my fault as the next guy’s, but these things happen. We could have handled it better, and yet it could have been worse too. My favorite part about the team was how accommodating they were about keepsakes in the form of photos. We were given opportunity to take a few shots on our off sessions which was greatly appreciated. I had the pleasure of working with the official CFR photog who took some shots of me in actions that I’ll include below:
Thank you Dave from www.flagtoflagphotography.com for the memories!
The things I didn’t particularly like were not unique to Sebring, in fact AGP suffers from them also. But there’s no reason we as volunteer marshals should be treated like shit repeatedly and then expect to return year after year and give 100% just to continue to be treated like shit. There’s something wrong with that approach/expectation form the organizers. So my biggest gripe is with the unnecessarily early starts when the morning meetings could have been held a bit closer to the start of activities. The days were tremendously long, which happens anywhere the schedule is full of support events, but with so few people participating it’s quite hard on the body to be up on your feet for fourteen hours a day. I realize marshalling is not rocket science, anybody could do it, but just standing idle waiting for something to happen takes a toll over a long period of time. I feel our marshalling organization should do a better job of recruiting more volunteers. Offer some incentive to join. Make it fun! At the very least reduce the amount of hostility there is from those highly experienced marshals to the newbies. We all do this for fun! Lets not forget.
The other gripe was with the series and their procedures towards our response to crashed vehicles. The unnecessarily long safety car periods which resulted in the spectators yelling their displeasure in our general direction on post as we were displaying the double yellow flags. And the artificial un-balance of performance for cars. I’m really not happy to see the P2 Le Mans Prototypes struggling to keep up with Daytona Prototypes.
Overall it was a good experience. I got to couchsurf with several hosts on this trip including in places like St. Petersburg and Okechobee. It’s a shame that the St. Pete Grand Prix wasn’t a week after Sebring or I would have surely stayed to marshal there as well.