Tag Archives: Lone Star Le Mans

Post Card from Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas 2016 WEC & IMSA

Greetings from sunny Central Texas and the Lone Star Le Mans at the Circuit of the Americas. This time I’m volunteering F&C. Thursday at Station Alpha directly across from Pit Exit and the rest of the event at Turn 4 in the Esses.

Wonderful event, awesome experience and perfect weather (albeit a little HOT). Enjoy the pix:

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The only WEC car I got a picture of as the team garages were closed during our paddock walk… boo hoo!

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For the Kiwi’s:

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Lots of Mazda stuff for me to enjoy:

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Lots of new LMP3’s on display:

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Probably the ugliest LMP3 on display from Riley:

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Thanks to one of the HOPS crew, I got a chance to test drive the new ND Miata at the COTA Lot H… seemed pretty sluggish on acceleration, more so than my car… hmm!

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Love the pre-race FIA inspection trackside…

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Lone Star Le Mans Marshal Invitation, Circuit of the Americas September 15-17, 2016

Just got two invites for the most important races of the year (I think) on the American Racing Calendar. I’ll make two posts to share the invites with anyone who could be interested. My advice, do both!

Lone Star Le Mans is one of the coolest events there are on US soil. It is the only appearance FIA WEC makes in the United States and the circuit couldn’t be better: COTA in Austin, Texas

Interested in volunteering?

I say do it!

What is it; Lone Star Le Mans

When is it: September 15-17, 2016

Where is it: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas

Who’s recruiting: Lone Star Region SCCA and COTA itself

Who will be there: Five Race Groups!

  • FIA WEC (LMP1, LMP2, GT Pro, GT Pro-Am)
  • IMSA WeatherTech Series (DP & LMP2, GTLM, GTD)
  • IMSA Continental Tire Series (GS & ST)
  • IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo
  • IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup USA

How to get there? Fly into Austin which may be pricey, I went twice earlier this year and flew through Dallas DFW, Houston is also doable with Intercontinental and Hobby airports, San Antonio is probably closest of the nearby towns.

Where to stay?  The cheapest place is at the COTA campground. Right outside the Mustering Marshal tent so you get to sleep in until the morning meeting.

I would highly recommend this event!

I went to COTA twice this year already for PWC and MotoGP but I would go again in the heartbeat if I still can’t find a job by late September… my fingers are crossed that I’ll be working for a living, but if not I’ll find a way to come to this event!

To sign up go to COTA web site, scroll down to Volunteers on the bottom of the page and fill out the application on MotorsportReg where it links to. Or go directly to MotorsportReg and do it there.

Good Luck!

Have Fun!

Marshals Wanted Recruitment Video for Circuit of the Americas, Great Job Jeanie!

I think we all say: “Someone should do more to recruit marshals!”  and I’m happy to say someone is actually doing something about it. Jeanie Caulfield, the superwoman that runs event operations at the Circuit of the Americas: including hiring, training, feeding, and entertaining marshals for a slew of events that visit COTA; has spend a small fortune on a very professionally done promo video to help recruit new marshals. Kudos to you Jeanie! and a job well done!

I’ve taken a few screen grabs from the short version of the video which I was lucky enough to be a part of…. special thanks to Brent McNaul – the flag chief of the Lone Star SCCA Region who invited me to participate. I would imagine the longer version that has speech accompanying the vision where I got a chance to be interviewed, would become available at some point in time in the future, but for now please check out the quick promo:

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Link to video on facebook: COTA track marshals volunteers page.  facebook.com/cotatrackmarshals/videos/1899065936986548/

Be sure to follow the link to volunteer:  www.circuitoftheamericas.com/volunteer

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screen shot of the COTA Marshals Wanted Promo Video, go to: CircuitoftheAmericas.com/volunteer
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screen shot of the COTA Marshals Wanted Promo Video, go to: CircuitoftheAmericas.com/volunteer
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screen shot of the COTA Marshals Wanted Promo Video, go to: CircuitoftheAmericas.com/volunteer
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screen shot of the COTA Marshals Wanted Promo Video, go to: CircuitoftheAmericas.com/volunteer
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screen shot of the COTA Marshals Wanted Promo Video, go to: CircuitoftheAmericas.com/volunteer
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screen shot of the COTA Marshals Wanted Promo Video, go to: CircuitoftheAmericas.com/volunteer
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screen shot of the COTA Marshals Wanted Promo Video, go to: CircuitoftheAmericas.com/volunteer

Again please consider volunteering at COTA it’s a fantastic experience: www.circuitoftheamericas.com/volunteer

Lone Star Le Mans the Debrief

For the second year in a row, Lone Star Le Mans proved to be one of my best events of the year so far. In many ways it was much better than last year. The weather was nice, warm and sunny compared to last year’s rain and cold. I was feeling much better physically, none of that nausea from food poisoning that messed with me last year. There wasn’t a generator with an exhaust pointing into the station, so things were pretty good all around.

Of course things were up and down, starting from the time I booked my flights. I overpaid for my air travel this year. Part of it was due to the lack of cheap offers I took advantage of last year, and another part was because I chose to burn up some soon to expire mileage which actually resulted in me paying a higher price. This year I used the last of my Avianca Life Miles frequent flyer points to book a one way trip from Austin to Newark in time to get to work on Sunday afternoon. In all it cost me $120 dollars to pay for taxes and to prop up the mileage which Avianca allows you to buy in order to book the trip (I didn’t have enough to book it outright). The price also included the $25 booking fee which Avianca charges which sucks. To get to Austin I booked a $118 flight with JetBlue from Westchester County airport on the NY/CT border to fly there via Orlando. It wasn’t the cheapest flight possible, but it allowed me to satisfy some frequent flyer criteria to earn a bonus with JetBlue to use for the future. Of course a few weeks after I booked these trips that amounted to $238 and a bunch of layovers, Southwest came out with a sale that was $50 cheaper on direct flights into Austin from Newark, and that had much better timing. Go figure!

For comparison purposes I paid $106 round trip to go to Austin last year, in fact I booked two of those trips for WEC and F1.

But enough about that. The next snag came once I landed in Austin. I had some miscommunication with my buddy Joaquin which resulted in me waiting at the airport for him to pick me up. Somehow we didn’t get the arrival date correct. He thought I was flying in the next day when he had work commitments at COTA. I foolishly thought he had to work on the date I arrived. So I sat and waited at the airport until 5pm when he would have been finished with the work, and then 6pm, and 7pm, etc. I people-watched. Had some Salt Lick BBQ which I know I wouldn’t have a chance to go to since I wasn’t renting a car to drive to Driftwood. So I waited. About 6 hours later and no sight of my buddy… I decided to call him. And then we both realized out mistake. While waiting I got a chance to say hello to Marc Miller the driver of the CJWilson #3 Miata which had a very good start for the Continental Tire SportsCar Championship race this weekend.

I always have high praise for Salt Lick BBQ – an Austin institution, but I had a bad experience there on this visit. The girl behind the counter swiped my credit card twice during my purchase. I didn’t think anything of it until I got home and saw two separate and different charges on my card. She charged me for my meal, which was delicious and for something else which I didn’t order nor receive. So I sent Salt Lick a note about this theft from my credit card, but got a pretty arrogant reply back requesting my card number so they can credit the account back. At this point I had already disputed the transaction with the card issuer so that was a pointless piece of the process but it is sad to see that the organization doesn’t take theft seriously. In the past I had seen duplicate charges from my purchases at the Austin Airport but the amount was too small to fuss about. But this time it was more about the principle. I don’t like being robbed even of a small amount.

And so onto the actual event.

On Wednesday I arrived with Joaquin who was scheduled to work for COTA that day, thinking I would just hang out and take some pictures. Luckily the powers that be decided to use me for the practice sessions, so I got issued with a radio and dropped off at Turn 12 for the Porsche GT3 Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge practice. There were five sessions in total, and at the end of the day I was able to register for the main event without having to arrive extra early the next day.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were extremely long days. We were to arrive at the crack of dawn, 5:30am and most of the time didn’t leave well after dark… the hardest were 9:30pm finish on Thursday and the 11pm finish on race day Saturday. My feet were completely swollen.

Thursday I got to captain at Station 20 Alpha which is the exit of Turn 20 opposite the finish stand on the main straight. That was an amazing opportunity. My goal was to sneak away during our breaks, to the pit lane and say hello to some people while snapping some pix, but that wasn’t realistic at all. The track stayed hot most of the time.

I did get an opportunity to go down the pit lane and check out the paddock on Friday and Saturday because I was stationed at Turn 2, the station had an incredible view of the uphill leading up to Turn 1 which was amazing. But besides the convenience of walking to the pits and watching the cars shoot for the first turn, we actually had some great action ourselves at our turn, where again I was captain. First for the Lamborghini Super Trofeo event there was a Huracan car that smacked the ARMCO just up the station from us, which allowed me to respond with a fire extinguisher. Since the car was facing away from me I never got the driver to make eye contact so I could tell him that the rear end was broken. But after a few moments he drove away, crabbing along with the left axle clearly destroyed. For the IMSA practice we had a PC prototype cruise backwards after a spin at Turn 1 and then suddenly shoot out into the oncoming traffic trying to rejoin. Another PC prototype collected him in a violent fashion and both ended up coming to a rest just prior to Station 3. I was on flags again so I went from waving a green, to waving a yellow, to standing a yellow to asking my partner to go waving white, to again waving a yellow when the crash happened. The incident repeated in the Porsche GT3 Cup when the second car in Gold class got bumped and spun out of the way in the apex of our turn by a Platinum class driver. Like the PC incident the whole thing didn’t make sense, and resulted from some pretty aggressive driving. While on comms for the headline WEC race we were extremely quiet. The only call I made was for the #50 Corvette getting pushed off the track by a passing LMP2 car, and a few laps later I was surprised to hear that the Corvette was penalized for that incident. From my vantage point it looked like the prototype clearly muscled his way through.

Going to this event I was happy to just be a flagger, but I understand why the flag chief would make me a captain. I wanted to share what I have learned over the years with my crew, but it was interesting to see how some selectively accepted what I told them, and at other times didn’t bother listening to it at all. It took some adjustments on my part to get people to do what I wanted them to do. And some mistakes were made, minor but mistakes nonetheless. I was happy to see a fellow marshal request the communicator role which freed me up to do some flagging. But during both of our major incidents at Turn 2 I noticed he had the boom of his Mic over his head. And even though he tried calling in the incident play by play, Race Control would have a hard time making out his call because the Mic was so far away from his mouth. Both times I reached out and pulled the Mic down to the proper level. But that obviously interfered with the smoothness of the call, as it should have been made. I had a great time training some new marshals, and one of the main things I tried to instill is confidence in blue flagging. It almost worked too well because my rookie flagger threw the blue flag on second lap for the mixed GT field. I quickly corrected him and explained that during the race blue flag is ONLY for lapping. But it was one of those things that totally caught me off guard, as he didn’t throw the blue flag on the start of any other support races. It wasn’t just the rookies that surprised me. One of the experienced flaggers that I wanted to rotate with during a support race took the headset off my head as I got the blue flag from him, which is something I asked him prior to the start of the race we were not going to do. Leaving me fumbling to find some ear protection. And at the start of the front straight the station is at the point where all cars accelerate flat out making it a very noisy station. My ears were ringing for a while after that. I still don’t understand why he did what he did, and certainly didn’t appreciate it at all.

So that was that, good racing. Three different perspectives and eight different people I got a chance to work with. Most were really nice, some were quite stubborn and didn’t seem to approve of my choices at times. But I got a real kick out of two people listening to my advice as they were new to endurance racing and appreciated the opportunity they got for the training I offered them. One even said he had stumbled upon my blog in preparation for his first event at COTA which I thought was really cool.

During the pit walk I managed to snap a whole lot of pix. Got an opportunity to say hello to Mr. Alain from WEC who surprised me with a few WEC/Le Mans 24h patches. And even got a chance to tour the Race Control room. Although it was a bit awkward getting in, as security was under strict orders not to let us in so we had to wait in the sun until someone was sent to get us. It was ironic as there wasn’t many people in race control when we finally got in, so I’m not sure what was the point of making us wait outside in the sun to begin with. Maybe that was a way to elevate the image of the idea of the Race Control facility… or who knows what else. That aspect should have been organized better.

I’m glad I got an opportunity to go back to Austin and substitute my previous trips to Le Mans 24h in France with two American events with “Le Mans” in their names. Petit Le Mans is my next big trip only a week apart from Lone Star Le Mans, and if it goes half as well as the Texas event I would be very happy!

Stay tuned for more…

This is Texas! My Ride for Lone Star Le Mans at COTA The “Beast”

There’s one thing I look forward to the most when arriving in Austin, Texas for any of the events at Circuit of the Americas: and that is a ride in my buddy’s truck: the “Beast”

What is the Beast?

It’s a ninety seventies something Chevy Silverado Dually… with a big ass V8 under the hood and a four speed manual transmission with a skull for a shift knob… it’s loud, it’s aggressive and it’s powerful. It certainly got a lot more heads turning at the airport when I got picked up than any of the fancy new pick ups or other vehicles that picked up other people as I was waiting for my ride. And there were plenty of Texas Edition and Lone Star Edition trucks driving through the terminal. The noise from the Beast is really something…

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I met Joaquin the owner at COTA last year during the Lone Star Le Mans weekend because we worked the same station together. He’s been kind enough to store my tent for me since then, picking me up at the airport when I arrived for the Formula 1 weekend and now Lone Star Le Mans this year.

To me, Joaquin’s truck is what Texas is all about. Big, noisy and tough! And this time around I actually got to drive the Beast myself being the designated driver when we went out for some Mexican food and margaritas. What a thrill! Only stalled it once when I put it in 4th instead of reverse while leaving the parking lot, but did pretty good the rest of the way to the house. Very happy to have had this experience. Certainly made my day!

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Pre-Race Praise to the Lone Star Le Mans Flag Chief Brent McNaul for his Work Organizing Marshals at COTA

I have high praise to the Lone Star Le Mans flag chief Brent McNaul for the way he has been organizing the marshals for the upcoming event at the Circuit of the Americas. I want to recognize his efforts in this post because often I blog about people doing things wrong and how much I don’t agree with their approach, and it’s too easy to be critical. In this situation the man deserves high accolades long before the event has even started because he’s been doing everything right. And I really appreciate it!

For those of you reading this you may remember the post I made a while back about the perfect registration page set up for Lone Star Le Mans on MotorsportReg.com It was detailed, thorough, and intuitive. It communicated well what’s involved with the event and encouraged you to be a part of something big, a PRO event, something to be proud of. That attention to detail has continued in the months that followed leading up to this weekend. Brent has been communicating constantly with frequent e-mail blasts keeping the registered marshals abrest of important details pertaining to the race weekend, flag rules, new procedures, etc.

What I liked most about Brent’s e-mail communications:

  • Acknowledgement that the days would be long, as they tend to be on such a race weekend where cars are on track from dawn to dusk, and beyond. In early July Brent sent out info about working in shifts to break up the work load. Personally I can’t get enough of endurance events so I volunteered to work both shifts.
  • Marshal evacuation plan. Who thinks about that right? We had a simulated evacuation a year or two ago at COTA. We were loaded onto the “train” shuttle and taken to the safety of an underpass to wait out a storm. Nobody knew really what was going on, it seemed as the shuttle drivers were following instructions from whomever came on their hand held radios. Now we have a detailed plan of action direct from COTA management.
  • Detailed schedule of the event and the confirmed race entries were provided for those of us interested in the participants of the event in late August.
  • Specific flagging rules were provided as the IMSA rules differ from the FIA rules used during WEC. Specific instructions were provided about the use of boards including NEXT SLOW, SLOW zone, and FCY – Full Course Yellow. While the boards appeared at last year’s event they were not used. The information provided in Brent’s e-mail prepares us as marshals to know what to expect if Race Control calls for a specific board or a series of boards like the progression of NEXT SLOW to SLOW zone, and FCY.
  • Captain prep e-mail was sent out to those of us expected to carry out the captain roles during the event. I was fortunate enough to be selected and am looking forward to fulfilling my duties. I am especially looking forward to incidents happening in my sector so that I could put my training to good use with execution and learn from my response for future incidents.
  • Information about registration, morning sign-on and even early registration times and locations was sent out. This is especially useful since I will be without a personal vehicle being a pedestrian sucks, but allows me to rely on friends to go and register early so that the morning of the event I could go straight to the morning meeting.
  • Station assignments. This one was my favorite especially since last year I left COTA with a sour taste after getting stuck in the same part of the track for several consecutive events. Well, not anymore. I am thrilled with my station assignments thanks to Brent because I will be working some new portions of the track that I haven’t done yet and I am very much looking forward to this experience!

So major props to Brent McNaul for his efforts to keep the Lone Star Le Mans a well oiled machine of an event that I’m sure it will be. The work he’s doing is greatly appreciated not just by me but everyone else, and that’s important. Furthermore I wish more people would learn from Brent to put this amount of effort into their events that they flag chief. He is certainly setting a good example, and I thank him for it!

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source: swiped from the e-mail signature of Jeanie at COTA

Accepted to Marshal Lone Star Le Mans at COTA

Great news from Texas this 4th of July morning: I got accepted to marshal the Lone Star Le Mans this September, ran during my birthday weekend. Woo Hoo!

I’m very excited.

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Last year I had a pretty good time working this event. Some things went great, others not so much. But I am happy to be given an opportunity to come back and marshal WEC/IMSA endurance races at COTA.

I’m sure they are still looking for more marshals, so if anyone else wishes to join me, I can guarantee you a good time! Go ahead and register.

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See all ya’ll there!

Le Mans 24h substitute = Lone Star Le Mans (Austin) + Petit Le Mans (Atlanta)

I don’t think one could truly substitute a race of Le Mans 24h magnitude. But one could certainly try.

Last year I wrote about trying to make a decision as to which European Endurance race I should marshal (click here: Which European endurance race do I pick?) I’m proud to say that the 24h of Nurburgring has materialized and 24h of Spa is within reach just over a month away. But Le Mans 24h, the race that Patrick Dempsey in a recent Jalopnik interview called the best endurance race in the world, has gotten away.

But I won’t despair. I’ve picked a few alternative races with the words: “Le Mans” in their titles a little closer to home. Among them are the Lone Star Le Mans at COTA in Texas and Petit Le Mans in Georgia at Road Atlanta. I also signed up for the Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen which is obviously at Watkins Glen in Upstate New York.

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WEC at COTA 2014

I have worked all of the races before and unlike the original classic in France where we work in shifts with plenty of downtime, I expect to work the entirety of each of the races for all of these events, cumulatively totaling more than the 24 hours of flat out racing. This is pretty exciting. There will be 6 hours of World Endurance Championship (WEC) at COTA supported by about 3 hours of IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship (TUSC), and 10 hours for the season finale IMSA TUSC at Road Atlanta. As well as 6 hours of IMSA TUSC at Watkins Glen International. 6+2:45+10+6=24h 45mins.

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old Daytona Prototype from Grand-Am series at Watkins Glen

What do I expect to see at each of the races?

WEC on US soil is always a great sight. I hope the Nissan Nismo GT-R LMP1 car makes an appearance at COTA after it’s debut at Le Mans France. I also hope that Ford brings the latest Ford GT race car to Texas after it’s debut in France. I’m sure the fields of cars will be far smaller in the US as they will be in France, but whatever shows up will be a welcome sight.

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The grid at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans

What will I miss at Le Mans?

The Aston Martin historics race featuring GT1, GT2, GT3 and GT4 race cars of various vintage that have raced before at Le Mans and apparently some of the Nurburgring 24h specials.

McLaren is also celebrating it’s 25th anniversary and there was talk of McLaren race car parade featuring some rare gems from their illustrious racing history. I wish I could have seen that.

But for the price of doing one event I get to do three, and that makes me quite happy. I have now organized the conclusion to my racing season this year, and I’m proud of what events I have added to my resume as a marshal. The planning for 2016 season is well underway and I’m hoping that both Dubai 24h and Bathurst 12h materialize.

Lone Star Le Mans Marshal Registration at COTA on MotorsportReg.com

OMG! I’m one foot out the door to JFK for my flight to Europe but Jeanie’s e-mail caught me just in time to be one of the first to register for Lone Star Le Mans at the Circuit of the Americas.

You should too!  Go… do it now!

Why is Lone Star Le Mans the most fantastic event at COTA?

Many reasons, I don’t have time to explain… trust me on this one. Go register now and you’ll have an amazing time guaranteed! Do read the blog posts from last year’s event for a little flavor:

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http://myroadtrip.net/lone-star-le-mans-debrief/

Jeanie also included a link to the MotorsportReg.com registration page which is the most thoroughly put together MotorsportReg.com registration I have ever experienced. So much so I’ll include the screen shots below:

Lone Star Le Mans event registration for marshals at the Circuit of the Americas utilizing MotorsportReg.com
Lone Star Le Mans event registration for marshals at the Circuit of the Americas utilizing MotorsportReg.com

I have signed up. I hope others do too!

This is seriously a model of what proper event registration should look like.

See ya’ll there!

Tudor United SportsCar – The First Year

2014 has been a good year even though I had drastically cut back on the number of events I participated in previously. I still managed to volunteer six races for the top sports car racing series in America including five Tudor United SportsCar Championship events, all four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship races and six Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, Circuit of the Americas and Road Atlanta.

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So what can be said about the first year of TUSC. Was it a huge success? A miserable failure? Probably something in the middle. It certainly wasn’t American Le Mans Series (ALMS) or the Grand-Am series that it replaces. The hybrid of both seemed to unfairly favor some and alienate others. Daytona Prototypes vs. Le Mans Prototypes P2 class is an obvious example. But since I know little about classification and enjoy the races from a marshaling perspective I won’t say much more about that. The GT races were outstanding. But unlike previous years where I managed to do up to six ALMS and Grand-Am events each, many close to my home at Lime Rock, NJMP and Baltimore. The most I could scrape together this year was six of the combined series, and it required significant travel. I’m not happy losing local events. But such is life.

My favorite part about the new series was the large fields of cars participating at most events. It’s a sentiment I seem to share with a number of other marshals I have spoken with. Some of the racing was quite good too, especially later on in the season. Though the (Im)Balance of Performance really undermined the authenticity of pure racing.

We really seem to suffer badly from the lack of marshals at each of the six events I’ve done for the series, and I could only blame IMSA for that. Sure the local tracks are responsible for recruiting people, and the local SCCA regions fail to provide sufficient numbers required (to give breaks to workers, especially at long endurance events) it is terribly unsafe and dangerous in my opionion. But I feel it’s up to IMSA to generate interest in motorsport volunteering and just as importantly train the people that participate to live up to the expectations IMSA has. IMSA is very different from SCCA and it’s absolutely silly for them to expect the few people that volunteer to read their corner books (which are distributed to the captains every morning) with the outlined differences between club and IMSA rules and actually follow through with the requirements. Most people volunteering see the spotter guide for the first time, and even those aren’t current until the last day: Race Day! It may cost a little bit of money to recruit and train us as marshals, but for a multi-million dollar industry and as such – international series, it’s a drop in the bucket to make us amateurs look professional at their events. And we need it! I’ve seen some real doozies this season, ridiculous requests like refusing to wear COTA’s blue suits that make all marshals look the same (and therefore professional) vs. mismatched whites, wear what you brung sort of thing which ended up actually happening. Or fundamental undermining of the whole idea to marshal pro events, where experienced marshals and evangelists for club racing promote SCCA club events vs. our top national series, which makes little sense. Everywhere else in the world people strive to volunteer the top events, it gives them a target to work towards. Something to accomplish. In the US the opposite seems to happen, the attitude appears to be: “it’s easier to work club events… wake up later, shorter hours…. free beer”  There’s also the clash of personalities and everyone doing their own thing because that’s what they do at their home region so that’s their way. Instead of pulling together towards a common goal, everyone pulls in a different direction.

I am looking forward to next year’s championship. Though like many of the racers I will probably cut back on my participation and focus on other domestic and international series like Pirelli World Challenge and World Endurance Championship in Europe.