Tag Archives: marshal education

Aussie CAMS Officials Newsletter Why aren’t more ASN’s doing this?

I wish I still lived in Australia… back in 2009 I didn’t even know marshaling was possible (on a volunteer basis). Having gone to my very first Automotive Race as a spectator flying across the whole country to watch V8 Supercars around the Barbagallo Circuit in Perth, Western Australia I really thought it was the greatest job in the world. Well, it’s been almost a decade since then and with 15 countries of volunteering under my belt now, I can say nobody does it as well as the Australians, and their latest officials newsletter is a shining example of what should be done to communicate info with their volunteers:

I’ve highlighted and praised their previous newsletters before, to point out what other ASN’s should learn from… and it’s worth doing again this year! Because none of my other international Motorsport club communication looks like this (especially not domestic for that matter)… there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t. I mean come on, look how elegantly simple it is to drive the important points!

But in case it’s not obvious I’ll go ahead and break down the e-mail bit by bit to make it crystal clear how others can copy a successful communications formula.

Step 1: Have a brief introduction, state latest news, wish happy holidays… Boom! Done! Quick! Easy…

Step 2: Promote Training!  Why would you not? It’s important!

Step 3: Communicate club policies, like my favorite… club’s Alcohol Policy!  So far I’ve only heard my North American clubs advertised how shit-faced you can get by coming to their events. How Dumb? But it’s a thing…

I don’t agree with the idea of drinking and volunteering. I believe alcohol abuse has no place in Motorsport Volunteering, or the idea of providing a “Safety” service could be interpreted as a joke… but I know others will disagree. Well, having a proper Alcohol Policy is something all should agree on. Right?

Step 4: Motorsport Volunteering is not just Flagging or Recovery/Response. There are a multitude of groups of volunteers. It’s good to make everyone feel as an equal contributor to the club, and promote club members to consider trying different roles. That is easily done by spotlighting different roles in a newsletter. Boom!

Step 4: Additional updates…. there’s always plenty of general announcements and news.

Step 5: Spotlight some outstanding people that make the club possible… volunteers love praise. Give it to them!

Step 6: Photos! Everyone loves photos… and since we’re not allowed to take some, have photogs help members out by doing a professional shoot at each event, making those shots available to preserve individual marshals memories. Easy thing to do but often overlooked or scoffed at as unimportant. It is important!

And voila… simple recipe to great success.

I encourage ASN’s around the world to use this example from down under… Please!

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)

Blue Flagging: Art, Science or Trained Specialty?

Blue Flag Marshal is my absolutely favorite role when volunteering a Motorsport event. Recently I have started registering for events specifically where I am most likely to blue flag.  This includes endurance sports car events especially those with multiple classes of cars racing and I’ve excluded Formula 1 from my calendar, I will talk about F1 in detail later.

It has been my observation that like me, pretty much everybody else likes the role of Blue Flag marshal and there’s constant competition for that position. Sometimes you work an event where marshals rotate through various roles giving each person an opportunity to do some blue flag, while at other events that role is specifically assigned to a particular person (for a reason). The trouble is not everybody is qualified to be a blue flagger, and I’ve heard a million excuses used to justify people’s styles, the decisions they make whether or not to blue flag (in situations where it’s not warranted) or how this role is an art.

Here are my 2 cents on the matter.

Blue flagging is not an Art. If you see it as art you should pick up a new hobby, perhaps painting… blue flag marshaling isn’t for you. There’s definitely a right time to display a blue flag, and there’s definitely a wrong time to display the blue flag when it’s not warranted.

When is the Blue flag used correctly?

Blue flag is used to tell a driver (marshals communicate with drivers through the use of color coded flags) that he’s about to be overtaken by a faster vehicle.

Blue flags are used differently throughout the racing weekend. During practice, the fastest car could be blue flagged when the slowest car on the track is on a hot lap and the fastest car isn’t. This means that regardless who is the fastest by the numbers, there are times when one car is going 10/10th’s and another car isn’t. In that scenario it is a legitimate use of blue flag to tell even the pole setter that the potential back marker is about to overtake him and he should not impede that person. Blue flag does not command the driver to move out of the way. On the contrary it tells the driver to watch his mirrors and to not make any sudden movements that would result in a crash. If that means that the slower car sticks to the racing line, than the overtaking car can go around him outside of the racing line. There are times where cars explicitly move out of the way, but again they’re not required to do that, they’re just supposed to not get in the way and impede a car on a flying lap.

Under race conditions blue flag is ONLY used for lapping. This means that the fastest cars of the field have been driving so quickly that they have caught up with the slowest cars of the field and are about to put them a lap down by overtaking. Once this happens Blue flag is more than a suggestion to the back marker, in F1 when a few consecutive stations display blue flags than the back marker must give way or risk a penalty for blocking the leaders. In Sports Car racing especially with multiple classes of cars racing simultaneously the slowest class is typically blue flagged first especially when the faster prototypes catch up, and in an interval of time continue placing the slower GT cars laps down throughout the race. It’s a continuous process and an important one. Properly displayed blue flags prevent yellow flags by making all drivers on track avoid accidents. It’s important to note that fast cars, including prototypes may break down and undergo repairs during an event, they will resume racing and will be faster than some GT cars but because the prototype may have gone down several laps during repair blue flagging GT cars in front of them is not warranted even though the Prototype will undoubtedly pass them. There are times when cars must fight for position without marshals budding in with various flags.

Blue flag is a very important flag.

Blue flag is a role that keeps a marshal completely concentrated on the race, whether it’s a quick 45 minute sprint race, 3 hour race, 6 hour endurance race or a 24 hour race that marshals work in shifts. Blue flag requires the marshal to make quick decisions whether or not to blue flag. It’s easy to make a mistake especially while working a turn where it’s hard to see the on-coming cars. Sometimes it’s best to not flag whenever there is uncertainty or doubt rather than blue flagging the wrong cars. Don’t flag when unsure. Don’t guess! The leaders of the race get pretty pissed off when they are blue flagged with lapped traffic behind them. Or worse, when they are in a close fight with a competitor battling for top position.

I cringe when I see marshals reach for the Blue flag at the start of the race, especially the F1 race. Chances of using a blue flag in F1 are minimal until pretty close to the end of the event, or some time between 1st and 2nd hour assuming there were no accidents in the opening lap(s). I hate watching people blue flag clusters of cars especially when they are all racing for position. Blue flagging one car for the benefit of another is unfairly helping a competitor and that’s not the job of a marshal. It’s not always easy to distinguish cars apart especially with similar liveries, but the job of the marshal isn’t supposed to be very easy. It is meant to be challenging. You have to be able to tell the differences in closing speeds. You have to be able to memorize paint jobs/liveries. You have to remember positions.

During Formula 1 Race Control has started to dictate when stations should blue flag cars in their sections. Blue flagges are issued with radios and Race Control specifically says “Blue Flag Now! Now! Now!” or “Turn 5 Blue Flag the next group of cars!” Race  Control often goes by telemetry, watching the race cars on the screen in front of them and notifying the stations about to be approached. Unfortunately there is a delay between watching what’s on the screen and communicating that information to the station, and then having the Blue flagger actually display that flag, whether by manually waving a cloth flag or by pushing the Blue button on the light panel. Two years ago the F1 light panel had a delay of it’s own between the time you push a button and the time that the light actually starts flashing on the panel. I’ve been in a number of situations at F1 events where Race Control would advise to blue flag when it was no longer necessary, i.e. when the leader passed a back marker prior to reaching the station that was told to blue flag. So even though Race Control tells you in your ear repeatedly to Blue flag, they are wrong… the pass has already happened before they reached your position. Race Control advice though is very helpful in turns where visibility is poor and there is very limited time to react to a situation of overtaking about to commence. So marshal’s reaction time and familiarity with the race cars is crucial in that situation. Mistakes could happen, but this being the highest level of Motorsport – I think it looks unprofessional when mistakes are made repeatedly.

I’ve been to places in the world where Blue flagging is taken very seriously. Ontario, Canada is one of those that treats Blue Flag marshal as a highly specialized role that a marshal must train for in order to be certified as a blue flagger. Furthermore, to work an event as a blue flagger that marshal must request that role during registration, or that role will be allocated to someone else that requested it. Seeing that for the first time seemed like a crazy idea. But after requesting to work that role the following year it made perfect sense to me. There’s a level of accountability created with such a coveted position, one that so many marshals desire. Perform at that job poorly and you are less likely to be given an opportunity to blue flag subsequent events. So naturally marshals work extra hard to justify their selection for this role.

I’ve also received training in several places around the world to know that not all marshal qualify to work all of the positions in a typical marshal rotation in North America. In the US you are expected to rotate from Blue flag to Yellow flag, to Communicator role working the Radio, to a Responder role working as a Track marshal. Often there are visiting marshals from other countries that were not necessarily trained to performed each one of those tasks. When I started marshaling in Singapore I was only trained to be a Track marshal. While I saw other people working as Flag marshals or as Observers, and even though I knew what the flags meant, I wasn’t trained to work as a Flag marshal. I had zero experience waving any of the flags in any of the situations on track, and especially not while Blue flagging. That role requires a certain amount of training, and I absolutely cringe when I see US flag chiefs or local post chiefs put a newbie on the Blue flag role (perhaps for the first time) and expect that person to do a good job. It’s ridiculous. It’s also painful to see the visiting marshal struggle on the new role because they don’t want to admit that they’ve never done it before, they’re caught up in the moment because it is very exciting to be doing something new, and they look absolutely amateurish during a pro weekend. Assigning marshal roles is a very important task and throwing people to the sharks by letting them learn how to Blue flag during a pro race weekend is silly.

Is Blue flagging a Science?

I don’t think that’s the best way of looking at it either. I have noticed working several different posts on the same race tracks that cars perform differently depending on where they are on track. At a small track like Lime Rock during the American Le Mans Series weekend the Prototype Challenge (PC) cars were much faster than GT cars on the main straight or through most of the corners, but GT cars pulled away from them going Uphill. As a Blue flagger you’d be right to blue flag the GT car immediately before a PC car stationed Uphill, but watching that GT car pull away (even if only for a few turns until the PC car caught up on the main straight and ultimately made the pass) Blue flagging is wrong. Displaying the Blue flag in obviously wrong situations lap after lap will result in drivers ignoring your flags as a marshal because they will deem you as using the flags incorrectly or unnecessarily, and when drivers ignore your flags you’re useless as a flag marshal.

northeast gp alms 4

Blue flagging correctly is a beautiful thing because you can see immediate and direct correlation between your action and the outcome of the race, when the drivers see your flag and respond accordingly. There’s no bigger satisfaction when marshaling than knowing and seeing race car drivers obey the signals you send to them, you truly feel like you are part of that race, part of the event. And you feel Good!

I am a super strong proponent of universal training for marshals around the world, so that a blue flag in North America is the same as blue flag in Australia and the same as blue flag in Asia or Europe. And by that I mean that all the sanctioning bodies adapt similar rules, so that you can show an unfurled, stretched out/stationary blue flag and it means one thing (faster vehicle approaching in close  distance but at significant speed), rocking the unfurled flag from side to side, up and down (meaning faster vehicle is right behind you) and vigorously waving the blue flag (meaning that the faster car is passing you right NOW! you are side by side or the pass is imminent). Training is the most important thing FIA can offer the world, and acceptance by IMSA, SCCA, ACIND, ACO, CAMS, ADAC, and all the other ASN’s and Clubs around the world to train their local marshals to the same standards is crucial in this sport.

But experience is paramount. I think marshals with previous experience with a particular series should be given a priority working Blue flag if they request it (and based on their performance at previous events). If people continuously push their agenda and continue using SCCA rules for an FIA event then they certainly shouldn’t be given another opportunity to blug flag the FIA event. Despite their many years of experience, if they are using the incorrect flag rules for a particular series there’s no distinction between them and someone with zero experience, as they’re doing the WRONG thing! Experience must be gained, enhanced, practiced and ultimately rewarded when done correctly.

Correct use of Blue flag shouldn’t be up for debate during the race by individual marshals around the track. Everyone should do the same thing, because there’s a correct way of blue flagging and a wrong way of doing it at the wrong time. The goal is professionalism!

Fire Training Completed Thank You RSI, WGI & NASCAR!

I’m wholeheartedly thankful to the good people at Race Services Inc. Watkins Glen International and NASCAR for providing me with fire training. In my five years of volunteering this was the first time I got an opportunity to pull a pin on a fire extinguisher, I was so excited I did it a few times. I learned a few things that I will share in this post.

Obviously over the years I’ve read plenty of manuals, marshal hand books and watched quite a few training videos on how to handle a fire bottle. I’ve been on station where there was a car fire, one incident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway involved a Porsche 911 driving to the nearest cutout near our station and backing up all the way to our station on the access road with it’s tail end on fire. Of course at that moment I was on Comms and one of my colleagues got the privilege to actually squirt it with powder, but until the fire training seminar at WGI I haven’t actually handled an extinguisher.

The interesting thing, at least to me, was the fact that it didn’t quite work the way I thought it would. By the time I got my hands on the bottle several other people had used the extinguisher already so it wasn’t as charged as it should. I went to spray the propane fire on our NASCAR prop car and the powder wouldn’t actually reach the car, there was powder coming out but the pressure was weak. This was a good reminder for a real world scenario, knowing that there’s only so much you can do with a single bottle. I was given a freshly charged extinguisher after that and quickly put out the fire with one swift squeeze on the trigger. Or so I thought… the fire wasn’t completely put out and the propane quickly reignited shooting over the hood of the car. This time I squeezed the trigger a little longer moving the nozzle side to side to cover the whole base of the fire. It was so cool! It also demonstrated that you don’t have to be an inch from the car to effectively put out a fire. WGI used a wooden structure to simulate the height of a typical ARMCO around the track, and the car was a good six feet away, which again simulates a realistic scenario that a car stops on track, some distance from the ARMCO and is on fire. The fully charged fire extinguisher had no propblem putting out a small fire from the location and distance the WGI crew simulated. There was no need to go trackside to do the same job, and more importantly as is procedure when working with RSI our first priority would be to call Race Control to advise them of the fire and actually fighting the fire would be of secondary priority as the Fire Truck would be dispatched quickly, followed by the tow vehicle and other rescue services that typically respond to a vehicle that must be towed off the track anyway after the incident.

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Fire demo by one of the Watkins Glen International Chiefs

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I was so excited to handle the bottle, after the rest of the F&C team took their turns, I went again. As with anything else, practice using the extinguisher. Directing the flow of the powder or chemical mixture. The smell of it, and all the particles that fly in the air. The change of wind direction, etc. It was really educational to finally experience it hands on.

nascar fire school rsi watkins glen 7

So thank you again Race Services, Inc. and Watkins Glen International for hosting this event. And thanks to NASCAR for providing the props and standardized training, both online and on-site which I found to be very useful and could only wish it was offered to all volunteers that marshal around the US. This marshal education certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone, and only benefit people in case they are faced with a situation they haven’t faced before.

Because of this experience I will make a commitment this year to come back to Watkins Glen at least once more and try to volunteer for IMSA and/or NASCAR events. Well worth the effort, and I would invite anyone else to join me. The Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is amazing in the summer time, Seneca Lake, downtown Watkins Glen, NY and especially WGI, it is a world class facility.

nascar fire school rsi watkins glen 1

NASCAR Track Services Online Training Modules

Earlier I completed the online training modules from IMSA Track Services, and out of all the quiz’es I only got 1 question wrong (and only because I misinterpreted the language of the question). While attempting to go through the much larger catalog of courses offered by NASCAR Track Services, I started out with a 60% score, getting 4 out of 10 questions wrong on the module about the “99” or responding physician during a NASCAR event. How could that be? I followed that module up by failing the next module on the first attempt, out of 20 questions I only answered 15 correctly, and in this case 75% score meant I had to do the module over. No big deal, I got 20 out of 20 that time, but received no credit for both modules that had to do with Cars Extrication (for the Truck Extrication I got 90% passing grade).

nascar track services certicicate of training extrication steps
Certificates of Training for the modules I failed on my first attempt. NASCAR Track Services – Extrication Steps for Cars.

How in the world is that possible? I am not used to failing, especially on tests. But that was the reality, I got too many questions wrong. And it illustrates the lack of confidence on some questions where I should have known better while others genuinely fooled me in misinterpreting the question as it was presented. But if nothing else, this proves that  even something so common sense as a standardized/universal language of NASCAR takes time to get used to, comprehend and accept as the proper way of thinking when working in the safety position especially for a NASCAR event. This experience taught me the importance of learning – continuous learning, even of subjects that I thought I knew well. Especially since I had done so well with a similar IMSA module earlier in the week.

NASCAR training is very comprehensive. What fooled me initially was the way modules were presented on the learning management system. The lessons were arranged in alphabetical order, from top to bottom, instead of order of relevance and complexity. A few times I clicked to enroll into a lesson only to be told that a pre-requisite lesson must be completed first, and that pre-req was listed further down the list. Once I realized that my passing grades improved tremendously, getting no more than one or two questions wrong and scoring in the 80% to 100%

I am so glad I have finally discovered this NASCAR Track Services Learning Management System because as far as I am concerned this should be mandatory training for anyone wishing to volunteer their time for any Motorsport series. Knowing the NASCAR approaches even when some of the cars are drastically different in other series would not hurt a marshal to study the correct approaches to safety.

The amount of time it took me to leisurely watch the lessons and answer the Quiz’es at the end stretched over a two week period, one to two days a week with a solid few hours dedicated to the LMS system. I’m certain that I was not meant to take every course as the area of coverage includes Track Rescue, Fire, EMS, Extrication, Restoration and Wrecker/Rollback services. I’m pretty sure that each person depending on their assigned role should focus only on their dedicated lesson, but I thought I’d benefit from doing them all. I’m ashamed I didn’t take the “extrication” lesson seriously enough to pass it on the first attempt, that really took me by surprise. But I’m more surprised that I passed all the other modules that I have no experience with whatsoever like EMS and Wrecker/Rollback operation. Similarly I aced the Fire services tests which is one area that I am especially interested in getting more proficient in. Of course to be hired on as a NASCAR fire fighter, much like Singapore GP fire marshal volunteers requires a person to be an actual fire fighter. So that is not a likely scenario for me.

I am also very much looking forward to the instructor based, on location training at Watkins Glen International next week with the rest of the Race Services Inc crew. It should be fantastic. And now that the Miata is fixed, I am also really looking forward to my first Road Trip in that car!

PS. Some more observations about the lessons. I love how each module is broken down in length from less than 5 minutes to no more than 25 minutes, which means that each module is extremely manageable and keeps the viewer attentive and engaged (ie. not boring). I like the repetitive nature of the lessons. Especially by doing all of them back to back, there was constant regurgitation of information, which had I planned the taking of the lessons better I would have fared better because the same questions are asked of EMS as extrication, and it’s more natural to remember the concepts through the EMS lesson, I found than the extrication lesson. The Red Bull cars #4, #83 and #84 made an awful lot of appearances which is interesting for a brand that no longer participates in NASCAR as far as I’m aware. I love the focus that the LMS placed on openness, integrity and professionalism. I like how NASCAR values were described in a realistic true to life manner identifying stakeholders and guests and promoting the notion of respect towards them. Without any of them we wouldn’t have this kind of racing. Ultimately I’m hopeful I get to do more of this kind of training year by year. And maybe some opportunities open up at tracks closer to me than Watkins Glen like Pocono Raceway.

And finally, seeing how NASCAR managed to create a comprehensive, efficient and effective training program through their Learning Management System I see no reason why clubs like SCCA do the same for their events and their marshals or the FIA do for their events requiring volunteer marshals. And each should issue a certificate like NASCAR does that would act as proof of completion of the very basic training required prior to participating in an event.

nascar track services role of the 99

IMSA Track Services Online Training Modules

It’s been a productive Sunday. I have completed the IMSA Track Services Online Training modules, earning 3 credits (1+0.5+0.5+0.5) and five Certificates of Training, like this:

imsa track services certificate of training

If it looks familiar, it’s because certificates like these are in common use in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia in recognition for the completion of a Formula 1 Grand Prix:

malaysian gp certificate

A little token of the organizer’s appreciation. And when it comes to training, is far more standardized and “official” than whatever program Bill, Bruce or Wayne slap together for their presentations at a typical club training day (which I have yet to attend, so I’ll reserve judgement for then, my criticism only reflects the fact that I haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to attend one locally).

Training is important!

The training IMSA Track Services offers online is not rocket science. It is hardly groundbreaking or eye opening material. It is common sense approach to problem solving that reflects IMSA and NASCAR’s methodology and the expected actions of the people that volunteer for their events. It even gives guidance to the language one should use when working an IMSA event, language that is slightly different from language other clubs and sanctioning bodies use, but language that is important to the smooth running of an IMSA event.

Race Control with the IMSA representatives is in charge of the event, not someone on station that is hellbent on forcing their terminology and approach on everyone else, because that’s how they’ve always done it. Training prescribes a specified and sanctioned approach.

I think this IMSA Track Service training should be required viewing for all marshals volunteering for an IMSA event, and not just the track services crews that man the rescue trucks, fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles. I think everyone could benefit from the training. I remember the first time I heard the term 99 used on the network and had no idea what it meant. I asked around and someone suggested it probably had something to do with the Doctor in one of the chase vehicles. IMSA volunteering should not be a guessing game, knowledge helps contribute to a smoother and safer event. It costs nothing but time both on the part of IMSA and the volunteers to watch the available videos, take the test at the end, and be proficient in the expectations required of them at an event that is often comprised of  marshals that come together from all around the country or different clubs within this country. Or even many international marshals that have their own clubs and sanctioning bodies requirements, from wherever they come from. Everybody has to work on the same page. Training is the most basic requirement there should be… a Step #1. And best of all it could be accomplished at the leisure of one’s home or office.

I even enjoyed the little presentation on the history of IMSA and how it came about that the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am came together to form the Tudor United SportsCar Championship.

imsa history alms and grand am joining

Besides the nostalgia factor, though limited as much of the really good racing was well before my time. I really wish I could have participated in the IMSA Camel GT Series and the Professional Sports Car Racing Championship that followed.

Next step is to complete the NASCAR Track Services Online Training that is a little more comprehensive covering everything from work on the ovals, EMS, etc.

Advice Request: Newbie training for Singapore GP

I got a curious question from a reader earlier this week that I don’t have a good answer to. So I would like to pose the query here to seek the best course of action for the reader, whom I’m going to call Bob.

Bob is not his real name.

Bob is a young man that lives in New York City. He has never marshaled before but has developed an interest in volunteering for the Singapore Grand Prix as an “observer” marshal. Bob asked me what training is available in the NYC area for him to qualify as a marshal for the upcoming Singapore GP event in September.

It’s a loaded question that I will break down below along with the advice I proposed to Bob. Unfortunately I am not completely happy with what I told him and that’s why I want others to share their suggestions.

Suggestion #1: If Bob is able to attend the training in Singapore that would be the best course of action. He should apply for the SGP, and if accepted take advantage of the FIA certified F1 specific training.

However living in NYC that is not a realistic option for Bob.

Suggestion #2: Forget Singapore this year and sign up for the US Grand Prix in Austin, TX. The likelihood of getting in is much better than SGP and he could use his experience at USGP as a reference when applying for SGP or any other event in the future.

However, Bob is most interested in Singapore GP this year.

Suggestion #3: Last resort option: Join SCCA. Bob referred to my blog by saying that he read that I’d recommend joining SCCA because they are the only governing body in the US capable of issuing a marshal license. But I wanted to make it clear to Bob that SCCA does not do F1 specific training. There is a significant cost involved with joining the club. And the emphasis of the local marshals that would train him is more focused towards Club events than anything else. And in the NYC area SCCA offers very limited training  no training (I did also make it clear that I left the NNJR SCCA Region and joined Guam Region instead because no training was offered in the last 3 years of my membership here). Bob and I live in the same region: NYC/Northern NJ. So relying on SCCA is a time consuming endeavor that may or may not result into anything, and is certainly not the optimal option when thinking of volunteering at Singapore GP or any other major international event in the immediate future.

Bob is frustrated!

And so there’s the dilemma. Having volunteered Singapore GP for a few years myself. Having participated in a few SCCA events and having argued relentlessly with the local club for ages about the lack of training. I have no good suggestions for Bob to help him out in this situation.

Bob mentioned he’s been reading forums and has reached out to some SCCA folks in this area that suggested he go to a “crash and burn” school at Summit Point with the Washington DC region (Saturday, March 14th). But according to Bob it wasn’t a realistic idea on short notice, factoring the distance (5-6 hour drive each way) between NYC and West Virginia. He’s quite surprised that for an activity that is so short on volunteers it’s definitely not easy to get started for someone brand new. Which echoes the point I have been stressing for a few years now. But recognizing or confirming a problem and seeing no obvious solution doesn’t help me help Bob.

And while it is true that many volunteer organizations around the world, especially here in the US, struggle to muster up good marshal numbers for various events. Singapore is not one of those struggling organizations because Singapore receives far more demand (supply) then the supply (demand) allows. It’s common knowledge that each year over 3,000 applications get submitted for SGP and only 1,200 to 1,300 marshals get selected, of whom a good 80% are returning marshals. So applying for SGP even with experience is no guarantee of getting accepted. But how do you even get to the point of applying for SGP with no experience like the situation Bob is in?

I am very curious to see what Bob ends up doing. I hope he does follow through with his desire to marshal and joins another event that would accommodate him in terms of training for the future. And I would really appreciate if people share their thoughts on this subject. I will also acknowledge that it will undoubtedly take time for Bob to get anywhere. But following the traditional SCCA route of doing club races, say at Lime Rock which only hosts 2 or 3 races per year, it would take him many years to be even in the position of considering an event of the Singapore GP magnitude. I don’t know if Bob would have enough patience for that. If only there was F1 specific training, or at the very least an avenue with the local club that fast tracks people specifically interested in Pro events vs. slugging along via Club events. Because let’s face it, there are plenty of first time volunteers at various F1 events already including US and Singapore. If only there was training in the NYC area period…

Interesting dilemma…