Tag Archives: Marshal Training

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)

What other ASN’s could learn from CAMS: Confederation of Australian Motor Sport

There’s much we could learn from CAMS: Confederation of Australian Motor Sport and I would hope all international ASN’s are taking note of the things this club is doing RIGHT.

The latest Officials Newsletter ticks all the right boxes for me:

cams officials newsletter marshals wanted marshal training online marshal education

First, there’s a call for action: Marshals Wanted!

I really applaud this national ASN reaching out to their entire membership base, including those of us who are overseas / international marshals and asking for help at a particular event. It is not below them to ask. They aren’t losing any face doing it. There are positions to be filled and they are doing the right thing seeking help from the obvious resource: their licensed members. Kudos!

Second, there’s information about Training!

Brilliant. CAMS is one of the few organizations that I’ve had the privilege of working with that push sophisticated and regular (constantly updated) training modules onto it’s membership base. How appropriate! There’s an organization that recognizes that things change in the Motorsport industry, the change is constant. And they make sure that the membership stays abreast of the all changes by offering standardized training from the national organization down to the individual clubs on the ground like those in the state of Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and others.

Third, the most convenient of training modules: e-Training!

One of the hardest things for any club to organize is to bring its membership together at a time and place for a particular event of significance like Training. Solution? Offer Online training! Simple, effective and convenient to both the organizers and the individuals taking advantage of the opportunity to brush up their skills from the comfort of their own home on their own terms (time/place/mood?).

This is why I like CAMS!

It’s not just because they have trained me from the very beginning of my marshaling career. But because they continue to offer me opportunities to further my career in this hobby by doing things right. And not a lot of ASN’s out there take the time or make the effort to keep their membership base engaged and wanting to participate more.

The last e-mail notice I got from my current local club was a reminder to pay my dues…

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!

Marshal Cam: TT Assen MotoGP Marshals in Action Video

This morning the FIM MotoGP official YouTube channel featured a beautifully put together video titled: “GoPro Behind the Scenes: A day in the life of a Marshal” from the Assen TT featuring a whole bunch of happy Dutch marshals in their respective roles during the race weekend. Behold the masterfully done video that ought to be used to recruit Moto marshals worldwide:

*(the video above is obviously copyrighted by Dorna Sports, so watch it on YouTube if it doesn’t play on this site:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AQqt483fHg)

Neither FIM MotoGP nor Assen TT are directly affiliated with the Marshal Cam project, but this video captures exactly what #MarshalCam ought to be if more sanctioning bodies and marshaling clubs embraced the idea of marshals wearing small action cams to record their actions (whether for entertainment purposes like the video above or for more professional purposes like training or incident analysis).

Assen TT club has been a big supporter of this web site having the link to my blog very early on when I first launched it, so I’m forever grateful to them for being so awesome!

So let’s analyze the video… starting with this little gem:

assen tt motogp marshal video 1

Not a lot of marshals have the luxury to pedal a bike to their nearest race tracks. But folks in the Netherlands and Belgium frequently do. I’ve met them! And I’m infinitely jealous of them. It takes me at least 2 hours to drive to my nearest circuit. Although to be fair, I walked to the circuit when I started marshaling in Singapore. Some marshals are much luckier than others.

assen tt motogp marshal video 2

The morning equipment inspection is shown, with the flags laid out to demonstrate that the whole set is there. A flag point station is shown, and interestingly enough Flag marshals get to sit while they work. That’s pretty unusual in the flagging world. (normally we must stand)

assen tt motogp marshal video 3

There’s the morning meeting with what looks like FIM officials. Way too few marshals to be the entire crew so I’m going to speculate that this is just for the post chiefs and chiefs of different specialties like the marshal wearing the blue bib which is typically pit lane, marshal in red bib which is medic, and of course orange bibs are flag and track marshals.

assen tt motogp marshal video 4

Welcome to Assen TT Circuit! Watching this video I definitely want to marshal there at some point in my career as a Motorsport volunteer.

assen tt motogp marshal video 5

assen tt motogp marshal video 6

I especially love the sequence in the video where a track marshal adjusts his gloves followed by a rider adjusting his gloves. Goes to show that marshals are not just unpaid spectators but in fact an integral part of the event, and a crucial part of the event promoting safety as job #1!

assen tt motogp marshal video 7

Another shot of the Flag marshals with the full flag set in front of them, sitting comfortably observing the race and quickly displaying the correct flag to reflect track conditions. Judging by the guys face it is a relaxed and comfortable environment to do the job professionally.

assen tt motogp marshal video 8

This is one of my favorite screen grabs, a track marshal runs over to lift a bike off of a pinned rider. In the shot you see a fire marshal respond with a fire bottle ready to deal with whatever situation arises. It’s pretty scary to watch riders get hit or pinned under their own crashed bike, and unlike many other events with MotoGP as a track marshal you just respond to the scene first and notify Race Control of whatever happened later.

assen tt motogp marshal video 9

Another shot of track marshals responding to an incident, with Moto racing there’s always plenty of action, and lots of bikes to be picked up in various state of disrepair to be either sent off back on track with the rider or leaned against the ARMCO at the station to be picked up and transported back to the paddock on a back of a pick up or a little trailer like the one shown in the Assen TT video. It’s always a busy event… MotoGP

assen tt motogp marshal video 10

The video concludes with marshals huddling up the race winner. In this case Marc Márquez of Spain who received a flag with his racing # to take around the track on a victory lap. This activity is so common worldwide but try doing it in the US and someone will chew your head off. Why can’t things be consistent globally… marshals deserve to celebrate with the riders any opportunity they get, why not?

I think this is such an amazing video and I hope it does get used to recruit future marshals worldwide. This is what you can be doing when you volunteer as a Motorsport official (in Assen at least) come out and join in the fun folks!

To volunteer with Assen TT marshals: http://www.ttofficialclub.nl/

Official TT Circuit Assen: http://www.ttcircuit.com/

MotoGP official: http://www.motogp.com/

FIM official: http://www.fim-live.com/

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!

Motorsport Safety Foundation: Safety Car Deployment Survey

The Motorsport Safety Foundation  [a non-profit organization founded by Henrique Cisneros of the TRG Porsche fame to honor the memory of his colleague Sean Edwards who was tragically killed in a crash in Queensland, Australia while instructing an amateur driver (www.motorsport-safety.org/)], is conducting a public survey about safety car deployment at various Motorsport events. The survey is targeted at Fans, Drivers and Race Officials (safety marshals):   www.surveymonkey.com/r/safetycars

motorsport safety foundation survey

 

I filled out my opinion and when hitting “Done” it took me right back to the survey page. Not sure if the survey is broken, so I’ll just share my opinion here instead.

As a safety worker that has received formal training to be a flag marshal, track marshal, fire marshal, recovery marshal, communications marshal, etc. I think it is acceptable to have safety vehicles including wreckers/tow trucks/manitou cranes etc. to respond to incidents under local yellow conditions.

I think a Virtual Safety Car or the traditional Safety Car should only be deployed in circumstances where the incident obstructs a large percentage of the track making incident response dangerous under a local yellow condition. I think circumstances should dictate what percentage of the track blockage should call for a safety car, it will of course depend on the part of the track, the visibility at the corner, weather conditions, etc.

The drivers of course have to buy into the concept of safety respecting Yellow flags shown and not trying to push their luck gaining advantage while testing the marshal’s observation skills (getting called in for passing under yellow) or dismissing yellow flag warnings and carrying on at unreasonable speeds through the incidents.

But the most important suggestion I have that I wrote in the comments section is to call for universal and professional training for all marshals that participate at pro level events. If the fans, the drivers and people responsible for organizing safety marshals truly care about safety at the event, they must provide the training to the people that marshal… all of them. Period!

I’ve written a number of blog posts over the years criticizing the lack of training and all that got me was a lot of hatred, malicious treatment at the track and vicious rumors spread about me because I was going against the club or the racing series that I volunteered for. I have cut back my participation and obviously the series continue to race, nobody gives a fuck whether I participate or not. Marshals are dime a dozen, whenever one drops off someone else will take their place. Whether a marshal drops off as a result of negative treatment, injury as a result of the poor training or even death, doesn’t matter. The show will go on. And with the millions if not billions of dollars slushing around in the Motorsport world to put on races, paying for safety training would be such a detrimental thing to the people with money there’s just no debating about it. Volunteers better offer their services for FREE or else the racing series will suffer from the tremendous costs of properly training the volunteers… and we can’t have that. Right?

Well, I certainly don’t think so.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It is the job of the FIA to recruit marshals for F1 events and to provide sufficient training to meet the FIA standards. It is the job of IMSA to recruit marshals for TUSC events and provide sufficient training to meet the IMSA safety standards. Are they doing it? Hardly… the FIA outsources this job to local ASN’s and some do a spectacular job like the Singapore GP organization, while others don’t (the US – because there is no F1 specific training, at all). IMSA does indeed offer marshal training through the NASCAR track services program, but who is that program available to? Not too many marshals I know. I was lucky enough to participate through my membership with RSI at Watkins Glen but I suspect the majority of the people working the Detroit GP at Belle Isle didn’t. And a marshal got seriously hurt in that race suffering broken bones and significant injury to a number of vital organs. Is that good? No, it is not! I’m sure some will argue that the injured marshal had to have received NASCAR training being one of the recovery personnel assuming that’s who got injured – I don’t think the identity of the injured marshal was made public. But I’m willing to bet a cookie that the flag marshals covering the incident did not. And that resulted in the waving of blue and yellow flag simultaneously… Blue to hurry up and finish the race at competition speed, and Yellow to be sure to slow down in time for the incident at Turn 1 after the Checkered flag. It’s absurd scenario but we’ve had a series of absurd scenarios where people that “Mean Well” totally fucked up putting lives in danger.

It should be noted that when I volunteer I expect a certain element of danger. I know I could die while marshaling, there’s always that risk. But I don’t volunteer so I can get injured or die because some fool makes a poor decision “meaning well” but placing my life in unnecessary or avoidable danger.

So no matter how much I will continue to get shunned by people that don’t like my criticism of their incompetence whether intentional or unintentional. I will continue to demand training for marshals. Whether I marshal myself, or get banned from doing it as a result of my opinions.

If some of these  dedicated safety officials, fellow marshals, could enforce the “no-photo!” rule so vigorously (though very selectively), the same idiots could focus on providing the necessary training. If only they truly focus on the important aspect to facilitate the “safety” in our job as marshals, I think good things will happen.

I hope the Motorsport Safety Foundation gets some results out of their efforts. Even if it’s a non-profit, it’s still a business and they look out for their business interests in the business of Motorsport safety. But looking from my perspective as a non-paid volunteer, I think they should pick up the ball on training where IMSA and FIA have dropped it, and offer a valuable service that would undoubtedly make the sport safer and therefore better. Because if they don’t, who will?

 

And for the record, the training I call for should include some or all of the following:

  • Pro Training Manual – at the very minimum
  • Online Training – to teach concepts/theory and videos of incidents
  • On Site Training – around the country to draw more marshals
  • Specialty Training – pre-event morning meeting refreshers
  • Recruit more marshals so we don’t work with skeleton crews
  • Have a mentoring program or apprenticeship
  • Make sure trainers are capable of teaching (aren’t assholes)
  • Open feedback loop so that grievances aren’t kept secret
  • Training and re-training for people/areas that require it
  • Frequent and open communication about training opportunities
  • Good record keeping of training received/grading system
  • Regular training every year to cover new technology
  • Multiple training opportunities to accommodate schedule issues
  • Focus on training and professionalism (when people buy into this concept there would be no need for “no-photo” enforcement, marshals will embrace it and self police themselves and others).
  • Safety should be Priority #1!

 

PS. The Motorsport Safety Foundation should recognize that “years of experience” is a very unreliable metric. If I volunteer for one F1 event per year, my experience level is very different compared to someone who volunteers six F1 events per year, or a mix of thirtysix pro/club events per year.

 

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.

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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.

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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!

 

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.

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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.

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Motorsport Safety Seminar / RSI Open House

I’m giddy with excitement to head out on my first road trip in the Miata tomorrow to visit Watkins Glen International for the first time this season for some NASCAR Track Services Training.

I’m also excited to see Watkins Glen International promote the event through their facebook page with this poster:

rsi wgi invitation

This is marketing done right. Watkins Glen International has 67,065 likes at the time of this writing, and 37,357 check-ins. That’s an amazing amount of fans. And a great number of potential volunteers reached by a simple and effective method.

WGI wrote the following beneath the picture:

We’re looking for some great volunteers for a number of positions!

Come to the Motorsports Safety Seminar / Race Services, Inc. Open House this Saturday and Sunday from 8 AM – 3 PM and see what it’s all about!

More about RSI: http://www.rsiwgi.com/

Simple, effective and I hope some new people show up to give marshaling a try.

I for one am really looking forward to my trip!

Visit the Watkins Glen International facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/WatkinsGlenInternational

and visit the Race Services, Inc. facebook page too:  https://www.facebook.com/rsiwgi

PS. the Miata is cleaned and ready to go… had it’s first proper car wash today and for about $6 self-serve it was money well spent:

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PS. I might have overdone it a little with the soap…