Last Saturday morning during the Detroit Grand Prix morning meeting the Trans Am official giving us some encouraging words mentions their next round in New Jersey and a lightbulb goes over my head… hey, I live in New Jersey! why don’t I sign up?
Before I even made it to my station assignment in Belle Isle I was firing off an e-mail to NJMP to see if I could join their ranks to volunteer Trans Am at Thunderbolt… within minutes I had a response: Welcome to join! Sweet….
NJMP doesn’t rely on volunteers though. They hire workers to flag events and pay them about $8/hr to do so. The response email I got said that they had the event fully staffed but if I wanted to volunteer I was welcome to come. I wanted to push my luck and ride a wave of recent events I’ve got to work on the Start stand but for this event my request was denied. Still, I got to work some of the most awesome stations Thunderbolt has to offer. Day 1 I was solo on Turn 2. Day 2 I was the blue flagger on Turn 1 which was sweet! Day 3 I was blue flagger on Turn 11 which is in the “Octopus” or “Tail of the Devil” turn where the cars drive all the way around the station, which is almost on an island surrounded by ARMCO and a Tire-wall. That was amazing! More about the event later, for now some pix…
Day 1, paddock walk:
Day 2, scrutineering line:
I now use Pennzoil Platinum in the Miata, and like it very much!
Day 3, Flagging Turn 11
Checking out the Starter Stand:
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission jacking my registration prices up so they could sponsor NASCAR… and then there’s a marketing fail, “Just Drive 125???”
Was happy to spot another NC1 Miata in the paddock:
This time around when I drove past some cool race cars I stopped and jumped out to take a few shots… should have done this with the Pirelli World Challenge Miata’s though, kicking myself for not doing it at Mosport and Lime Rock.
Singapore GP does not need my help recruiting marshals, in a sense that sharing this news on this blog will not result in a spike of exposure for their recruiting efforts. They do an excellent job of recruiting themselves, and specifically by posting this message on the “official” Singapore Grand Prix facebook page:
The official page has just over 100k Like’s and about 1.5k visits /check-in’s. That’s a pretty significant pool of candidates of which historically over 3,000 candidates would submit their applications to fill approximately 1,200 spots. All volunteer in various capacities though some are highly specialized, just look at the poster above: the people in Green have to have a medical background whether doctors or nurses, and the people in red have to be Firefighters. They have to show a certificate of proof to be assigned that role.
This post was made on March 8:
And as of March 18 it has received 260 likes, 29 comments and 128 shares. One of those shares was me contemplating this blog post with my facebook friends, I don’t know what the other 127 shares discussed but obviously they were interested in some capacity of volunteering for the 2015 Singapore GP. The hashtag SGP created for this campaign is #SGPMARSHAL and was used along with other hashtags like #F1, #SingaporeGP and #F1NighRace, all relatively trending topics. Singapore GP organization has way more marshals that it knows what to do with and yet they are continuing to recruit to keep existing marshals on their best behavior and have a supply of reserves to keep the numbers up year after year.
So the real reason for this blog post isn’t Singapore, it is to ask the question: why doesn’t the United States Grand Prix or COTA – Circuit of the Americas do a similar marketing/recruiting exercise for it’s own marshaling force?
Circuit of the Americas www.facebook.com/CircuitofTheAmericas in comparison has 292k Like’s or almost three times as many as Singapore GP, and 45k visits/check-in’s or thirty (30!!!) times as many visits… That’s a ridiculously higher number of exposure in both categories. Not to mention instead of a single Night Race, COTA hosts a full calendar of high profile events from the Pirelli World Challenge sports car event to WEC – World Endurance Championship / IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship double header. From MotoGP to F1! And a number of smaller events and track rentals that could seriously benefit from a larger pool of volunteers (or even paid workers for that matter).
So why don’t they do it?
I think… and I could be completely wrong… but I really think that at all levels of management starting from the big wigs running COTA to the smaller wigs running the marshaling services, and the hired wigs that help with the recruiting for individual events like MotoGP, WEC or F1 have way too much “ego!” at play when it comes to the advertising aspect of the volunteer positions. There are too many assumptions that advertising requires too much time, money or effort… or basically resources they don’t have. Or are short on, or don’t really care too much about. There seems to be some foolish reliance on making due with what little they have… the richest country in the world, with the newest and most expensive circuit in the land is willing to cut corners in the safety department by running skeleton marshal crews, because they don’t have enough budget (time, money, effort). There’s the presumption that the volunteers must be experienced instead of assembling eager amateurs/ Motorsport enthusiasts and training them to the standards that the FIA requires for WEC or F1, or FIM requires for MotoGP… Oh no, we must only rely on trusted and experienced SCCA marshals because they’re the best… So much ego! So much wrong with this picture!
Why not take a page out of the SGP playbook/ best practices/ success stories? Why not advertise to the audience COTA already has? 300,000 fans is an incredible pool of people, many of whom would probably love to plan a trip to volunteer a weekend in Austin, Texas whether for F1 in October/November, or WEC in September, MotoGP in April or PWC in March… there are so many people that could potentially pick this hobby up and continue volunteering throughout the year closer to where they actually live. Be it within the US or internationally. Plenty of Mexican visitors to the USGP and they’re about to host their own GP again. Plenty of Aussies willing to travel to America to volunteer in Austin. Why not recruit them? I really hope that the 2015 United States Grand Prix marshal recruiting process doesn’t start too close to the event date. I hope everyone that is interested in participating in the event is given the information they need to start making their plans early instead of waiting until the last minute just for an opportunity to apply.
I should point out that COTA has created a facebook page just for their marshals: www.facebook.com/cotatrackmarshals and while it is certainly a plus to have something so specific, at 411 Like’s and 55 visits/check-in’s (at the time of the writing of this post) it doesn’t really compare to the audience of 300,000 facebookers on the main COTA page. That should be used for recruiting volunteers more than anything else. It could be done in conjunction with the official page on the COTA web site:
I will also acknowledge that writing this post can be construed as criticism of both the United States F1 Grand Prix as an event and Cicrcuit of the Americas – the race track that hosts it… and while that is not my intention I know there are ego’s at play and I can’t prevent them from thinking the worst. I have already experienced what people told me was punishment while volunteering for the US GP last year where I was assigned a position where I couldn’t see anything. I wrote a post complaining about that experience and all kinds of people got all bent out of shape about how dare I criticize such a wonderful event. I certainly didn’t see the need to paint a rosy picture which I’m sure would have been very welcomed when the reality didn’t correspond to it. The same people that got ridiculously offended were also the ones that promised to prevent me from marshaling ever again, so I don’t know how much stock I would put into that promise. I know for a fact though that I wouldn’t volunteer my time, spend a bunch of money on travel and accommodation, just to be “punished” , for whatever reason. I’d rather stay home. But I would get over my own ego and support all of COTA’s recruitment efforts because I know it would improve the sport and the marshaling situation in the US which is dismal, we are very short on people. The more new marshals that volunteer, the more training there would be offered for all of us, the more we all benefit. Much like what Singapore GP has been experiencing for years. My fingers are crossed with the hopes of improvement, and that improvement starts with better advertising. Use your facebook page for good Circuit of the Americas! Please advertise all the available volunteer opportunities and continue doing it often…
I have taken the liberty of creating some useful hashtags for such a campaign, feel free to use them: #USGPmarshal, #USF1marshal, #COTAmarshal, #WECmarshalCOTA, #MotoGPmarshalCOTA, #PWCmarshalCOTA, #F1marshalCOTA etc. the possibilities are endless!
Motorsport Marshal, Miata Driver, Hot Wheels Collector