Tag Archives: Singapore GP

Why is Singapore GP oversubscribed with volunteers? Because they advertise! #SGPmarshal

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:

source: SGP facebook page
source: SGP facebook page

Check it out here: www.facebook.com/SingaporeGP

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:

SGP recruiting on their facebook

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:

www.circuitoftheamericas.com/volunteer

 

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!

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…

How I Undermined my Reputation as a Marshal

As I’m watching the live stream of the Bathurst 12 hour race in Australia, I read an interesting comment from a friend currently marshaling on Mount Panorama that made me want to write this post. It is entirely possible that I have misinterpreted the comment, but it’s worth writing my thoughts down because they reflect the way I feel at this point in time. My opinions definitely change with time, based on the circumstances and with any new knowledge gained from experiences at various events, so I want to write this down to see how I felt when I read it in the future.

Over the past few years of my volunteering in motorsport I have noticed that depending whom I worked with my reputation did not reflect what I intended to project to my colleagues and coworkers. This feeling was magnified but was not limited to events and people in the US. I made a comment about marshals boycotting a karting event in Singapore that was received negatively, which wasn’t my intention at all. And before that, my comments about being prevented from registering to marshal the F1 race in Abu Dhabi allowed some people to form the opinion that I dislike ATCUAE and the Yas Marina Circuit which couldn’t be further from the truth, because after finally visiting the circuit and working the Gulf 12 hour event, I found it to be the most amazing facility I have ever been to.

But events in the US, and certain interactions with people that I felt treated me badly (and ultimately blogged about it on this web site with all the unedited posts still available for the reading) caused retaliation. I’m not just referring to the physical threats by the former flag chief of the region that I dumped with my local club, but also comments by friends which makes me wonder: at what point did I cross the line and undermined my reputation as a marshal?

I say this because obviously in my mind I never set out to volunteer as a marshal and be a dick to other people. I have never intentionally did things “wrong” just to fuck with people. But that’s the vibe I get from people that judge my character and form an opinion of me as a person. The line must have been crossed when I took the whinging that everyone else seems to do over a beer at a post-race party and brought it online in the form of a blog post.

Everybody complains about something. There’s no doubt in my mind that people bitch, moan and complain far more than I do. But I became the enemy of the Motorsports for talking about things publicly on a web site that nobody reads. People complain about everything, from being treated like shit while volunteering by the event organizers or the circuit, or the security staff; to the sloppy food that is provided sometimes, the early meetings, or the fellow marshals they work with, etc. I know this because I have heard it from Singapore to Australia, to Canada and certainly around the US. Blogging about it undoubtedly undermined my reputation. But I don’t agree with writing “rosy” posts just to please people that treat me badly. Or to censor myself. It really makes me wonder how in a country that has OSHA, events/circuits can get away with inhumane treatment (long hours, no breaks, poor working conditions, etc.) But they get away with it because ordinary marshals complain only among themselves at beer parties and not where it actually counts apparently.

The other act of course was picture taking. It was the first nail in the coffin of my career and even though I’ve stopped (or rather changed my focus with the Marshal Cam project) it became the last also. And its ironic. The rules don’t change from track to track or event to event. Marshals aren’t allowed to take pictures while cars are on track whether the event is Formula One, WEC, V8 Supercars or the Australian GT race I’m watching right now. And yet, my facebook is filled with photos posted by people that are currently volunteering track side. And those pictures show race cars, on the racing tarmac. There’s little difference from what I’m seeing now while at my desk at work watching the live stream on one of the screens, to what I did at Montreal during F1 that got me in so much trouble thanks to an overzealous post chief. But me doing it was far worse apparently than anyone else doing it, because I got a web site that no one reads. And that’s a shame, I think.

So what do I intend to do to change my reputation in the future? It’s hard to say at this point because of the awful situation I find myself in, in my personal life. I certainly do not intend to go do club racing exclusively just to kiss ass of the same people that went out of their way to spread rumors about me and then got all bent out of shape because I refused to “respect” them as a result. The bully flag chief pointed out to me that PERCEPTION = REALITY, and I don’t agree with that at all. There are plenty of trolls out there that think they’re cool spreading a rumor to undermine someone they don’t like because all of their buddy buddies adore them for it. It’s absurd. I will choose my future events more carefully. There’s no reason to do every pro event out there because it features something amazing. It’s unrealistic both logistically and financially. I will have to ultimately pick and choose events that I know will make me happy, not someone else, but me – personally. I will work with people that don’t smile to my face and then back-stab me because they’re jealous of the events I’ve done in the past. I will have to volunteer smarter, that’s for sure.

I also want to open an opportunity for feedback from people I actually work with (Not someone that overheard, someone else who overheard another person’s opinion of me. But actual coworkers) to tell me what they feel I did wrong at an event and what I can do to improve, or if I did something right – I should continue doing it. I like the idea of references, like those used on CouchSurfing that help both hosts and travelers to form their opinion on whether or not to deal with someone directly. Maybe the same approach could work well with Motorsport volunteering. I doubt others would jump on the concept because as this blog has clearly pointed out, everyone is very sensitive to even the most innocent amount of criticism. But I am happy to use myself as a test subject to prove that this would be worthwhile in marshaling. In other countries a simple Log Book serves just this purpose, but the only log book I have been filling out is the same one that pisses people off on my web site, because they perceive it as “bragging” so hopefully the reference idea takes off.

Have something to say about me? Post it in the comments below. I will respond to you. Just don’t delete the comments like the old lady from Florida did, when I responded to her comment that called me a “disgrace” or something along those lines. IF I’m wrong, I have no problem admitting it and hopefully learning from my mistakes.

I am very interested to read some feedback about my performance.

Rejected!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be rejected… And yet when it comes to Motorsports rejection is quite a common thing. It’s important to manage your expectations when attempting to volunteer for various events because rejection is a definite possibility.

My only real rejection letter (e-mail) so far came from Singapore GP. I know what you’re thinking, how could that be…. you’ve worked the past few SGP events. This is true, but when I first applied I received a response stating that I was not selected but that I was added to a waiting list and should a spot open up I will have an opportunity to join the organization as a marshal. I could only but speculate why I received such a response, and whether or not it’s a common tactic used to make the event seem far more oversubscribed than it really is, but it certainly worked for me. Rejection makes you desire something even more when it’s harder to obtain. A forbidden fruit.

I’ve caught a lot of flack for criticizing ATCUAE the organization behind the marshals at the Abu Dhabi GP in the United Arab Emirates for preventing me from applying in the first place. It sure felt like a rejection even though I didn’t even fill out an application, a crucial first step and requirement to be properly rejected. Since voicing my complaints I’ve learned that the way the process works there is each applicant receives a tabard number and even though not everyone gets selected or more importantly actually follows through with their commitments to show up as a marshal, once that finite number of applicants is reached no more are accepted as candidates for the “security clearance” and that was my case. Did I decide to apply too late? Not really. I first learned of an opportunity to marshal in Abu Dhabi from a British expat working there whom I met while marshaling the Malaysian GP. He suggested I join him at the UAE event and who was I to say “No?” I was quite happy with the idea of exploring a new country. But as the event drew closer and I never heard back I began to make my own inquiries, and that’s when I learned I couldn’t apply. I have to say I was really glad when I wasn’t rejected for the Gulf 12h. Granted I wasn’t strictly going to the UAE but instead wanted to piggyback the event onto an already exciting trip to the Bahrain 6h of WEC and my first Asian Le Mans Series event at Sepang in Malaysia, Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi made a fantastic impression on me.

Sometimes you get rejected even when they ask you to come back. This happened to me with the Canadian GP. Last year and the year before it, I documented my trip by taking and sharing photos on social media and this blog alike. This was not to the liking of my post chief who nearly a year after the event took place complained of my camera use (and by camera I mean a discreet cell phone shot here and there, and not a full blown Digital SLR like one of our Canadian colleagues on the rescue team who had that thing whipped out for an entire F1 session at a time, and no one said a peep even though everyone saw it) So I was invited to come back (please come back and bring friends who can marshal we really need you) but only on condition that I never take pictures again, a probation if you will. What’s the sense in returning to that? Part of the perk of volunteering is keeping a visual memory of your participation in the form of pictures or video. I’m certainly not condoning blatantly mocking the rule, but I’m not spending the money to travel and the aggravation of getting harassed at the border year after year just to take mental pictures. (as was suggested) No thanks!

More recently I wanted to try my hand at marshaling for the SuperGT series on their home turf in Japan. Pokka 1000 an endurance race held at the famous Suzuka Circuit was my goal. I reached out to some folks I knew and was introduced to the person organizing the marshals there who quickly and confidently rejected the whole idea I could join their team as a visiting marshal. “Not possible!” Why? officially because I don’t speak Japanese. And would not be able to make any of their prior training sessions to be up to par to their standards. But more realistically I will venture a guess that nobody wants to deal with a liability. And being a foreigner pretending to know how a particular organization runs, in any official capacity – as a volunteer marshal, makes me a liability. Nobody wants to be stuck babysitting a guest, who doesn’t speak the language, will probably require help finding accommodation locally, and need to be transported to and from the track to make the early morning meetings. It’s a lot easier to say “No!” than to say “Yes!” and then worry about the logistics.

car show odaibaToyota City Showcase where I watched the 2011 Japanese GP, next to the big lot on Odaiba where I attended my first JDM car show.

odaiba tokyo car show

Similarly, now that the United States GP and Macau GP don’t share the same dates for their race weekend, I reached out to the organizer of marshals for the Guia Circuit to see if they’d have me, but the response was very similar to that from Japan. Since I don’t speak Cantonese and will not make any of their training modules, I am not a welcome guest to their marshaling crew. And that’s that.

Ironically it took a lot of convincing for me to finally volunteer the Malaysian GP. There not only language but religion were a major obstacle which were overcome because when it comes down to it, the role of a marshal doesn’t change from country to country. I’ve worked alongside people whom speak different languages in many countries, including the United States. English is a pretty universal language nowadays in Motorsport and most of the drivers and riders racing along the streets of Macau can only be addressed in English in an emergency situation, I’m fairly sure strictly speaking Cantonese to them will have little effect. If racers are encouraged to perform their craft abroad so should the marshals.

macauShuttle bus to the Macau Ferry Terminal along the front straight of the Guia Circuit… on a quick visit to Macau & Hong Kong.

guia macau

I have been to Japan during the Japanese GP weekend, and while I watched the race from Suzuka on a big screen at a Toyota Superstore in Tokyo, I’ve always thought that one day I may come back as a marshal. I got to walk around parts of Guia Circuit on a visit to Macau, even drive down the front straight on a shuttle bus back to the ferry terminal/airport, and there too I thought one day I will come back wearing orange. I guess that day will have to wait.

So if there’s any Japanese marshals currently working at Suzuka who would like to take responsibility for me and help me marshal along-side them (while translating what’s happening) I would love to join. Similarly if there are Macanese marshals willing to do the same for the Macau GP, I would love to hear from you! I will be happy to share my experiences from those events here on this blog in the naive and straightforward fashion I share all my other opinions.

PS. I know marshaling as a foreigner in Suzuka isn’t impossible. I know this because there was an Aussie marshal I worked an SBK Superbikes event at Phillip Island who wouldn’t stop yacking about his experience volunteering at Suzuka. Though as expected he was quite critical of the event due to the lack of language, him and a friend were basically spectators while the locals did everything. Go figure!

Registration for 2014 Singapore Grand Prix

Great news for marshals interested in volunteering the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix. Important registration dates have been released, and in true Singapore fashion there are different deadlines for different candidates which I’ll list below.

If you have done the GP last year, you are first on the list for consideration. Registration for returning officials starts February 17th. Friends and family of returning officials wishing to participate get a special referral code which may be used on February 24th. And general public is open to apply last starting March 10th.

The deadline to apply is March 31st. So if interested do it as quickly as possible. Singapore has one of the largest marshalling bodies in the world with over 1,200 members but they receive many more thousands applicants so it pays to be first in line. I love Singapore and their event because my marshalling career started there, it will always be home in that respect.

Singapore GP web site: http://singaporegp.sg

Singapore GP mini-debrief

Greetings from Thailand. Left Singapore early this morning for another small island is SE Asia: Phuket, one of my favorite destinations.

My team and I went partying until well into the night at Clarke Quay, a much deserved de-stress. Shame however my trip started on the wrong foot with the post chief, and the weekend never recovered. I hate being treated like an outsider at a place I considered home.

It was one of the better GP’s I had in a while. I started out as track marshal on Friday. Moved to being a flag marshal on Saturday and finished the race on Sunday as a light panel operator.

No major incidents happened requiring my team to act, though Webber’s smoky engine blow up started by our turn. Got a nice video of him hitching a ride with Alonso.

I will post a longer write up later, right now Amazing Thailand awaits.

sgp 1

sgp 2

sgp 4

sgp 3

sgp 5

sgp gopro

sgp food

Finally we managed to sneak some decent local food in to replace the awful stuff that is served by the organizers.

sgp group photo

It’s amazing the logistics involved in getting over a thousand marshals together for an event… nevermind the weekend, just the group photo takes a ton of effort.

Post card from Marina Bay Circuit at the Singapore GP

Greetings from the little red dot in Southeast Asia.
I’m having an interesting time here so far. Some elements of the marshals management have been unusually cold and unwelcoming, but my fellow marshals have been incredible!

sgp 2

sgp 1

sgp 4

I am a flaggie at turn 22, opposite pit entry and one turn ahead of the last turn. High speed turn that may see some action. So far only showers of sparks have kept us entertained from cars bottoming out.

Its nice to reconnect with marshals from Australia, New Zealand, India, UAE, UK, Malaysia and of course Singapore. The weather is perfect. Food is awesome. Looking forward to the race.

singapore gp 2

singapore gp 3

Singapore GP Off-Track second feature

It happened rather quickly after the Canadian GP and before the start of my Eurotrip for Le Mans and British GP. I had a quick chat with Raziff from SGP to share my opinion on the issues in Montreal, and he was kind enough to offer me the audience of this year’s Singapore GP volunteers by featuring some excerpts from my earlier blog post in the new Off-track newsletter.

After reading the published article I was a bit concerned that I sounded very insensitive to the situation, which I definitely am not – I am sincerely saddened by the outcome and send my condolences to the family and friends of the poor marshal. (I do expect to get a slap in the face by a Canadian who may have taken offence to my words at the next event I volunteer in Canada) Though the sentiment I heard both in France and the UK is very much shared by other marshals. We could never be too safe volunteering.

Singapore GP Off-Track feature

On my way home from the Phillipines earlier this year Raziff and Russell surprised me at Changi Airport by taking me out to a quick dinner I organized. And after sharing my experiences from the seven back to back races in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, Raziff asked for a little write up… which he just published to the 1,200 Singapore GP marshals volunteering for the 2013 season. Massive thanks to Raziff for the shout-out!

Looking forward to the Singapore trip this September… not just for the GP, but for the amazing food of Southeast Asia and another R&R visit to Malaysia and Thailand.