Tag Archives: 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!

Track Familiarization during RSI MSS at WGI

Track Familiarization module is a beautiful thing. It’s an opportunity for flag marshals to drive the track at speed and see what the driver’s see (at a higher rate of speed). And I must say with all the things to consider and the visual information you take in while driving the track, the flag station is but a tiny spec that you fly by. That’s why flagging, especially displaying yellow flag in a dangerous situation requires apeshit effort because just dangling a piece of yellow cloth out there won’t get anyone’s attention. I thought that was the biggest lesson to be learned today.

And even though I have absolutely no intention of doing any driving, I learned I had no future as a race car driver long ago, and that marshaling is the closest I ever want to get (it is expensive enough for me and I could barely afford volunteering). Driving on track today totally made my day. What an awesome adrenaline rush!

We staged in the Winner’s Circle before taking to the track, so it’s a great opportunity as any to take some pretty Miata pix:

This lip spoiler is really growing on me…

Oh hey! Another B-spec Mazda.

Heading up the Esses

Going into the Bus Stop

Heading down into the Boot

The final turn

The Starter Stand, looks like you can reach out and touch it, but while working up there the cars seem quite far down

Turn 1

The Shoot

Pit In

Thank you WGI. Thank you RSI. And thanks to the NASCAR folks for a wonderful weekend at a beautiful race track!

New WGI signage on NY 414

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)

NASCAR Track Services Training @ Watkins Glen International

For those interested in sharpening up their skills when volunteering, NASCAR is hosting a training weekend at Watkins Glen Int’l this April 11-12. I want to take advantage of this opportunity.

The training event is on the same weekend as the MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas, which I signed up for last week but haven’t heard back until today. And with the rising airfare costs and other accommodation arrangements it was too late to change course.

Since I already have built up the urge to do something that weekend and put the wheels in motion of requesting the time off from work (I work weekends) the training event with NASCAR is a logical alternative. It’s something that I wanted to do for years but because events often overlap, like the MotoGP at COTA scheduled for the same weekend, it wasn’t possible to commit before.

Like the video I shared above, I hope NASCAR will have some live demos and hands on training, like fire school which is what I’m most interested in. But while enrolling on their web site I noticed a whole bunch of self pace modules that facilitate learning of proper NASCAR and IMSA guidelines from crash response to radio etiquette.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experience there.

PS. since the drive to Watkins Glen will take 5 to 6 hours and I’ll probably drive overnight to make the early 8am meeting on Saturday, I’ll have to do some tinkering with the Miata. My check engine light has popped on and off a few times now suggesting the thermostat is lazy and I wouldn’t trust driving it in that condition on such a long trip. So now there’s more urgency to install the new thermostat which I bought the day after I bought the Miata but have yet to mount it on the car. Fingers crossed all goes well.

The Best Marshals!?!

As my Facebook Timeline is flooded with real-time photos from the beautiful Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, with F1 cars taking to the track for the final time this season. Or from Putrajaya street circuit in Malaysia, with Formula E cars making their debut in my favorite Southeast Asia destination. I wanted to share a thought about the notion of “the best marshals” out there, many of whom are sharing these photos with me and the world. I will also make some comparisons to myself, and tell you – the reader, why I am not the best. And if you’re also a marshal, why you probably aren’t either. But we certainly can become better!

According to a recent article quoting Mohammed bin Sulayem, the famous Arab rally driver and an influential FIA official who claimed UAE marshals are ready to prove they’re the best in the world, you would be right to think that they  probably are. Of course if you ever watched a broadcast of any race from the UK, they would certainly have you believe that the British marshals are the best in the business. I have written extensively about the quality of the marshaling Australians tend to provide, as they are constantly contracted to train and supervise newbie marshals throughout the Asia Pacific region, including most recently Russia. So who is really the BEST?

Well, as I see it: the BEST marshals are the one’s that are trained well. Which pretty much eliminates me from that candidacy because in the past year of volunteering I have not attended any training sessions in my local region. Not because I didn’t want to. But because it wasn’t offered. So there you have it. If you live in a region that doesn’t offer regular training you have little chance of honing your skills to become a better marshal. Of course I’ve nagged my region to offer training, not just to me but to the entire marshal base of my region. And the most common response I’ve received was to organize it myself or travel to another region. Fair enough! (or not fair, considering I pay an annual membership – presumably for something?) Lets say I take the initiative and organize my own fire training with my local fire department, or first aid training with the local ambulance corps. But then I have to translate this into my Motorsport volunteering, and hardly all road accidents are similar to what we see in racing. So the optimal solution is to travel to receive training where it is actually relevant.

Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 boss everyone loves to hate, once said that if you don’t have the money to race in Formula One – you shouldn’t! And I think the same applies to marshals. In a sense, if you can afford to travel to various events around the world, you become a better marshal because you pick up skills new to you. Assuming something actually happens in the post you have been allocated so that you either see a proper handling of the incident taking place or you are actually involved in it, hands on. If you don’t see anything happen, you haven’t learned anything new. So training is still paramount to your “quality” of skills as a marshal. The “quantity” of events you have attended is only relevant if you have hands on experience. Classroom training, demo’s and simulations are critical. So does it make sense to travel to receive proper training? Yes! But it depends on whether or not you have the funds to do it. Personally, I would rather spend my hard earned money on a pro event with the hopes of having a hands on experience I can learn from, than spending the same amount to travel somewhere where I’m guaranteed to learn something. Is it wrong? Probably… but when applying or registering for events to marshal, you are asked what events you’ve worked previously and not what training sessions you’ve attended. Maybe that’s wrong on the part of the organizers to assume that attendance = experience?

So what can I and others do to be considered “better” or “best” marshals out there? Well, as I pointed out above some factors are well within my control and some are not. For example, I think I would be a much better marshal if I was just a little bit taller, just a few inches. But that ain’t gonna happen. Likewise, I would definitely be a better marshal if I lost some weight. It is totally within my control though talking about it is far easier than actually doing something about it. Ultimately, the best motivation to become the best marshal possible is having training provided. It encourages you to do many things, and most of them positively improve your skill set. And as I’ve written before about the CAMS Young Officials program in Australia, it’s up to the top level of Motorsport organizers to push down to the grassroots level. If the FIA demanded better “quality” marshals for it’s events, and coughed up some money around the world to facilitate such training. The marshals it would create would not only shine for the single F1 or WEC race held in their area, they would certainly seek other events available around them to keep them busy throughout the year, including other pro races and club events. They would probably travel to volunteer races outside of their area. And all in all the “quality” of the pool of marshals worldwide would be improved.

In closing, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the best marshals are not necessarily those that are the most experienced but those that have the means to travel to and participate in various events. Yas Marina marshals will prove to the world they are the best this weekend not just because they receive amazing training locally, but because the organizers welcome a whole army of visiting officials from around the world that will help the locals prove their worth. There are plenty of British, Canadian, American, Australian, Hungarian and many other nationalities represented alongside the Emiratis in Abu Dhabi this weekend to help the ASN run the event smoothly and professionally. It would be nice then in the future to not hear that the UAE or British or Australian marshals are the best in the world, but that the FIA marshals are the best in the business… I would love to receive some FIA training to make me a better marshal because relying on my local club certainly hasn’t resulted in much.

 

Photo credit (Bernie Ecclestone) unknown, if it belongs to you please provide a hotlink that I could link to giving you credit. Thanks!