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!