All ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what happened. Well, maybe you will, but here’s my little preview of the “season finale” at Road Atlanta during the 2015 Petit Le Mans presented by Mazda (the presented by Mazda bit is obviously a joke, while accurate, it was repetitively used by the flag chief in a NASCAR-style shout-out to the sponsors). I like Mazda even though their booth babe tricked me into taking a survey without actually giving me the hat I was promised for my participation. So screw Mazda! or at least the people they outsourced the marketing duties to during the event.
On a positive note, when Corvette Racing advertises a FREE t-shirt for completing their survey, they actually give you a t-shirt… get it Mazda?
I will make a few posts about each of the topics I wanted to share from Petit Le Mans, but this entry will act like a snapshot of things to come accompanied by some teaser pictures.
This year’s Petit Le Mans was wet… so wet it was cut short, thanks to Hurricane Joaquin stirring shit up in the Atlantic. But I was well prepared. I had a great station assignment that I actually requested, and as luck would have it, I stayed pretty dry throughout this soaker of a week(end).
The saddest part of the trip was catching a glimpse of the MX-5 Cup graveyard near the Skip Barber facility at Road Atlanta. I took some pix, they aren’t pretty:
The action on track cheered me up a bit. I was close to the action and close to the pits, which means I was super close to cars. I love being this close to cars! Like this close:
This is the view from station, with flags in the foreground.
I got a chance to meet up with some great people that fed me well. I love southern BBQ. I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m also glad to see some European friends that I last met in Belgium during Spa 24h.
I had some fun in my rental vehicle which I probably overpaid for, just like the flight, and like the cost of the way to get to the flight… I flew out of Philly International the day after Pope Francis left town. But the rental was worth every penny in the flood that literally took over the camp site. I was dry. I was comfortable. And I was happy! I even got a chance to sit in the truck during the red flag period of the race, with the heat on full blast pointed at my sox… shoes off, getting some much needed rest and warmth from the heater and IMSA radio called by John Hindy from Radio Le Mans thru the car’s stereo!
Yep… I got to park on the pit lane for the main event!
All in all an excellent weekend. There were some people that went out of their way to sort of shut me down and rain on my parade, and I wasn’t really in a position to ignore them, but shit like that happens. I was just happy that the good moments outnumbered the bad.
I don’t hate Teddy!
PS. I got to win another “Mazda” hat during the marshal party! So thanks but no thanks Mazda booth! But I’m happy I got to take some pix with an ND Miata, both the safety cars and the display models.
I also got a chance to sign the nose on the #60 Ligier P2 prototype, they didn’t win and crashed often… but a GTLM car won. A Porsche… which I suspect was done for publicity, both for IMSA and for Porsche in their North American headquarters home of Georgia. Hmm…
I have major praise for Jeanie Caulfied the Motorsport Operations Event Manager with the Circuit of the Americas for a job well done at the Lone Star Le Mans this weekend.
In this blog post I would like to express my gratitude to Jeanie for the awesome work she has been doing, from a marshal’s point of view. That work is greatly appreciated because it makes a big difference for those of us that are visiting marshals. Those that don’t live in the Central Texas area and those investing significant amount of time and money to be able to volunteer the events that COTA puts on.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting Jeanie on my very first trip to COTA for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in 2012. Since then, I’ve been back to Austin a number of times including several Formula 1 and a few WEC events. There were also a few that I almost participated in but things didn’t materialize on my end, most notably MotoGP this year, as well as Pirelli World Challenge and ALMS – American Le Mans that became the current version of IMSA TUSC series. And over the years I’ve learned that the most important person at COTA for the marshals is Jeanie. I made an earlier post praising Brent McNaul for his excellent work as a flag chief for the Lone Star Le Mans, but the majority of e-mails Brent forwarded onto the rest of us marshals actually came from Jeanie. So big thumbs up to her for the open communication channels and being a great person to seek information from about a particular event or the track itself.
I’ve been learning about Jeanie’s job(s) and the multiple hats she wears during a particular event purely from observation. I’ve seen her transport marshals to and from station during the F1 and WEC weekends. She is a great shuttle train driver, pulling several trailers behind a Ford Super Duty in true Texas style. She’s brought us a Kubota quad this weekend to make a quick getaway from station at the end of the day so we don’t impede scheduled track activity that didn’t require marshals. That was very thoughtful so we didn’t have to be stuck on track for another hour at the end of an already long day. Thanks for that!
The track services staff work directly with Jeanie and for anyone that likes food like I do, could appreciate her efforts in organizing lunches and drink runs to all the stations especially on hot days like this weekend. Track food is always a hit or miss. I’ve written posts about us volunteering for a soggy sandwich or how Singapore GP has the worst food I’ve ever had track side by offering Délifrance as the least-likely-to-spoil option in the heat of Southeast Asia (when distributed in the morning sign-on meeting and meant to last to the end of the day without refrigeration on station). But Jason’s Deli that COTA has been offering marshals for the past few years is quite tasty and the variety offers something for everyone. So thumbs up for taking care of us, when all of our attention is on the race cars on track!
I’ve even seen her ride around the ring road with the track services people delivering lunches and drinks with a water gun spraying unsuspecting marshals. So she’s got a great sense of humor to boot.
Jeanie has also been very creative in rewarding volunteer participation with excellent marshal swag. I think this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans was her best work yet with a very stylish t-shirt design. A useful cooler bag with COTA branding. A participant patch customized to show the year of the event. And a neat poncho which we luckily didn’t have the need to use… but it made for a cool and useful keepsake.
Besides being really good at her job she’s also a very pleasant person to talk with. She’s always friendly, polite and courteous and that’s important. Especially when arriving at the track at 5am and leaving after a double shift at 10 or 11pm like this weekend. I know I have a tendency of getting cranky especially when things don’t go my way, but Jeanie has a big smile on her face at the start of the day when you see her during the morning meeting, during lunch delivery or shift relief drop offs, or at the end of the day when we’re dropped off at the marshal tent. Thanks for always smiling!
Thank you very much Jeanie!
In true Austin style, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeanie bring live music to the marshaling tent at a future event… some almost famous dude or a chick with a guitar playing a catchy tune at morning sign-on… yep! totally see that happening.
This was the most amazing event I’ve ever done at Watkins Glen!
The Sahlen’s Six Hour At the Glen 2015 was my first US event of the season, and only second event after the Nurburgring 24h in May. I had the most incredible time and I’ll share the story in this debrief.
I think everything went relatively perfectly throughout this trip. The drive up was on a nice sunny day, I enjoyed the drive with the softer tire/wheel combo on the Miata, got great gas mileage. My name was actually on the registration list which I think was the first time that has happened in my four years with RSI. And I got to hang out with a fellow marshal from Colorado visiting WGI for the first time for this event. It was excellent.
Over the four day weekend I got assigned four excellent station assignments, many took me quite by surprise. I worked Station 10 at the toe of the boot on Thursday, all by myself. Then got moved to Station 1 in Turn 1 for Friday where I worked with one of the WGI employees who said she loved to blue flag, so I got an opportunity to share some of the things I learned over the years working IMSA, and she shared with me some videos from her Twitter feed. She said she follows a bunch of the drivers, especially those from Upstate New York. The weather changed on Saturday and Sunday where we saw two days of rain. It wasn’t heavy rain or stormy weather, but it was fine and consistent which had a similar effect, parts of the schedule were abandoned. Saturday I worked Station 4 at the top of the Esses and Sunday I worked Station 12 at the exit to the hairpin in the toe of the Boot. My schedule was quite similar to the IMSA race I worked last year, I remember working Station 10 alone during the week and Station 12 on race day. I don’t really remember where I was in the middle. But I do remember that I nearly had a heartattack at Station 10 when I stepped on something that was moving under my feet, looked down and it was a small snake a few feet long that scurried away… Yikes!
Unlike last year, I pitched a tent this year. And since I got a very positive experience at Nurburgring using an air mattress, I made sure to bring one with me to New York. The Miata was full to the max with all the gear, both trunk space and the passenger seat. The tent held up pretty well in the weather we had, although I got awoken a few times during the night when the walls were caving in from the wind.
As far as racing goes, the weekend was pretty predictable. While a P2 Prototype posted good numbers in practice it was the Daytona Prototypes that lead the pace of the race… which was kind of Meh! The DeltaWing and diesel Mazda Skyactive P2 were also predictably slow and mostly broken… The best battles were in the GTLM and GTD fields, which was great. I was happy to see the Falken Porsche team do well knowing that they’ve pulled out of IMSA for next year.
I was really happy that I got the opportunity to drive the circuit a few times to get to station and then to get back to the RSI campsite. That’s such an amazing perk that Watkins Glen does for their marshals that is really appreciated, even when I drove the track relatively slowly. It was very cool. I was also thrilled to go walk around the paddock as the teams were getting ready to do qualifying which never actually happened. Because of the rain that was increasing in volume of water getting dumped on the circuit, the day was cut short… you can actually see the rain in my pictures that I shared in the Media post earlier.
Every night of this trip I ended up going out to dine in town. Someone at RSI recommended Jerlando’s at Montour Falls. I’ve tried their calzone and a chicken parm and it was quite tasty, especially having a nice warm meal after a long day at the track. I also got to visit Seneca Lodge pretty much every night. First with Christy from Colorado who has heard about it and had to see it for herself, and then with Jessie from SponsorAFlagger.com It was pretty funny with Jessie when one of the IMSA driver’s came up to her and told her how he follows her marshaling adventures on facebook…. No one has ever done that with me, especially not a race car driver. Go blondie, Go!
While at the RSI compound I was really happy with the way everyone treated me. People were really friendly and welcoming and I really appreciate that when volunteering. I was amazed and thankful for my station assignments every day. The IMSA folks were just as pleased as I was. Even when some of the lingo during communications is uniquely Watkins Glen compared to the rest of the circuits they visit, they spoke very positively at the level of professionalism extended to the series. Calls were concise, precise and accurate. I was lucky enough to make a few of those important calls when two separate cars came to a stop right at my station (Station 10) resulting in practice stoppage. During the race we had a Corvette spin and again stop right at the foot of our station (Station 12) check out my earlier post about that incident. I was very proud to be a member of RSI when things just went right over the weekend. No fighting or bickering, no yelling or screaming. Just business as usual, and everything was done by the book. I loved it!
And so I’m looking forward to my next visit to Watkins Glen in August for the NASCAR Sprint Championship series. Can’t wait…
PS. I was very happy to see tons and tons of MX-5 Miatas at WGI
This is post 3 in a series of about 5 posts from the 2015 IMSA 6hr endurance race at Watkins Glen International Upstate New York.
What a difference another set of tires makes! Last time I did this trip to go to Watkins Glen for the NASCAR track services training I scuffed the hell out of my 17’s with the low profile tires. Since then I’ve been shopping around to get a set of 16’s with a bigger sidewall for a smoother ride as well as a 17″ RX-8 spare donut in case a tire blows out in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania or New York. My shopping results were fruitful because I enjoyed a much more comfortable ride on the OEM 16’s I bought and luckily there wasn’t any blowouts. Very happy! Read about my last road trip to WGI here.
The trip up was just as uneventful as the way back, the difference being weather. It was nice and sunny on Wednesday when I left home. No particular rush to get to the track except I had to be at the registrar office by 4pm. To my surprise I had arrived there way earlier than expected even though there were several traffic spots on the interstate. I took the scenic route through Pennsylvania going along i80 to i380 to i81 in Scranton and then i86/rt 17 in Binghampton all the way to Horseheads/Elmira where I got off the highway and took the local way up to the track.
At the registration building I bumped into a familiar site, a TPC Porsche Cayman Spyder with Bikini Top I’ve definitely seen before. And a predictable photo shoot followed:
What happened at Watkins Glen I’ll cover in another series of posts.
On the way home, the drive was pretty relaxing (after the 6hr enduro). I got to use my newly installed intermittent windshield wiper switch quite extensively because the weather kept on changing along the way, and I hit plenty of rain of various severity. Got to see some nice cars leaving the track, like this Porsche 911 GT3 with Georgia manufacturer plates:
And of course there was an obligatory stop at Sheetz just outside of Scranton, PA… it’s like a tradition for me now to stop there whenever I’m in Pennsylvania. Picked up a 3 pack of burger sliders, and some chicken nuggets for dinner, and continued on my way stuffing my face while driving.
It was a really awesome road trip, and I’m looking forward to the next one in August for NASCAR at Watkins Glen.
18.79 gallons used, 607 total miles done = 32 MPG mostly highway but plenty of slow driving from campground to the track in 1st and 2nd gear (making it mixed city/highway driving). Total spent on fuel $56.27 making an average price per gallon just under $3… with the cheapest gas in NJ at $2.859 and the priciest gas in NY $3.179 for 93 octane premium fuel.
The Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen this weekend was a wonderful event through and through. Absolutely everything went perfectly, I was super pleased. We even had one incident at the start of the feature race, however my response to that incident made me question how I handled it. So here’s some food for thought.
I even posted the scenario for discussion on the Flag Marshals of the World facebook group and the answers were exactly as I anticipated them to be… torn right down the middle it’s either one thing or the other: Green or Yellow flag.
What would you do when a car crashes right at your flag point?
It is stopped with part of the car on racing line… do you wave the Yellow or do you wave the Green flag?
I waved Yellow knowing that I’m shutting down the long straight between Station 12 and Station 13 for racing. Station 11 backed us up with another waving Yellow at our request because the drivers were coming around a hairpin turn and going uphill into a blind spot. The incident was over in less than a minute. Race Control advised us that next time we should wave Green. And after that we heard one of the cars get penalized for passing under our Yellow flag. We did not see the pass happen because it must have happened closer to Station 13 and we did not actually have a direct line of sight to the next station.
The video of the incident would make an excellent training piece if any of the marshal schools decided to use it. I’m certainly saving it for my own reference in the future. The YouTube clip from TUSC and screen shots from the video are attached below:
Fast forward to minute marker: 14 and 15 minutes into the broadcast. Screen Shot images are from Fox broadcast and used for educational/non-for-profit purposes.
Corvette GTLM in traffic among GTD class cars sliding sideways
Corvette GTLM started losing it on the straight from 11 to 12
Corvette GTLM hits the ARMCO with the left front and bounces off
Corvette GTLM hits the ARMCO with the left rear sliding to a stop
Corvette GTLM finally comes to rest facing wrong way, counter race
Corvette GTLM proceeds to cross track trying to turn around
Corvette GTLM unable to complete the U-turn has to back up a little
Oliver Gavin (Le Mans 24h champion) comes up the hill in the toe of the boot (hairpin) at Watkins Glen and loses it in the straight… 6 minutes and 57 seconds into the 6 hour race, causing him to spin and hit the ARMCO. He is facing counter race on driver’s right. He waits for the pack to pass and proceeds across the track driver’s left where he is unable to complete the turn and leaves the back of his car on the racing line. He waits again for the leaders of the Prototype class to go by, backs up and continues on. No big deal, minor incident with minimal damage to the car.
Seeing him lose it, when the car was sideways, I put out a waved Green flag. My communicator Robbie called Race Control to tell Station 11 to go waving Yellow. The car slid past our station and I changed my flag to waving Yellow. I saw him attempt to turn around so I continued waving while he was inching forward with at least part of the car still on track. Once he stopped under our feet I was contemplating to start waving Green again to allow the rest of the field to resume racing, but I didn’t. I continued waving Yellow flag until Oliver backed up enough so he could straighten the car out, and drove off. I switched to waving the White flag as he continued well off pace, and other cars had to pass him on the right. He was back up to speed at the next station, and the incident was over.
Why did I contemplate waving the Green flag as he was clearly at our station? (something Race Control suggested after watching the video)
Because procedurally speaking, any incident before the station requires a waved Green flag, any incident after the station requires a waved Yellow flag but any incident at station requires discretion. I obviously thought that having part of the car exposed on racing line could result into flying debris in the form of small or big chunks of carbon fiber or worse, hot fluids resulting from a crash. The drivers are not supposed to accelerate until they see a Green flag. But being that the car was right under the waved point (station), and the track condition was wet and getting wetter, it seemed like a dangerous option. Most cars started the race on slicks and it wouldn’t be uncommon to see cars go slight sideways as they hit the accelerator (had they seen the Green flag at our station).
I like the responses I got in the discussion on facebook because plenty of people feel the same way I felt. However, there were just as many people that suggested Green flag was the correct choice, and obviously based on the video Race Control agreed. I was faced with a very similar situation a few years ago at Laguna Seca in California. During the MX-5 Cup race I had a car pull off track and stop right at my station leaving part of the car right at the apex of the turn… the very famous turn: the Corkscrew. Since the car was nose-first facing the piece of concrete slab I was standing on, and the driver got out and quickly got behind my station, I did not show any flag. The flag point behind me went Yellow, and the next flag point down the hill went Green. I was concerned showing the Green flag because if anyone lost control and hit the car in the apex of the turn, the car would hit me directly. If I waved Yellow, then the cars wouldn’t be able to race all the way until the next point, which was relatively close, but still shut down a part of the track. And so I have been debating this situation ever since. The only difference between the Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen incidents is that I was working alone at Laguna… luckily at Watkins Glen I asked Robbie for his opinion and he agreed with me to continue displaying the waved Yellow.
There was a joke with the SCCA… when flagging an incident that happens at your station, take a step away from the incident and now you don’t have to show the flag any more, it’s the flag point prior to your’s concern. Since the SCCA does not use the Green flag past an incident, and the drivers know to resume racing once they clear an incident, this isn’t much of an issue but with IMSA using modified FIA rules where Green flag is required, I didn’t think it would be appropriate to take a step away from the incident to wave my Green. Perhaps I should have. Perhaps I chickened out at the prospect of having a relatively minor incident escalate into a major incident.
I don’t know.
I would like to learn from this…. but honestly, if I’m faced with the exact same set of circumstances I would probably wave Yellow again.
I remember reading something Stef Schrader posted on Jalopnik that required the use of the Poop Emoji… and that was the first thing that came to mind during the Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen last weekend when, with an hour left to go, I was in what could only be described as the most severe pain at the most inconvenient time I have ever experienced. And I totally handled the situation wrong. But it makes for a hell of a story since this could happen to anybody. As embarrassing as the act of pooping is, we all do it… and as a marshal what do you do when you must poop during the race?
This is practically a public service announcement… Remember folks: call your flag chief if nature calls! It’s a lesson that I forgot to remember.
To paint the scene without giving away too many details, myself and Robbie from Canada were working Station 12 at Watkins Glen. It is in the toe of the boot, downhill from a big spectator area, which had one portable john shared among the spectators and the marshals. The weather was shit. It wasn’t pouring rain, but it rained constantly for two days. The ground was saturated. The race was red flagged when turn 1 lost visibility of the start stand and couldn’t do their job properly because between the fog setting in and the mist from the rooster tails, it was pretty awful. The race resumed after the red flag… the leaders crashed, and we were back to full course yellows. And my stomach was feeling like someone was sticking a dull knife in there and trying to move it side to side, up and down… it wasn’t good at all.
Robbie was farting up a storm. He was especially amused with himself because the TV people attached a microphone right at the “ass” level directly next to the spot we were flagging from. Every opportunity he got he ripped a big one and that brought many smiles to his face, and I increased the distance between us going back a step or two. He was happy like a pig in mud, but I was ready to cry. And instead of calling the flag chief to relieve me, so to speak… so I can drive up to one of the proper bathrooms on the infield, I puckered up. Instead of leaving Robbie to his own devices… I puckered up. And the damn pain got stronger. I was contemplating walking up to the portable john on top of the hill from the station by the spectators, but there was a big lake of mud right at the entrance, and much of that mud made it’s way in with the heavy traffic that porta-pod was seeing. Pooping there was not an option, at least not without transferring some of that brown mud on my white gear. So I puckered up.
I was too embarrassed to broadcast my call of nature to race control and all the other marshals on our net, as discreetly as it could have been done, I figured everyone would know. So I didn’t, instead I’m making this very public post to remind myself in the future and anyone else for that matter. What do you do when you must poop and the track is hot, there’s a race going on? Call for help! I don’t care if you’re working on station alone, or have a happy Canadian to keep you company, call for help. And go poop!
You’ll feel like a new person when it’s all done. I know I did.
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
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.
I don’t think one could truly substitute a race of Le Mans 24h magnitude. But one could certainly try.
Last year I wrote about trying to make a decision as to which European Endurance race I should marshal (click here: Which European endurance race do I pick?) I’m proud to say that the 24h of Nurburgring has materialized and 24h of Spa is within reach just over a month away. But Le Mans 24h, the race that Patrick Dempsey in a recent Jalopnik interview called the best endurance race in the world, has gotten away.
But I won’t despair. I’ve picked a few alternative races with the words: “Le Mans” in their titles a little closer to home. Among them are the Lone Star Le Mans at COTA in Texas and Petit Le Mans in Georgia at Road Atlanta. I also signed up for the Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen which is obviously at Watkins Glen in Upstate New York.
I have worked all of the races before and unlike the original classic in France where we work in shifts with plenty of downtime, I expect to work the entirety of each of the races for all of these events, cumulatively totaling more than the 24 hours of flat out racing. This is pretty exciting. There will be 6 hours of World Endurance Championship (WEC) at COTA supported by about 3 hours of IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship (TUSC), and 10 hours for the season finale IMSA TUSC at Road Atlanta. As well as 6 hours of IMSA TUSC at Watkins Glen International. 6+2:45+10+6=24h 45mins.
What do I expect to see at each of the races?
WEC on US soil is always a great sight. I hope the Nissan Nismo GT-R LMP1 car makes an appearance at COTA after it’s debut at Le Mans France. I also hope that Ford brings the latest Ford GT race car to Texas after it’s debut in France. I’m sure the fields of cars will be far smaller in the US as they will be in France, but whatever shows up will be a welcome sight.
What will I miss at Le Mans?
The Aston Martin historics race featuring GT1, GT2, GT3 and GT4 race cars of various vintage that have raced before at Le Mans and apparently some of the Nurburgring 24h specials.
McLaren is also celebrating it’s 25th anniversary and there was talk of McLaren race car parade featuring some rare gems from their illustrious racing history. I wish I could have seen that.
But for the price of doing one event I get to do three, and that makes me quite happy. I have now organized the conclusion to my racing season this year, and I’m proud of what events I have added to my resume as a marshal. The planning for 2016 season is well underway and I’m hoping that both Dubai 24h and Bathurst 12h materialize.
Jeanie also included a link to the MotorsportReg.com registration page which is the most thoroughly put together MotorsportReg.com registration I have ever experienced. So much so I’ll include the screen shots below:
I have signed up. I hope others do too!
This is seriously a model of what proper event registration should look like.
I did not go to Sebring this year. It is one of the many “must-do” events I decided to cut from my volunteering schedule. And judging by some comments on facebook about full course yellows resulting from a tire debris, I don’t think I regret the decision either. But seeing Jim Swintal post this on the SCCA marshals page made me smile:
Finally they got something right, the worker swag!
I know what you’re thinking… it’s just a pin, who cares? I think people care. I was once told that motorsport volunteering is not about trinkets, getting freebies or more importantly expecting something. (*we are apparently required to show up, shut up and do a job, not expecting anything in return… I think it’s flawed thinking! the motivational power of swag, even though I have boxes full of t-shirts and hats as many others do, is strong. Receiving a small token of appreciation from the organizers makes you feel appreciated, and therefore makes you want to come back time and again).
I would not be surprised with the power this little thing has over someone’s decision whether to do an event or not. I want one, and I could totally see myself spending a few hundred dollars in air travel, car rental and accommodation costs to work a race where I’d get a pin to add to my collection. And I don’t even like pins, I’d personally prefer a patch. But this pin would do. Could I buy it on eBay? Of course I could, and probably spend far less money than trying to earn it after booking flights, rental cars and hotels, not to mention a few long days of being trackside. But where’s the fun in that? And shame on those that would sell their participant pins to make money! (obviously they’re probably the ones with sticky fingers, taking more pins than what they were entitled to at the morning meeting).
I like the number plate idea, as it is used a lot more than the Tudor United SportsCar Championship logo, because IMSA integrates more series now than just TUSC. It might have made sense in the past to make an ALMS pin or patch when that was all that IMSA sanctioned (besides ALMS Lights/Lites?) but now with CTSCC – Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, Ferrari Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo… and others I’m glad the number plate design is used. And it’s use is very clever, like the corner book covers for each event. How brilliant?!?
Anyway, congrats to all those Sebring 12h participants that got their hands on this nice little pin. Hopefully IMSA will have some patches made up later on in the season so I could add both to my collection!