If you think marshal invitations for Lone Star Le Mans & Petit Le Mans are early, you haven’t gotten an invite for 2017 yet… mine showed up a few days ago from Australia. The Bathurst 12 hour race is in February of 2017 but V8 Supercars or just Supercars are already recruiting!
Having done it twice, I highly recommend this event!
What is it; Bathurst 12h
When is it: February 3-5, 2017
Where is it:Mount Panorama Circuit, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Who’s recruiting: Supercars
Who will be there: Australian GT + multiple international entries. Typical support races include production cars which are 1970’s style HQ Holden taxis, Northern Muscle Club from Australia bring their vintage Trans Am cars, etc.
How to get there? Fly into Sydney (SYD) and take the 4 hour drive to Bathurst. Public transport is possible with train connections in Lithgow, but I’d recommend hiring a car instead. Alternatively you can probably go on Flag Marshals of the World and bum a ride from a local… I’ve rented a car in 2013 and mooched a ride in 2016.
Where to stay? The cheapest place: Mt Panorama campground. The camping is shared with spectators but is pretty close to the Marshal Mustering tent, with convenient access to the track and stations. In the past I also used CouchSurfing to stay in the surrounding area. But camping is convenient (as much as I dislike it).
Though I didn’t get to marshal at Pukekohe Park Raceway on this visit, I was lucky enough to stop by at the circuit and do a few laps around with Anna Scott behind the wheel showing me all the changes since the last time I marshaled there.
There were cars on track the day of my visit, some of them race cars while others just souped up street cars, so I’ll go ahead and include a post about this experience here. Why not?
The Sunday of my visit was a private track rental by what looked to be a Nissan enthusiast group with plenty of great looking Skyline GT-R’s, Sylvia’s and other Japanese cars in attendance.
Judging by the burned paint on the bumper I’m going to guess this car means business!
Naturally I was most interested to see some souped up MX-5’s at this track rental, but it was definitely a different crowd. We did spot one red GT PRHT in attendance and I rushed over to say hello. The owner, a member of the MX-5 Club of New Zealand turned out to be the father of one of the Skyline racers there. Nice to see family supporting their kid’s participation in Motorsport. And more importantly instead of having them hoon on the street, they actually join their son doing it the correct way, racing around a race track.
A great car indeed 🙂
Anna was kind enough to give me a tour of the facilities which have really grown since my last visit. Race Control had moved from a little shack like structure to a proper building. The track is now lined with barriers plucked directly from the Hamilton street circuit where Australian V8’s used to race, and in general this little horse racing track looks like a world class facility. Shame I didn’t get a chance to actually marshal there this time…
A few days earlier, while my Aussie friend Ian was dropping me off at Anna’s house, we made a drive by past Pukekohe and sure enough we spotted another MX-5 entering the track. Much like Australia the MX-5’s are right in their element in New Zealand, the country has a perfect weather for owning a Roadster!
Hey remember that new Intercontinental GT Challenge series?
After volunteering Spa 24 hour in Belgium I’ve been obsessing about all things SRO, for a variety of reasons. One of the better ones being the quality of race cars participating in their events. This was true at Sepang 12 hour a few months ago, another event SRO decided to work together with SIC to put together and bring to the world. The SRO partnership with V8 Supercars, the new owners of Australian GT that runs the Bathurst 12 hour race around Mount Panorama was officially the season opener of the new series.
The event didn’t disappoint.
While the fields were smaller than the previous few years, the quality of racing improved in my opinion. There were fewer incidents including major ones at the top of the mountain like last year’s massive Nissan GT-R impact. The few incidents that did occur were relatively minor and many of them happened to happen right in front of me at Post 23, the very last corner before the main straight. I was so lucky to be assigned this spot, words can’t describe. The race set several records, including the fastest time for a GT3 car as well as the most laps done in 12 hours with fewer safety car periods compared to previous years.
Another lucky thing for me was the fact that a Kiwi driver took the victory in a Kiwi car: Shane Van Gisbergen driving the #59 McLaren. Coincidentally the next stop on my road trip was New Zealand.
The views from my post were absolutely awesome, both looking upstream and downstream. Though I did find myself having a lot of trouble with the Blue flag. More than once I managed to blue flag the wrong cars and that pissed me off, especially since I thought I knew these cars pretty well. Luckily we had the positioning tower directly across from us in pit lane, so after kicking myself with the first few mistakes I would glance over at the tower to see what order the cars should be running in and if the two were close enough I went ahead and blue flagged for the leaders.
The other disappointment wasn’t so much in the race as with the organizers. V8 Supercars decided not to allow the groups of owners holding a car show on the outside of the track to do a parade lap during the lunch break like they did in previous years. Instead they gave all the track time to a few Ferrari owners that for some unknown reasons thought they were race car drivers. I saw one guy wearing bright red racing gloves in his new Ferrari 488, while also wearing a short sleeve shirt. It was a bit upsetting to me personally because I was eagerly looking forward to jumping into one of the many MX-5’s that showed up to the event specifically with the understanding they were going to do a parade lap, a lap that never happened. Go figure!
Luckily there was a lot going on trackside to let me get over the missed opportunity of riding shotgun in an MX-5 around Mount Panorama. Besides a few spins and beached cars in our sand trap we had a few side to side, metal to metal contacts occur. As well as an exploded engine that happened just before the post as the car proceeded to cruise into our runoff. It was something else really, watching an old V8 Supercars Marlboro livery Holden Commodore blow an engine and a massive fireball coming around the car from the bottom of the front end. It was pretty amazing, something I haven’t seen happen so closely and vividly before.
The true highlight of the event for me was the people I had the pleasure of spending the time with. The team I was paired with at Post 23 was pretty amazing. Our post chief was really down to earth, positive and helpful. When I talked to him about my Gout flare up, he was very understanding. As was the rest of the team. Our communicator Dave runs a Mazda related web site called OZMazda which was cool. And a young girl from Queensland marshaling at Bathurst with her father who was posted at the next station gave me a hand with a bunch of incident reports I had to write as many of them happened on my watch while holding the radio in our rotation. Which by the way was actually an old American landline system using the same exact box we use at most street circuits including Long Beach, Baltimore and Belle Isle. The hum coming out of the headset was unmistakable.
Huge thanks to my friend Paul Kelly from Victoria for organizing my sleeping arrangements at Bathurst by not only providing a tent, sleeping bag and pillows, but also setting it all up for me and helping tear it down in the end. That was such a huge help! Also big thanks to Paul for driving me and the rest of our group to town every evening after track activities were over, all these delicious meals we had were thanks to his initiative to get us some real food (off track).
I got lucky on so many levels working this year’s Bathurst 12 hour. The weather was amazing, it started out a little cool but towards the end of the week I was frying in direct sunlight, it was literally burning thru my jeans. The post assignment was perfect. The team I worked with was super. And all the friends I got to catch up with over the four day visit really makes me miss the whole experience already, can’t wait to return to Australia again… hopefully next time I’ll get to do something completely new like one of the street races around Gold Coast… hmm!
Another trip of a lifetime is in the books! Although I shouldn’t call it “lifetime” because I know sooner or later I’ll be departing on other one. In fact with an amazing trip of a lifetime just a few months ago to Southeast Asia, I would call this the trip of the year, or at the very least trip of the month: February 2016!
This post will be a brief overview: a debrief, of the trip overall followed by a number of specific posts about the individual events I’ve marshaled, the experiences I had hanging out with the local MX5 clubs and catching some sun in some very exotic places as part of the vacation that tied this trip together. I had such a blast!
To start, I flew to Australia via Hawai’i. And unlike my first visit there a few years ago after Korean Grand Prix, I decided to get off the plane at Honolulu and actually spend the night in Waikiki Beach. The Polynesian theme for the rest of the trip truly began there. Besides enjoying an amazing sunset that I shared with a few folks at home via Facetime, I got to experience some of the local cuisine just outside of the touristy area. I loved it!
Of course an overnight stay in Paradise wasn’t enough, at all! But it was just a start to my South Pacific adventure. I’m kind of glad I broke the trip in half because some of these longer flights of 10+ hours have started getting to me, tiring me out completely. This time I was travelling with an extra handicap I hadn’t encountered on previous trips. I had a flare up of Gout Arthritis just a few days before leaving and my right foot was in terrible pain, something akin to walking on glass. The pain wouldn’t really go away for the entire trip but since I couldn’t do much about it I just learned to live with it.
Next stop: Sydney! The flight arrived in the early evening and after a quick clearance at Immigration I headed to the CBD to get some sleep before heading out for Bathurst early the next morning. Like Waikiki I decided to stay in a hostel near Central station for convenience and it worked out really well for me.
In the morning I managed to arrange a lift with someone from the MX-5 community in Sydney. It’s really nice to see how close the Miata community is to Motorsport and specifically marshaling. The lady who’s car I got to check out on my first day in Australia volunteers as a Steward while her son is a flag marshal, who was kind enough to let me tag along for the two hour drive to Mount Panorama. While I could have taken the train all the way to town, I found it far more interesting to have some company along the way. It was especially interesting when we were on the hunt for Meat Pies for lunch while passing through Lithgow. That’s where I spotted something I really wanted to see on my trip, a Miata trailer. The owner drove past us as we parked up near the bakery and while he was stopped on a red light I tried to snap a fuzzy shot of his car.
I will talk about my experiences at Bathurst 12 hour and Mount Panorama in a separate post but suffice to say it was an interesting experience. While it wasn’t my first visit there, it was definitely a little different from before. For the first time I camped right at the track. A fellow Aussie marshal Paul from Victoria was kind enough to supply me with a comfortable tent, some pillows and a sleeping bag, which helped a lot so I didn’t have to drag all that stuff with me. Not only that he was our designated driver taking a whole group of us out to dinner in town every night, which was fantastic. It was the first time I consistently stuffed my face with proper Australian food including roast lamb and a variety of other local pub dishes.
After the event I headed back to Sydney for a few more nights in a CBD hostel. I had a few things planned but the stay was way too short. Luckily I did manage to squeeze in a lunch at Bondi Beach which I was really looking forward to as well as a nice MX-5 cruise from Kirribilli to Balmoral Beach with a meeting spot just under the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was pretty spectacular. So many cars showed up! I was pleasantly surprised and very humbled to see so many owners give up their weeknight for a little cruise along the Northern Sydney suburbs for some fish and chips. Again I will write more about it later but I can’t express my gratitude enough to have had this opportunity!
Next stop: Auckland! A short hop and skip over the ditch (as they refer to the Tasman Sea) and I was in New Zealand. The flight arrived after midnight and I was off to my hostel in the CBD. Early next morning another MX-5 meetup awaited me, and after a short 4 hour sleep I was in a beautiful JDM-import Roadster heading to Papakura for my next adventure which I’ll describe in it’s own post. In a way it was another Fish & Chips run but this one lasted for over 300km visiting some scenic and twisty roads across the entire Northern Island from West (Waihu) to East (Coromandel Peninsula).
As if this incredible two car road trip (as I jumped out from one car to the other at every stop we made), couldn’t get any better – it did! The day ended on a boat in Auckland Harbour where we had a nice dinner joining another MX-5 owner while he and his family celebrated the mum’s birthday. This was my first time on the water on the North Island something I was putting away until later while living in Auckland and never actually following through with, until now. It was really amazing.
Believe it or not I actually got to marshal while in New Zealand. It was only a one day meeting for Auckland Car Club at Hampton Downs but I certainly got my money’s worth with plenty of spins and spills on Turn 2 where I was lucky enough to work. It was such a good pleasure to catch up with a bunch of people whom I started my marshaling with while living in New Zealand a few years ago. And it was nice to see the improvements done and are currently ongoing to Hampton Downs under Tony Quinn’s ownership.
Besides Hampton Downs, Anna Scott – who hosted me for the weekend, took me to Pukekohe Raceway Park and showed me the improvements done there after Aussie V8 Supercars moved to their event there from the streets of Hamilton. I had such an incredible time I’ll have to write more about it in another post.
Although I had already spent two weeks on the road which seemed to have gone by in a flash, I still had one more exotic stop on this incredible journey: Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! I was really looking forward to this visit because it was something I planned to do while living in New Zealand back in 2012. Now the dream came true. I didn’t know what to expect but the reality surprised me in a very pleasant way. The tiny island of Rarotonga was very clean, friendly and welcoming for my visit. The resort I booked (my first stay in a proper hotel on this trip after all the hostels in Hawaii, Sydney and Auckland I decided to splurge and pamper myself) was fantastic. I got to tour the island, sample some delicious Polynesian food and completely relax on the pristine beaches with baby blue water crashing over the corals just off shore. What an experience!
The trip home at the end of this vacation took me back through Auckland where I was a total zombie while shopping for souvenirs to take home. Luckily I was able to meet up with friends for lunch and dinner and that kept me awake long enough for some much needed sleep on my 11 hour flight back to LAX.
Huge thanks to all the people that helped me along on this trip. I couldn’t have done this without you!
For all those times I bitched and moaned that my local club was doing it wrong by not offering training, allow me to point out a club that keeps doing it right time and again. I got an invite from CAMS to participate in one of their many training modules available around the country. What would it cost SCCA to scramble one of these e-mails together and blast it to all it’s marshaling members? Can’t be that much… right?
Anyway, look at this amazing e-mail I got:
Upcoming Officials Training Modules
More courses will be organised for 2015 around Australia and the course information will be updated on the website as it becomes available.For the most up to date information on courses that are available for you to attend, please visit theCAMS website
A full calendar of training courses can be found here
Bronze Scrutineer (Vermont) – Saturday/Sunday 11-12th July
CATO (Melbourne) – Wednesday 30th September
Stewards – See South Australia for Training event on the border (Mount Gambier)
For those of you interested in volunteering an Aussie V8 Supercars race outside of Australia, there’s no better place than New Zealand!
The Motorsport Club of Auckland, NZ is now recruiting for the ITM500 event at the Pukekohe Raceway Park (the little horsetrack surrounded by a newly improved automotive racetrack) about an hour’s drive south of Auckland.
The registration process to marshal the Clipsal 500 round of the ’15 V8 Supercars season opener has started. You are invited to join!
Before I go into details about Clipsal 500 or V8 Supercars, watch this:
That my friends, is quality racing and something you will absolutely enjoy while volunteering in Adelaide, South Australia. I was fortunate enough to participate a few years ago and had an absolute blast. Adelaide is a convenient circuit to get to… If you’re flying to Australia internationally you have plenty of options when searching for an airfare deal. Flying into Sydney or Melbourne is feasible as a connecting flight to Adelaide is very short. Regardless where you stay in the city, the track is walking distance from downtown. CAMS and SAMROA take excellent care of their guest marshals. And so does V8 Supercars organization.
As I have now started my first full week – working again (two jobs, ugh!) I’ve had the time to reflect on the recent racing I’ve done and the fact that I’ve been ‘forced’ not to register for future F1 events including Canada and Singapore. It was not an easy decision to make, to be sure, but a necessary one. This hobby is not cheap… even while living on a shoe-string budget and traveling with minimal expenses it still adds up. It adds insult to injury when you come back from an event in a bad mood, because of the treatment you receive.
Watching a “Thank You Marshals” video from Australia did make me smile though…
…because despite feeling unappreciated, taken advantage of and often times downright abused by the organizers with all the rules and ridiculous expectations, we are an integral part of motorsport and I wish more people would consider volunteering in the future.
Any closer to the action and you’ll be in the driver’s seat for the race. Experience the sounds of Australian Motorsports from a marshal’s perspective. Enjoy, discuss… interested in marshalling? Get in touch!
I wish there were more marshal training opportunities.
Facebook Groups as well as Ten-Tenths Forum is still abuzz with discussion and outpouring of condolences for the loss of life at the Canadian GP. Yet, save for a moment of silence at few upcoming events, I haven’t seen much said in regard to improving the marshal training initiatives. The attitude in North America is, from what it seems to me, “we are professionals, we know what we’re doing.” I take issue with that sort of thinking because even after working 35 mostly-pro weekends last year I have yet to pull a pin on a fire extinguisher. And I have been nagging people in my local SCCA region (and division), as well as New Zealand last year before I moved back to the US to see if I can get fire training done. But its not just fire training. Especially at pro events, organizers go out of their way to keep the marshals away from competitors or their cars. But when incidents happen in the middle of the race, we are expected to jump and resolve things quickly as if we engineered those cars and knew exactly how to handle them. Everyone in this industry needs an attitude adjustment.
The training I have received so far has been invaluable in my opinion. People laughed at me when I said we had classroom training in Singapore where I started marshalling. But what’s wrong with that? Knowing the theory prepares you to formulate an approach to problem solving when you are faced with the situation in real life. Singapore has also provided me with crane / recovery training on site at the Manitou SG facility where we learned how to properly hook, walk the car to a safe spot, and lift it on a flat tow. Many lessons from that experience are still fresh in my mind, like keeping constant eye contact with the crane operator. The fact that one person can safely balance the car which shouldn’t be raised above eye level when moving so that you can see where you’re going without straining, not getting caught between the swinging car and the crane, etc. These concepts were later reinforced at Mid Ohio when the Holmatro crew handled a beached Indycar in one of the run-offs where I assisted.
In New Zealand where I volunteered to work recovery every time there were more flaggers than safety crew, we even learned how to handle a V8 Supertourer in case of emergency. One of the teams demonstrated the kill switch, where to use the jaws of life on a roll cage and even how to take the driver side door off without destroying the car (there’s a small latch that releases the door which can be easily lifted off the car with one hand). This demo again was invaluable because you, as a first responder, knew exactly where to go responding to an incident instead of trying to figure it out and wasting valuable time during race conditions.
At my second V8 Supertourer event in two years, again working rescue, we were shown how to work with medical crews to extricate a driver. Not only did the team volunteer a car for this demo, they even lent us a driver to go with it, fully suited and wearing a helmet.
I was extremely fortunate in my short marshalling career to be presented with the opportunities I had, especially overseas. I learned how to flag in Asia Pacific, specifically during my time in New Zealand. But I also learned how to work as part of the rescue crew. Which has been especially valuable in North America where marshals are expected to work all positions from flags to comms, to safety and rescue.
But I have yet to do a new or refresher training course, like the one I’ve been eager to do for fire training, back home in the states. I am constantly getting invited to join the local marshals at their social dinner, what seems like every other month now. But instead of sitting around and bullshitting about this and that, and how close someone came to getting hit, or how fantastically they handled an incident. I’d rather put my $85 annual membership to better use, why can’t they just offer training instead of the monthly socials?
To the reader I’m sure this post sounds like a criticism, but it isn’t intended that way. I am very proud of all the events I’ve been fortunate to participate in North America. But having a baseline to compare them to overseas, specifically Australia and Singapore, I think more can be done for worker safety. In fact, both Singapore and South Korean GP’s saw marshals practicing recoveries before marshal meetings or during the downtime (and there is always plenty of downtime at pro events). It really doesn’t take that much time to assemble the relevant people and run a short refresher demo to make sure everyone is on the same page during the fast paced events that happen in an actual race. Get a team involved, let them bring a car so we can see it up close, touch it, get instructions on how to handle it without causing damage to it or to us, etc.
In closing I really want to reiterate the point that I feel we need more training. You never stop learning in this hobby, and number of years of participation is no gauge for experience. You can be doing this for ten years but if you’ve never had an incident with a fire it won’t help you with proper fire extinguisher handling. Similarly, in North America where we pay hefty membership fees just for the privilege of being a volunteer, I would like to see those fees go towards training rather than insurance (which so many people have pointed out to me as a massive benefit of being a member). For $85/year I would rather prevent an injury rather than rely on some form of minimal compensation later. Be safe everyone!
On the job training at the 24hrs of Daytona 2013, car impacted my station, you can see white uniform and yellow flag in the background (Tim and I were on flags at that time)… this was one of five times we had to run off station to take cover and than run back to put the yellow flag out.