Top 10 Circuits to Marshal

Having read one of the most ridiculous Top 10 lists about someone’s interpretation of the best circuits in America, here’s one I’d like to present to you – the reader, from a marshal’s perspective. So Buzzfeed eat your heart out!

I will of course start out with a tie for tenths spot, out of the 30+ tracks I’ve volunteered over the past few years it was a really hard decision to narrow down a list of my favorites. Keep in mind of course that depending on the event or even weather conditions this list may change quite dramatically:

#10(a) Manfeild Circuit – Feilding, New Zealand

new zealand manfeild

The reason this fairly unknown track (if you’re a motorsport fan or marshal outside the Pacific) made it on my Ten Best List is because of “food!” In fact it tied for tenths place with the other track because of the same reason: “food!” Now let me tell you why I think this track is an amazing facility to marshal if you happen to live or visit North Island in the beautiful country of New Zealand. Location, location, location. When living in Auckland, NZ and marshaling almost on a weekly basis I became a huge fan of the Toyota Racing Series (a development open wheel series run in the off season or European/North American winter – Australpacific summer). I learned about the New Zealand Grand Prix and without hesitation booked a flight to Palmerston North, bound for my first flagging experience in Manfeild. The facility itself is fairly small, flat and unremarkable… playing to the saying I once heard somebody say: “How could such a rugged country full of rolling hills, mountains and excellent driving roads have such flat circuits.” However, the good thing is you could see most of the track from just about any station, so you can always keep abreast of what’s happening. But my favorite part was the hospitality. The food! Even though the facility seems quite glossy and gleaming with fancy modern buildings all around, we were herded into a shed that I think is normally used for auctioning sheep. How authentic? Speaking of authentic we were served big trays of home cooked kiwi food. That was the highlight of my visit, no doubt and I highly recommend it to anyone to experience such beauty for themselves. I know my friends will think I’m a massive pig if I don’t mention the amazing kiwi hospitality I received marshaling Aussie V8’s on the Hamilton Street Circuit, but since that place is no more, Manfeild takes the cake.

#10(b) Mosport (CTMP) – Ontario, Canada

mosport alms 2

Mosport = Poutine! For me anyway. I know I’m geographically in the wrong province for the tasty, gooey, cheesy goodness that is Quebec’s national dish… but having great poutine at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) or Mosport as everyone actually still calls it, is an absolute must. (there’s a fantastic place selling the best poutine I’ve had in Ontario at a gas station a few kilometers north of the track) I know people will say that there are much better reasons to visit this facility because it is a genuinely great racing circuit, I agree… but again for me poutine hits the spot, every time! The locals are incredibly friendly and super welcoming. There is quite a community of marshals with their own camping area which I called home for several race weekends. And I really enjoy coming to Ontario because they never give me such a hard time that Quebecki immigration does. I appreciate how well organized the marshaling operation is at CTMP, there’s a clear hierarchy and a chain of command. An expectation to act professional, and designated roles with the appropriate expertise level. I love this place! And the best thing to do after you’ve balooned from a big styrofoam box of hot french fries smothered in cheese and gravy, is to take a long and relaxing stroll around the whole circuit… it’s great exercise!

#9 Laguna Seca – Monterey, California, USA

laguna seca alms

Laguna Seca had been a rather illusive place for me to visit for many years. Long before I started marshaling, and by long I mean a period of time no more than five years. I had yearned to come drive the corkscrew as part of the SRT track experience. Tried and failed. Four times I ended up doing the experience at alternate tracks and the closest I’ve come to experiencing the corkscrew was at the Thunderhill version of that turn called the cyclone. But from a marshaling perspective it is a fascinating facility and working the actual corkscrew was a dream come true, especially once I actually ended up working the corkscrew. You see, as a turn the corkscrew has several positions. The local club: San Francisco Region SCCA does an amazing job of fulfilling your requests to station you on the turn that you like, and I received my orders to work the corkscrew every time I visited Laguna Seca. Unfortunately, there are parts of the turn that don’t actually allow you any visibility of the famous landmark even when you are working that turn, I’m speaking about the uphill area leading up to the corkscrew. Amazing place to blue flag your heart out, but without the actual view of the turn (and how the right front wheel of each race car gets high up in the air before it drops three stories heading down hill). The best place to work the corkscrew is at the very top of the turn, standing on a concrete block next to the famous tree that is on the logo of Laguna Seca / Monterey or at the very downhill looking straight up at the corkscrew. As if I didn’t mention the word “corkscrew” enough times, go to Laguna Seca for the corkscrew!… and the beautiful California countryside that surrounds it. (You can see the Pacific Ocean from the corkscrew)

#8 Marina Bay Circuit – Singapore

singapore gp

Singapore gave me my start as a marshal, I would be a major Dick if I didn’t bother mentioning it. However, as luck would have it: Marina Bay street circuit is actually an incredible place to marshal. It is well set up, everything is walking distance to everything, and it is smack in the middle of town which is one of the best reasons I absolutely love working street circuits in general ever since. And one of the top reasons I kept returning to Singapore, it’s the heart of Southeast Asia and was my launching point for exploration of all the cities and countries I visited as a result of living there. The most incredible attribute of the Singapore GP and Marina Bay circuit is the buzz or atmosphere it creates leading up to, during and post event. It is the talk of the town, it dominates every aspect of life for the majority of the people directly affected by the race even if they’re not fans of motorsport. As with anything else in Singapore everybody takes up a liking to the racing because it’s there, conveniently placed for the taking. I love Singapore. I love everything about Singapore. I love the food, I love the people. I wish I still lived there. I highly and wholeheartedly recommend this track and this event to anyone.

#7 Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), Bahrain

bahrain

Bahrain like Singapore is blessed with the same gift I call the small-island syndrome. I adore Bahrain. I love the people I met. I love the food I tried. I loved almost everything about my visit to marshal the Six hours of WEC in Bahrain. The track fascinated me. I got to visit it before working at the Yas Marina Circuit so it seemed like one of the most advanced tracks I’ve ever been to. Everything was well thought out, properly laid out, and intuitive. Each hard station was properly designed, featured great visibility without anything blocking your view, good access to flagging, good access to working response. Excellent lightweight flags, good size and weight SC boards. A locker for the equipment under each station. Even a light above the cutout for the drivers to distinguish which flag is displayed in a dark setting. BIC had just completed installation of the flood-lighting system around the track so it looked absolutely magnificent all lit up for night racing. I loved the pastel colors of the run off areas, the beautiful race control building and the driver/team party I was generously invited to by the organizers… a perk certainly not every marshal gets. But I was treated with such great respect and love I would return at any time, given an opportunity again.

#6 Sepang International Circuit (SIC), Malaysia

malaysian gp 1

A lot of my Top Ten contenders place great emphasis on food, but given the fact that most  of us volunteer for these events free of charge and bad food genuinely creates a terrible impression of the event and of the facility (yes I’m mostly talking about Singapore and their Delifrance obsession), good food leaves an excellent remark as well. To me, Sepang was always the best “food” track in the world, bar none. Nevermind the idea that the facility is stunningly beautiful and exotic (sure even Ukraine is exotic to most Asian people I mentioned my home country)Sepang is Super! I’ve worked a number of events there, including several F1 races and an Asian Le Mans Series enduro and never had a bad time. The people are incredibly friendly that make you feel welcome. It was a pain in the ass trying to get in, but once in they treat you like family and I appreciate that. The location is super convenient being based on the grounds of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with only five minute drive to the old LCCT terminal which I used quite frequently when I lived in Singapore. And the city of Kuala Lumpur is only an hour ride by a cheap shuttle bus opening the doors to even more exotic variety of finger licking good cuisine from the Chinese, Malay and Indian palate. But back to marshaling, everyone I’ve ever worked with were professional and seriously devoted to the hobby. It was inspiring. I would go back in a heartbeat, and you should too if you can! Just to try for yourself.

#5 Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Austin, Texas, USA

austin v8s 8

Because… ‘Murica!!! I absolutely love Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX America’s newest and most advanced racing facility (probably most expensive too, but as marshals aren’t paid talking about money here is kind of useless) I really enjoy marshaling at COTA every chance I get because of the brand new smell the track got, the design, the facilities. It’s a great place to feel good in. I love the racing series that come to COTA. So far I was lucky enough to experience F1 and Aussie V8’s only visit to the States. As a marshal you get a different experience depending on who is running the show, but I can genuinely say that you make an effort to make the best of whatever situation is dealt your way. Being prepared is probably the best advice I would give for anyone considering marshaling here. Go in with low expectations and you will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised. Admission to the Mullet of the Americas is free for marshals so definitely take that in as one of the perks!

#4 Mount Panorama – Bathurst, NSW, Australia

mount panorama bathurst

Bathurst is the most famous track in Australia… nay, the Pacific! Everybody knows Bathurst even if they know nothing about racing. The photo above was taken long before I started marshaling because one of the first things friends wanted to show me when I moved to Australia was their famous circuit. When I first marshaled there a few years later I realized exactly what it was I was falling in love with. The beauty of Mount Panorama is the fact you can drive the track on any given day as it goes along the road dotted with driveways of the local farmers and vineyard owners. Driving it is breathtaking. Watching professionals drive it, does take your breath away too. And I’m not exaggerating. For the 12 hours of Bathurst endurance race I was stationed atop the famous Brockie’s Skyline. From there you can see a few hot spots prone to incidents one leading up towards you and the other going down the hill into the “Dippah”. Not to mention the whole rest of the track below you, down the mountain, and the occasional Kangaroo that comes for a visit. As a marshal you are stuck for the duration of the event on a thin strip of land, though the hard station is paved and covered, walking up and down is tough (it was so hot on my visit that my brand new Sketchers soles melted off the boots… yea I know, crazy!) But what a freaking experience. I especially enjoyed walking down closer to the Dipper and helping the guys there. Lots of visibility to see overtaking and therefore lots of chance to blue flag. Absolutely loved it! I rented a car at Sydney airport and thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing four hour drive through the Blue Mountains and down the track every morning, coming to the event from nearby.

#3 Phillip Island GP Circuit – Victoria, Australia

phillip island sbk 5

My favorite aspect of the Phillip Island circuit is the view from Siberia. Now, this turn is notorious for the reason it got such a namesake, but when you are volunteering a very specific event which means you’d be stationed right where this photo was taken (at the exit of the turn driver’s/rider’s right), you’d absolutely love the view on a warm sunny day with amazing machinery racing in a snaking fashion towards you. (Quite frequently crashing at your feet). Besides the excellent racing Phillip Island offers, which by the way you can see a great deal of the track from this position since it’s so flat and fairly small. (as well as the incredible ocean views with multiple shades of turquoise waters, funky wind shaped trees and sandy hills) The spectators are fantastic, especially the biker crowd. The organizers really wisely allowed riders to park their personal bikes just behind our post creating a mini bike show in a specifically designated area near the hospitality suites. What a great concept and idea! Besides spectators, fellow marshals are really hospitable and welcoming to foreigners. The track isn’t the easiest place to get to without a car, being some two hour drive outside of Melbourne with no reliable public transportation option. But nevertheless when there’s a will there’s a way to get there, and I would highly recommend anyone to experience marshaling at Phillip Island.

#2 Nordschleife, Nurburgring – Adenau, Germany

nurburgring 1

Nurburgring… Nordschleife… need I say more? Well, yes I do. They call it the “Green Hell” for a reason. And getting my super awesome ride around the extra long circuit it, looked like there are many places around the track that would be quite hellish to work. But not “posten 120” in Adenau. The station is in the village… not near a village, not adjacent to the outskirts, but basically in the village. Which means all the creature comforts that a marshal may crave during a race weekend are only a short walk away. I camped meters from our post’s mustering tent. There were several GOOD cafe’s within a short walking distance to the station. There was a proper toilet and running water available in the nearest cafe which again was just meters from where we camped. Showers were available in the spectator area a very short walk away. There were several supermarkets also a short walk away with any supplies you may need which basically required you to bring nothing along for the weekend event (I worked the Nurburgring 24h). The shuttle bus stop to go to the paddock/pits area was across from the cafe near our camping spot. It was as perfect as perfect gets. And I haven’t even said a word about the racing. Fantastic views of a great turn on a bridge below us, lots of action, lots of overtaking and blue flagging. Hands down my second best circuit I’ve ever been to. Or first best in Europe.

#1 Yas Marina Circuit – Abu Dhabi, UAE

yas marina circuit

Yes baby! Yas is by far my favorite circuit as a marshal. I always said that when money was no object this is what a circuit should look like and that’s exactly what it is. Each station is a proper hard station complete with full toilet and running water. There is shade, there is electrical supply, a shed full of equipment including everything from brooms to fire extinguishers and of course lightweight flags, SC boards, and my favorite: light panel! The light display is nearby, hard-wired and functioning perfectly without much delay like a typical FIA system. I love this track, and truly wish it was my home track. Too bad I’m not “based” in the Emirates. In addition the track looks magnificent with spectacular views around the marina, the hotel (with free wifi wafting to the nearby station, which I found to be very useful) it’s just a great place to be at, and enjoy. The city of Abu Dhabi was my favorite spot to go sightseeing in the Emirates and the organizing body ATCUAE even offers a free shuttle service to Dubai for anyone working their events. You also get a nominal pay for participating which was a nice touch.

Having read and re-read this list several times, I’m really sad I didn’t put Lime Rock Park or Watkins Glen International on the list. Both are my favorite “local” tracks to marshal… Maybe there will be a follow up Top Ten list with a different Twist?

Top 10 Circuits to Marshal:

#1 Yas Marina Circuit – Abu Dhabi, UAE
#2 Nordschleife, Nurburgring – Adenau, Germany
#3 Phillip Island GP Circuit – Victoria, Australia
#4 Mount Panorama – Bathurst, NSW, Australia
#5 Circuit of the Americas (COTA) Austin, Texas, USA
#6 Sepang International Circuit (SIC), Malaysia
#7 Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), Bahrain
#8 Marina Bay Circuit – Singapore
#9 Laguna Seca – Monterey, California, USA
#10(a) Manfeild Circuit – Feilding, New Zealand
#10(b) Mosport (CTMP) – Ontario, Canada