Having received a lot of positive response to the original Top 10 post (Top 10 Circuits to Marshal), especially from the people that seemingly disagreed with my choices: “How could you snub the most important track off the list?” You know the world famous Circuit de la Sarthe in the small town of Le Mans in central France… I’d like to present to you – the reader, a follow up Top Ten list featuring what I think are the very top destinations when marshaling. (& being a motorsport tourist)
I will pitch in a disclaimer that I haven’t worked every famous track in the world, and therefore can only base my opinion on the circuits and events where I’ve actually volunteered as a marshal. I invite your comments below and suggestions for me to add to my bucket list. I can assure you it’ll add to the already growing list of tracks like Spa-Francochamps in Belgium, Kyalami in South Africa, Interlagos in Brazil, Guia Circuit in Macau, Suzuka in Japan and even Virginia International Raceway in the US, all places I wish to work one day.
And now without further ado….
#10 (Boston vs. NYC) Western Connecticut, USA
Because simply going to an event may not be enough, as a visiting marshal you may enjoy a slight detour for a little culture and sightseeing. Try some local cuisine why don’t you. Going to Lime Rock, in particular some of my favorite events like the Northeast GP or the Trams Am weekend or even the Historics, gives you an opportunity to do something more. With approximately the same driving distance from both Boston and NYC you have most of the Northeast seaboard covered with plenty of options to see and do. Personally, I always recommend New York City for visiting marshals because there’s no bad time to visit NYC. Whether it’s your first time to Manhattan or a millionth time, you will enjoy yourself. And if you run out of things to do you can always expand to Brooklyn or some of the other boroughs. New Jersey is a viable option too, especially when you’re flying in for an event at Lime Rock. Likewise Boston has a unique flavor of it’s own, and with it comes the rest of New England region well worth your exploration. If you do come via NYC you must try the pizza, it’s an American creation for sure. And if Boston is on the agenda than New England clam chowder is definitely my favorite dish you should sample.
#9 Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Indinapolis is both famous and infamous with visiting marshals. Those that have done Formula One events there in the past may have a sour taste in their mouths after the whole tire fiasco. (luckily that was way before my time as a marshal) But it is one of my favorite destinations to marshal in the US and you should consider it too. Sure there are other famous tracks that vie for your attention like Daytona or Sebring in Florida, but I’d pick Indianapolis for a better overall package especially if you’re a motorcycle fan. Again, when it comes to racetrack quality Circuit of the Americas or Laguna Seca is a far better option (considering that one year MotoGP was held at all three in the US: Indy, COTA and Laguna Seca which in my view really diluted the “Global” or “World” aspect of the championship). But Indianapolis is middle America. It is a proper oval (with the inner track somewhat of an afterthought) and holds it’s own ground with uniqueness and pedigree. I was quite amazed that over the MotoGP weekend the city of Indianapolis transformed into a biker town. Bikes, bikes, bikes everywhere. If you fly in and rent a motorcycle as your mode of transport you’d enjoy it that much more. The racing is great too, motorcycle crowds far outnumber sports car crowds at the same venue. And if you’re a history buff, visiting the museum where IndyCar series was born is a must. You’ll love the IndyCar two-seater driving around kitted with a license plate. Get a ride on or off the track. Or if you feel like spectating, United States Auto Club (USAC) responsible for organizing Indy marshals always advertises free admission to their short track to watch some sprint racing.
#8 Upstate New York, USA
In terms of convenience, Watkins Glen is a pain in the ass track to get to as a visiting marshal. But it’s remoteness gives you some options when flying in because both New York City and Toronto, Ontario in Canada are viable options as far as airports go. If you’re going to rent a car to drive to the track you might as well enjoy the road trip, and driving in the scenic Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is down right beautiful. (You can also fly into Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester or even Elmira airports, each much closer to the destination) or take a Coach USA bus from NYC) Coming from the north, visiting Nigara Falls is a must! Two things I like about WGI is the roar of NASCAR – which as a stock car fan or even a random motorsport enthusiast you should experience at least once in your lifetime on a proper road course while volunteering as a marshal rather than as a spectator on an oval. And second – the nature. There’s nothing better on a hot and humid summer’s weekend in NYC then to get away to a breezy and cool area on a lake in the mountains. The difference in temperature makes summer rather pleasant. You can go boating on Seneca Lake or hiking on the trails near the waterfalls. It’s so much more than just a race weekend, it’s a proper holiday.
#7 Los Angeles, California, USA
The very first time I flew into Los Angeles was via the Long Beach airport and immediately fell in love with the area. Sure, Long Beach is closer to Orange County than LA it seems, and in some ways a world away from hustle and bustle of LA, but when you’re a visiting marshal from the other side of the world, Long Beach falls well within the sphere of greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. Though famous for it’s long running Long Beach GP there will be an exciting addition to the circuit with the debut of Formula E racing in America. Marshaling here is similar to volunteering in Singapore. It’s glitzy and glamorous setting, right on the water with tall palm trees lining the streets. I mean it’s paradise. The racing is fantastic also, with IndyCar the headliner event and Sports Cars as a strong support series (both IMSA and World Challenge) Long Beach is a hell of a destination. It is also a destination that you’d be crazy not to bring family along for a nice vacation. The track is walking distance from downtown, there are a ton of activities for everyone to enjoy, including a wonderful beach. I would also highly recommend a nice drive down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCA) it doesn’t matter whether you go south towards San Diego and Mexico, or north towards Santa Barbara the ocean view is fantastic especially with the incredible mansions along the way. Keep driving north and you’ll end up in Monterey so you can pop in for a visit to Laguna Seca. Be sure to stop at an In-n-Out burger for a double double with fries animal style. I’m sure there’s a Hollywood location you may enjoy, my favorite is on the edge of LAX airport with planes landing overhead every few seconds. You can thank me later.
#6 Greater London, UK
If you ever get an opportunity to marshal the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, take it! Why? Because it’s a fantastic facility and volunteering there is an experience. Besides, depending on the length of your holiday you can piggyback another track to visit as a marshal like Donington or Brands Hatch and see what real marshals look like. (wink wink) Personally, Silverstone was the second stop for me after Le Mans a few years ago, but there really are a lot of options when it comes to Motorsports in the European summer. Formula One fans will be in heaven with the majority of the teams being based a short drive from Silverstone. I visited Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes and even though I didn’t get very far past the reception desk, I had a great time. As far as the destinations go, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked London and I think you will too. It is easy to get around using the public transport system. So much history and architecture to take in, I think I was walking around in awe wishing I was borne to the British Empire vs. the damn Soviet Union (apologies to my beloved Ukraine) Food wise definitely go for fish & chips. I was hunting for my colonial favorite meat pies (been hooked on that stuff while living in Australia and New Zealand) but as far as pub food goes, meat pies are served much different in the UK than in the commonwealth. You get a plate with a square meat pie with a side of mash potatoes and green peas. They charge for a full meal too vs. a few dollars it costs down under. And in my opinion it isn’t worth it, especially when the mash potato still tastes like the microwaved powder it probably came from.
#5 Nurburg(ring), Germany
Nurburgring is always a destination in and of itself. You can go when there are no events, pay a bunch of Euros and drive your rental car on the track. But why go through all that trouble when you can volunteer for an event and possibly get a ride along like I did? Nurburgring and ultimately the Nordschleife should be on anybody’s bucket list time and again, because it is a fantastic facility and a hell of a destination to frequent. As if the German hospitality wasn’t enough to look forward to, there are a lot of great driving roads to do a nice scenic road trip, a spirited ride along the Autobahn within Germany or visit the neighboring Belgium. I mention Belgium because on my trip to the Nurburgring for the 24h race we actually stopped at Spa-Francochamps just on the other side of the Eifel Mountains where both circuits are literally carved into the hillsides. For my next visit to the Ring I plan to explore Germany a little further. My goal is to visit Stuttgart for both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums as well as Munich to visit BMW. I also plan to stuff my face with bratwursts, frankfurters and copious amounts of schnitzels. I definitely enjoy German food and you will too I’m sure.
#4 Le Mans, France
The 24h of Le Mans is by far the most important Motorsport event in the world, hands down, no question about it. So as far as that goes you must volunteer with the ACO. You Must! The atmosphere at the Circuit de la Sarthe and the surrounding villages is abuzz with excitement. It’s worth visiting Arnage. It’s definitely worth spending a lot of time in the paddock where you have a great deal of access to each competitors pits and garages. See some famous drivers. Get autographs. Take lots of pictures. As far as visiting France in the European summer, your family will either be infinitely jealous that you have an opportunity to do it on your trip, or love you forever if you let them join you. Paris in the summer is an incredible place to visit, especially with a loved one. But Paris isn’t the only French town worth spending a few days in, Lyon is also one of my favorites. Though, I haven’t explored much of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean Coast, I’ve heard great things. Monaco apparently is a must. But personally I would look for something to volunteer another weekend and over the past few years it’s been British GP at Silverstone or the Nurburgring 24h at the Nordschleife. The best part of working Le Mans is the delicious baguettes, pain au chocolat and croissants for breakfast, I basically go on a baguette diet for a week. Cheese and wine are also a must. The whole thing is a must, you must do Le Mans! Add it to your list!
#3 Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
New Zealand is pretty exotic. Though living there you’re only pleased with that aspect when it’s not raining. It rains often. The beauty of visiting the Auckland area on the North Island as a marshal is access to so many wonderful race tracks where almost every weekend there seems to be a major event happening. One of my favorite, and one I’d recommend for anyone considering visiting NZ specifically is the New Zealand Festival of Speed at Hampton Downs. The reason? This event stretches over two weekends and is filled with action packed schedule and some amazing machinery on display, being pushed to the limits. You’d be amazed what kind of rare finds you will stumble upon in this country. Back when I did the Festival of Speed weekend we were celebrating BMW’s M division (Motorsport) and besides having local Bimmers fill grids with rare 2002’s and M3 CSi models, there were also a number of imports specifically for the event, many of them straight from museums in Germany, like the BMW M1 race cars. Not something you see every day. You could also probably arrange a visit to the McLaren museum, Yes! the home of Bruce McLaren – famous racing Kiwi. As far as the destination goes, Auckland has two major tracks within an hour’s drive: Hampton Downs I mentioned earlier and Pukekohe which host the famous Australian V8 Supercars event. About four hours drive south is Taupo Motorsport Park which was build for the now defunct A1 Grand Prix. Driving to Taupo you’ll pass through some very nice towns including Paeroa, the source for the “world famous in New Zealand” L&P soft drink or “Lemon & Paeroa” my favorite Kiwi soda. As well as Rotorua with it’s famous thermal springs, a busy destination for all sorts of tourists. You’d be foolish not to consider volunteering in NZ.
#2 Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Besides hosting the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne is a mecca for Australian Motorsports. Australia is an exotic destination for visiting marshals. I think when most consider the country to volunteer they automatically zero in on the Australian GP, but there are so many other options and as I demonstrated on my last visit to this wonderful place you can do something almost every weekend of your holiday there. The Greater Melbourne area is home to a variety of race tracks, some more famous than others. Two hour drive south is Phillip Island, perhaps the most famous and well worth a visit whether for sports car events, open wheelers or motorcycles. The last time I volunteered AGP I also worked Phillip Island twice, flagging a Historics event and an SBK Superbikes event. A little closer to downtown is Sandown Park which hosts V8 Supercars. Winton is about two and a half hour’s drive into a different direction. If you think about it, Adelaide is not that far to volunteer for the V8 Supercars season opener Clipsal 500. And if you take the scenic route you can explore the Great Ocean Road and the beautiful beaches along that way. Sydney is only one hour flight away which opens the door to Eastern Creek or even Mount Panorama in Bathurst. I would definitely add Melbourne to the list of my “must-do” destinations as a marshal if I were you! You will enjoy the meat pies trackside, and if you’re lucky someone will invite you in for a lamb roast… Mmmm… lamb roast!
#1(a) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Southeast Asia is by far my #1 destination as a motorsport volunteer, bar none, no questions about it, gotta do it, NOW! The location of the ultimate destination however is debatable, but since they’re so close I would consider both to be: “same same, but different!” (for anyone that has been to Southeast Asia, you’ll get the joke) That said, Malaysia and Sepang International Circuit are definitely my favorite. For one it’s a proper world class racing facility. The track is nice, the media center is nice and has free wifi in the middle of the night when photographers aren’t using it. There are showers downstairs. And when you’re volunteering it is possible to camp in an air conditioned cabin with the rescue marshals. Keep in mind however that Malaysian marshals get paid for their services, not much but for the locals it does cover rent for a month or so. So keep in mind that going in as a visiting marshal you are potentially taking a job away from a local. But it’s still worth a visit. As a destination, Kuala Lumpur is a caleidoscope of cultures. Both to sightsee as a tourist and to sample as a foodie. I love the food in Malaysia, the Chinese, Malay and Indian, you can’t go wrong. Throw in some Thai, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese for variety. It is all super delicious. Malaysia is also home to a ton of tourist destinations. You can fly to the islands of Langkawi or Penang and enjoy the beach on the Andaman Sea. Drive down to Malacca or go internationally. AirAsia is a viable option to fly to Thailand. Phuket is one of my most favorite destinations. Hong Kong or Macau is a short hop away. Taipei in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia or Cebu in the Philippines are fantastic and quite close. Consider volunteering in Malaysia or at least add it to your trip when working the alternate #1 choice: Singapore!
Singapore is my other top destination to marshal in Southeast Asia. Not just because this is the place where I began my motorsport volunteering career, but because like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia it is a fantastic launching pad for trips around the rest of Asia and beyond. So we’ve already established that the temporary street circuit around Marina Bay is good. The racing is good. The marshaling is good. Well organized. Well staffed. Well catered (though the vendor sucks). But if you want to buy your own magically delicious food you are certainly more than welcome. And that is precisely what I have been doing the last few visits. Singapore is a foodie paradise, for all sorts of cuisines. Even Western… the $25 Hard Rock Cafe satay burger, though pricey is still uniquely Singaporean creation. But I wouldn’t waste my money on Western food when visiting Singapore. In fact the next time I hear someone say they went to McDonalds in Singapore and it was exactly as bad as McDonald’s back home I’m going to punch them in the face! Singapore is a destination just for the food alone, racing is a bonus. It is also a convenient place to go on foodie adventures to the neighbors. Johor Bahru in Malaysia is just a $2 public bus ride away across the Causeway. Batam is a $50 ferry ride away to Indonesia. Changi Airport is the place to be to board a cheap low cost carrier flight to a whole slew of countries including exotic islands like Borneo and those off the coast of mainland Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. You may also be surprised to know that it’s possible to get ultra cheap deals to Australia and New Zealand from Singapore as well. So the possibilities are endless. If I were you I’d add Southeast Asia to the top of your marshaling “must-do” list… and then flip a coin whether to go to Malaysia or Singapore!
Top 10 Destinations to Marshal
1(a) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2 Melbourne, Australia
3 Auckland, New Zealand
4 Le Mans, France
5 Nurburg(ring), Germany
6 Greater London, UK
7 Los Angeles, California, USA
8 Upstate New York, USA
9 Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
10 Western Connecticut, USA