2014 has been a good year even though I had drastically cut back on the number of events I participated in previously. I still managed to volunteer six races for the top sports car racing series in America including five Tudor United SportsCar Championship events, all four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship races and six Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, Circuit of the Americas and Road Atlanta.
So what can be said about the first year of TUSC. Was it a huge success? A miserable failure? Probably something in the middle. It certainly wasn’t American Le Mans Series (ALMS) or the Grand-Am series that it replaces. The hybrid of both seemed to unfairly favor some and alienate others. Daytona Prototypes vs. Le Mans Prototypes P2 class is an obvious example. But since I know little about classification and enjoy the races from a marshaling perspective I won’t say much more about that. The GT races were outstanding. But unlike previous years where I managed to do up to six ALMS and Grand-Am events each, many close to my home at Lime Rock, NJMP and Baltimore. The most I could scrape together this year was six of the combined series, and it required significant travel. I’m not happy losing local events. But such is life.
My favorite part about the new series was the large fields of cars participating at most events. It’s a sentiment I seem to share with a number of other marshals I have spoken with. Some of the racing was quite good too, especially later on in the season. Though the (Im)Balance of Performance really undermined the authenticity of pure racing.
We really seem to suffer badly from the lack of marshals at each of the six events I’ve done for the series, and I could only blame IMSA for that. Sure the local tracks are responsible for recruiting people, and the local SCCA regions fail to provide sufficient numbers required (to give breaks to workers, especially at long endurance events) it is terribly unsafe and dangerous in my opionion. But I feel it’s up to IMSA to generate interest in motorsport volunteering and just as importantly train the people that participate to live up to the expectations IMSA has. IMSA is very different from SCCA and it’s absolutely silly for them to expect the few people that volunteer to read their corner books (which are distributed to the captains every morning) with the outlined differences between club and IMSA rules and actually follow through with the requirements. Most people volunteering see the spotter guide for the first time, and even those aren’t current until the last day: Race Day! It may cost a little bit of money to recruit and train us as marshals, but for a multi-million dollar industry and as such – international series, it’s a drop in the bucket to make us amateurs look professional at their events. And we need it! I’ve seen some real doozies this season, ridiculous requests like refusing to wear COTA’s blue suits that make all marshals look the same (and therefore professional) vs. mismatched whites, wear what you brung sort of thing which ended up actually happening. Or fundamental undermining of the whole idea to marshal pro events, where experienced marshals and evangelists for club racing promote SCCA club events vs. our top national series, which makes little sense. Everywhere else in the world people strive to volunteer the top events, it gives them a target to work towards. Something to accomplish. In the US the opposite seems to happen, the attitude appears to be: “it’s easier to work club events… wake up later, shorter hours…. free beer” There’s also the clash of personalities and everyone doing their own thing because that’s what they do at their home region so that’s their way. Instead of pulling together towards a common goal, everyone pulls in a different direction.
I am looking forward to next year’s championship. Though like many of the racers I will probably cut back on my participation and focus on other domestic and international series like Pirelli World Challenge and World Endurance Championship in Europe.