An Introduction to Turnworking

Who Can Marshal?

Almost anyone can become a motorsport marshal. To work in a ‘hot area’, i.e. in close proximity to the track, you must be at least 16 years of age, with written parental consent, or 19 years without parental consent. (These ages may vary from track to track, depending on the rules in place there.) We strongly suggest that anyone with major health problems (such as a heart condition) find a position off-track in which to work. If you have any potentially serious medical conditions (including allergic reactions to medicines or insects) you are strongly encouraged to wear a medical alert bracelet.

For anyone not capable of or interested in working turns, there are many other areas just as important to running a safe and successful motorsport event, including timing and scoring, pre-grid, pit and paddock control, etc.

 

Getting Ready

Road racing is a rain-or-shine sport! Come to the track prepared for any weather – regardless of the forecast! Dressing in layers helps you to be comfortable in changing conditions.

Get plenty of rest the night before, and keep your wits about you! Keep your eyes and ears wide open any time there are vehicles on track, whether they be emergency vehicles, race cars, or marshals’ cars.

Racing is a family sport, but pets and children must be supervised at all times, and this is not possible if you are working. Also, drugs and alcohol may not be consumed during any event, and should not be consumed before an event. Even hay fever or cold remedies can impair your perceptions and responses. And always drive legally and sensibly going to and from the track, as well as to and from your turn station.

Marshal’s Checklist

Experienced marshals accumulate a comprehensive ‘kit’ of supplies to help them do their jobs and stay comfortable. These are usually kept in a five gallon plastic bucket with a lid, which not only provides convenient and dry storage but also doubles as a seat. Inside a well-stocked turn bucket you would find…

White clothing – for visibility; no red, orange or yellow, to ensure you aren’t mistaken for a flag!
Hat – preferably with a brim, to keep both sun and rain off your face
Gloves – leather for safety personnel, but others are good for warmth
Rain gear – the clear plastic kind is flimsy, but allows your white clothing to show through
Whistle – often your only means of communicating with other marshals or drivers
Knife or metal shears – a ‘must have’ for safety personnel
Sturdy footwear – something you can stand in all day, preferably water resistant
Belt – for safety personnel and communicators, to hang your equipment on
Pen or pencil – for communicators
Extra clothing – in case you get wet or cold
Drinks and munchies – hot or cold beverages (non-alcoholic, of course!), and a variety of munchies in case the lunch break is cut short
Basic outdoor / first aid supplies – sunscreen, bug repellent, Band-Aids, lip balm, etc.
and of course, Your WitsYour Sense of Humour, and a Love of Motorsport!
The Racing Flags

The flags are the marshals’ and officials’ primary method of communicating with the drivers during any session on track. Learning the flags, their meaning and uses is one of the basics of racing, no matter what form your participation takes.

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Green flag – the session has started / course is clear

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Blue flag – you are being overtaken by a faster car (check mirrors)

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Yellow flag – Caution! Slow down; be prepared to stop. No passing!

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White flag – service vehicle or slow car on course

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Oil / Debris flag – slippery surface

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Black flag – report to the pits

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Red flag – race has been stopped

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‘Meatball’ flag – you have a mechanical problem; report to the pits

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‘Bermuda’ flag – infraction warning flag, used by ASN/Canada/FIA only

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Chequered flag – session is over

The Disciplines

Flagging… Vital information

Using the racing flags, turn marshals communicate vital information to the drivers. Most turns on a race track have a flag station. Flaggers work in pairs, with the blue flagger looking up the track watching for faster cars overtaking slower traffic, and the yellow flagger looking down the track watching for any incident that may pose a hazard to approaching cars. The two flaggers stand facing each other so that as well as observing their own areas of responsibility they also guard each other’s safety.

Timing and Scoring

The position of every car on every lap must be recorded in an accurate and timely manner. Usually located in the control tower, Timing and Scoring workers use a combination of electronic and manual systems to keep track of the field. Accuracy is critical. The slightest error could wreak havoc with the results of an event.

Emergency Response… Safety first

The emergency or quick response marshals are the first on the scene of any racing incident. Safety is their primary concern, and they must make a quick and accurate assessment of the condition of the driver, the hazards to other drivers, and the necessary course of action to handle all these elements and get racing back underway as quickly as possible. Information is relayed back to the Communicator via hand signals, and while the flaggers keep the drivers abreast of the situation the emergency response crew may be fighting fire, moving the race car to a safe location, and assisting the driver out of the car. Medical assistance is provided by ambulance personnel or a doctor when needed.

Communications… Critical to the track

Efficient communications are essential to the operation of a safe racing environment. Each flag station around the track has at least one Communicator assigned to the team. Using a two-way radio system incidents are instantaneously reported to Race Control and other flag stations around the track. Safety is the primary concern. If the track is blocked or emergency assistance is required this information must be relayed, and the appropriate action taken, as fast as possible.

Technical Inspection

Every race car is inspected for compliance with safety rules before being allowed on the track. Likewise the drivers must present their fire suit, underwear, shoes, gloves and helmet for inspection to ensure they meet current safety standards. The ‘Tech’ inspectors also weigh cars at the end of qualifying and races to ensure compliance with minimum weight requirements, and examine any car that has sustained crash damage, noting in its log book the extent of the damage and repairs that must be made before the car may compete again. They are very knowledgeable about both the cars and the rules, and help to keep the sport as safe as it can be.

Training

One of the most important functions of META is our marshal training program. This teaches the basics of turnworking: flagging, communications, quick response, timing and scoring and other positions.

We offer formal training seminars in conjunction with certain events at Mission Raceway Park, and also encourage anyone who is interested in working races to come out and meet us at any road racing event there. Training ‘on the job’ is provided on an ongoing basis, by experienced workers.

For information on marshal training, including upcoming seminar dates, please contact our Training Committee

 

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