Words: Carl Hyndman
Photos: Carl Hyndman
We all love racing. It gets your blood flowing and pulse going like a hummingbird. The feeling of pushing the limits is something we crave, but with that comes something we all dread…crashing. The fact is, we all crash. Yep, pros, amateurs, club rats and new racers all crash. But what most of us hate even more is having to walk off the driver’s stand, retrieve that stranded car and get it back on the track and going again. Let’s face it; it wouldn’t be the most efficient way to do things during a race. Imagine ten drivers setting their radios down, running off the driver’s stand, flipping their cars back over and then returning to their spots. That just wouldn’t work, and who is responsible for this big chore? That’s an easy one. Once you’ve finished your heat, you are next to take over the duties for the upcoming race heat. Don’t go back to the pits, start a conversation there or wander off to order your cheeseburger (extra cheese please, hold the mayo).
Next, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of this thankless job. Keep in mind, at times you could be yelled at, criticized, laughed at or even mocked, but don’t get discouraged. It is often just the heat of the moment and like most of us, we like to be treated just as we would treat others. With that said, let’s read on.
LIST OF DO’S AND DONT’S:
1. Dress Appropriately
Okay Spicoli, there is a time and place for wearing flip flops. For obvious reasons, safety is a concern here and our little toy cars are traveling pretty fast. Those sharp edges and pieces of metal and carbon fiber can do a big number on those little piggies, so wear comfortable footwear that protects. Closed-toe shoes are the way to go, but this is just the beginning. Those motors spin quickly and generate a lot of heat, so it’s a good idea to wear gloves, especially when marshaling nitro cars. And let’s not forget about our eyes, because with dirt flinging and debris flying through the air, it may be a good idea to protect those peepers. In general, using common sense here can go a long way.
2. Watch Your Corner
Every track layout is different, so knowing where to stand can be a bit confusing. Fortunately, turn marshals have designated spots on the track that are picked for safety and efficiency by the track crew. The spots are usually clearly marked with an orange cone or other easy-to-identify marking. Technically, the spots are numbered and you stand at the spot that corresponds to your number in the race (not finishing order, but car number). However, most of the time it’s a bit looser in format as long as all the spots are filled. Just be smart and help out when you can. Not all of us have the speed and dexterity of a gazelle, so if someone isn’t as quick or their mobility is hindered, it is always a nice gesture to offer to swap spots with them or substitute in when you can. With every layout, there are corners where crashes are more common, so swift and speedy marshals can really help with a race outcome. So if you haven’t seen the gym since, um, okay, never, then search out someone resembling LaDainian Tomlinson (shameless Charger fan plug here) and get their help. Lastly, your corner is your responsibility. Watch the racing another time. Give it your full attention and be ready to move at a moment’s notice.
3. Continue Until the End of the Race
During a race, the announcers often turn their attention to the leaders as they battle for the coveted top spot on the podium, but as they cross the finish line, the race isn’t over for the rest. Even when the climax of the announcing has made it clear that the winner has finished, the other spots are still sorting out. Make sure you wait until everyone is done and the clock has stopped. Crashes and cars that are on the other side of the track can take a while to finish the race, so be courteous and make sure everyone is done.
4. “Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street.”
This may seem like common sense and something we all learned at a very early age, but nerves sometimes take over and an eagerness to help can make a dash out in to oncoming traffic an unfortunate accident. Don’t cause another crash by trying to fix one. Take the time you need and only help the stranded car when it is safe. “Look both ways before crossing the street” is something we all need to remember.
5. Don’t Toss ‘Em
We all want to be as fast as we can, but don’t make it worse by tossing that car. Sure, you may have saved yourself and the driver a tenth of a second by tossing the car with some momentum, but that toss could result in an errant foul ball and cause it to land back on its lid. Reach down (I know for some of you exercise is a foreign word) and place the car back on all four wheels in the right direction. Yeah, I need to restate the second part, in the right direction. As obvious as it sounds, I’ve witnessed many good efforts gone bad for placing the car the wrong way.
6. Fast, but Safe
We know time is important to getting the vehicles back on the track with any chance for a good result, but those cars are moving pretty fast. That means a hit can be an injury in the making, so make sure you use proper judgment when retrieving that car. Even if you are marshaling an important race where the top drivers are battling for a big bowling trophy, finding yourself looking for an emergency room at the local hospital is something no one wants to see. Take the time you need and be safe.
7. Pay Attention. Time to Ban Social Media
I know you are tempted to post your recent attempt at eating five Big Macs on Instagram, but save it for later. Your full attention should be on your corner. Save your texts, phone calls, checking the time, etc., for later. Show your respect for your duty and others will appreciate it. If you are that busy that you need to multi-task to save face with your boss, then skip the racing for another time.
8. Broken Down and Out
Often that crash you are marshaling results in a broken down vehicle. Place it out of the race line and if possible, off the track. It is not your responsibility to fix it and that corner needs your full attention at all times. You may even get the driver’s buddy to hand you a wrench or part from the pits in hopes of salvaging the driver’s race, but it’s not your job. If it happens, hand them the car and go back to your spot. Keep in mind, do this only if it is close by and doesn’t interfere with your duties.
9. Stay Out of View
You’ve got your assigned spot, but try to be aware of the driver’s line of sight. You don’t want to block their view of a critical area. You can even go one step further and bend down at the start if you are near the starting grid since there are so many cars going in different directions. Having a clear line of site can be crucial to avoiding a big pile up. Be aware of your surroundings and use some of that peripheral vision.
10. Help Your Neighbors
The area each marshal is responsible for can be pretty big, so keep in mind that our vision and ability to be in two places at once isn’t possible. If you see another crash in another area, check to see if the marshal assigned to that spot has seen it or, if they are tied up working on another crash, a bit of help is appropriate as long as you don’t leave your area in a precarious state. Teamwork is always better and a good way to make some new friends.
11. Return the Car To the Correct Spot
A crash means time lost, but don’t give in to the temptation to help the car cut the track to get back “in-the-mix.” Put it back where it crashed and let it continue as if time stood still. The driver crashed, not you, so it’s only fair to the other drivers to proceed with appropriate action.
12. Return the Car To a Safe Spot
Crashing doesn’t always happen with the best timing. It could be when a line of cars are racing and returning the car could mean a recipe for disaster. The car already lost time and you don’t want to involve other innocent drivers. Wait for an appropriate time before setting it back down. You could do more damage than good.
13. Wait Before Picking It Up
Often in a crash, wheels spin and engines can run hot. It’s common for off-road vehicles to try and goose that throttle in the hopes that the gyroscopic affect will help right the car in the event of a crash. But often, the realization that it won’t help doesn’t sink in, and drivers can frequently continue to add throttle without knowing it. Because of either that or all the noise, driver frustration can be translated in to wide-open throttle in an attempt to grab the marshal’s attention. Use caution. You don’t want to grab a vehicle by the wheels or have it flip around like a shark on dry land. Wait until the driver and vehicle have calmed down and then proceed with caution. Don’t let their problem become yours. Safety is paramount here.
Pretty straightforward right? Even the most seasoned veterans need to take note. Just remember, we are all in this hobby to have fun and safety is the biggest ingredient. Use common sense and don’t give in to peer pressure. If you follow these rules, you should be fine. Avoiding a crash is the best thing you can do, but this is the real world and you and your racing foe will end up on your lids guaranteed. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Have fun.