How to be a Better Turn Marshal
Often overlooked and frequently dreaded, turn marshalling is a very important part of racing. Although in a perfect world nobody would ever crash during a race, the reality is that crashing, flipping your car and getting pinned into the wall can happen numerous times during a race, and it is every turn marshal’s responsibility to get everyone up and running immediately. As a courtesy to others, and to appease “race karma,” it is your job to be the best turn marshal possible, and here are some tips on doing so:
Part of being a good turn marshal is dressing the part—not for style—but rather for your own safety. With 8-pounds of steel whizzing around the track at 40+ MPH, it is important to dress with safety in mind, which will not only protect your body, but give you more confidence while doing your job on the track. You should always wear boots, pit gloves, long sleeves and sunglasses or goggles. Serious injuries and even deaths have occurred on RC race tracks, so protecting yourself is extremely relevant and important.
When manning your area, keep in mind that all of the drivers need to see around you. If you block a driver’s view for even a split second, it may cause him to crash or lose his line. It is best to position yourself low to the ground in the “catcher’s position.” This will limit your obstructivness and allow you to spring to action quickly if needed.
Watch your corner, not the race
Although turn marshal is essentially the best seat in the house, don’t lose sight of your job; you are not a spectator. While it is good to stay aware of the race in general, your focus should be on your section, not on the leader and the rest of the field. If you get “into the race,” you may miss a crash in your section and waste drivers’ valuable time because you were more interested in watching the race.
Communicate with other Marshals
Most of the time, your section of the track will be pretty clear-cut and defined. You will know exactly what constitutes your area and what sections you are responsible for. Sometimes, however, there is some grey area that exists. It is a good idea to communicate with your neighboring marshals and decide who will cover which “in-between” areas of the track.
Most of the time crashes aren’t isolated; cars usually end-up in collisions and pile-ups with one another. While you should do your best to get everyone running as quickly as possible, try to get the first cars involved in the collision up and running first. Races are won and lost in seconds, so time is of the essence.
Give drivers a good line
When you place a rescued vehicle onto the track, be mindful and give the racer a good line. Although the crash may have been their own fault, your job as a turn marshal is to minimize the impact of a driver’s accident on the race. When correcting a vehicle, think like a racer, and angle the car for the best line possible.
Pull disabled cars off quickly
Often times, a crash may be critical, and cars become partially broken, flamed-out, or completely out of commission. When you can tell a car is disabled, it is important to get it off of the track. You need to quickly assess if it would be possible for the driver’s pit crew to get up and running. If you think the car is too far gone, put it in a safe place in the back if your corner, but if you think it is fixable or a simple flame-out, try to meet the pit guy half-way, and hand it off on the track.
Turn marshalling isn’t the most glorious job in the world, and usually racers scoff over having to spend valuable pit time by performing their duties, but in reality, turn marshalling is an extremely important job. Although you may not see a benefit in being a better turn marshal, what goes around comes around, and the better racer you become, the more that will be expected of you in all aspects of racing—turn marshalling included.