I was invited to be the chief pit lane marshal on a recent GP2/GP3 testing day at Yas Marina Circuit. I’ve never participated in testing previously, mainly because I couldn’t get the time off work, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever motorsport ‘paid’ effort.
A long day of 4 sessions, each lasting 2 1/2 hrs, which allowed each series two sessions during the day. The pit lane marshal team had been previously selected by the ASN and, fortunately for me, they had 3 previous days testing under their belts.
During the briefing most of the usual items were covered, including the main remit of safety in the pit lane in particular:
- No children under the age of 16 in the pitlane
- No inappropriate footwear (Slingbacks, open toes or high heels)
- No Smoking
- No Eating
- No reversing under own power into the garages
- No vehicles to be in gear and on a stand or jack
- No non-essential people on the pit wall during a live session
- No people standing or walking in the fast lane during a live session
- No sitting on the wall
- No taking of photographs during a live session, if you are a marshal
- PPE to be worn correctly at all times, coveralls, gloves etc.
- Radios to be used for emergency communications only
- No loitering in high risk areas – at gates and gaps
- Wheel, Wheel, Wheel
- Collision in the pit lane
- Spills in the pit lane
- Housekeeping in the pit lane
- Yellow Flags
Once we were on station, which I basically randomly assigned numbers at the start of the session, then we started to get familiar with our surroundings.
The pit lane went live at 09:00hrs and we were off and running.
When the pit entry marshal started calling cars in pit lane, he would identify them by there number. We discussed this in detail and made the decision just to call that there was a “Car in pit lane” the main reason for this call is as a heads up to the other marshals working. With only 8 people covering a 1km pit lane, this means we could be too far from each other to effectively communicate. He picked up very quickly that he didn’t have to call every single car coming in and if a group of cars came into the pits then the first call would alert all to look up for cars.
This type of testing meant that some teams were 3 cars to a garage, this lead to quite a bit of equipment, including body panels and tyres, which meant that there was quite a bit of debris in the slow lane. Cars coming in to ‘box’ were often met with a fair bit of kit. This is really something that must be sorted on day one. There is a reasonable paddock area to the rear of the garages where all this could be placed when not in use.
At 10:10hrs we had our first red flag on a session. The target of the event organizers was for 15mins from call for red flag to re-openning of the pit lane. The cars were recovered to the pit lane, slow lane. This was either by straight tow or flats bed delivery. When the flatbed and JCB were in the pit lane, yellow flags were deployed from the pit wall, bearing in mind the track session was red. The yellow flags were there as a notification of a slow moving vehicle or people in the fast lane. The flatbed and JCB proceeded to go to the garage where the recovered car was resident and then the offload happened. Once the flatbed and JCB were in position for the offload, Race Control restarted the session. Cars then exited the pit lane whilst the offload was happening in the slow lane. The upstream side of the JCB was covered with a yellow in the slow lane and their were also waved yellows along the pit wall to warn the drivers that the recovery was on going. This process was assisted by race control requesting the location that the recovered car should be taken to in the pit lane. However, if race control had a layout of the pit garages then this would be much more efficient and they could inform the recovery crew exactly which garage the cars should be recovered to.
The teams had been given a radio set to ES2. The batteries for these to be replaced from Support Pits Race Control as and when required. As the organization for the weekend we were given the flats batteries to replace. It would have been more appropriate if we had a runner for this type of thing.
Generally timekeeping was good, but there is a different standard for timekeeping in a ‘paid’ event. As with normal paid work, you are expected to be at your desk or in your place of employment at the time your shift starts and any breaks are completed. As an apprentice if I was late for one minute I’d have had my pay docked by 15 minutes. Any professional person, whether doing volunteer work or not, turns up for a job of work on time. it shows respect for the people you work with and helps to assure them that you are dependable and reliable. I fully understand that there are circumstances outwith the control of some people, but chronic lateness is not acceptable.
Wrong Direction (WD)
There are times when travelling down a track WD is the safest and fastest way to recover a vehicle. Those are generally when the track is open or under a red flag. However it is never acceptable to travel WD in a pit lane. Cars can exit their garages at any time and they will be looking up the pit lane before they do. they do not expect any traffic coming WD and make most of their decisions to leave their pit box based on traffic ‘upstream’ from their location. The only exception would be when the pit lane is red and a car was being pushed to scrutineering.
Stalled Cars in Pit Lane
If a car has left its pit box and has stalled or stopped in the slow lane, before the pit exit line, the team may recover or restart as required. This should be covered by a yellow flag in the pit lane.
Going for a break
As a pit lane marshal, many people are relying on you:
- Teams – they need you to view all the other teams and impartially report any infringements to ensure fairness.
- Spectators – to keep them safe from the perils of the pit lane.
- Officials – you are their eyes and ears
- Your Marshalling Team – you are looking out for them and they are looking out for you.
- All – you are keeping them safe.
When you wander off, or you are in ill health, you are not any use to them and you are a liability to yourself. If you need to go somewhere make sure someone is covering your post and a senior is informed. If you are not feeling 100%, see a Dr. we have lots of them on the track and in the medical centre. Stay safe and well, keep yourself in tip top condition.
Thank you to all the marshals working during the event, you all worked carefully and considerately, diligently and tirelessly for the entire day that it was my pleasure to be part of. The above are lessons, we all learn from them to become a better team…..You Rock!