What is one of the best ways to become closely involved in motorsports? Volunteer! Motorsports is so much more than just driving and there are many ways to be a part of the action. Clubs such as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) would love to have you become actively involved. As someone new, other volunteers will be happy to provide you introductions, training, and assistance to get you acquainted. You need no previous experience and will receive a warm welcome to the “family.” After receiving training and gaining experience, there will also be opportunities to work at professional events including AMLS, Grand-Am, and Indy Car as these events often utilize SCCA volunteers.
As a Prospective Racer
If you’re a prospective racer, what you probably really want to know is how this is going to help you and your racing efforts. First and foremost, it is an enjoyable experience. Volunteering can also be a great way to get your friends and family involved. Without volunteers, many clubs wouldn’t exist and they are the backbone of the organization. Until you have volunteered yourself, you won’t truly understand what it is like.
Another significant benefit is that you will meet many great people who are very knowledgeable about racing and who know the right people. These connections you make through volunteering will pay off later in your racing career. You know the old saying, “It is not what you know, but who you know.” You better believe this also applies to racing as well.
If you’re someone who is looking to see what Club Racing is like before diving in financially or with the time commitments, volunteering also provides an excellent opportunity to do this.
How to Start
While you could just show up at an event and offer your assistance, we recommend that you contact the region in advance and express your interest in volunteering with them. For SCCA, visit the club’s home page and click on the geographic area you’re interested in offering your assistance. From there you will learn which region(s) exist in that area. Either send an introductory e-mail to the individuals listed or give the Regional Executive, Assistant RE or General Membership Chairperson a call. Please keep in mind they are also volunteers and often lead a busy life. Ideally all regions’ sites would be up-to-date with contact information, but in some they are not. If you do not get reply, do not take it personally. Just try someone else on the list – regions do need your help!
Opportunities to Become Involved
There are many areas you can become involved in depending upon your interests. It certainly isn’t a bad idea to try volunteering in a few different areas to see what you enjoy most. Some of these may seem a bit daunting at first, but you will have people to coach you through the process. Below are general summaries for many of the various areas. Again, if you’re not sure which best suits you, don’t worry – you can always try more than one.
The first people that drivers, workers, guests and others meet when attending an event are the registrars. These individuals are typically the first official face they see, and help to ensure that the day starts off on the right foot. As part of their responsibilities, they verify and issue track credentials, accept driver entries often times including payments for the event, and communicate important information to people involved with the event.
This is one of the most visible specialties and one that if you are a future racer, I highly recommend you try. Flaggers are strategically position around the course providing you the closest seat in the house to the racing action. In this position, you will use flags along with hand signals to communicate track conditions to drivers. You will also communicate with the Stewards via radio and serve as they’re eyes on the track. If there is an incident on the course, you’ll serve as the first responder to communicate between drivers and other safety specialties.
From a driver’s perspective, many flaggers have volunteered for several years and from this experience they often have gained the understanding of the fastest line through the turns and know what to be on the look-out for. If you have a choice of flagging stations, and if you have driven the track before, try to pick the stations that you find most difficult to drive. If you have never driven the track, think about the key turns on the track and start there. No matter what station you flag at, it is still going to be a great learning experience. And again, getting to know the people who may be flagging while you are out on the track never hurts.
All eyes are on the Starter holding the flag at the beginning and the end of the race, but waving the green and the checker flags is just a small part of what Starters do. They maintain the lap count and elapsed time for the session, follow the race order by charting the race, and, as if that were not enough, they act as a flag station, performing many of the same tasks of that specialty.
If you have interest in inspecting racecars and poking around under the hood, this might be an ideal place for you. This specialty is responsible for pre-race safety inspections (including performing annual safety inspections), checking driver safety gear at each event, to post race inspections possibly including mechanical teardowns due to a competitor protest.
After each race session ends, the top few cars need to report to the Tech area to have various items checked to ensure legality (often times the car’s minimum weight).
Pit Marshals ensures safety by directing traffic
In this position, you would direct traffic in the pit lane to ensure the safety of the driver, crew members working in pit lane, and quickly checking to ensure that the car is ready to return to the track before leaving pit lane. With much action especially during qualifying and practice sessions, this can be a busy place with many people on the move.
Races include qualifying (and often practice) sessions before races. As a result of this, many drivers spend time in the pit lane making adjustments to the cars. When this happens, the pit lane becomes a busy place with both cars and people on the move. Other responsibilities include anything from putting out small fires, ensuring no one does anything unsafe, to directing cars either to the paddock or back out onto the track.
Being a Grid Marshal gives a person a special opportunity to talk to the drivers while they are on the Grid waiting their turn to go out on the track. It’s another role where the right attitude can make for a better experience for both the official and the driver or crew. Before the five-minute warning, the relaxed atmosphere leads to friendly banter, but once the drivers begin to get ready, it’s all business. The Grid Workers make sure everyone is using all the required personal safety equipment, sometimes even offering a helping hand as the drivers get ready to go.
The race circuit often requires attention whether an incident created a problem or other conditions have developed a concern for drivers. These marshals help in clean-ups and removing disabled cars from the course.
In this role you will serve as the eyes, the ears, and the voice of Race Control at strategic locations around the race course. You will maintain contact with all turn flagger stations and specialties using radios. People in this position report such things as cars off course, impacts, mechanical observations, and relay requests for tow vehicles, and medical or fire response.
While racing inherently creates noise, there often strict town sound decibel limits to ensure it doesn’t become excessive. These marshals that cars are not exceeding the prescribed sound limits taking readings in various sections around the track.
At a moments notice, you may need to respond to the scene of an accident and provide critical assistance. This can range from medical response, fire fighting to vehicle recovery. The crew who are responsible for vehicle recover will also help clean up the mess after a car accident or other on-track incident.
Timing and Scoring
Interested in analysis? Timing and Scoring may be for you.
These volunteer collect data such as creating lap charts using computer timing, create the grid line-ups, produce results sheets for each session, and much more. While they utilize computer based programs, all information needs to be verified by people to ensure there are no glitches.
While many of the previously mentioned specialties are comprised of people who either have no desire to race themselves, or plan to do so in the future, most Stewards are current or former drivers. Their duties range greatly from supporting other specialties, ensuring the event is being run smoothly, to hearing driver protests for either on-track incidents or for mechanical compliance.