Volunteer and Official Roles
There are several levels of motorsport competition, namely ClubSport (i.e. club or grassroots level), regional, national and international. The various volunteer marshal and official roles listed below can usually apply to any level of competition.
Some roles will be specific to the motorsport discipline or event type – race, rally, motorkhana, hillclimbs, etc – while other roles are needed for all disciplines.
People may choose a role because they bring relevant skills from their day job or previous experience, or they may choose to volunteer in a very different type of role to offer variety and new experiences.
The secretariat staff are often the first people that competitors meet when attending an event so are important to help ensure that the day starts off on the right foot. As part of their responsibilities, secretariat staff verify and issue track credentials/documentation, accept driver entries, including payments for the event, and communicate important information to people involved with the event. Names for this role include race secretary, event secretary or documentation.
This is one of the most visible specialties and, if you are a future competitor, it’s one we highly recommend you try. Flag marshals are strategically positioned around at a race circuit, providing you the closest seat in the house to the racing action. In this role, you will use specified flags and other means to communicate track conditions to competitors. You will also communicate with Race Control via radio and serve as their eyes on the track. If there is an incident on the circuit, you’ll serve as the first responder to communicate between competitors and other safety specialties.
From a competitor’s perspective, many flag marshals have volunteered for several years and gained the understanding of the fastest line through the turns and know what to be on the look-out for. No matter what point you flag at, it’s 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 chequered flag 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 marshal point, performing many of the same tasks of that specialty.
Scrutineer / Technical Office
If you have interest in inspecting race cars and poking around under the bonnet, this could be a great role for you. the scrutineers or technical officers are responsible for pre-event and post-event safety inspections on competition vehicles and checking that the competitor’s safety gear, i.e. helmet, race suit, etc, meet current regulations. Depending on the level of event, after a race or rally concludes, the top few competitors are told to report to the technical area to have various items on their vehicle checked to ensure legality, including such things as the car’s minimum weight.
Usually working in a small team, the pit marshals direct traffic in pit lane to ensure the safety of competitors, crew members, other volunteers and sometimes spectators. During qualifying and practice sessions, the pit lane of a race circuit is a busy place with many people on the move. Other responsibilities include anything from putting out small fires, ensuring no one does anything unsafe, lining cars up in a specified order to be released onto the track, to directing cars either to the paddock or back out onto the track.
Being a grid marshal often offers a special opportunity to talk to competitors waiting on the grid for their turn to go out on the track. The grid marshals make sure competitors have all required personal safety equipment and that they are in the correct grid position, before signalling to Race Control and the starter that the race is ready to start. It’s a role where the right attitude makes 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 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, ears and voice of race control at strategic locations around the race track. You will maintain contact with all flag points and specialties using radios, reporting on race incidents such things as cars off track, impacts, mechanical problems, and relay requests for tow vehicles, and medical or fire response.
At a moment’s 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 vehicle recovery crew also help clean up after crashes, impacts and other on-track incidents.
Timing and Results (Race)
These volunteers collect timing and lap data to create lap charts and results sheets for each practice, qualifying or race. They also create the starting grids and much more. They utilise computer-based programmes to create this vital material and all information needs to be verified by people capable of ensuring there are no glitches with the timing transponders or other issues.
Any rally, hillclimb or other motorsport event run on a public road that is closed for the event’s duration needs block marshals to ensure the security of the roads, competitors and public. The role is simple but not always easy, requiring good communication skills, diplomacy and tact, for example when you’re talking with members of the public who wish to enter the road that it is closed. Your briefing will include copies of paperwork to show those who wish to see evidence of the road closure and its legality. You may help tape-off road closures, intersections and spectator areas, post signs, etc and remove these when the event concludes. Block marshals enjoy a front row view of the action.
Timing Crews (Rally)
Timing marshals help at start and finish controls of special stages in rallies or a start and finish line on sprint events. They operate the control zones often with timing equipment around them.
Timing marshals are trained in the role and this involves the filling out of time cards and entering times on an electronic system at major rallies or simplified systems at club sprint events. Sometimes stop watches are used but mostly now days there is some form of electronic system so times are accurate and maybe timed to 100th of a second. Start and finish controls are same but different. Both have pre-formatted log sheets to complete for tracking car numbers and times and they fill out times cards the competitors carry to give the start time, finish time and time taken to complete the special stage or course being used. These roles do require a degree of neatness in handwriting, and attention to detail and most of all a sense of humour. Rally timing crews get to see some magnificent countryside and go to places they may have never even heard of, and get to meet the competitors and be part of the event.
Service Park Timing Crews
A service park is where rally entrants have to service their vehicles, which is a controlled area run under very specific conditions and rules. At the entry to a service park, competitors are required to check in to a time control. This is like special stage timing and the competitor’s time card will have their time of reporting, entry. Service parks can have other controls which all use the same process of time card notations and log sheets to backup the electronic equipment so all competitors are tracked and kept to a timetable. If they fail to report to any time control by their due time, they incur penalties so they are usually very diligent at being in the right place at the right time.
This person effectively runs or controls a rally special stage. They will have extensive knowledge of rallying and the rules relating to this part of the sport along with experience at all positions on a timing crew. They guide their timing crew and ensure the special stage runs to time and follows the rules of the sport. It is essential that all competitors get their times recorded correctly and the log sheets are completed in a neat hand writing and times calculated at the finish control correctly. This is the duty of a post chief who run the time controls at both a start and finish control, and at all other time controls within the rally schedule.
Assistant Clerk of the Course
All events are controlled by a MSNZ-licenced clerk of the course (CoC). This applies to all events run under a MSNZ permit. At rallies, because they are run at remote locations and over many different roads, the clerk of the course needs suitably qualified assistants at each special stage in case of any incidents that need his/her input. The assistant clerk of the course will communicate with the CoC and carry out any instructions or act in his/her absence and may make decisions on the CoC’s behalf. An assistant clerk of the course must be either very experienced at the discipline they are officiating at, whether it be a rally, or race event, or licenced as one of various levels of officials within the MSNZ structure.
Competitor Relations Officers (CRO)
A competitor relations officer is a licenced official whose role is to be a liaison between the event’s clerk of the course and the competitors. This person must be fully knowledgeable of the sports rules. The CRO will handle competitor inquiries and report these to the CoC and become involved in advising the competitor on their rights and the rules relating to their inquiries or breaches of the rules. A CRO has considerable experience and will have attended seminars and completed the qualifications pertaining to this role.
Club / event management
Most clubs and events are run with a business-like approach, so if you have secretarial, organising, marketing, numeracy or literary skills, then this may be your niche.
As a Prospective Competitor
If you’re starting your competition career, you probably really want to know how to increase your skills and knowledge of our sport. Volunteering is an integral part of the sport and is an enjoyable experience. This can be a great way of getting your friends and family involved at an event. Without volunteers, many events wouldn’t exist. 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” – it applies to motorsport as well.
If you’re looking to see what club racing, rallying or motorkhana-style events are like before diving in financially or with the time commitments, volunteering provides an excellent opportunity to find out more about these motorsport disciplines.