Local workers get closer to the racing action
Local workers are closer to the action than almost anyone else in motorsport. (Photo IMSA)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla .– You love racing, but you’re realistic enough to know you’re not going to be successful as a pilot. Maybe you’re not particularly mechanically inclined, either. But you feel like you’re more than just a fan and you want to get closer to the action. How do you get involved?
The Sports Car Club of America offers many ways for volunteers to learn about events ranging from local autocross competitions to regional road racing events to IMSA-sanctioned 24-hour races. Formed in 1944, the SCCA has over 67,000 members who share a love of cars and racing. The club comprises nine geographic divisions across the United States, encompassing 114 local regions.
In addition to organizing and sanctioning races at the professional and amateur levels, the SCCA also offers free training for corner workers, timing and scoring workers, and other officials to work at events across North America and even around the world. These are the people behind the scenes as âmechanicsâ who run a race.
Corner workers are crucial to the safe operation of any racing event. Their main task is to warn competitors of dangers ahead or of faster cars approaching from behind. This is especially crucial in sports car racing, where the inclusion of multiple classes can create serious traffic jams.
The role of a corner clerk is not glamorous but the rewards are immeasurable. Admittedly, the hours are long – from the early morning until the last checkered flag – and the workers endure all the elements of the weather. But the ability to be part of the action and be as close to the action as possible without actually being in a race car is the primary calling card for most volunteers.
Not to mention the camaraderie that has developed within the community. On some IMSA road courses, in fact, many corner workers spend the race weekend camping in place and get together after the work day is over to spend time together.
During the recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship weekend in Detroit’s Belle Isle, their day began with a 6.30am meeting for the more than 100 volunteer workers in the area, one hour before the doors opened to the public and three hours before the first racing car. turned a wheel. Their day ended with the track plunged into darkness, with activity delayed by a pair of incidents during the IndyCar race earlier in the afternoon.
Yet they were there, laughing and joking, for 14 hours, on a hot and humid day, under the constant threat of rain. As unpaid volunteers. With all due respect to the Peace Corps, being a corner worker might be the hardest job anyone can love.
Bob Duncan, formerly of the Lansing, Michigan area but now residing in Florida, served as the corner captain for turns 8, 9, 10 and 11 on the street course, supervising two or three flaggers at each station.
Duncan showed his interest in becoming an official when he attended an SCCA Track Day event in 2002, and he was quickly recruited.
âIt was free training, and as soon as you get trained, you’re in – you do everything,â Duncan recalls. “It took me about two years to gain enough experience for my local administrator to write a letter saying I could work in a professional event, which was an ALMS sports car race.”
He noted that things are more intense for the local workers at the professional level. âSuddenly the cars were a lot faster than the amateur races I had seen,â he said. âAbout a year after that, I worked on the Formula 1 race in Indianapolis, waving the blue flag, and I remember seeing Michael Schumacher’s eyes working as he moved. “
Since then he has worked on events across the country and around the world, even managing to incorporate the Belgian Grand Prix signal at Spa-Francorchamps into a European business trip.
âI’m building all of my relaxation around this,â Duncan said. âIt’s what I do instead of a vacation, even though we incorporate a part of it. My wife supports me. She knows it’s my hobby and she actually comes to some races – she loves IMSA and Formula 1. As local employees we often get guest passes.
Brian Sumeracki got involved with the SCCA in 1990. âI started out in club racing as a technical inspector, but wanted to get into the racing part,â he said. âBut life came and I got married. A friend suggested that I try to report.
He completed his training in 2002 and has mainly worked on track events in his area – Waterford Hills, Grattan Raceway Park and GingerMan Raceway. A longtime Chrysler employee, he also campaigned for a Dodge Neon stock car on display at SCCA events, and he also served two terms on the club’s Detroit-area board of directors.
He now works up to eight events a year and says the SCCA National Runoffs is his favorite.
âI brought a few cousins ââto report,â Sumeracki said. âI like the camaraderie. You usually work with people from similar fields. I have met people from different parts of Chrysler who also work as flaggers.
Shelby Township, Michigan resident Jim Megel claims he’s no car guy, yet he worked as a flagman at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
âI just like the race,â he explained. âSome of these people can tell you what the drivers had for breakfast, but I just like the competition. The race is very technical.
He started to think about volunteer work when Roger Penske helped organize the Super Bowl in Detroit in 2006.
âI pressed the wrong button on the computer and it didn’t work, but about a year later the Detroit Grand Prix returned to Belle Isle,â said Megel. âI contacted the local SCCA and they just took me by the arm. I went to school, I took the training.
Obviously, for all the hard work that volunteering takes, there are a lot of payoffs. And not just the legendary local workers’ parties that traditionally cap a race weekend.
âIt’s all about volunteering, so it’s a satisfaction to do something for the racing community,â Duncan said. âYou have that interaction with the drivers and connected to the race in a different way than just sitting in the grandstand watching them go by.
âYou get the best seat in the house. “