How to be a Better Turn Marshal

Mar 12, 2012 13 Comments by

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:

Dress appropriately
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.

Stay low
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.

Prioritize pile-ups
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.

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About the author

I have been an RC hobbyist since the mid 90’s, and I have been working on the editorial side of the industry for nearly ten years now. There have been times when I have stepped away from RC for a bit, but I have always come back. In fact, RC is the only thing in my life that never completely goes away. I love watching for new trends and looking out for new takes on old favorites. I am perfectly satisfied that RC isn’t main stream. In fact, I prefer it that way. Not everyone can do what we do, and I would rather be a part of something exclusive than something “popular.”

13 Responses to “How to be a Better Turn Marshal”

  1. Christopher Oswald says:

    Well said. I agree, marshalling isn’t the greatest but is important. Good write up. Good tips.

  2. Timbulb says:

    There’s no f’n way I’m squatting in “catcher’s position” for a whole race.

  3. Brian Townsend says:

    So kneel down then…put one knee on the ground. Or find a spot to marshall where you can stand and not block the view from the drivers stand (marshall the back corners).

    I also think there needs to be a defined way of getting disabled cars back to the pit crew. I read somewhere that the marshall is supposed to take the vehicle to the nearest outside edge of the track…crew members should then have to go AROUND the track to retrieve the vehicle….not across the track where they can be a distraction, or worse, cause another crash.

    I always do my best to marshall in such a way that it does not disrupt the drivers who have not crashed…and if lapped traffic runs into someone still on the lead lap, I try to get the leader going again before I try to get the back-marker back on his wheels…

  4. Johnnyshore says:

    Here’s what I tell people new to turn-marshalling…

    “If you assume that every car going past your spot is going to crash, you’ll always be ready”.

    There’s nothing worse than a turn marshal that’s not paying attention.

  5. Taylor says:

    Great article. I’ve been a basher for about 4 years, but I recently have had a sudden interest in racing. I wanted to be a turn marshall before participating in the race itself, just to get a feel for what kind of competition I’d be up against – thanks to this article, I know more clearly how to do my job efficiently and not look like an idiot and make every single racer hate me. :)

  6. Ron Laisle says:

    Poor turn marshalling finally got so bad at my club’s track that, not only did I leave the club,but at the last meeting I attended,I made sure the worst offenders were thoughly embarassed and that the officers of the club were perfectly clear on who and why I no longer chose to particpate in what had become a debacle. They acted like they had no idea about what I was talking. I told them that that ignorance of the situation was exactly why it existed in the first place. This was over ten years ago and I have yet to participate in organized racing since. That club only lasted about another 8 months before most of the serious racers had left to race elsewhere. Don’t let this happen at your club.

  7. Frank says:

    @timbulb lmao!

    I was thinking the same thing. We’ve already established these are 8lbs of metal flying by you at 40mph… Why would I put my face level with that??? Too bad if the driver can’t see his car for a split second. Get some placement memory. It’s not worth getting my face jacked up.

    Not to mention… Hello cramp. Spring into action? More like fall into the dirt. Even baseball catches don’t squat that long. And.. I’m not bringing knee pads so I can Marshall kneeling. Lol…

    Solution: make a higher drivers stand :)

  8. Frank says:

    But… Aside from the courtesy aspect of marshaling.. It gives you an up close and personal look at what line works and how drivers are handling your section. What’s fast and what’s not?

    Selfish maybe…. But whatever motivates ya to Marshall … Who cares!

  9. Tommy says:

    +1 for not running with the cars to meet the mechanics. Clearly mark/give sign that the car is ‘out’ and put it down or on side of the track. I don’t think you should leave your post, I’ve seen many times that other cars have to wait a long time because the marshal have left his post for deliver a car to pit/mechanics.
    Besides that, very good article!

  10. Rich Paxton says:

    Not sure if all tracks do this, as I am new to rc racing, but my local track requires that racers that have finished are to be the ones who clean the track and turn marshal for the next race. Then the process continues on when the next set of drivers finishes. I really like the idea alot. It helps noobs like me get a feel for every aspect of racing. Great article.

  11. Kael says:

    Disagree about the turn marshal taking broken or flamed out vehicles beyond their area. That’s not their job and is unfair to other racers who haven’t broken. I don’t mind marshals that try to help a quick fix (popped turnbuckle) as long as they keep an eye on their area, do so myself.

    Agree with Brian, taking to nearest edge is okay (though some tracks are really big, eh!).

    Minor point missed: Check for other cars before marshalling, it’s okay to wait for an active car to go by before marshalling someone, but totally NOT cool to step in (or ON!) another car’s way; they didn’t wreck.

    On the turn marshal’s side: If you are unhappy with a turn marshal, perhaps you shouldn’t have wrecked in the first place. Chill.

  12. David says:

    I agree you need to do the best job you can, but the drivers better be patient, and wait for me. I did not make them crash, but if they give me a hard time, I may find reasons to be less helpful. The driver needs to keep the finger off the throttle until the car is down, and pointing the right way. Be polite, say please and thank you. So betimes there are multiple vehicles involved, and you need to work them in the order you get to them. If you don’t like it, don’t race. Yes, there can be distractions, and no, I do not eyes in the back of my head, so give the Marshall a break, it may be your turn next.

  13. The Huey Hauler says:

    Thanks for the info. I’m building a Track & have 2 areas for Marshall’s. This will help me out allot.
    Thank you,

    Huey

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