Marshalling

To ceremoniously guide, conduct or usher.

In R/C club racing, similar to 1:1 scale club racing, the drivers must also help as a corner marshal after they race. This means helping out cars that get stuck, crash, or flip so they can continue their race. It’s a dance as you help crashed cars while other cars are still racing on the track. I’ve picked up a couple of tricks here and that help me – and maybe they can help you be more adept at marshalling. And since every driver is also a track marshal – there’s a section for drivers too. You should read both😎

Safety First

When I’m marshalling, I follow a few of safety precautions:

Watch for traffic – be aware of what is heading in your direction, especially when you’re about to jump out onto the track. Some of the more spry marshals will literally jump over cars to help someone. If you’re feeling your oats, go for it. But if you have to wait for some traffic to pass, wait. Better to have helped one driver recover than to have caused an additional 6-car pile-up. Watch for traffic as you return to your corner position – there’s zero need to do any athletic moves at this time.

Be careful of hot motors – many R/C cars have their motors exposed to keep them cool from the passing air. You don’t want to touch these parts. I find it best to grab the cars with two hands somewhere around the body. Be careful of stuff you can’t see – there might be something hot waiting to burn your fingers underneath. Try to just grab what you can see that’s safe.

Don’t grab moving parts – wheels, avoid them. There are way too many overzealous drivers (see below) out there willing to pull the trigger before you get their car fully righted. You don’t want your hands to be a fresh recipients of road rash.

Marshal with your ears and eyes

When I’m marshalling, I play zone defense. Keep an eye on the parts of the track that you can get to quickly. Don’t pay attention to the race, it will be dizzying from where you’re at.

You want to be paying attention to what’s going on in your zone – the area you’re responsible for. If you’d like, you can study the cars lines through your area and learn something. How are the fastest drivers getting through the corners?

But you don’t necessarily need to watch every car come through your area…

I allow myself to unfocus my eyes without checking out mentally. I don’t watch every car come through, but I’m looking generally at my area. This is where using your ears helps a lot. Especially in electric on-road, any driving drama is going to be accompanied by some noise. A car hitting the boards or crashing into another car. The sound of a brand new lexan body sliding across the asphalt. Off-road gets a little noisier with all the jumps, but you’ll come to recognise the sound of a buggy wing hitting the ground first when the wheels should have. Nitro adds even more noise, but once you do it a few times you’ll begin to recognize the sounds that are clear signs of trouble. This is when your marshalling duty calls. Once you’ve got your ears tuned to the right sounds, you can use them to locate their position (which might be behind you) for your nest assist.

At the ready

Sometimes tracks will provide a chair or a bucket to sit on at the marshalling points. You’re welcome to use them and sometimes sitting is compulsory to provide a better view for the drivers.

But you should always be ready. Some marshalls on the outside of the track will opt to stand – especially for the mains. If you’re in the infield, you can sit but should be ready at any time. You can even play shortstop by almost sitting if the action is particularly hot that day.

Marshalling tips for Drivers

The single worst thing you can do as a driver is yell at a corner marshal from the driver’s stand.

The only thing you should be yelling about is if there’s a hazardous situation like a car stuck in a straightaway. If that’s the case you should be generally yelling to inform your fellow drivers on the stand. Something like “Back straight!” should be good enough. If you want, even add “Outside on the back straight!” to instruct them to take the outside line if the hazard is on the inside of the back straight.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT yell at a corner marshal for doing what you might think is an unsatisfactory job. To illustrate this point here’s an anecdote.

Why So Serious?

At my first official off-road race as an adult, I found myself marshalling a section of that track that was rather quiet. In a 5-minute qualifier I didn’t have to help one car, but I noticed there was a section of the track that saw more action.

Not wanting to be a slouch, I chose the busy part of the track on my next stint, which was a qualifier for A-main stock buggy drivers. Stock buggy drivers are serious – perhaps too serious.

One driver flipped over a jump and when I went to turn his car over I wound up flipping his car too much so that it landed on the roof again. I could hear from the driver’s stand “Awwwww, COME ON!!!”

Did I do a bad job? It wasn’t my best, but I felt the feedback was unwarranted. So I confronted the driver after the heat. I told him

If you don’t like my marshalling, then you should work on your driving because you were all alone on that jump – and the only one responsible for the crash was you.

Tough stuff, but I’m glad I said something. He said that his comment was merely expressing disappointment in himself. So we were cool and went on with our races. If I had not said anything, I would have perceived it as a dig on me personally as a marshal.

Marshal Preference

At a big race there’s probably some sort of law regarding racing leaders getting marshal preference first if they’re caught in a tussle. But during club racing, I give everyone the same treatment. If you as a driver feel you’ve been treated unfairly, it would be better to talk to the driver that took you out, not the track marshal who is on your side trying to help you out.

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