Words by Daphne Figueroa.
I would like to thank the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), MotoGP, and MotoAmerica organizations and their staff for their support and for the opportunity to serve as a flag marshal during the events of April 19-23, 2017. Also, a big thank you to Emily for asking me to share my experiences through Full Throttle Motorsport! All information is based on personal experiences and opinions are solely my own. If you like my work, please take a look at my blog, motorcyclesandmolecules.net, where I combine my love of chemistry with my passion for motorcycling & motorbikes.
1. Becoming a Volunteer Flag Marshal – Why Not Give It a Try?
When I was new to following motorcycle racing (25 years ago), I assumed that the flag and track marshals were part of the staff of every circuit. Of course, later it made sense that the vast majority were volunteers, as not even the most profitable of circuits can afford to keep that many people on staff throughout the year. When I began to see posts on social media for volunteer opportunities, I asked around at various circuits and found out that many volunteers return year after year, but frequently there are not enough flag or track marshals, thus recruitment often begins several months prior to an event. In early March, I saw a post from MotoGP on Twitter asking for volunteers at COTA and I thought – well, here’s my chance! I live in San Diego, California; there’s only one U.S. Round for MotoGP, and it would also be the first round of the season for MotoAmerica. Why not give something back to the sport that has given me so much enjoyment for all of these years? I clicked on the link, completed a fairly simple registration process followed by a short application questionnaire, and then waited to hear if I had been accepted. On St. Patrick’s Day, the luck of the Irish (yes, I have quite a bit of Irish in me, in spite of the Spanish surname) descended and I received the acceptance e-mail from Sydney, part of the Race Administration Team, providing a training video, a preliminary event schedule, and a link to register at the hotel from where volunteers would be shuttled to COTA. I was in. Woot!
Over the next month, I received numerous e-mail updates from Sydney, Egor (Chief Track Marshal) and Dave (Flag Chief for the event and Series Chief Marshal for MotoAmerica) with loads of information, lists of items to bring, updated schedules, etc. Whenever I had questions, each of them was helpful, responsive, and had a good sense of humor about my “newbie” queries.
2. First Impressions –
Circuit of the Americas, an Incredible Venue Seeing the COTA tower that I had seen many times on television was a serious “wow” moment. On Thursday, April 20th, I was riding the shuttle from the hotel to the track and suddenly, there it was, looming in the distance. Later in the day, I would get to stand right under it. For the next three days, it welcomed me and the other volunteers each morning before dawn with its resplendent red, white and blue lighting. As the sun came up, the lights faded and its stark red and white form helped to keep me oriented throughout the day, no matter where I was on the circuit.
As the shuttle made its way to the circuit on Thursday morning, I was very excited and a little nervous. However, I soon felt at ease as I chatted with another Californian, Eric, who was friendly, engaging, and had been a flag marshal for several other events. He made me feel welcome and more confident about being able to do the job and do it well.
A great start to the weekend was meeting another newbie, Kirsten, a fellow scientist, MotoGP and MotoAmerica fan. (She’s an electrical engineer at NASA’s Mission Control Center who leads a team of engineers who monitor the health of the International Space Station power system. How cool is that?) We went to training together, shared stories about racing events that we had attended at home and abroad, and visited “The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show” in Austin on Saturday evening where we were overwhelmed by an amazing display of custom built bikes from every brand and era, including the MV Agusta Brutale donated by MV for the custom build by Sofi Tsingos and Alicia Elfving (pictured below, on my right) with 100% of the proceeds going to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
A friendly reminder from Chief Flag Marshal Dave — marshals are not allowed to take photographs when on duty! All photos in this post were taken while on breaks and when the track was “cold”. The safety of the marshals and riders is paramount, so when the track is “hot”, don’t take that shot!