weekend marshalling at Laguna Seca
MotoGP – Laguna Seca 2006
The weekend started on Wednesday night, with a trip to San Jose
to rescue a seized dirt bike. Preparations were already six hours
behind schedule, and this wasn't what I needed.
I got an early start on Thursday and went to Munroe motors to
buy parts for the Monster. The ride back from the previous weekend's
construction party had fried the old regulator - rectifier in the
Sonoma heat. Fitting the new part proved to be more of a challenge
than it should have been, but after relocating half the wiring
loom and some ancillary electrical equipment, I worked out that
one shouldn't expect electrical systems to function optimally when
they're not plugged in. Mole from the Secret Society arrived in
the early afternoon, and we took a relaxing ride south in 100+
degree heat, arriving at Laguna Seca around 4pm after some unscheduled
exploration of Monterey County.
I'd volunteered as a corner worker at the MotoGP and AMA races.
On Friday I was on a response position (leap out on track and recover
stopped bikes), then on Saturday and Sunday I was working as a
flagger, stationed on the long uphill straight which leads into
the corkscrew. It wasn't a corner, but significant changes had
been made to the track, and the straight ended in the first blind
crest of the corkscrew, so we needed flags there. The high speed
straight was also the cause of a lot of mechanical problems, but
more on that later...
On Friday in free practice for one of the AMA races, an engine
blew, leaving the entry to turn 6 covered in oil. We were still
ironing out glitches in the comms system, and nobody called for
oil flags for a couple of laps. Well, you can guess what happened
next. Four bikes blew the turn on the following laps, and the riders
who made it through were getting increasingly irate as they left
turn 6 and came up the straight we were manning. They were mostly
gesturing to us to start waving flags (or presumably get on the
radio to ask for flags before turn 6). Matt Mladin got so fecked
off that he stopped his bike at the top of our straight and started
giving verbal to the flaggers up there. Whoops..
By Saturday I was flagging. Waving flags that is, not tired. Although
I was also tired. There was a crash at turn 2 after the start of
the AMA superbike race on that afternoon. The pack was at turn
6 by the time control called the red flag. So mine was the first
flag they saw. Yup, - I stopped the race!
Later in the race, after the restart, four times AMA champion
Doug Chandler spat his chain opposite my flagging window. So I
picked it up after the race. It'll be going to the James Cornell
fund once the chief marshal from turn 7 has extorted the signed
poster to go with it.
We had a phenomenal view from my flagging window. Obviously we
were right on the track, and I could see all the way from the apex
of turn 6 to the entry to the corkscrew. The heat was unbearable
most of the time. There were record temperatures throughout California.
Monterey beat their temperature record by about 10 Fahrenheit.
The track surface temperature was 148 degrees. It was HOT. So,
our head marshall gave us time off between races when he could.
I wandered down to the pits a few times. Here's
Dani Pedrosa giving
an interview to SpeedTV.
I hung around outside his garage for about 20 minutes hoping to
get an autograph, but he wasn't having it. He ignored me once,
then sat at the back of the garage watching videos of the practice
sessions. Which I suppose is fair enough, but I heard he only signed
two autographs all weekend, which seems a bit mean.
So I gave up on Pedrosa. Screw him I thought. I'll wander back
down the pit lane, then go back to my station for the FIM inspection.
As I was passing the Yamaha garage, this is what I saw.
"Wow", I thought.
I wonder... Maybe if he hangs around for more than two seconds...
(Yes, you are
looking at Valentino Rossi).
But more about that later.
I have an extensive selection of photos from the pit lane, but
unfortunately, I was flagging every single session all weekend,
so when there were bikes on track I had to be at the other side
of the course. Oh well. It was really interesting being able to
wander around the pits with unfettered access to everything.
Back at the flagging station, the FIM / Dorna inspection went
well. The race passed with few incidents at our station except
for those mechanical gremlins I mentioned before. As one rider
hit the crest of the hill entering the corkscrew, we saw a cloud
of oil smoke. We radioed it in, and got out the oil flags as a
precaution. Control asked for confirmation of what we'd seen, and
it eventually came from my friend Linda who was working on turn
Control came back over the radio after she confirmed, and called
for the meatball flag (leave track - mechanical) on bike 46. So,
we all got Rossi's number on our boards while double taking a few
times and showed him the meatball. I wasn't impressed that he attempted
to continue for several laps after we'd called him in. Seemed irresponsible
to me, since for all he knew he might have been spewing oil all
over the track...
Anyway, he eventually left the track. I spoke to some of the workers
that recovered him and his bike after the race. Apparently he was
as white as a sheet. He even asked the draggin' wagon driver to
slow down as he was feeling ill. Everyone who saw him suspected
heat exhastion or dehydration.
Apart from being paid to have the best possible
view of the racing, it was great to be involved in the event.
And the other workers
were all very cool people (I knew a few of them before working
this race, but there were about 350 of us on the track and in the
pit, so there were lots of people to meet). I was going to use
a photo of the guys I was working with, but it needs some photoshopping.
Instead, here's me on track near my flagging window on "turn" 7.
The crest of the hill behind me is the entry to the corkscrew.
at turn 7
That was taken on day three, so I'm looking a bit grubby. There's
a particularly stubborn stain on my track vest. Here's a close
up so you can see it.
Close up of Rossi's
Yup. It's Valentino Rossi's autograph. I met him just after taking
the third photo above.
The condition of the track kept us busy throughout the weekend.
It was falling off in lumps in places. Dorna were not happy, and
although they added significantly to our workload by re-shceduling
the AMA races, we all had a great weekend. I'll be back next year.
USARM (http://www.usarm.org/) will be looking for volunteers early
next year. Keep an eye out, - there's no better way to watch the
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