As the first cars rolled out of the pit garages and went on their installation laps I was still trying to come to terms with the fact I was actually here, I was at Sebring International Raceway for the 12 hours of IMSA and 1000 miles of World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The circuit was buzzing with a party atmosphere and there was hype about the two huge egos of racing and who would take centre stage over the coming week.
After almost a full day of WEC, IMSA and the other support races that were there I thought I was ready for the rest of the weekend. I’d picked up the different flagging systems, normal FIA rules for WEC and then stationary flags for everything else, the speed difference of the cars and roughly worked out who was quick and who wasn’t.
I thought I was ready. Then night fell.
In the distance I heard the rumble of an engine, like a beast waking from a deep slumber, hungry and ready to go hunting, there was a chill that came across me. I knew it was only a matter of time before its white and yellow glowing eyes were staring right at me. It was heading straight for me snarling, barking, shouting, screaming and biting before scrambling off into the darkness.
I felt like the hunted, like I was doing just enough to keep the beast at bay each lap until I had worked it out. I’d work out its sound; its call to the others, my senses now in tune with the nature of the beast I was ready.
From the pitch of the engine and the glowing of the headlights as the cars battered down the pit straight towards me I was able to blue flag again, I was able to pick out the cars that were faster and those that were slower and communicate with the drivers again.
As each day passed the racing was as exciting as the first time I’d seen the cars on the circuit however, there was a bigger contributing factor that made the weekend even more enjoyable that I had ever imagined.
Often referred to as our cousins across the pond I’d not been sure what to expect from the people over there, I quickly realised why they are often known as our cousins.
Arriving on the circuit I wasn’t sure how people would react at the sight to new marshals, however I was treated as if I was family, an on old friend who had come round to stay. I was greeted with the warmest hospitality I’ve ever known at a race track.
It didn’t stop at sign on, after being assigned to Post 1 and 1a on the circuit, which is turn one, we got to know our teams a little bit better. Sharing a common love for Motorsport, mixed with our sarcasm and their enthusiasm we had a team that was unrivalled and friendships instantly blossomed.
I would say that the racing was the best bit, I would have said that before going out there, being on the plane, walking round Universal Studios, even when looking at alligators I would have said that the racing would have been the best bit and it was good, especially when we had a few crashes to deal with.
However, the team, the group of marshals and ultimately the friends that I made when I was over there went straight in at number one, making me ask myself not if I’d go back to marshal in the USA, but when is the earliest chance to go back out there.
All that’s left to say is if you’ve ever thought about marshalling over there, you’ve wasted too much time. It’s time to pack your bags and be treated like family.