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On Track Communication Guide

A how - to article from my Blog www.trackdayenthusiast.com. Hope you all enjoy reading.

Beginners Guide Part II​

Written By Nick Stone & Bill Bowes

This article is designed to prepare you for a Day-On-Track, including communications and what to expect from corner workers and other drivers. In addition, this article will give you a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes with the dedicated Flagging and Communication workers and volunteers.

Flag Communications:

Why is it called Flag and Communications? Because that’s exactly what the Corner Workers, or Flag Stations, do! They communicate via radio with the track’s “Control Tower”, aka Control, and they communicate with you, the driver, via a series of flags. It is the corner station’s job to communicate track conditions to Control, and Control makes most of the decisions.

Flag Stations:

The first flag station you’ll encounter is not Turn 1 (T1). It’s the person called Pit-Out. It is Pit-Out’s job to make sure you’re ready to enter the track. For example, they’ll check your wristband to make sure you’re driving in the right run group, as well as your instructor’s wristband, your seat belts, your windows, your helmet’s chin strap, etc. He/she will not release you until it’s safe to enter the track. Note: When released it means GO, be safe but GO!

After entering the track, you’ll see that the flag stations are positioned near every turn. They are literally your eyes on the track. All tracks have a “Black Flag Station”. This is generally positioned 2-3 turns before pit-in so you have enough time to signal that you are pitting. Pit-in is where you exit the track.

Communication:

A typical communication might go something like this:

“Control, turn 7, information.”

“Go ahead, 7.”

“I observed car two, zero, black and white, smoking heavily from the rear.”

It is then up to Control to decide what to do. They might bring the car into the pits, but most likely they will ask all turns to observe the car to verify the problem.

While Control makes most track decisions, there are situations that are left up to the discretion of the flag station. We’ll go over these flags first.

Yellow Flag:

The most important flag to learn is the YELLOW flag.

When you approach a corner station displaying the yellow flag it means CAUTION. How it is displayed determines the urgency of the incident.

If the flag is being displayed stationary, standing yellow, you are being told that there is an incident around the next corner. However, standing yellow means the incident is off the track surface. It does not mean panic! When presented with a standing yellow, you should immediately check your mirrors. The driver behind you may not have seen it. This is also not the time to be pushing the throttle. Simply proceed around the turn looking for the incident; once you are safely past, motor on.

If the flag is being waved, it means that the incident is on the track. Again, this is not panic time. Don’t hit the brake hard or lift on the throttle. Check your mirrors and proceed around the corner cautiously and be prepared to take evasive action. Once you are past the problem, motor on.

Now, if the corner station is waving the flag like a crazy person, they are trying to tell you that the incident is dire, and you might become part of the incident.

Under no circumstances is anyone allowed to pass under a yellow flag, waving or standing, and that condition remains until the next non-yellow flag station.

Blue Flag with Yellow Stripe:

This flag is also at the discretion of the corner station. If you see this flag it means that faster traffic is behind you and you should be prepared to let them pass. Note: If you are in a high horsepower car you may pull away from traffic on the straights but if traffic is behind you in the turns they are faster… Simply give them a safe point by and motor on.

Red Flag with Yellow Stripes:

This flag is generally discretionary; however, Control may also order this flag. It means there is debris on the track. Debris can be anything from dirt, grass, or mud to fluids and/or car parts. Again, there is yellow in it, so it means you need to exercise caution, especially if there are fluids on the track. Passing is allowed. The debris flag is generally only displayed for one or two laps. The debris may still be there, but you have been advised.

White Flag:

The corner station is telling you that there is a slow car ahead that you need to be aware of. It does not mean slow down, simply that you need to know the car is there. Passing is allowed.

Red Flag:

The red flag means EMERGENCY and can only be ordered by Control. It means you need to bring your car to a controlled STOP. Look in your mirrors and then look for the nearest flag station. When you are in view of a station, come to a complete stop by the side of the track. The reason you need to be in view of a flag station is that they will tell you what to do next. A red flag is almost always followed by a black flag.

Black Flag:

It is critical that you understand what the black flag is telling you. In a nutshell, if you see a black flag it means you need to come into the pits. It’s that simple.

If you see black flags, either standing or waving, at every corner station, it means the entire field is being ordered to the pits. There is no passing under black.

If you pass the Black Flag station, and you see a standing black flag, it means that YOU need to come into the pits. Now, the first thing drivers think when they see a standing black flag is, “Was that for me?” If there is even a question about whether the flag was for you, pit in. If it wasn’t for you, the pit out person will wave you back on track.

Important: If you are black flagged, do not go back to your paddock. Proceed to Pit-out to find out why you were black flagged.

Acknowledge that you have seen the black flag with a wave or some sort of gesture. At the very least, make an acknowledgement to the next flag station. If you don’t, it will be assumed that you didn’t see it and Control will order Pit-Out to display the black flag, and they will point directly at you with a stern look. Remember, this is the person you need to talk to find out why you’ve been black flagged. If you see a black flag, pit.

Checkered Flag:

Your session is over. This can be displayed at Pit-out or the Black Flag station. Slow down a little, but don’t be a snail. The next group is waiting for you to exit the track. No passing under the Checkered flag. And don’t blow the checker. Note: This is a great time to let your car, brakes, and tires cool down.

Green Flag:

Displayed by the Pit-out person to signal that the track is hot. Passing is allowed.

At the end of your session, acknowledge the corner workers by waving to them as you pass their stations. Without them, we don’t get to play.

Note: Every HPDE host starts the day with some sort of warm-up. It can be a couple of laps under yellow to a half hour. Ask your instructor to point out the flag stations. Better yet, call them out to the instructor as soon as you see them. Not only will you learn where they are, but this will force you to lift your eyes off the car in front of you.

Driver Communication:

While on track, it is important for you, the driver, to communicate with other drivers via hand signals.

Passing Signals:

Most HPDE hosts require passing signals or “point-bys”. It is critical that you, the lead driver, communicate to the driver behind you which side you want to be passed on. There are some rules that must be followed:

1. You should drive the racing line and hold that line. It is up to the passing driver to go off-line to make the pass. That faster car is expecting you to hold the line. If you abruptly move off-line and so does the other car, the result could be some dented metal.

2. Most point-bys should be to the side of the next apex. So, if the next apex is on the right, the line is on the left, and the point-by would be to the right. If the next apex is on the left, the line is on the right, and your point-by should be to the left.

3. To signal a left side pass, simply stick your arm far enough out so the passing driver can see it. Don’t just stick your finger out the window!

4. The signal for a right side pass is a point over the roof of the car to the right. Make sure your point bys are clear to avoid any miscommunication

5. After you give the signal, DO NOT CHANGE YOUR MIND. Make sure you give the passing car enough time to make the pass. If you are in a high horsepower car, and the passing car is a Miata, don’t drag race them to the apex. Let them go.

6. If you have multiple cars behind you, give each one a separate signal.

7. If the car in front gives you a point-by, but you’re not comfortable making the pass, wave it off.

Pit-in Signal:

When you want to get off the track, you must let the drivers behind you know your intention. Make a fist with your left hand and stick your left arm out the window, making sure it is up so it can be seen. Once you give the pit-in signal DO NOT change your mind as the fist up is also a universal passing signal.

Give your signal well in advance, perhaps 2 corners beforehand, and maintain it until you are on pit lane. Try to keep off the racing line as you pit in.

End of Session:

Don’t forget to wave to the workers!

We hope you enjoyed Beginners Guide Part II and find the topics covered useful in preparing for your track day!

Big thanks to Bill Bowes for providing content! Bill is an instructor for several organizations. He has a Motor Sports Foundation Level 2 certification. Bill’s worked Flagging & Communication for the South Florida SCCA region, and has flagged the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Happy Tracking,

Nick Stone & Bill Bowes
 

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