The first job of a Blue Flagger
is to protect his station
. Bad things can happen, and have. I lost a friend
at Nelson a couple years ago when a race car took a turn for the worse
. So there I was on Blue during the first race of an SCCA
National at Nelson Ledges Road Course
when a Formula Continental got a bit exuberant at the preceding station, slid off and made like a charging bull in our direction.
I yelled "Bail!" with all the volume I could muster and it worked. My friends Kim and Andy were on yellow and phones respectively, and promptly spun around to see what was happening. You see, Andy and I are old hands at this game and his bride Kim took to flagging like a cat after tuna. They were behind the station, and that's where you're supposed to go. Corner workers don't have to stand out there naked on an established track like Nelson. There each station has a roof, a box, a floor and best of all a barrier. We stood behind a guardrail piled three-high and a tire wall. You bail behind the barrier when a car is coming but never right behind it. Barriers move. I have a friend who moved a section of concrete wall a meter wide when he clobbered it in his GTI. You give it room, and you start looking. The car buried itself in the tire wall, just like it was supposed to, but it might have hit and flipped, rolling right over us. We were looking, on our feet, ready to move once we knew where to run.
Once we saw the car had been stopped it was my turn to run
. I grabbed the fire bottle and by the time I got around the station I could see the driver was already disconnecting himself from the various things that keep a driver in a race car
. That told me more clearly than anything else that he knew where was and probably wasn't hurt at all. So I helped him out of the car and tried to get him around the station. But the thing is about a driver whose just clobbered something-- they're usually really pissed. Really, really
pissed. He started bitching about the guy in front of him even before I got him out of the car, and then about the slower traffic he thought he was lapping. He blamed the incident on someone else, a supposed slower car he was lapping who just got in his way.
Thing, is the General Competition Rules
of the Sports Car Club of America
(and pretty much every other sanctioning body) quite explicitly state the overtaking driver is responsible for making the pass. Also, he wasn't passing a lapped car, he was trying to get by a competitor, so the pass was for position. But he didn't see it that way. I got him behind the station and on the way spotted the blue flag I'd left lying when I ran to his car and promptly began waiving it. That got Andy involved too, with a whole lot of "Sir, you can't do that". I got my flag back and assumed blue flag position. Which left Andy alone to keep him from going back to his car, which is also common after a crash. After all, these guys are amateurs and have to pay for their own crash damage. Fortunately he's about six and half feet tall so it worked.
Andy had an interesting five minutes or so before the driver calmed down. After that he proved a really nice guy. And we expected that too. Things change when you put the helmet on and strap in. Out on track, winning is what matters. There are no synchromesh gears to ease a downshift from powerful emotions.