Karting Flag Procedures
Recently, tragedy struck a Colorado family and they lost their 9 year old daughter in a karting accident involving a track pick-up vehicle. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family; I can not image what they are experiencing. As a parent, I certainly look at things differently than I did as an indestructible teenager.
Greg Wright of Rapid Racing took the opportunity to host an industry forum on karting safety on www.racefanradio.com where three industry experts, including a race director, discussed how safety issues should be handled by the track and sanctioning organizations. It is well worth listening to but I felt that it left out discussing an important area, the driver’s needs and responsibilities. There are items you need to discuss with your driver and questions that might require answers from the track officials. Never be afraid to ask questions!!!
It is very important to discuss these safety issues with your driver as when the time comes to make these decisions, they will be under significant stress and should quickly react correctly and not have to ponder the decision.
- Number one is to know where the flag stations are located. Your driver has to have situational awareness and this must include knowing where the flag stations are located. Most drivers will walk a new track. Besides looking at lines, they should be looking at points of possible danger (blind turns or elevation changes that make visibility a problem). During the first practice session, corner workers should make their presence known to the drivers so the drivers know where they are.
- In the event that your driver’s kart breaks down or is involved in an accident where the kart can no longer move:
- If able, what side of the track should they exit to help ensure a safe and quick recovery? Track personnel should be able to answer this question.
- Once stopped, what should the driver do? Most probably, they are in some danger from the other karts. Should they remain in the kart? Should they exit the kart and quickly move to a safer area? Should they try and move the kart to a safer area or leave the kart where it is?
- What means of recovery does THIS track use? Some use the back of a gator while some use a rope tow or a trailer. It a rope tow is used, is your driver familiar with how that works? In SCCA schools, we always went over the rules for a rope tow which included how the rope is attached and the importance to keep your gloves and helmet on.
- When is recovery done? After each practice? Is recover done during races? This is often done to help racers get back into the race but can be too dangerous at some tracks because of visibility problems. Find out what are THIS track’s policies.
- What are the Yellow Flag rules? Corner workers are in place for one purpose, to help make the racing safer for your driver. One issue raised in the industry forum was the training of corner workers which they did a great job covering so I will not discuss. But there are questions you need to ask about the Yellow Flag procedures.
- What does my driver do when they see a local Yellow Flag? It sounds simple but it isn’t. At most formula car events, the rule is that you decrease your speed to the point where you can quickly and safely move your car to ANY part of the track. At most kart tracks, the rule is not so exact and varies by track. One reason is that the tracks are shorter and visibility tends to be better.
- Over what part of the track does the local Yellow Flag cover? Normally in road racing there are two possible answers, depending upon the track. Some tracks allow racing once the area of the incident is past while others dictate that it goes from one flag station to the next flag station. The rational being that the driver may see the first incident but not the second.
- What are the Red Flag rules? Most tracks show a waving yellow at all stations and a Red Flag at Start/Finish.
- Most tracks ask that all competitors slow drastically and proceed to the pits or some designated area.
- Some tracks will show a Red Flag at all flag stations and ask that competitors safely but quickly come to a complete stop.
- The key is to ask the questions of the race director so you and your driver know what is expected at THIS track.
These questions should be answered by the race director or safety director. Do not be afraid to ask questions! If the race officials do not have answers, there is reason for concern and if it is your local track; ask for better training of the track workers.
If your driver is young or inexperienced, these discussions are even more important. Make them listen and have a safe race!