Founded in 1954 by a group of sport riding enthusiasts in Northern California, the American Federation of Motorcyclists is the oldest organization in the country dedicated soley to motorcycle road racing AFM, Inc.
395 Taylor Blvd. #130
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
510-833-RACE
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Crew Goals

Doing what it takes to keep a racetrack in shape for a weekend of racing is a big job, but with a lot of friends, it's a lot of fun. Whether you're flagging in a tight dicey corner, handling in a flat-out right-hander, keeping an eye out for your crew from the comm spot, or doing what Phill and I do, it's the best fun with friends. Both the friends you meet at the track and the friends you bring to the track. So bring some new folks along! We'll make sure there's plenty of lunches. They just might like it. And if not, they're still friends, right?

What to do: We've got to have a racetrack ready for action when it's time to go racing. The host facility does a great job of prep work, but it needs to be staffed and kept up right through the weekend. That's what we do, and we do it better than most. The Big Picture is to provide a track for the riders as safe as possible at any given turn and time. This means watching what's happening and fixing what's not right, getting the word to those who need to know when something's not right, and helping riders and fellow workers. Keep that picture in mind. It's pretty simple but there's a lot to it. And you learn more about it every weekend. The things we do to make that Big Picture real are (and you may have seen some of this before):

Arrive: Show up, introduce your draftees, greet others, sign in, finish waking up. Coffee is usually in order.

Meet: Finish planning the day, allocate resources (see who's stationed where), review and learn procedures, share a little news and the latest jokes (some days great jokes, some days not) and life experiences, get pointed in the right direction and head out. Get to know the folks you'll be sharing the day with. Maybe more coffee.

Set Up: Get everybody and their and equipment in place on the turns, at the crash truck, at Start/Finish, wherever we need to be. This is where the turn marshals set up individual things to do, track conditions are assessed and reported if necessary, and we generally get ready to go. We as a crew now have control of the track for our event. First Aid crews are getting into position. Get to know them if they're in your turn. Racetrack personnel are there for our support all day long if we need them, and at our three tracks those guys are tops.

Clear the Track: This is the point where each of the turns reports that every detail is ready for a session to begin. Clearing of the track will happen before each session, sometimes more formally than others. At the start of the day and after each major break (riders meeting, lunch, or a long delay), the track check is the single most critical link to each following part of the day. If this doesn't happen, nothing else does.

Do It: "It" involves a lot of things, all working to provide the safest possible race day environment for ourselves and the riders on course. Flagging, comm, handling, being a team with the medical folks, is all part of "It". "It" involves always being alert to things that are happening, not happening, changing or not changing. "It" is being involved in a very important way with the race day. And above all "It" means having fun. 'Cause if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.

Relax: At the end of a day we look back at the things we did, the help we gave, and the way we contributed to a pretty complex day. We talk about what happened, share some laughs and a cool one, and talk about the next race weekend.


Tuning Up

Overall it graded out a good opener. We only have 1 Sears race to get ready for the Pro events next month. Time to be sharp. So let's go over some of the basics again. A few key things for each thing we do on course:

Comm: Always have someone on the headsets, unless you're cleared for a break. Then make sure someone is back on well before bikes on course. Also have a pencil and paper handy too, for quick notes that can't be called in right away.

Flaggers: Have the yellow flag in your hand whenever bikes are on course. Tuck it under your arm so you can get it out FAST. The very next rider may really need to see it.

Handlers: Get friendly with your fire bottle. Take it wherever you go, unless you KNOW you don't need it (like going to a knee puck, to a bike that needs a push, or to the little blue room).

TurnMarshals: Make sure your folks are comfortable with what they have to do. Coach them. Help them to help everyone else.

Everyone: Hand signals. Have you ever tried to make yourself heard over a herd of bikes on the first lap? Right. So we use a pretty universal set of hand signals to communicate when our golden voices just can't do it. There are hand signals for each flag in the bag, for help, for track crossing signals, and to pass on physical condition of a rider. These are all in the turnworker manuals. We cover them at the morning meetings too. But if you've got to be looking when the signal is passed your way (pretty basic). Whistles help to get people's attention out there. They help a lot. Bring one with you, and know who has one and where to look on your turn. When you hear one, take a look QUICKLY. I guarantee it's important. If you have any questions, ask anyone. If they don't know, both of you find someone who does. Again Keep looking towards your co-workers when you're not looking at traffic coming your way. Don't get tunnel vision, it's easy to get hypnotized by the speed. Look to each other for signals, and look out for them too. Watch, be safe, and have fun !!!


The Spoken Word

As basically as it can be stated, we get the track ready and keep it that way throughout the event by knowing what is going on around the racetrack at all times. And we do it a lot better than most. This takes many tasks being handled in a professional manner and keeping others informed of what is happening at all times. It all comes down to communication, to the riders, between workers on the turns, and between the turns and race control. Let’s take a look at the last one.

Race Control is responsible for the safe conduct of a racing or practice event, along with the safety of all of the workers on course. The most important thing is that the racetrack is ready to start or OK to continue with a race or practice session, and if not why not? The ready to start question needs to be “yes” before any bikes go on course. That means the workers are safely at their stations and the track is ready for business. The OK to continue part may be the tougher part, because things happen in a hurry. Decisions have to be made on the latest information available. Because of this, Control needs a consistent correct flow of information from all concerned about what’s going on. That’s why Control and every racer relies on every communicator around the track for the whole day. The information has to flow, quickly and correctly, all day long. So it’s not all about Control. It’s all about communication.

So how does all of this happen? Questions and answers, lots of them, all day long. Bringing up things as they happen. Talking things over with your teammates, the communicators on other turns, and control. To hear and be heard, there is a comm system at each corner of each track we race. How we use it makes the race day happen right or otherwise. Except for breaks like lunch or the rider’s meeting, make sure that someone is on communications at all times, whether bikes are on course or not (Repeat as many times as necessary!). You can’t hear or be heard if a headset is on the ground next to you. Expect questions - there will be many. You are the eyes through which Control sees the day. So while bikes are on the track, always watch with great interest what is going on. Wondering about a date tonight, things at the office, or why you’re not working Turn 11 today are all going to take your attention away from things that are going on - things that could be VERY important.

We all need to know the track is clear for each session, for our own safety as well as the riders! Track checks are the best way. Track checks are done corner by corner for course conditions. Starting with Turn 1, say you are clear, or if not, why not? Clear means if a group of racers started immediately, they could safely and without obstructions race through your turn. That means no crash trucks, ambulances, etc., and your crew is ready. Work around the track in order. Once you’re clear, don’t break in unless something changes.

But things usually change somewhere on the track several times during each session. Not always in the same place, sometimes not in a particular place all day long. But it’s rare to have more than one session during a day where the only thing that happens is the clock or lap count runs out. So there will be incidents. Be ready. For incidents, call Control with the following:

Who you are and flag status: “Turn 4, we’re on a waving yellow”

What happened and where: Such as “rider down, rider’s left exit”. Make it clear if the rider is down, off mechanical, or off & on.

Rider’s condition: Is the rider up and OK, or on track on racing line not moving? Are NMP’s responding?

Track condition: Track is clear, or bike and rider on racing line, oil and debris on racing line.

Other important info: The bike number when you get it, and what your crew is doing. If you don’t have certain information like a bike number, say that you’re checking, find out, and call it in. And above all, if you need help, say so.

Speak clearly. Don’t shout. Say the bike numbers one digit at a time: “bike six-four-zero.” Saying, “Turn Twelve” or Turn Fourteen” is OK. Don’t panic even if - especially if - really bad things happen. Panic makes you hard to understand and make everyone less able to make the right decisions immediately.

Call in things that Control needs to know, including but not limited to: riders down, mechanical stops, bikes losing fluids or pieces, bad or dangerous riding, rain, deer, the need for an ambulance or crash truck, a request to stop a session (Control will make that decision). Work with other turns on covering flags and other help you need. You’re part of a team with the other corners, not alone on an island for the day. Please call in other things, too, like if you’re running out of water, a worker isn’t feeling well, or any number of other things that come up.

This is a very team-oriented thing we do. Good communication is a big part of making your turn function as a part of a smoothly operating racetrack. You’re not on the headset just to give you something to do, or because you can’t pick up a Harley. It may be the most important thing we do. Certainly everything stops without it. Giving the racers the best possible place to race from one minute to the next, all day long, is the big picture. It takes a lot of big and little bits of information, quickly and correctly, to make that picture right.

The Payoff

Many times the payoff from what we do is that a bad thing does not happen. We get a leaking or smoking bike off the track, we get a yellow flag up quickly so that a rider backs off just enough, we find that piece of debris on the track before someone else does. But sometimes the right words at the right moment during an incident let us get a session stopped and medical attention to a rider who suddenly needs it. In May at the AMA, Steve Laszko crashed heavily entering turn 7. All the right things were quickly said and done. I recently checked in with Steve’s brother Bob via their team’s web site and got the following reply:

Thank you for checking in and your concern. It really means a lot to Steve to know that folks like you are out there pulling for him. More than that, though, are my heartfelt thanks to you and all the turnworkers that were there on May 6th. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without the crew’s fast response, quick thinking and attention, Steve wouldn’t be with us today. 80% of the people injured like Steve was pass away before they reach the hospital. There is a very small window of opportunity for doctors to treat the damage in a spinal cord injury. The quick actions of your crew gave Steve those precious moments that will make all the difference in his recovery. You run a great crew, Doug. Please pass on my thanks and that of our family and the team to them all.

Kind Regards, Bob

Any questions?


Comm Again?

So you’re the flagger on Turn 4 at any of our tracks. Over the headsets you hear “Rider down, we have a rider down. He’s off to the side of the track, next to his bike”. What do you do? Do you know what turn is calling? Do you know what flag they have (so you know what flag to show)? Do you know if the track is clear? If the rider is OK? No, and neither do I. Somewhere on the track there is a problem, and almost nobody knows where. So, we try very hard not make calls like that. First things first. Think of our safety priorities: take care of yourself first, second the upcoming riders, third the involved rider(s). Your fellow workers need coverage, and the upcoming riders need to know what is going on quickly. Immediately when an incident happens, a flag is usually needed. Put the right one up and say so, or ask for one from the turn ahead of you if that’s what’s needed. The call would be much better if it was:

Waving yellow turn 11. Rider down rider’s right exit. Track is clear, rider is up and OK. Checking on bike number.

Better? Now turn 4 can get back to the business of turn 4. Turn 10 puts up a standing yellow before the call is half done. The upcoming riders have the best warning they can get. That makes the workers and the down rider much safer. So if you might be on comm some race day, practice this call. When it’s clear it tells everyone what they need to know. Things go so much smoother and safer. It’s all about communication. Usually we’re very very good at this as a crew, but we’ve had some slips lately. Without good comm work, things fall apart quickly. But good comm work comes with practice and deciding that you’re in control of the situation, whatever happens. And we can all do that.


On the Headsets:

With one foot lightly on the soapbox, it's called Control for a reason. He, she, or they are the ones responsible for the safe conduct of a racing or practice event. One thing that is needed is the knowledge that the racetrack is "ready to start" or "OK to continue" with a race or practice session. The "OK to continue" part may be the most important, because things happen in a hurry. Decisions have to be made on the latest information available. Because of this, Control needs a consistent correct flow of information from all concerned about what's going on. That's why Control and every racer relies on every communicator around the track. The information has to flow, quickly, correctly, all day long. So it's not all about Control. It's all about communication.

So how can that happen? Questions and answers. Bringing up things as they happen. Talking things over with your co-workers, the communicators on other turns, and control. To hear and be heard, there is a comm system, hard wire or radio at each corner of each track we race. Use it. Make sure that someone is on communications at all times, whether bikes are on course or not (Repeat as many times as necessary!). You can't hear or be heard if a headset is on the ground next to you. Expect questions - there will be many. You are the eyes through which Control sees the day. So while bikes are on the track, always watch with great interest what is going on. Wondering about a date tonight, things at the office, or why you're not working Turn 11 today are all going to take your attention away from things that are going on. Things that could be VERY important.

Control needs to know the track is clear for each session, for the safety of the corner crews as well as for the riders. Track checks are the best way. Track checks are done corner by corner for course conditions. Starting with Turn 1, say that you are clear or if not, why not. Clear means if a group of racers started immediately, they could safely and without obstructions race through your turn. That means no crash trucks, ambulances, etc., and your crew is ready. Work around the track in order. Once you're clear, don't break in unless something changes. As communicators, you're the only ones that can do this.

But things usually change somewhere on the track several times during each session. Not always in the same place, sometimes not in a particular place all day long. But it's rare to have more than one session during a day where the only thing that happens is the clock or lap count runs out. So there will be incidents. Be ready. For incidents, call Control with the following: who you are and flag status, Turn 4, we're on a waving yellow, what happened and where, rider down, rider's left exit, rider's condition, rider up and OK, or, rider on track on line not moving, NMP's responding, track condition, track is clear, or bike and rider on line, oil and debris on line, the bike number when you get it, and what your crew is doing. If you don't have certain information like a bike number, say that you're checking, find out, and call it in. Make it clear if the rider is down, off mechanical, or off & on. And above all, if you need help, say so.

Speak clearly. Say the bike numbers one digit at a time, bike six four zero. Saying, turn twelve, is OK. Don't panic even if really bad things happen. It makes everyone less able to make the right decisions immediately.

Call in things that Control needs to know, including but not limited to: riders down, mechanical stops, bikes losing fluids or pieces, bad or dangerous riding, rain, deer, the need for an ambulance or crash truck, a request to stop a session (Control will make that decision). Work with other turns on covering flags and other help needed. You're part of a team with the other corners, not alone on an island for the day. Please call in other things, too, like if you're running out of water, a worker isn't feeling well, or any number of other things that come up.

This is a very team-oriented thing we do. Good communication is a big part of making your turn function as a part of a smoothly operating racetrack. You're not on the headset just to give you something to do, or because you can't pick up a Harley. It may be the most important thing we do. Certainly everything stops without it. Giving the racers the best possible place to race from one minute to the next, all day long, is the big picture. It takes a lot of big and little bits of information, quickly and correctly, to make that picture right.


Flagging - Important 'How' Stuff:

Flags are to warn the riders of a hazardous situation on or near the track, and to protect workers and others on or near the track surface. Flags are our only way to tell the riders that something is happening ahead. The flags need to be seen, so riders need to know where to look. We hold a standing yellow flag at each turn for the first lap of the first session of the day to let the riders know where the flags will be. After that we cannot move them. At Thunderhill on Saturday we needed to move the checker from turn 10 to 11, and had to stop the day for a riders meeting to get the word out. So don't move your flag after you're set up. It's a very big deal. Racers have a lot going on, so they look to a spot instead of looking around. Hopefully there is a barrier, berm, or some haybales at the flag station, but there isn't always that way. Pick a safe spot and stick with it. (Editor's, Editor Note: Stirling Moss's dad overshot a turn in the 1940s when a trackside worker truck he was using for a braking marker moved downstream during a race. (Historical Note Of Vast Importance by Tommy the Trivia Buff))

Flags cover the area from your flag station to the incident or the next flag station, whichever comes first. If an incident, oil or debris spill is ahead of your station, call ahead and have the turn ahead display the flag. Don't move a flag - and yourself - to anyplace else unless it is to get out of the way of trouble. You should always be standing, not sitting, with the yellow flag in your hand, when bikes are on the track. Keep the debris, oil, and black flags handy, open, and invisible to the riders. You will need them quickly when it's time. Again, NEVER leave the flags or flag station with bikes on course. Keep in contact with your communicator. Do this by hand signals or by wearing a headset. If you don't have a headset, listen closely for whistles. Hand signals are in the worker's manual, and we go over them at every morning meeting. Descriptions of the flags and how to hold or wave them are in the manual too. If you haven't read it for a while, take the time.


Highlights of Handling

Dealing with incidents on the track is probably the most hazardous thing that we do, just because we are on or next to the racing surface. The first thing in everyone's mind has to be their own safety and the safety of their fellow workers. Your first instinct might be to get to the bike and rider fast, and then do what you need to do. If so, you might miss something extremely important, like other things that may be coming your way. Always - ALWAYS know it is safe to go when you make that decision. Look to your turn marshal for guidance if you have any questions or doubts. Positioning yourself correctly at the start of a session will minimize your exposure to trouble. See the Crash Page of this month's Roadracing World for a worker getting knocked down, when he would have been safe 2 steps to the right - and he was a flagger !!! Be on the side of the track where you expect the action to occur. Look before you jump, and keep looking when you go. Company comes by in a hurry. If they could go any faster, they would !!! And it sounds silly, but if one bike got off track to a certain spot, the next one could too.

So, things to do in the event of a crash or a rider stopping for a mechanical problem. Get a crossing signal if necessary, and go where you need to go - safely. Take a fire bottle to the incident. If you don't need it, and you probably won't, set it nearby and go to the bike. Keep looking around. See that the rider is OK. Get him, her, or them moving out of the way, or call for medical help. Keep looking around. Check the track for oil or debris. Use your hand signals to tell your communicator if there is any need for flags other than the yellows. Keep looking around. Make sure the motor is off - key or kill switch, and turn the gas off too. Remember that broken down or freshly crashed racing motorcycles are collections of hot, sharp, and loose pieces that might be covered with oil or gasoline, and they won't always work the way they did a minute or two earlier. This includes steering. brakes, clutch levers, and other parts that may come off in your hands. Get the bike stashed or covered with a haybale or two so it is safe to continue the session. Keep looking around. Pick up your fire bottle and get yourself to a safe place. Take a good deep breath, but you're not done yet. If there was oil or debris on course, you may need to deal with that immediately. Keep looking around. After that's clear, get the tech sticker from crashed bikes, decide if the bike can coast at the end of a session or if the crash truck is needed, and make sure you know the bike number. Hopefully nothing else has happened while you were busy. If something has, and it might, do what needs to be done first.

All these actions will happen faster than you read this. Sound like a lot? You bet. There are a lot of things going on in a corner even when there are no problems. They don't stop when a rider falls or pulls over. Keep yourselves safe first, and go from there.


Fire Extinguishers

I wish I was good enough to see one race ahead for what we need, especially this time. But it's dry grass season and a motorcycle fire takes on a whole new look. First, bike basics. Bikes don't go up often, but you have to be ready when they do. The red fire extinguishers on the turns are ABC types, which are good for everything on a motorcycle but not for dry grass or haybales. Dealing with a bike fire requires an extinguisher in hand - no surprise - so you need to take one with you when you respond to an incident. If you don't need it, and most of the time you won't, set it out of the way, deal with things, and take it back to your station. Don't pull the pin unless you mean to use it. If you have a fire, pull the pin without squeezing the handle. These parts are easy to bend, and then the extinguisher won't work (what then ??).

So you've got one. Things will be REALLY BUSY right about now so make sure you know where you are, where the track and traffic is, where the rider is, and you'll want to think about the wind. Pin pulled, aim the nozzle at the base of the flames from 7-10 feet away and squeeze it off. Get a good shot inside the fairing where most of the gas comes from. After it's out, keep an eye on things. It's still hot and probably still leaking. Turn off everything you can. Keep thinking about where you are. Give your fellow workers the help they need. Comm folks, stay on the headset keep us posted. If I know something's burning, you have my attention.

There are also some chrome fire extinguishers on course. They contain water for the occasional haybale or hillside that may get started. If a grass fire gets going, call for help immediately! The track crews are very interested in helping us with that. Don't use the water extinguishers on a bike / gas fire. It will only make matters worse.

You won't need to use this information too often, but always keep a bottle in hand when you respond just in case. Fire bottle, that is ...


Hand Signals

This month - hand signals. Have you ever tried to make yourself heard over 45 GP bikes? Not gonna happen. So we use a pretty universal set of hand signals to communicate when our golden voices just won't do. There are hand signals for each flag in the bag, for help, for track crossing signals, and to pass on physical condition or any rider. These are all in the turnworker manuals. We cover them at the morning meetings too. But if you're not looking, you'll never get them. Whistles help to get people's attention out there. They help a lot. Bring one with you, and know who has one and where to look on your turn. When you hear one, take a look QUICKLY. I guarantee it's important. If you have any questions, ask anyone. If they don't know, both of you find someone who does.


Pointers

A few key things for each thing we do on course: Comm: Always have someone on the headsets, unless you're cleared for a break. Then make sure someone is back on well before bikes on course. Also have a pencil and paper handy too, for quick notes that can't be called in right away. Flaggers: Have the yellow flag in your hand whenever bikes are on course. Tuck it under your arm so you can get it out FAST. The very next rider may really need to see it. Handlers: Get friendly with your fire bottle. Take it wherever you go, unless you KNOW you don't need it (like going to a knee puck, to a bike that needs a push, or to the little blue room). TM's: Make sure your folks are comfortable with what they have to do. Coach them. Help them to help everyone else. Everyone: Watch, be safe, and have fun !!! See you at Sears !!!


Watch Your Back

Just a reminder of the big one. Watch your back. Know where you are and what's coming your way - All The Time - Whatever Is Going On. Especially if you're going to an incident. Repeat as often as necessary, and remind your corner-mates too. Things happen right behind other things, and you really don't want to be in the middle. We don't want you there either.

2017 Race Schedule

March 18-19 Buttonwillow
*AFM NRS

April 29-30 Sonoma
*AFM NRS

May 27-28 Thunderhill

July 15-16 Thunderhill

Sept 2-3 Sonoma
*AFM NRS

Sept 23-24 Thunderhill

Oct 21-22 Buttonwillow

AFM Board Meetings

Board meetings are typically held the 2nd Wednesday of every month. General Meetings start at 8:00pm.


 Next Meeting Date:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


 Meeting Location:

Looking Point
391 Taylor Blvd, Suite 120
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

2017 Rule Book

2017 AFM Rulebook is now available for download HERE

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Contact Info

AFM Inc.

395 Taylor Boulevard, #130
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Phone: 510-833-RACE
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