Scramble to Turn 1

Incident safety and logistics - PART 2 - Entering the track safely

Don't assume the track is safe just because race control says “Scramble”

Keep a 360 degree look out for hazards

The safety of your crew is everyone's responsibility

“Victor 1, Victor 1, stand by!"

If the call to standby comes in, the crew belts up with personal protective equipment (PPE) on, the vehicle's engine is on and ready to enter the track if needed and everyone is listening to the radio communications from race control. You won’t always know ahead of arriving what is going on at the scene or how it may evolve. Prepare ahead of time and then you will not be scrambling at the scene to get proper PPE in place.

Personal protective equipment*

  • Fire retardant clothing; e.g. race suit +/- fire retardant undergarments

  • Fire retardant balaclava

  • Gloves – both clinical gloves for body fluids and gloves that will protect against glass, metal and carbon fibre edges. Series with hybrid or full electric power units currently also require non-conductive rubber gloves.

  • Boots – good grip, capped toes, resistant to electrical conduction

  • Safety glasses or goggles

  • Helmet – this could be a race helmet, a rescue helmet or an equivalent suitable for purpose

  • Consider wearing kneepads

  • Consider wearing noise limiting ear plugs

  • Consider the projected weather forecast.

*None of these items may be mandatory, depending on the event requirements, however your own safety is paramount and so they may be a good investment.

Tressa belted up with PPE on

“Victor 1, Victor 1, Scramble to Turn 1, driver's right!”

You don't always get the advanced warning though; sometimes the first call is to “scramble”. Maybe it's called scrambling because after a lull period of quiet racing, the activation call to get to a crash site can feel like a scramble to get the brain into gear, the car into gear and get out on the track. Some events may use a different response command, such as “respond” or simply “go”. In any event, the risk here is that the sudden surge of adrenalin can result in some poor decision making.

Outside of destruction derbies, motor racing occurs in a given direction on the track. All traffic is expected to follow that direction. And nothing is permitted to enter the track without expressed permission from race control. It's not a perfect system though.

Race direction

(Modified image from

When the response activation call, “Scramble!”, comes from race control, usually a few other things are happening at the same time. At a circuit event, yellow flags should be out for the affected sector. Some events will red flag the race, clearing the track of competitive vehicles which head back to pit lane or the start-finish grid. Other events will deploy a safety car, or pace car, who's role is to gather up the competition cars and circulate at a reduced speed, guiding the field past the incident site. Safety car rules vary and lapped cars may be allowed to unlap themselves which may result in them continuing to drive at a fast pace. In some categories, for instance Formula 1, a virtual safety car procedure may be used instead of deploying an actual safety car.


F1 Virtual safety car explanation on Chain Bear F1

The intent of any of these strategies is to provide a relatively safe working environment for the crews responding to the incident. Gathering the field may take several laps and race control may not dispatch a response until the field is gathered by the safety/pace car. Be patient and wait until you are called to enter the track.

MIV being hit by Supercar at Homebush

At rallies and cross country safaris there is less of an issue with continuously circulating competition cars, especially for start point intervention vehicles. However, while a stage may be closed down during an incident response, the vehicles that were released into the stage prior to it being suspended may still be at competition speed and as yet unaware of the incident. This is particularly a concern for mid-point intervention vehicles stationed at strategic locations within a given stage.

The point here is that just because the call to “Scramble” has been received, it doesn't immediately mean that the track is safe and you can belt away. Race control may have a good view of the track, either directly or by using real-time GPS tracking and they will generally try to put the intervention vehicle out on to clear track, but it pays to check what might be approaching from race direction before launching out, especially given the closing speeds of some race cars. In addition, there may be other vehicles or officials responding on the track who's location may be harder to track from race control. Use all the sets of eyes that are in the vehicle, particularly for blind spots. At circuit events, once on the track, try to stay off the racing line as much as possible if race cars are still circulating. On rallies, keep an eye on what may approach from behind or possibly from side roads.

MRP contents which includes Track Response Procedure

The track entry procedure for an activated intervention vehicle is a topic that should be explicitly covered in the medical team's Medical Response Plan (MRP). It is also worth having an agreed strategy between the intervention vehicle crew members, perhaps as a written checklist, which might look a bit like this:

1) Standby

  • If we get a Standby call, we will all be in our seats with seat belts done up.

  • The driver will check that we have clear access to the track and that the car engine is running.

  • The person on comms listens to the radio and clearly calls out any information or instructions from race control.

  • The rest of the MIV crew watch the blind spots in their sector, looking especially for anything coming from race direction.

2) Scramble

  • If we get a call to Scramble, the driver will check that we have clear access to the track, turn on the emergency lights and start moving on to the track.

  • The person on comms confirms with race control that we are entering the track, listens to the radio and clearly calls out any information or instructions from race control.

  • The rest of the MIV crew watch the blind spots in their sector, looking especially for anything coming from race direction. Call out clearly if you see anything that puts us in danger. “All ready to go. One to say no.”

  • Once on the track, we will get to the site as quickly as is safe, staying off the racing line and watching for any race car closing on us.

  • Watch for hazards at all times while on track.

When entering the track, pick a side of the track to drive on and stay there. Do not play race car and try to hit the apex. This may confuse drivers that are still on the track. Keep to one side.

If you have knowledge of which side the incident is on, when there is a clear stretch of track where the driver can see there are no overtaking cars, make your way across to that side of the track safely. Do not use your turn signal as race drivers may interpret it as “Pass Me On This Side”, which could lead to another crash. This is a benefit of having an accredited race driver who understands race craft to drive the FIV.

The driver and front passenger may have windows rolled down in preparation to direct any cars still on the track that may come up behind the MIV. Only the driver of the MIV, ambulance or rescue vehicle controls when and where a pass occurs. The FIV driver can wave competition cars past on their own side, but must instruct the FIV passenger when to wave the competition car through on the passenger side. If the passenger waves competition cars through without the driver knowing, there could be a collision. Everyone needs to be watching in front and behind for approaching vehicles.

The approach to a crash scene may be littered with debris before you reach the car/driver. Take your time to avoid debris that can puncture tires. Your best approach may be off the racing surface provided that route does not take you through a gravel trap or mushy grass where there is a chance of getting stuck.

Parked in fend off position

Once you arrive at the incident scene, park in a position to defend the site and be aware of what is going on around you. We'll get into these details in the next episode.

The podcast

References and resources

We couldn't really find any specific resources for this one so if you know of any or have developed some, please let us know and we'll post or link to them here.

The 4 year audit of track incidents at Silverstone – Peter Hutchinson et al - AUTO+Medical Issue xx

The circuit analysis presentation at the ICMS Congress 2017 (Member only access)