I’ve seen our local Portland International Raceway, OMRRA volunteer organizer “Blinky” post on our local forums for the past several years, encouraging folks to go out and volunteer at the track to help out the racers.  I’ve always thought it would be cool, but wasn’t really sure how it would work or what it took to be qualified.  Well this post is about my experience volunteering as a corner worker on the outside of turn 3 for the first day of OMRRA races on 4/12/2014.

pir map

…and to clear up the first item:  Blinky said the way to check if you’re qualified to volunteer for OMRRA is to check if you have a pulse.  Yes?  Good!  You’re ready to volunteer!

 

My experience volunteering at PIR with OMRRA

Why you might want to volunteer

How you can volunteer and tips

 

So having decided to finally give volunteering a whirl, I had to figure out where to go.  Blinky’s post said to meet at the “tower” at 8am and look for someone in an orange shirt.   I of course had a bunch of questions like, “where is the tower?”, “do I have to pay gate fee?”, “what should I wear?”.  I was able to find the answer to some of these questions at various places around the internet, and pinned down the rest today.  (Below I offer some details to help answer questions in the “How you can volunteer and tips” section).

I knew I was shooting for exit 306B off I-5, yet when I saw the sign, my sleep deprived 7:30am brain said “take the next exit”, which turned out to be exit 306A.  “D’oh!”.  After doing the city street loops, I got back over to where I needed to be and entered Portland International Raceway, and paid my $10 entrance fee at the main gate.

pir main gate

I followed the main road down and around to the bleachers, where track crossing was, and then crossed the track and found a parking spot at the “Tower”.

pir tower

A bunch of folks were already gathered and I only knew I was looking for an “orange shirt”.  It turns out the guy I approached in orange was actually another volunteer Greg, who just happened to have an orange hi-viz vest he wears when putting 180,000 miles on his 7 year old Gold Wing (yeah you read that mileage right)!  Greg was cool, he’d volunteered before, so he told me I had to fill out 2 copies of the medical form which I could get from Tony.  Tony then took my form and adding it to the pile on his clipboard assigned me my position to work for the day:  Turn 3.  Greg was also on turn 3 and said it was “the place to be” for an eventful day!  Maurice gave the volunteers a prep speech and then sent us off to work with our experienced volunteer corner workers.  Turn 3 got both of the Jim’s today, and I’m not sure how they worked that out for the comms, but it didn’t seem problematic.  We packed some water and snacks from the supply cabinet and then went out to turn 3.

pir turn 3

Turn 3 at PIR (when not running the festival curves), is this long sweeping left hander.  It didn’t seem like anybody could really pin down what it was about that corner that had the bad mojo (maybe the camber, maybe the tightness of turn 2 leading into it, maybe the first left after several rights and 160MPH straight), regardless it had a reputation for taking bikes.  We started off with some cleanup work first, and swept the corner

turn 3 sweeping 2

Jim talked to us a bit about hand signals, like making the letter “O” with your arms to the side to indicate you see oil on the track after a bike goes down, or making a big letter “A” with your arms above your head to indicate that the downed rider is injured and we need an ambulance.   He talked about how you always watch for other motorcycles when you’re heading for the one that went down, and that the order of safety is Yourself>Your other volunteers>The Rider>The Bike.  He also talked about how wet and boggy it was on the inside and outside of turn 2, and hoped nobody had to go fishing for bikes out there.  Then 1 Jim took a couple volunteers for the inside of turn 3, and the other Jim took the rest of us to work the outside of turn 3.  (The “outside” being relative to the turn, and not the track).

pir outside turn 3

We knew we were at the busy corner because Blinky and his co-pilot Betty Marie spent so much time hanging out at our spot, and chatting with us.  Which was pretty cool, as they both know a lot about the track and even some of the riders and bikes.  Sure enough turn 3’s reputation held true, as during the morning practice sessions we had about 3 bikes lose the front and come straight out of turn 3 at us for a crash, and 1 bike that lost the rear trying for the early drive to turn 4, which we had to chase down and bring back in behind the wall.  Surprisingly only 1 bike crashed in our corner during the afternoon races, but the view is the same when you get to ride with Blinky and Betty Marie back to the pits in the little Toyota pickup.

blinky ride 1blinky ride 2

The sights and sounds of watching the practices and races were awesome!  They had all different classes of bikes and both novices and pros.  I pieced together a little video to give a perspective of what it is like to view the action down on the track, but it really doesn’t do it justice…

The day was great!  I’m glad I went and will be back for sure.  It was cool to be able to help out the racers, and also chatting up the experienced volunteers who had been doing it for decades (yeah seriously…decades).  They reimbursed my $10 gate fee, gave us snacks and drinks, fed us lunch, and there was even word of beers at the end of the day, but I had to get back home so I didn’t partake.  A great organization, and a good volunteering experience, in a venue that I’m interested in, for good people and with good people!

 

Why you might want to volunteer…

  • If you’re into motorcycles and racing, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.  Why aren’t you there?  Free access to the races from the best seats in the house?!?
  • If you’re into freebies, this is easy to add up:  Entry fee reimbursed.  Snacks and drinks free.  Lunch free.  Beer after free.  Taste of Racing entry (maybe free, at least prioritized..I didn’t get the details)
  • If you’re into the motorcycling community, it doesn’t get much more tight knit.  Not only are entire families of racers here, but the various local vendors, from tire shops, to repair shops, to suspension (Pirelli, Bridgestone, EBC brakes,EDR, GP Suspension, etc…), but also fellow motorcycle fans and riders!  The folks you meet down here are the same folks you ride with and shop with out in the real world!
  • Finally, volunteering is good for you.  Seriously, check out this link:  http://www.helpguide.org/life/volunteer_opportunities_benefits_volunteering.htm

You get out of your own head, and bullshit going on in your life, and you get connected to other people and get to offer your help, with no expectations in return.  It also gives you unique experiences and opportunities you wouldn’t get anywhere else.  (Today a couple of the volunteers got to ride with Blinky and Betty Marie around the PIR track at the end of the day, how cool is that?!?)

 

 

“Ok, Ok I’m sold!  So how do I volunteer?”

 

Here’s the lowdown and tips for volunteering with OMRRA on their race weekends which are noted below for 2014.  However, also be aware that many other organizations at PIR need volunteers as well, from motorcycle trackday organizers, to car races and car show events, so if you’re interested do a bit of digging into those options as well!

 If you have further questions, which the below doesn’t address, you can always contact OMRRA directly at: 503-841-6185 or omrrainfo@gmail.com

  1. Figure out what days you’re going to go.  The OMRRA races for 2014 are below (rain or shine):
    • April 12-13
    • May 17-18
    • June 21-22
    • July 26-27
    • August 16-17
    • September 13-14
  2. A couple days before the event, check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.  For me, it was sunny on 4/12/2014 so this is a good list for a sunny day:
    • long pants (you don’t want your bare legs to get burned on hot exhausts of motorcycles)
    • Running shoes or comfortable boots (you need closed toe foot wear that is comfortable standing around in, as well as running out to help downed riders and get their bikes)
    • A hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • You may want to bring a pair of work gloves (sometimes a crashed bike will have broken metal and fiberglass where you need to touch it)
    • Special snacks or drinks if you want, though they have a pretty good selection there.
    • Do not wear the color red  (The crimson color is a special flag color and displaying this in the corners like a red shirt can be confusing for riders, thinking it is a red flag)
  3. Get your butt up early enough to get down to the track before 8am!  Tell them you’re volunteering at the gate, and if they still ask you to pay, don’t sweat it, but do save your receipt.
  4. Travel from the main gate staying on the main road and down to the stands where track crossing is, and then zig- zag across the track to the base of the tower:PIR map to tower
  5. Park anywhere near the base of the tower.  (Some people parked nearby in the grass, others formed their own parking just in front of the tower)
  6. Head up into the tower and ask for a reimbursement for your gate entry fee.
  7. Look for the orange shirts, and/or the person with the clipboard.  They’ll get you started.tower group
  8. You’ll probably have to fill out a couple medical forms (they have pens and stuff, no worries.  But seriously if you’re allergic to anything or have any special medical needs, be sure they know about it)
  9. Hang out for the volunteer prep speech and get your volunteer assignment.
  10. Head out to your spot and follow the instructions of your experienced volunteer coordinator and have fun!

volunteer lunch break