Flags in Motorcycle Road Racing
This article is intended as general information for motorsports enthusiasts, and racers should always refer to the rules and guidelines laid out by the officials in their race series, rule-book and riders meetings.
In the Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA) racing series; vintage motorcycle road racing in Canada, the flag rules used are essentially based on the R.A.C.E. rule-book, or a simplified version - there are flags in the RACE rules I've never seen employed at a VRRA event. Flag procedures and rules described below are my personal summary of flags and their general usage in the VRRA, and following that you will find the official RACE flag rules quoted from the rule-book, and some links to additional reading.
Starting the race
Each chief marshal or starter has their own technique, and the VRRA's starter is very consistent with his technique and timing. In the past we've used a two-flag system for race starts, but this year we are using the Canadian flag for race starts and I find it's working really well. Our beautiful national flag provides good visual reference, the colour contrast makes it easy to distinguish visually when the flag drops. Some tracks we race at have lights, but a flagged standing start is much more 'vintage'.
Shown during warm-up laps when track is clear for the start of the race. Helps riders visually identify marshal locations at unfamiliar tracks and assures riders of an 'all-clear' condition of hte track for the formation of the standing start grid. Also used, rolled up, as one of the crossed flags signaling the half-way point in the race.
Held steady - problem off the track surface, such as a bike that has ridden off or stopped out of an impact zone, or a slower rider on the track. Riders should be alert for the cause of the flag, but continue racing.
Waived yellow - problem on the track surface or in a dangerous area, such as a crashed bike or rider down. Passing under a waived yellow flag is prohibited, and dangerous, although if the passing rider relinquishes the gained position there may be no penalty. Racing may resume at the first marshals station not waiving a yellow flag, in the case of a local yellow.
Stop racing, decelerate safely and stop at the next marshal station. For very small tracks the decision may be made to vacate the track surface. For tracks with long distances between flag stations, riders may be required to stop in the sight-line of a marshal. Essentially the red flag is used to stop racing so an ambulance can attend to a fallen rider, but a dangerous and uncontrolled situation of any kind may require a red flag. At road courses going through wooded land, deer on the track can be very dangerous and are often the cause of red-flag delays, as are hay-bale fires and extremes of weather.
Usually displayed with rider number and/or pointed at the offending rider/bike. In vintage racing the black flag is mostly used to indicate mechanical problems, although it could also be used to indicate un sporting behavior from the offending rider. Vintage riders are expected to pull off the racing line and check behind their bike for spilled fluids and look over their bike for hanging parts or other mechanical issues. Rides are expected to return to the pits unless the condition of their bike requires them to stop out of an impact zone trackside (if they are unable to return to the pits).
Usually used in the VRRA for the last-lap flag, letting riders know they have just one more lap to make that big pass for position; used in place of the blue-and-white flag that is used to denote the last lap in some race series. R.A.C.E. uses the white flag to denote emergency vehicles on the track, in place of the white-with-red-cross flags used for the same purpose in FIA flagging rules. The white flag can have quite a few meanings, so consult your applicable rule-book.
End of race, or end of practice session. Sometimes we get a double flag LeMans style chequered flag wave at the end of our races! One of the former flaggers from the R.A.C.E. series, who now does our trackside commentary at our racing events, was famous for his dramatic double-flag waving, and Lindsay always made sure that the last place finisher got the same energetic twirling 2-flag-wave as the winner.
Flag rules we don't use in the VRRA
Blue Flag rules
In some racing series a blue flag is shown to riders who are down a lap to let them know that the leaders are closing in behind and will be passing. Yielding to the blue flag (driving off-line to let the leaders past) is required in some series. We do not run blue flag rules in the VRRA, nor in any Canadian motorcycle racing series I know of - riders are responsible for making a safe pass on the rider they are overtaking, regardless of what lap they are on.
Black flag with an orange dot in the middle. Similar to the black flag, and shown to riders for un sporting conduct on the track, hazardous or erratic riding.
A white flag with a red cross, shown when emergency vehicles are on or entering the track surface.
For more information on the VRRA Rules visit www.vrra.ca
R.A.C.E. Flag Rules
From the 2007 R.A.C.E Rule book, still in effect in 2009:
CHAPTER 10 - FLAGS
The following is a list of flags and signals that are commonly used at trackside during all RACE events. It is the responsibility of every rider to be aware of all flags and be prepared to act accordingly at any time.
Starting lights or waved Canadian Flag
Start of Race
Stationary Yellow (CAUTION)
Used by the corner marshals and the starter to inform the riders of
a potentially hazardous condition, between the flag station
displaying the flag and the next flag station. A stationary yellow
may be used to indicate a slow rider is ahead. The corner
marshals will display a stationary yellow at the first lap of practice
or the sighting lap of each race to identify the corner station.
Passing is allowed.
Waved Yellow (DANGER)
Used by the comer marshals and the starter to inform the riders a
hazardous condition is on/near the track or in the impact zone. No
passing is allowed within a reasonable line of sight of the waving
yellow until the rider sees a stationary yellow or no flags at the
next station. If an official of the race observes a competitor
passing on a waving yellow flag, penalties will be assessed. Also
used at the last station as riders approach the start grid for a race.
Waved Double Yellow
Proceed slowly to start/finish for restart used; in instances of a
Yellow/Red Vertical Stripes (DEBRIS)
Used by the corner marshals and the starter. Indicates great
danger on the track ahead: debris, oil, gas, dirt, hay, motorcycles,
downed riders or marshals are on the track or in the impact zone
ahead. This condition may require riders to leave their lines to
avoid the debris. Extreme caution is to be exercised by all
riders. A pointing motion should accompany this flag from the
corner worker directing competitors to the riders right or left.
(Always direct the riders away from the debris if possible.) Passing
is allowed. Continue flag display until the debris is cleared.
RAIN. The debris flag may be used to signal rain by pointing one
arm straight up to the sky while displaying the flag in a stationary
SIDECAR. Debris flag pointed at the driver to indicate that they
have lost their passenger.
Held stationary: Ambulance or Rescue Vehicle somewhere on the
track. Proceed with caution.
Waved: approaching the Ambulance or rescue Vehicle; no
passing within reasonable line of site before and after waved flag,
until the next CRCA flagging station.
Black with Orange circle in the centre
Meatball flag: warning to rider that their riding has become
(hazardous, erratic or dangerous). Also used for wheelie rule.
Repeated offense will result in the Black Flag.
Blue & Green Flags crossed
There is something wrong with the rider or their machinery. Slow
down with caution, do a visual check; and then proceed if safe to
do so. Continue around the track and report to a RACE Official.
Blue & White Flag
Last lap; one lap to go to the finish.
Waved to gain competitors attention. Displayed immediately on
instruction from RACE Control, by the starter and all corner
marshals, to signal the riders to STOP RACING, the race has
been suspended. Indicates great danger somewhere on the track
and the race must be stopped. Riders are not to stop on the racing
surface. All riders are to slow down, cautiously, but proceed
quickly to leave the track at the nearest exit. Riders who have
slowed and are on the back straight will leave the track via Fabi
pit; all others will proceed to pit at corner 14 and proceed to hot pit
lane and wait for further instruction from a RACE Official. Riders,
unless instructed by a RACE Official, are not to leave the hot pit
area. Entering the paddock at this time will result in penalties or
Finish Flag / Checkered Flag
Completion of the race. There will be no passing during the cool
down lap. Riders are to signal before exiting the track.
More information about R.A.C.E. Rules here: http://www.shannonville.com/body.php?section=race&page=aboutrace
Racing Flags Explained - Links:
FIA Flag Rules: http://www.flag-marshal.org.uk/FIA_flag_regulations.htm
Marshalling Clubs - Links: