This story originally featured on Car Bibles.
Everyone is familiar with what a checkered flag means. It’s the end of the race, great job, you survived. If you’re the first one to see it, congrats, you won! It’s a universal symbol of motorsports, but what about the other flags? There are eight different types that are universally applicable to any kind of track driving, from a modest track day to the highest levels of professional racing.
Going over track flags and what they mean is an activity that always happens during the drivers meeting, before anybody gets out on track. This is to make sure everyone’s on the same page and drive home the importance of what the flags mean. They alert drivers to any potential hazards, as well as make sessions run smoother and on time, and without them, driving on a track would be much more dangerous and much less organized.
Corner workers (also known as flaggers) wave flags on track as a way of communicating with drivers. A good general rule of thumb is to look for each corner worker station and wave to them on your first lap around the track. This helps solidify their presence and location in your mind while ripping around track. Someone could have a very, very bad day if they overlook a flag. Even though these flags are discussed at each event, it’s a great idea to learn them ahead of time, or refresh what you already know, so that their their meanings are cemented, second nature while ripping laps.
Let’s discuss their importance at a typical track day.
There are a total of nine flags that workers could potentially wave on track. You’ll see most of them when racing, but not always. It all depends on what’s happening.
You’re good to go, have fun!
You are now entering your final lap.
You must come into the hot pit. Either you did something wrong, you might’ve messed up and sent your car off track (therefore requiring a stern talking to, and quick inspection of the car), or everyone needs to come in so emergency vehicles can head out and safely remedy a situation (such as tow a broken car out).
Checkered (er chequered) flag
That’s a wrap! Run a cooldown lap and head into the pits. It’s courteous to go fast enough so the next session can head out as soon as possible, but still take it a little easy so your car can cool off.
There’s a hazard on track. Slow down, don’t pass other cars, and keep an eye out for something potentially dangerous. A yellow flag will go one of two ways:
- Local yellow (single yellow flag): You need to slow down and hold your position in one section between corner worker/flagging stations. Once you pass a corner worker who isn’t waving it, you’re all clear to continue on at a normal pace.
- Full-course yellow (two yellow flags): You need to slow down and hold your position throughout the entire track. If they’re waving, be especially careful and be prepared to stop.
There’s something up with your car, so you need to go into the hot pit to inspect and remedy the issue.
Blue flag with a yellow line through it (or sometimes just blue)
Let the person or persons behind you pass, you’re holding them up. Depending on the experience level of the run group, this might mean moving out a faster car’s, or cars’ way, or giving one point-by per vehicle that’s looking to pass you. The faster vehicle always goes off-line to pass, too.
There’s an emergency on track. When you see the red flag, you need t