track day insider logo

Top 9 HPDE Track flags: What they mean

Top 9 hpde track flags: what they mean

Track flags are a critical element in the safe and efficient operation of any track day or high-performance driving event (HPDE). Essentially, they’re used to convey messages to drivers on track and signal current track conditions. You’ll typically find nine flags in use with a total of 12 different messages they communicate depending on how they are presented to you. Interestingly, for racing, many tracks and clubs, such as SCCA, are implementing in-car electronic flag and communication systems in a continued pursuit to making racing even safer.

Track flags serve as the primary mode of communication between track officials and drivers, and give track officials the ability to relay messages quickly with minimal ambiguity. Track marshalls/corner workers are located in flagging stations dotted around the circuit, and are responsible for presenting flags to drivers when necessary.

Understanding the meaning of track flags is extremely important for all participants and is an integral part of your pre-event preparation. Ideally, when shown a flag you should immediately understand its message and the required course of action you need to take. You don’t want to be in a situation where there’s an incident up ahead, for example, but you don’t recognize the flag you’ve been shown and therefore what you need to do.

Further to understanding track flags, you should also familiarize yourself with the location of the flagging stations at each track you drive on. A good habit to get into is pointing them out in your first session of the day. As you drive your initial lap or two (you’ll often be under a yellow caution flag), point at the flagging station and say ‘flagger’ out loud. We find it really helps commit their location to memory.

Track Flags #

Green #

Green rectangle

Literally means ‘all ok’, the track is clear and you can get up/back to full speed. You’ll typically be shown this after the track has been under caution (yellow flag).

Yellow #

Yellow rectangle

The yellow flag is presented in three ways:

  1. Single flag not moving: Slow down, no passing allowed
  2. Single flag being waved: Danger close, slow down, no passing allowed
  3. Double flag being waved: Whole track is under caution, slow down, no passing allowed. This is sometimes followed by a black flag.

Yellow w/Red Stripes #

Yellow with red stripes rectangle

Signifies that there is debris on track ahead of you or that the surface is slippery (from oil, coolant etc.)

Blue w/Yellow Stripe #

Blue rectangle with diagonal yellow line

Indicates there’s a faster car behind you, check your mirrors! You’re holding them up so give them a point-by.

Black #

Black rectangle

The black flag serves two purposes:

  1. Single flag not moving: usually at all stations and means session has been suspended, return to the pits.
  2. Single flag pointed at you: you’ve done something and the pit marshall would like a chat, return to the pits.

Black w/Orange Ball #

Black rectangle with orange ball in center

Usually shown and pointed at you. Communicates there is something wrong with your car, return to pits unless flagger is indicating you should come off track (you might be leaking coolant).

Red #

Red rectangle

Typically waved, the red flag is the most serious of all flags. It means there’s extreme danger ahead. Check your mirrors (so drivers behind you have time to react too), quickly come to a controlled stop, off the racing line to the side of the track and within sight of a flagging station.

Don’t stop just the other side of a crest or blind turn, and keep off the grass, you don’t want to inadvertently start a fire. If you need to drive a bit further down track, do so, carefully and slowly.

White #

White rectangle with grey border

Tells you that there are slow moving vehicles on track. Typically these are rescue/emergency vehicles. Proceed with caution and pass with care and attention.

Checkered #

Black and white checkered rectangle

Often displayed at two locations around the track, the checkered flag signals that your session is over. Slow to about 75% of the speed you’ve been going. Use your brakes gently and as little as you can, safely, on your return to the pit to help cool them. Some clubs do not allow passing once the checkered has been show. If in doubt, ask at the drivers meeting.

A comedic take on track flags #

Updated on October 14, 2023
Was this article helpful?