My partner and I have for many years found the best way to relax is to get up at the crack of dawn and go motor racing. Whether competing or spectating we have had many years of fun. We are currently in a different situation and it is not so easy to get away for whole days together. But Steve recently took up marshaling and was asked to write an article describing what it was like to do it for the first time. It is so interesting that I thought I would share it with a wider audience…
Having really enjoyed running my Alfasud in the Crystal Palace sprint I was feeling that I could have done a bit more to help the build up and breakdown and so when I received an email saying that the club had been told that because of the demand for marshals at Goodwood there would be a shortage of marshals for the historic superprix at Brands Hatch, as a race licence holder of 15 years or more and never done any marshalling before I thought that I should volunteer, So a quick email off to the coordinator and the following day there were tickets and instructions on the doormat. Some orange proban overalls were obtained, some big gloves and a hat were selected and I was set.
I know that I wasn’t the only club member to offer, I’m guessing that everyone who volunteered got asked by Andy to jot down a few thoughts for the magazine, here are mine:
A 7 am start found me following the orange snake of a hundred or more fellow volunteers to sign on and find out where they are stationed, I was on post 14 which is at the top of Hawthorn hill, right on the bend.
It was a great insight into how hard marshals work and the high level of professionalism required.
As a “newbie” I did think that as a quarter of the team at post 14 that I may have been a liability but the post chief, Bernard Stanley, went to enormous effort to not only safeguard me but also to make me feel useful, part of the team and so make my weekend safe and enjoyable. The day started off with a 20 minute briefing, the bulk of which was to do with safety, in between races further updates were given, I was also given the opportunity to do some flagging (by the end of the weekend I had done nearly 3 hours, including all of the group C race, it is a much, much harder job than it looks and requires a level of skill and concentration way beyond my abilities) There were also a few myths dispelled, for instance some people affectionately refer to marshals as “the stonekickers”, this is because they clearly have nothing better to do than kick stuff around the circuit or even can’t be bothered to bend down. Wrong. One of the first things I was taught was don’t pick anything up even if you think you know what it is because it may be dangerously hot, kick it off the circuit, if it’s hot let it burn the grass. When walking on the circuit why wander about taking a diagonal path like some bizarre orange bishop? Simple, so you never have your back to the flow of the circuit. I could see there was also a great deal of preparation before each race starts, on the sighting lap notes were made about number of cars (in case there are stragglers at the start) and also the details of the first and last half dozen cars (for the flag man), how many female drivers, any disabled drivers or anyone using unusual fuel.
There were a couple of incidents on Saturday, A car lost a wheel in our sector but didn’t stop having his “moment” until he had reached the next sector but we did need to do some vigorous flagging. Later in the day the E type of Desire Wilson pulled up on the opposite side of the track to us but being very experienced racer she was able to move to safety without assistance and we only needed to supervise her recovery to the pits after the race, making sure the car was safe to move and that the driver was secure.
So during the course of the weekend I had gathered quite a lot of information which I hoped had sunk in, it was only during the last race of the day that a formula ford 2000 car lost control and entered the gravel trap at hawthorn bend that I found that it had, every word. All four members of the team did what they were supposed to do and the driver found himself out of the car and in a position of safety in less than a minute. (As a petrol head I am also pleased to say that apart from a broken steering linkage and some dust the car was also unscathed)
I had been a bit worried that there could have been some schadenfreude creeping in but I would have been just as happy if the day had been incident free.
So, to sum up. I had a very enjoyable weekend, I’m sure some of you may feel that I have been preaching to the choir, but I would recommend that everyone who enjoys motorsport to try a taster day marshaling. My only worry was that I would let the club down by not having the right gear or by saying or doing something silly but in the end nobody noticed, I also seem to have been hooked and have signed up for another half a dozen meetings this year, so maybe I’ll see you out there!