I’ve wanted to get involved with marshalling since my first year at uni; finally 5 years later I have taken the plunge!
I’ve seen various stands at the Autosport show, even at Rockingham the other week and followed their advice of signing up through their website.
You are sent a list of various days and you tell them what days you can do, I got allocated the 8th May. This was reassuring as I was worried about clashing with work and other commitments but it’s easy to fit in! A quick look on Silverstone’s website didn’t show that any event was running, so I wasn’t sure what would be racing or what to expect, thinking it might be purely theoretical day with talks given by other marshals.
Anyway I got to Silverstone after a brief trip to Towcester to pick up a thick winter jacket from a friend as mine is at my parents in York, as I didn’t think I’d need it anymore till autumn! How wrong I was, it was freezing cold with a strong wind (as ever at Silverstone) and threatening dark clouds.
I sat in the Paddock Cafe for 15-20 minutes wondering where everyone was. It turned out they were in the Paddock Bar next door – I luckily asked a member of staff and walked out the door at the same time they were leaving to start the tour so I was able to join in!
First up was a tour of Race Control. It was so exciting to think this is where the big decisions are made. We went into the timing room overlooking the start finish line and saw the first few club racers go out, and how the timing guys do their job (wouldn’t mind doing that!). We saw the Clerk of the Course’s office and a telephone switch board that is in contact with the Chief Marshals at certain points across the track. We also saw banks of tvs with people keeping a close eye on all the action! I didn’t realise but the stewards are kept away from all the action in their own room, and are only allowed to make decisions based on the evidence given to them, not their general feeling after keeping up with events of the race as a whole.
We spent time at the assembly area for club racers at Brooklands just in front of the BRDC building to see what the marshals there do (check all cars are ready to race so have been through scrutineering for example). A rescue marshal showed us what equipment they have in their vans and we spoke to the track marshals nearby, getting a feel for what they do.
We spent a fair bit of time over at Copse talking with track marshals again, in particular a guy about the fire trucks and we had a go carrying a fire extinguisher…I think I need to go to the gym and build some muscle before I can run to an incident with one of those! We also had a chance to practice waving flags in between sessions – I never knew flagging marshals are not in radio contact with rac control so have to read the race themselves. F1 is the only series where flag marshals are told what colour flag to wave!
Typically by the time we left Copse and were at the inside of the track there was an accident where we were just stood!! A guy went into the barrier backwards at the entry to Copse and the session was red flagged. It was interesting to see what the marshals did, just a shame we had moved so couldn’t see first hand how the incident was dealt with!
Unfortunately we didn’t get to observe any scrutineering, the first time we went it was too busy with big queues, and the second time there was no one there! Typical! The scrutineer did talk us through the process and what kind of things they check. As well as classic touring car championships and saloon racers with pretty much open rules there were Formula Renaults at the event and I was surprised to learn how like F1 their scrutineering procedure is. Several components are sealed in the same way as F1 (gearbox, engine etc) so once inital checks are done at the start of an event, the seals just need checking to make sure they haven’t been tampered with.
Finally we went over to the Medical Centre to get shown around the facility – it’s unbelievable, like a small A & E but fully stocked ready for any eventuality.
The work done by volunteers is amazing and becoming a marshal seems to me like a great way to be involved with motorsport. You get to watch allsorts of racing as close up as you can get, but you are also giving something back to the racing community, after all races couldn’t be run without marshals!
If anyone is thinking about being a marshal I would say it’s definitely worth trying out, I’ll report back once I’ve started for real about what it’s like!