As I’m still getting used to this whole standing up all day lark, I only signed up to marshal the Saturday of the two day meet for the Britcar 24 hours race. The marshals I spent the day with didn’t mock me for being a wimp as I expected, but told me I’d regret not doing the full 24 hours. I didn’t believe them at 8.20am but by 8pm I definitely did!
This was my first event in the pit lane & I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d met the lovely @Lou_uk at a marshals social evening in the White Horse in Silverstone a few weeks ago, and she had told me some of the things she’d done previously in the pit lane, but still, every event is different so I kept an open mind.
One major bone of contention that didn’t really arise too much first thing was the presence of children in the pit lane & garages. No under 16s are allowed, mainly because motor racing is dangerous! But the amount of people, public, corporate guests with the teams & team members alike seemed to take leave of their senses and we spent half our time all day asking people to move the children out of the garages. Older kids who are helping out (for instance one girl was chief tea & coffee maker) I can understand but when you see toddlers running around at the front of the garages, I couldn’t help but wonder what their parents were thinking about! It must be difficult as a motorsport fan when you have kids as all you want to do is get closer to the action, but for goodness sake, show some common sense people!
Anyway, other aspects we were involved in included keeping an eye on pit stops, and checking that team members were wearing proper protective clothing whilst refuelling. We spent the majority of the day walking up and down the pit lane to ensure all teams obeyed the regulations.
We also had to clear the pitwall at the start of every event as only marshals & official media are allowed up there. Then there was crowd control during pitwalks and the like.
There was a brief pitwalk that went quite smoothly and we got a chance to have a good walk and look at the cars, until the end when all marshals herded people out. Unfortunately the grid walk just before the 24 hour race start did not go so smoothly. The timetable must have been printed wrongly as people were only going to be allowed out onto the grid once the cars had lined up & they were only going out once Red Devils parachute team had landed on the start finish straight. Whilst we were watching the Red Devils plane circle waiting for them to jump, all of a sudden a marching band started streaming down the pit lane, followed by a lot of members of the public. Someone had opened the gates & they had all flooded in. All desperate to get onto the grid, they surrounded the gates & weren’t too happy at being kept back. Unfortunately we didn’t know what on earth was going on so it all turned into a bit of a farce. Thankfully eventually the parachutists landed, the cars lined up & everyone was allowed to walk onto the grid.
Another marshalling first for me was provided when a car came into the pits with an oil leak. Cement dust was shovelled onto the trail of oil & brushed away, whilst other absorbent stuff that looked like wood shavings was also used. I didn’t realise quite how simple it is, the powder is literally laid on the fluid to absorb it & then brushed to mix any remaining oil in with the powder. It is quite hard work physically, but now I can look like I know what I’m doing if I get another oil spill to deal with!
Seeing the cars racing in the Indian summer sunshine (30 degrees on the 1st October!!) was great, but the whole atmosphere changed, almost becoming magical, as the sun set. I stayed until 8pm so I could experience the race under fully dark conditions, which was different again! I can fully understand why people like Le Mans and other endurance racing now! It gave me goosebumps as I was driving out in pitch black, to see the headlights of the cars racing down the Wellington Straight and on into the night.