Britcar 24 hours, Silverstone 1st October

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.

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First up was the marshals briefing, explaining some rules that were new for this year (and totally new to me) on fuel storage in the garage. I was placed with a group of experienced marshals who then took me round the pit lane to explain what the plan of action was.We patrolled one half of the pit lane, walking against the flow of traffic to make sure we could see where cars were going (not that anything was racing then). They pointed out everything in the pit garages we were looking out for, before walking around the back & going through the rules & regulations that applied there. For example there was a ‘fire lane’ between the garages & trucks so that there is easy access up and down the back of all the garages that had to be kept clear at all times. Also teams weren’t allowed to run cables across this lane on the floor so we had to address these kind of issues early on.

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.

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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 remit of the pit lane marshals is to control the lights at the end of the pitlane. I helped doing that for a couple of sessions and I listened to the radio at one point, which is amazing to listen to how much is going on. I have huge admiration for Incident Officers who hold conversations whilst listening to the radio & to race control who keep on top of it all! We not only had a someone start from the pit lane to let out once all the pack had gone out but a car stopped on the track, by the inside of Copse. The other, experienced marshal went along the pit exit to try to get the driver out of the car. He wasn’t very keen which was a bit worrying as the others kept on tearing around Copse. Once the situation was assessed the safety car was sent out to control the pack, whilst the broken down car was towed out of the way.

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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!

As for the racing – well you just don’t see any of it like you do when marshalling on the bank, so I can understand why some people much prefer to be on the bank. I, however, loved being up close to the cars, to the pit stops & to all the hustle and bustle of the garages. To experience the start of the race from the pitwall is something else though!
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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.

 

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Even the hot shower and comfy bed wasn’t enough to stop me regretting not staying for the full event (I was even offered someone’s caravan!) but I did get to go home & spend the evening with some lovely friends so it’s not all bad. Still, I’ll be signing up for the full two days next year!
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3 thoughts on “Britcar 24 hours, Silverstone 1st October

  1. hi Kayleigh
    glad you enjoyed you’re time with us marshals,
    i was the one who attended the car at copse with you

  2. Hi Kayleigh
    I would offer my thanks as well for the support and help in the pitlane over the time you had with us. Its great to see new marshals having a go at something different and not being put off by false reports and rumours.
    Really glad you enjoyed your experience with us and we made it interesting for you.

  3. Hi Norman & Justin,

    Thanks so much for all your help and guidance – you two and Mark made the day one of the best I’ve done so far 🙂 Hope to see you down this way again!

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