Montreal on qualifying day

Saturday 11th June 2011

After the free BBQ at the hostel on Friday night we were amazed to see breakfast was also included in the price of our room, and a lovely breakfast buffet was laid out in the dining area of the communal room of the hostel.

Fed and watered we headed to the track, expecting it to take ages but it was really quick. We walked a couple of minutes to the metro station, found the yellow line that the track is on and a few minutes later we were there! We followed the rest of the F1 fans from the metro station to the gates of the track. Room to track was less than half an hour, so anyone thinking of going to the Canadian GP make sure you stay at Montreal Centrale!

I’ve already written about the day at the track in my post The 2011 Canadian GP – Saturday, so I won’t go into that again – but as I keep banging on about the weather this sums up me & Jay:

Jay was cold

..while I got sunburnt!

In the evening we headed into Montreal to meet up聽with our friends. On our way we passed what quickly became one of my favourite streets in the whole wide world – a display from MINI! Jay eventually got me away from it and we met up with the rest of our group. We went to Crescent St and it was absolutely packed, I haven’t seen anything like it! There were several small stages set up with live music and all the pubs were jam packed, as was the street, all to do with the F1. We had a great night 馃檪

MINI Countrymans

MINI Countryman

Crescent St, Montreal

The Rally Show at Cornbury Park

Oh dear, the date that the permanent link for the first draft of this post shows that I started it on the 24th May 2011….however compared to yesterday’s post about a photoshoot that took place in February I feel like I’m a bit more up to date 馃槈

The weekend of the 14th and 15th of May was a great one for motorsport despite there not being an F1 race on – Saturday involved marshalling at a historic sports car meeting at Silverstone and Sunday I went to the The Rally Show at Cornbury Park.

Despite being really close to work, I’ve never ventured into Cornbury Park so on the drive into the event I thought I was going to end up in Wales! Deep in the forest the stream of cars were eventually directed off the track, to a car park. As soon as I got out the car I could hear the revving of engines and something driving around, so I wrapped up well expecting to trudge further into the estate before arriving at the stage – however the car park was right by it! Brilliant! Having taken so long to get into the event I thought I had missed the MINI WRC’s first run of the day, but lo and behold the first car that swept past me was the MINI! Needless to say I got a bit excited!

The event was the first time that the MINI聽WRC was shown in public in the UK and the whole reason I wanted to go. Dani Sordo did not disappoint and thrashed the car throughout the stage and over the jump – it was great to see!

The rally stage started off in front of the main house, which provided a great back drop. There were tight corners through bales of hay, straight sections where the cars got some real speed up, a jump and finally a hairpin at the end of the stage. All kinds of cars were going down it all day long –聽from some really old Escorts, to Micra’s right up to the modern WRC cars (the Fiesta was there as well as the MINI).

Several car clubs turned out to show off their members cars, and there was also an area where the main companies had displays. One of the stands was home made ‘fuffle’ – something mixed between truffle and fudge which was lovely!

It was amazing to get so close up to what felt like a real rally stage, and so close to home as well! There was excitement as the drivers were setting competitive times and there was a knockout competition too. Adding in the extra displays made it a great day out and value for money, it was just a shame the weather didn’t get out nicer which would have drawn bigger crowds I think. Definitely worth going again next year! 馃檪

Mercedes Benz World

A few months ago the Thameswey Young Members IMechE group organised a tour of Brooklands Museum. More about that another time, but as part of that day we also visited Mercedes Benz World next door.

The ultimate car showroom, Mercedes Benz World is spread over 3 floors. Current models right across the range from Smart cars to Maybachs were on display for sale amongst historic Mercedes. There was also an F1 display that included a Force India, a few McLarens as well as a Mercedes F1 car.

The museum side to Mercedes Benz World is really well done, and the whole place has the wow factor. As well as static displays you can do driving experiences on the test track at the front of the showroom. It looks like great fun, although I’m not sure how expensive it is to have a go!

One of the best displays was the exploded F1 car. A mix of parts from the original display done during the Honda days with newer Mercedes bodywork, it is a sight to behold! A bit like the whole place really – amazing!

My First Year Marshalling

Now my first motor racing season spent marshalling is over I thought I would reflect on how it鈥檚 gone.

My year has involved marshalling at the following events at Silverstone:

路聽聽聽聽聽Aston Martin owners club

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽Britcar

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽Greenpower

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽Historic sports cars

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽World Series by Renault

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽Britcar 24 hours

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽British GT/F3

Unfortunately I missed out on Formula Student, Le Mans Series and the Walter Hayes Trophy due to illness, so I hope to be able to do those next year!

Looking at that list, I鈥檝e had quite a variety of cars in the events I鈥檝e attended and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every event. Thankfully there hasn鈥檛 been any bad weather whilst I鈥檝e been marshalling, as a grey, cold, very wet Silverstone is a bit grim as a spectator huddled under waterproofs & an umbrella, so I can imagine marshalling is not particularly fun.

For most of the events I have been out on the bank, but fortunately I haven鈥檛 had any big accidents to deal with. The most I have done is push a couple of cars 鈥 funnily enough the first car I had to push was a Mini so I was full of excitement! I鈥檝e had a go at flagging and I really don鈥檛 envy flaggies; my arm was really aching the next day and I only did a session or two. I enjoy being out on the bank as you have a great view of the racing, and when you are not dealing with incidents there is still the action to watch. The downsides are getting over the barriers quickly, something I鈥檓 not really made for! And running through gravel with fire extinguishers; I鈥檓 not made for that either.

Two of my days were spent in the pits; it was totally different to being out on the bank but I did get the opportunity to learn how to use cement dust and a massive brush on an oil spillage! I really enjoyed my time in the pits and am tempted to do that as a speciality. I loved seeing the cars up close and there is always something happening in the garages. The downside is you don鈥檛 see the cars actually racing and that is one of the main benefits I think of being a marshal!

I think I have learnt quite a bit this year, about different types of racing, cars and marshalling itself. I’ve still got a lot to learn – for example hand signals, but I plan on going through the handbook cover to cover during the off season to learn all the theory. There’s also training days organised over winter at Silverstone so I will attend one of those.

Finally the kit, I resisted buying too much at the start of the season incase I didn’t carry on, but I am safe in knowledge now that I want to carry on marshalling. I got a toolbox on wheels for my birthday to store all my stuff in, provide me with a seat and save me carrying a full bag to post. I have invested in waterproofs (coat and trousers), which is probably the only reason it hasn’t rained on any of my days marshalling this year! One mistake I did make at the beginning was to get some steel toe capped trainers. I thought it would be important to protect my feet with steel toe caps, but actually the support and comfort of the shoe is more vital. For the past couple of events I have worn normal trainers as they are comfier to wear all day, but another birthday present was some proper walking shoes. Not only handy for marshalling, but they’ll do for the annual walk I have to do in the countryside for Mum’s birthday!

I can’t wait for next year now, and if anyone is thinking about taking up marshalling I’d advise signing up for a taster day so you can give it a go too 馃檪

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,聽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聽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聽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!

Updated Marshalling Calendar

Having had a catch up on the marshals forum on Ten Tenths website & the latest newsletter, I have added a few events to my calendar.

The rest of the season now looks like this (touch wood):

10th September: 1000km of Silverstone (LMS)

1st October: Britcar 24hr

8th October: British F3/GT

22nd October: HSCC/BRSCC

5th November: Walter Hayes Trophy

I really wanted to marshal a classic touring cars event as I have a friend who competes in the series but unfortunately can’t make any of the events. I have also missed FOS & some mini racing – I will have to be on the ball next year.

The 1000km of Silverstone will hopefully provide a different experience as I have requested to have a day in the pits. I can’t wait to get back out there & look forward to meeting more of the guys & girls in orange 馃榾

World Series by Renault at Silverstone – 20th August

Friday night was a strange feeling. I really didn’t want to finish making my packup, I didn’t want to pack my stuff up and I certainly didn’t want to set my alarm for 6.30am on a Saturday morning. I didn’t want to go marshalling.

I don’t know what caused this – I hadn’t had a particularly busy week; I wasn’t over tired needing a day in bed. I had been feeling ill for a couple of days but at that precise moment I was feeling ok. I hadn’t been marshalling since mid May and had been looking forward to getting back on the bank for ages. I was also looking forward to going to the World Series by Renault event.

Thankfully, whatever caused me to feel so negative was wiped away by 8am on Saturday morning. Despite the early morning wake up call, despite parking outside Copse and walking through to the Paddock Bar for sign -on, only to walk back to the car to get my stuff and back again to my post! The sun was shining and I was back at Silverstone so all felt right with the world.

I was put on the inside of Brooklands, just in front of the hospitality suites. The other marshals were a great bunch of guys and we had a great day. They imparted their knowledge and gave me some great tips, whilst telling some interesting and scary stories about their escapades over the years of marshalling.

I spent two sessions during the day on flags, firstly on the yellow flag during Clios , but they all managed to behave themselves so I didn’t have to wave my flag once. I then flagged for the last session of the day, Formula Renault 2.0 UK qualifying and they were all well behaved too, so apart from the green flag lap, I didn’t have anything to do! I really enjoyed flagging so will it give a go another time, I just hope I don’t get a long safety car period!

The rest of the time I was primed and ready to jump into action if anyone stopped for whatever reason on our corner. Unfortunately barring a couple of spins it was really quiet down at Brooklands and so there weren’t any incidents to take care of. It feels really strange thinking and typing that; of course its good for the racing and competitors that there weren’t any incidents. I would just have liked a car to bump start or push or something. Especially as I’d been repeating in my head all day how to get the Formula Renaults into neutral!

Still aside from being quiet on the marshalling side as a spectator right up close to the track there was some great action; the bigger Formula Renault 3.5 were very well behaved and very little action near us, but the smaller 2.0’s were full of life & the Clios…well, they were a fiesty bunch (just not in the session I was flagging)! We were able to relax during the demos so it was great to see a Renault 5 doing hot laps & a few donuts as well as Grosjean in an old Renault. Sadly by the end of the day I didn’t have the energy to stand and watch the demos and took every available opportunity to sit down during sessions so I missed Charouz doing his run in the Renault (although I did notice the helmet looked different when I peered over the edge of the fence)… I’ll get used to standing up all day eventually 馃檪