The Challenge Ahead…#SHM2014

On Sunday I will be running the Silverstone Half Marathon – my first ever half!

The distance does not worry me as I completed just shy of the 13.1 miles in training a couple of weeks ago. The weather doesn’t put me off, despite the wind that is forecast – it’s Silverstone, I’ve experienced every season in a day there before! The undulation of the track is preying my mind a little bit, as I have memories of cycling along the new start – finish straight and almost grinding to a halt! However I’m sure that will be a breeze compared to going over the bridges at mile 7!

So what is worrying me? Well last Friday and Saturday I started to feel unwell so took some medication to ward off an impending colitis flare up. Unfortunately on Saturday night the shivers started – each and every bout of colitis seems to start with uncontrollable shivers. I have got off lightly, and had a few hours a day of feeling poorly rather than it lasting all day & all night, however I can’t seem to shake it. On Thursday morning I felt fine so went out for a 2 mile run – a last turn over of the legs, nice and short and flat so not to push myself too hard. The running bit was fine, but I felt so poorly during it I have no idea how I’m going to get through 11 more miles if I feel the same way mid run on Sunday! Today was out and out painful – my usual medication, a wheaty bag, painkillers, fennel tea & ginger biscuits could not get me back into a comfortable place, so fingers crossed a couple of early nights & plenty of rest on Saturday do the job, otherwise it could feel like a very long 13.1 miles! Wish me luck – I think I’ll need it!

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My First Year Marshalling

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

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

·     Aston Martin owners club

·        Britcar

·        Greenpower

·        Historic sports cars

·        World Series by Renault

·        Britcar 24 hours

·        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’ve had quite a variety of cars in the events I’ve attended and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every event. Thankfully there hasn’t been any bad weather whilst I’ve 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’t had any big accidents to deal with. The most I have done is push a couple of cars – funnily enough the first car I had to push was a Mini so I was full of excitement! I’ve had a go at flagging and I really don’t 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’m not really made for! And running through gravel with fire extinguishers; I’m 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’t 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 🙂

British GP 2011 – Saturday

I decided ages before the race that I wouldn’t go to Silverstone for the British GP, but two weeks before the event I found myself scouring eBay for bargain tickets. I couldn’t find any good deals for race tickets but a twitter friend found a general admission ticket for qualifying for £60 including parking so I decided to go ahead and get it. When the ticket arrived I was slightly dubious about the authenticity of the ticket as it stated general admission with central admission and corporate hospitality. I was amazed to see that you get general and central admission on the same ticket! There was a dress code printed on the ticket, which presented a dilemma. I’m used to packing as many layers as possible all to be topped with a Kimi t-shirt & cap, so compromised with putting comfy trainers and a cap in my bag for whenever I wasn’t in the suite!

A few days later I found myself driving around the perimeter road on the Saturday morning of the grand prix. I still thought the ticket might be a fake but at least I didn’t have to walk far back to the car as the parking was just behind the old pit straight! I needed have worried as the ticket was real and got me straight through into the circuit and under Copse tunnel towards the centre.

The next hurdle was getting into Brooklands hospitality, so I decided to go straight there to see if I would be let in or not. And low and behold, I got straight in without the security giving me a second thought! Result 🙂 As it turned out I was the first person into the hospitality suite and was the only person until quite a bit later.  The suite was lovely, with a goody bag including radio and programme for every guest. A tv on the wall showed the action as well as interviews by the commentators, and there was a table with loads of food & drinks. I had a lovely breakfast before going out onto the balcony to see what kind of view the suite had.

Well the view turned out to be one of the best round the circuit, I’m sure of it! The suite was a couple of floors up so no fences were in the way, and the angle of the building meant that people on the surrounding balconies did not block the view either. To the left, cars could be seen thundering down the Wellington Straight and to the right a great view of the complex from Brooklands, through Luffield and Woodcote.

I stayed in the suite watching the support practices/qualifying and the third F1 free practice, before going for a wander down to the little bit of general admission between Becketts & Aintree. I watched the Porsche’s from here which was actually quite a good place as you saw them so often at one side or the other. Unfortunately I don’t find the Porsche’s particularly exciting and I was right by the road going to the new paddock so I did a bit of celebrity spotting. I was amused by the Stagecoach buses taking people to the paddock, but there was also a fleet of Audi’s taking VIPs up and down. I even saw a Range Rover with JYS on the number plate so I’m taking that as I saw Jackie Stewart 😉

I headed back to the suite for the F1 qualifying, by which time the other guests had arrived. Dinner had been served so I sat down with a plate of gorgeous food, to chat with the other guests. The food was really nice, there was even caviar (I didn’t like that though!), so I would have hated to pay the full price for one of these tickets. The other guests didn’t really have a clue about F1 so I told them a bit about what happens in qualifying and who drives which car. I tried not to sound condescending, but I really couldn’t believe that some of the best seats in the house were being taken up by people not really interested! I imagine the Paddock Club is quite similar, and it’s just a shame that the real fans don’t get to enjoy the finer side of the sport that they love.

Qualifying was amazing, the sound of the cars was so loud and it was great to see the cars going into Brooklands. I only wish I had more than iPhone with me at the time to take some good photos. Next year I will!

The day didn’t end with that chequered flag, as after qualifying I went to meet up with the lovely @Kazb711, who I have spoken to a lot on twitter but had never been able to meet in person before. She was with her friend Korin and we all met up with Dom (who used to post his adventures here occasionally before setting up his own blog)  before having a good look around the merchandise stands. We also bumped into Heikki Kovalainen!

To finish the day off I watched some of the GP3 from Luffield before heading home. The only negative of the whole day was the lack of signs in the car park to the exit and I ended up going the wrong way out of the circuit, compared to where I wanted to be. I should have gone back the way I came in but I thought signed exits would be the better way to go. I know for next time!

British GP 2011 – Thursday

This year I was really lucky to attend the British GP at Silverstone, on the Thursday before the event and Saturday for qualifying.

I spent a couple of hours in the paddock on the Thursday morning with a few colleagues, which was absolutely amazing. Although I’ve spent several weekends at Silverstone marshalling this year, it was the first chance had to visit the new pitlane and paddock.

The first thing that hits you is the size of the new pit buildings. Silverstone will no longer be slagged off by Bernie Ecclestone for small, old pits that’s for sure! The garages seemed spacious and the pitlane itself seemed very wide. This might have just been because between the pitlane and pitwall was a strip of grass. Nice to look at and nice on the tv, but a bit of a strange addition!

We had plenty of time to walk up and down the pitlane, watching as mechanics worked on the cars ready for scrutineering and drivers and engineers embarked on track walks. Several drivers didn’t appear to be enjoying the British summertime, wearing big winter jackets and I think it was Barrichello who had a cosy beanie hat on!

There was plenty to see with teams practising pit stops, including McLaren and Ferrari who I managed to get a clip of. I’ll update this post with the links once they are uploaded to flickr or youtube (if they stay there without being banned!). It was really interesting to see the cars up close and personal, we could see a lot of detail that you miss on tv.

The paddock was quite quiet but one fella that had not long arrived was Lightning McQueen at the Marussia Virgin motorhome so I had to get a picture of him.

I loved wandering along looking at the motorhomes themselves as they are feat of engineering. Several days earlier they would have been boxes in trucks and after a bit of blood, sweat and tears, here is the F1 paddock!

Unfortunately we had to get back to work once we’d had chance to get a few photos and see the sights, I could have stayed all day!

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!

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 😀

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 🙂