I left you last time having completed my morning at Donington, looking around the circuit and behind the scenes. The afternoon was where my marshaling career really began – out “on the bank”.
I’d been allocated a position on post 12, on the outside of the Craner Curves. To get to the post, I had to drive around the service road that runs around the circuit. When I eventually found where post 12 was located (after a lengthy detour, almost all the way round to McLeans) I parked up and went to meet my colleagues for the afternoon. I was on post with two more experienced marshals, and another of the trainees. (This is where it all gets a bit embarrassing – I’ve met the others several times since that first day, but my memory for names has completely failed me. When I remember them I shall come back and redress this injustice, but until then please bear with me.)
The first thing that happened in the afternoon was an on-post briefing covering safety and general behaviour while on post. Essentially this boils down to the following rules.
- Always keep an eye on oncoming traffic on track. This may seem like a very trivial thing to say, but when you are standing trackside you absolutely have to know what is coming toward you. Marshal posts are positioned according to where they are most likely to be needed and often this is where the cars are most likely to lose grip and spear off the track. The last thing you want to happen is to get hit by an out of control vehicle because you weren’t watching what was going on.
- When there are cars on track, don’t sit or kneel down. Again, you never know when you might have to run.
- When there are cars on track, don’t eat or drink. This is an extension of the first two rules. Keep your focus where it needs to be.
So, with the basics covered we were ready for an afternoon of racing. Although I love watching the racing, I’m not going to bore you with a rundown of what was out on track when. Instead I’ll just tell you that after a couple of hours of various qualification sessions, the heavens opened. When I say that the heavens opened, it really doesn’t do justice to the amount of rain that fell. Racing was suspended for the duration of the rain storm because the track was simply unable to clear enough water for safe racing.
This brings me onto a very important lesson that I learned that afternoon – appropriate clothing. Obviously marshals are famed for (in most instances) wearing orange overalls so they stand out from the background. Just as important as high-vis clothing is a really good set of waterproofs, good quality waterproof boots and a hat. I was fortunate that I was reasonably well-equipped in the hat and waterproof jacket/trousers stakes, but my boots just weren’t up to the job. Lesson : buy some decent boots.
I’m afraid to say that that pretty much wraps up my first afternoon on the bank. When the rain stopped, the superkarts came out for a few laps, until it was discovered that the amount of water falling from the sky had caused some subsidence along side the track (actually, a part of the newly built tunnel had collapsed*) and the decision was taken to halt activities for the day.
Was I disappointed to have my first day cut short? You bet. Did I regret having driven the hundred or so miles to stand for three hours in the rain? Not even slightly. You see, the thing about marshals is that we are a very friendly bunch. In adverse conditions we all make the effort to keep each others spirits up. On this occasion the opportunities for entertainment were a little unusual. If you were watching the Eurosport coverage of the day you may have seen four mad people racing rubber ducks down the river that was the hill at Craner Curves. That was us. I don’t for a second recommend using a racing circuit as a playground, but in this instance there were not going to be any vehicles out for the foreseeable future and it was better than standing around looking glum.
So, that was the first day over with. In the next part, I’ll talk about the benefits of joining the BMMC, what you can expect to pay to equip yourself as a marshal, and generally flesh out the details of how you take the next steps.
* I swear the following radio transmission about the subsidence was real. From one of the posts near the affected area : “Race Control, this is post xx. A hole in the ground has appeared trackside – we’re looking into it!”