After reading Mark’s blog post on RupturedDuck on how he got started in motor racing, I got to thinking about how I got my start. Now I freely admit that I’m never going to be a racer – I just don’t have what it takes to drive at speed through the twisty-turnies. I don’t have the skill or the money, but I still love motor sport and still wanted to get involved.
If you’re like me, and don’t have the reflexes of an adrenaline-pumped cat, what can you do the get involved? My solution was to become a marshal. You know, those guys and girls in orange you see dotted around the perimeter of every race track. Being a marshal is a fantastic way to get involved. You get close to the action with some of the best views in the sport, and you get to be a part of the number one reason why racing is as safe as it is today.
So how did I get involved? Simple really. I looked at the British Motorsport Marshals Club website and clicked on the “Try a day as a marshal” link on the homepage. After filling in the very simple form, I was contacted by one of the regional competitions secretaries to offer me a choice of dates and venues for my taster day. Luckily for me, one of the choices jumped straight off the page at me – Suplerleague Formula at Donington Park on August 1st 2009. I plumped for that, and settled in for the wait until the day rolled around. In the mean time I had a few bits and pieces to arrange – a set of waterproofs, a good set of boots and something to hold my packed lunch. Ideally I would have taken a little more time and got some really good waterproof boots, especially given the torrential downpour that came to Donington on August 1st, but I wasn’t to know that.
Eventually August 1st rolled around. I’d been told to meet Chris, the Midland region competition secretary, in the Grand Prix Collection car park at 7.30 on the Saturday morning. As I arrived, it was easy to see where I should be headed – straight towards the small clump of people talking to the guys in orange. I was a little bit apprehensive about what the day was going to hold, but I was instantly put at my ease by Chris and his fellow taster day volunteers Jayne, Mary and Mike. We spent a few minutes chatting about what we were going to be doing during the day while we waited for the other new marshals to arrive.
Once the whole group was assembled we moved from the Collection car park and into the paddock to park up, and then over to the Craner Suites for marshals sign-on. On a normal marshaling day, sign-on is the first opportunity you have to catch up with old friends, have a cuppa (normally, anyway), and talk about the other meetings you’ve done sice you last saw each other. The firs sign-on is a little different, though. There were about 50 or so new faces all waiting to sign on for the day’s activities, having their own conversations and generally just getting on with things. The 12 new guys obviously didn’t know anyone, but that didn’t matter. We were all greeted like old friends and shown what we needed to do. It took just a few minutes to sign on, and then it was back outside for the marshals’ briefing. Again, this was a low-key, relaxed affair where the cheif marshal for the event explained which flag rules were in use for the day (don’t be put off, there are really only 2 sets of rules for flags, one for “normal” meetings and another for FIA meetings), explained that a safety car was available, and a few little bits of general housekeeping.
The rest of the morning was taken up by a walk around the facilities at the circuit – a visit to race control, a walk round the pits and paddock, and a couple of calls into marshals posts to get a feel for what was to come in the afternoon. Then off we went onto one of the suites in the paddock for some more explanations; the role of marshals, the clothing and other equipment that we’d need, the ins-and-outs of joining the club, etc. Each of the four established marshals I mentioned earlier were incredibly helpful and supportive, and answered every question with grace and humour (where appropriate).
That was it for the morning. In the afternoon, we were taken out to post ready to get hands-on.
In the next instalment, I’ll talk more about my first afternoon on the bank, and then talk about membership of the BMMC.