As part of the Academy season, you’re encouraged (and bribed just a bit) to volunteer to be a marshal for a day. For your efforts, you’re given an additional upgrade signature on your race licence and also issued 5 bonus points in the overall championship at the end of the season.
Both these factors mean that most people who are going to continue on racing after year 1 duly sign up and take part.
It appears that most years, Jenny at Caterham will arrange one of your meetings to take place on just one day of the weekend. That leaves the other open to do your marshalling. However, I had already arranged my day ahead of learning we could have done it over our Brands Hatch race weekend. This turned out to be a bit of a blessing however! For a start, the Saturday of our race weekend was absolutely baking hot. Lots of those taking part came back cooked medium rare.
Secondly, I’d chosen a top notch race meet to attend, with F3, British GT and also the Caterham R300’s all racing on the GP circuit. This meant a busy weekend on track.
Lastly, as there were far fewer drivers marshalling at this meeting, it felt a bit more special and unique. I wasn’t on a post with another Academy driver so I really had to get stuck in.
On arrival, I handned over my upgrade card, signed on and was issued with a voucher for a free cooked breakfast! Not a bad start to the day. I was allocated my post (no.5) which was up on the entry to Druids.
I was already set up on post as everyone else was arriving. I got chatting away and soon felt pretty happy that I wasn’t going to be left bored or feeling like a spare part! As soon as you let slip you’re a driver, the marshals all light up – safe in the knowledge that their day can be spent taking the piss out of you!
I think I just about held my own. It was great being able to bounce off each other as well chatting about how difficult it is for a marshal to report every incident that happens or to catch every track limits altercation etc. Having been given the opportunity to flag one of the races, I can confirm that it’s a pretty nerve wracking experience for the novice. It’s a hard job to keep up with the race and know who’s in a battle and who’s overtaking for position.
Having now experienced it first hand, it’s hard to justify ever getting annoyed that blue flags aren’t being shown to back-markers! As a driver, it’s also a skill to learn how to race and pay full attention to the flags. A day on the banks working with the team who are there to help keep you safe brings it home just how important a job this is for a driver.
The day was largely uneventful with respect to incidents at druids. There were a few bumps and scrapes, but all involved recovered back into their races. That was, until the F3 race right at the end of the day. I was just chatting to one of the recovery marshals who was saying that sometimes, days just go like this – with nothing much happening. But just as he was saying this, there was a nasty crunching sound behind and I turned to whitness an F3 car flying high through the air, tilting to 90 degrees before landing on its side, and, luckily, back on it’s wheels before heading into the barrier at high speed.
Luckily, the driver was OK and was able to get out of the car under his own steam. The snatch vehicle was sent to retrieve the car and, once the race was over, I was able to help pulling out what remained of the front wing of the car (which had managed to go completely under the tyre barrier) and generally tidy up things ready for the last race of the day.
It was quite shocking to see such a large accident up close. It was all recorded for TV by one very brave camera woman. Apparently, she never budged and the accident was coming straight for her at frightening speed. There was also no barrier to protect her had the car not landed back on the ground. Can’t wait to see the footage on TV next weekend to see if it’s as I remember it!
I’m extremely glad that I got the opportunity to work with the marshals. They do a fantastic, unpaid and often silent job all to enable us drivers to do what we love. We can’t do it without them and I hope I never forget that. A simple wave is all that’s needed as thanks at the end of a race in return – and it’s amazing how many drivers don’t even manage that.
I’ve set myself the target of volunteering to marshal at least one event every year that I race. I hope that resolution is followed better than my new years ones!