Goodwood marshals

The Best Things In Racing Are Free   You Canít Take Chances   They Also Serve...

The Best Things In Racing Are Free

First Published on : 29 May 2002
Excerpt reproduced with the kind permission of Rebecca Hobbs.

Where would motor racing be without marshals? Well no where as there'd be none. From club racing to Grand Prix it's the men and women of the marshalling ranks that ensure there's a race. Imagine all the marshals wake up one Sunday morning, then turn over and go back to sleep; result, no racing. So there must be a huge pay back to tempt these people from under the duvets in the small hours of a Sunday morning. And that pay back comes in a currency so often forgotten in today's motor racing world, the satisfaction of supporting the sport alone . It has nothing to do with cold, hard cash as marshals get nothing, nowt, zilch, diddly squat.

Marshalling is a hobby done for the love of motorsport. These men and women put aside their time and their own money to train in the many aspects of marshalling whether they are a flag marshal, incident marshal, race administration, pit marshal, the list of roles is lengthy. It may shock many to know there are over 1000 marshals at the British Grand Prix, each receiving a small sum of lunch money. Many marshals don't just dedicate their services to British events but will travel around the world to marshal at international races, some of whom will pay up to £1000 or more to go on such a working holiday. It is thanks to the generosity of these people, their supporters and sponsors that a wheel ever turns on a track. Imagine the cost to motorsport if all the marshals of the world were fully waged, it would be the sort of figure that make team bosses sweat.

And this is no vocation for those who think it involves loitering in front of David Coulthard's garage once a year. A marshal who is a spectator is as much use as a chocolate mug. Marshalling involves a deep commitment to ongoing training, the patience of a saint, the stamina an ox, an endless readiness and a deep rooted passion many of us think we have but don't come close to.

The role of marshals and the reality of the danger they can be in has been in focus in recent years after the deaths of Australian marshal Graham Beveridge and Italian marshal Paolo Ghislimberti. Another case many may have heard of is that of Goodwood marshals Andy Carpenter and Steve Tarrant. At the 2000 Goodwood Festival, John Dawson-Damer's Lotus 63 crashed, knocking down Andy and Steve who were marshalling at Flying Finish 1. John was killed instantly, Andy died during an operation a few hours later. Steve was resuscitated at the scene by the rescue crew, his right leg having been severed from his body below the knee, his left leg shattered and a multitude of internal injuries. After gruelling and intensive treatment, nine months later Steve was flag marshalling from a wheelchair in South Africa! Since then Steve has continued to marshal at events throughout Britain, whether he had to carry out the more sedate marshalling duties whilst he came to grips with his prosthetic leg or back to more active marshalling recently as he becomes more adept. This return to the hobby he and his wife hold so dear hasn't just returned a sense of joy and fulfilment to their own lives but it can be seen and felt throughout the marshalling world.

The marshalling family has suffered losses and traumas and as Steve's case has highlighted when one of their own is affected they all rally round. Marshals have a special bond, some moreso than others as on more than one occasion I've heard circuit commentators announce with glee the engagement of Marshal A at Turn 2 to Marshal B at Turn 7! From volunteering, marshals gain a sense of satisfaction, enjoyment and pride in vitally helping the sport they love. Along the way they are privy to a side of motor racing few experience and are part of a very special team.

So next time you are feeling a little jaded about motor racing, as if the spirit has been sucked out of it, glance across to the marshals post and sigh a sigh of relief.

The best things in racing do seem to be for free!

Rebecca Hobbs

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Rebecca passed her MSc (with distinction) in the Sociology of Sport, her dissertation was 'Safety in Formula One Motor Racing 1950-1998: A Sociological Perspective'. Greatest race she ever attended was the European GP at Donington in 1993, her local circuit,- An honour to be at one of Senna's greatest races, worth sitting in the rain for! She has just written her first book and Sir Stirling Moss, who is to write the foreword has already declared it to be the finest motorsport book he's ever read. e-mail: Rebecca Hobbs   
Auckland Motorsport Marshals' Net Centre

September 2000

You Canít Take Chances

Let us not forget that motorsport in all its forms is dangerous. Whenever I hear phrases like: "it will be a laid back event", "we can just relax and have a day in the sun", and many others, often my stress levels and anxiety rise.

If you canít fathom the reason, just contemplate that a car at 125mph (200kph in metric) is still going at 125mph no matter how laid back the event, the competitor and the officials. Then work out which is going to have a major accident and which is not. In either case the consequences will be the same, as was demonstrated at the Escort Sprints when Keith LaneĎs Silver Cobra V8 Replica had a major collison with the armco and a double or triple barrel roll in front of the grandstands towards Jennian Homes sweeper. I have heard the shunt described as returning the car to its kit car components!!!

The recovery was handled professionally by most of those attending, leaving a tense Charles in Control awaiting news. The delay until the ambulance arrived was unacceptable, and it finally left the circuit 55 minutes after the accident and the Red Flag call (one was not at the circuit and was not required by the Clubsport Regulations). Every one at Pukekohe heaved a big sigh of relief that the driverís injuries were "only serious" and not worse. But the question has to be asked whether it is acceptable that the level of safety cover and marshal numbers at Pukekohe should be any less for a Clubsport event as compared to a National B race meeting.

In spite of this the MSNZ Steward commented that the level of manning exceeded the permitted requirements, to which I thought "Thank goodness they were". No doubt this question could be debated for yonks, but I would be interested to hear your thoughts. No sooner had I written the above than I heard about the incident during the TACCOC Driver Training Day between a Fraser and a Lotus Elan, once more at Jennian Homes sweeper. Both drivers got a big fright but thank goodness they were not badly hurt.

Now add to this litany of crashes at our off-season events, first, Richard Giltrapís crash during the wettest part of the Porsche Club Drive for Kids (26th August), when he aquaplaned off the back straight and hit the armco exactly at point 6. The car was a recently imported Boxster with only about 800km on the clock, but it is now very second hand. The really scary thing is that he was carrying a passenger, who was seen by the ambulance crew, before being allowed home with a headache!

Then, second, there was a almost copy-cat shunt during the Commodore Sprints on the following day.

I thought about the safety issue as it affects lower level events, against the background of the fatal accident at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hillclimb back in June, which claimed a marshalís life and left another marshal seriously injured (he has since lost his right leg from just above the knee). It also seems that the driver, Australian John Dawson-Damer, involved had a heart attack or seizure while competing and also died.

Goodwood is a higher level International event, but while it is still largely less serious than many other events, the level of professionalism remains. In addition, the fact that Historic as well as nearly current Formula One machinery was involved as either competitors or demonstrators, emphasises the ever present danger rather more.

The latest issue of the BMRMC South Midlands Region magazine reproduced a moving appreciation of the marshals at Goodwood (and of the motorsport community as a whole) written by seasoned journalist and writer Doug Nye for the Daily Telegraph.

All I have left to say is that we should not drop our guard at smaller events, safety will always have to be first. At such events vigilance should really be greater due to the smaller numbers of marshals and other safety personnel.

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"They Also Serve . . .. . .....
who only stand and wait, the quotation goes, I think.

From an article by John Leaney first published in the Bulletin - October 1998

An apt description of the motor-racing marshals, those luridly orange-clad figures dotted around the edge of motor racing circuits, or at the obviously treacherous points of hill-climbs and so forth; sometimes moved to the display of flags held still or violently agitated in an arcane rubric understood by them and ignored by the drivers at their peril. A casual observer might fear for their safety and question their positioning so close to where even an uninformed eye might predict catastrophe is likely to occur The casual observer would be right but, as the marshals sole reason for being there is to handle catastrophe (usually lugging a fire extinguisher), it makes sense to station him or her reasonably close to the probable site of 'incidents'. Fortunately, on such occasions adrenaline intervenes so that even such figures as the author - grandfather of five, frankly pear-shaped and prey to the cardiac deficiencies of his age - seem to cover the ground with the speed (if not the elegance) of gazelles! Well, all right then, elderly gazelles! Either way, if you come to grief on the motorway it will be many minutes before help arrives, but if your 'hot hatch' leaves the field for a spectacular display of impromptu acrobatics, and comes to rest inverted with flames gently licking from the engine bay, disciplined well-equipped and trained help will be at hand in a matter of seconds; of course it will - marshals love letting of fire extinguishers in circumstances that can be justified!

More seriously though, the crew of each marshals post is composed of men and women or all ages who do know what they are doing and why they are there. Though why they are there does give room for some deeper analysis, as it is not easy to understand why the prospect of cowering behind a dry-stone wall in the Manx rain, while somebody else tries to urge expensive machinery up the gradient on the other side just a little bit faster than yesterday, is so appealing. And why, to exercise this dubious privilege men and women of all ages will dress themselves at their own expense and submit to quite rigorous training at the direction of others sometimes noticeably more youthful, with good grace and humility, is not at once obvious! Probably it is the British passion for getting the job done properly as a member of an elite. The extent to which this can appeal is perhaps clearest with regard to the very youngest recruits. I recently spent a weekend assembling cars in grid order for the 750 Motor Club with a nine year old boy as my chief and for most of the time, only assistant. By the end of the meeting we were both footsore and weary though, as I pointed out to Adam my legs were fifty-three years older than his! I am not exaggerating the least when I say that without him, alone I could not have coped. It will be another eight years before he can work 'trackside' like his father, with the prospect of giving Schumacher the kiss of life, but he is already aware that races do not start on the grid and behind the scenes there is something to do all day. Unlike 'on post' where trying to pinpoint the local wagtails' nest can sometimes be the most demanding activity over the whole meeting! Perhaps more important he has learned that service is not demeaning and can be fun!

Now if all this sounds very high minded and morally uplifting, I can assure you that marshals are not serious, sombre, cynical creatures, poised in anticipation of disaster, and there is plenty of humour attending their activities. At a local hill-climb, a very expensive piece of machinery spun past the end of the armco behind which I was sheltering, and came to rest in some long grass. I approached, fire extinguishers at the ready, to enquire of the driver if he knew what day of the week it was, and whether it was breakfast time, Christmas, or Tuesday, as his trance-like state suggested he might require the attention of someone better versed in the treatment of shock than I. I asked if he was hurt and a long sigh escaped him "Only my pride -l'll never live this down!" he muttered, and began to giggle cheerfully. The speed and agility with which the crew of a post abandoned their precarious station as the entire front axle of a racing truck approached them in a series or leaps and bounds reminiscent of Barnes Wallace's famous bomb, is etched deep into the memories of the beholders. On a less dramatic plane I find the study of the wide spectrum of personal types and apparent lifestyles that motorsport attracts, a source of gentle amusement. Whilst personally I find truck-racing unattractive and brutish as a spectacle, there is no denying its appeal to a wide audience, and there is a delicious incongruity in the piloting of one of these soot-belching monsters by a petite lady who can barely see over the steering wheel!

The Vintage Sports Car Club by contrast presents a picture of restrained elegance and genteel decorum, until the often rather aged gentlemen take to the track in their priceless machinery and subject it to quite horrifying stresses, with the front suspension sometimes taking on shapes only normally glimpsed in the works of Salvador Dali or the 'Beano'.

The practitioners of sidecar racing are perhaps the greatest possible foil to the V.S.C.C., being frankly as eccentric as their machines, roughly triangular, and about as close to the ground as my Jack Russell terrier. These creations (often designed and built in Switzerland - possibly, I suppose, influenced by Toblerone!) consist of a lattice of rather frail tubing, with a carapace of flimsy fibreglass that contains the viciously powerful engine on which the pilot crouches in an attitude halfway between that of the faithful at prayer in obedience to the tenet of Islam, and the less obviously but no doubt equally reverent posture of the less imaginative carvings of a Hindu Temple with a keen interest in fecundity. His passenger meanwhile must remain content with a stark platform to accommodate his frantic changes of position designed to adjust the equilibrium of the whole contraption. Devotees of this pursuit, if male, are commonly bearded and long-haired; the female of the species normally confined to the 'sidecar' are surprisingly numerous and, it is rudely rumoured, are wont to eschew underwear beneath their racing Ieathers in favour of tattoos, a theory that is probably as wildly inaccurate as it is politically deplorable.

Women are increasingly to be met with amongst the competing drivers nowadays, and their demeanour can be charmingly true to their gender. Whereas males of all ages on completion of a race where they have gained the first three places, will jump from their cars dragging off helmets and fireproof ba!aclavas to indulge in an orgy of backslapping and hearty declaration as to why the winner should really be disqualified etc. etc., their female counterpart will remove helmet and balaclava and set them neatly aside, and with practiced fingers and a fleeting glance in the car's mirror, tease her hair into an acceptable coiffure, slide gracefully from the cockpit of her machine like a butterfly from her discarded pupa and spend a moment or two smoothing her fireproof overalls to the best advantage, and then, and only then, submit cheerfully to the general hilarity of the occasion.

My references have of course been confined to the atmosphere of Club meetings where sportsmanship still prevails. Marshalling at Silverstone I found greatly entertaining, in so far as the slick management of the arriving and departing helicopters was concerned, and the razzmatazz and the young women in the hospitality enclosures viewed through binoculars offered an alternative to the pied wagtail. But the racing was a snore. I cannot remember how many marshals worked for three days for nothing for Mr. Ecclestone, but it was plenty and without them there would have been no Grand Prix. No wonder he can afford a £million donation to a political party and, when they feel they must decline, I doubt that the British Motor Racing Marshals Club would have any difficulty in putting it to good use equipping and training the men and women who make his enterprise work smoothly!

If this brief insight into marshalling appeals to you or your son or daughter, the Chief Marshal at any circuit will make any one or all of you, very welcome; marshalling is now recognised as an approved activity within the Duke or Edinburgh's Award Scheme.

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