Last weekend I had the fantastic honour of spending the day with the marshals at Silverstone for the Walter Hayes Trophy. Usually the last weekend in the motor racing season, the marshals all gather to catch up before the long winter break.
I witnessed some real fans here; I mean real fans that are dedicated no matter what the weather or really, what the racing entails. The Walter Hayes Trophy celebrates Formula Ford and a few other select series, such as closed wheel or what seemed to be of any car, and a Ladies race presented by the British Woman Racing Drivers Club showed a full grid of woman in Jaguars, Minis, MG B, Midgets, Lotus', Caterhams and Morgans... a full grid of mixed cars and full of women, was for me - quite some spectacle.
Sadly the British weather showed off with rain: spit and torrential rain, but the racing continued and so did the marshals.
The reason for my day with the boys and girls in orange was firstly to acquire one signature on my race license, and secondly to re learn some fundamental rules and scenarios that I would need for my race season ahead. I learnt one thing that I had not really understood in full, that the all marshals volunteer, all Marshals go to race meetings to allow the drivers to race, to protect and support them, to allow passions on the circuit to happen each weekend and also to watch some decent racing.
There are a number of different ways you can be a marshal, which simply start with attending. It is free to be a marshal and that means free to see a race. You can then progress to different levels and work with flags, in the observation box or to the medics and race control.
My day at Copse Corner, I suppose, was similar to a taster day they hold and I spent half the morning in the Observation Tower, looking at every single car number, every single way the driver used the corner and hard tarmac skirting or curbs and we noted down any untoward behaviour of cars that went 'beyond track limits', or were 'out of control'. Each action is either written in a notebook or if an incident occurs, then, it is written on a formal paper.
The second half of my morning I spent with the flag men, something, of which I totally loved. I waved the green and repeater chequered flag (seeing as we were at Copse), and sometimes the second yellow if a tricky incident ahead needed to be cleared up. Although I didn't wave the blue, I shouted when it ought to be waved. The blue flag is a precious thing and as the marshals say, 'there is an art to waving the blue flag'.
The blue is waved more on qualifying laps than during a race, in our instance, although during endurance races, the blue flag comes into its own. For our races, the blue was waved purely when the front marker was approaching the back marker on lapping. Things I learnt from the marshals, was to keep your own line when you are waved a blue, if you had not already signalled to let the faster driver pass, then keep your line and the faster driver would need to get round you.
Safety for yourself is the most important thing to remember and specifically in the spray and rain, when you rely on the flags to show you what is happening around you, your line is your safe keeping, effectively.
From my deeper understanding of the blue flag and the 'art' that it involves, and the red which we waved once or twice on this wet day, I recommend to every driver new or experienced, also to mechanics and race team personnel to take a day of marshalling. It is a completely different side to racing.
Without the marshals, the races cannot continue. In the summer this year 2 race meetings were cancelled due to lack of a sufficient amount marshals on the circuit. Let's look at this: it costs about £27,000.00 to open Silverstone Circuit for the weekend. The clubs this weekend (as there were two different race meetings happening) provided £56,000.00 to Silverstone. If there were not enough marshals to sufficiently cover the circuits the race meeting would be cancelled, however...... Silverstone still gets the money but the drivers lose their entry fee and all that goes with it.
So it is in MY interested to promote marshalling to you. If you are a race fan, PLEASE go and try it. There is no money involved. You just need hot coffee, thermals and wet weather gear...The atmosphere was amazing.
Oh wait; in the afternoon I went to join the Copse Corner Marshals.... The ones that clear up the circuit, move cars and get drivers out of the cars... I must admit, apart from some brilliant banter, some great racing and some track side kicking nothing much happened for us... LUCKILY.
At the end of a really (surprisingly) exhausting soggy day, where I was told not to eat a Pork pie on the circuit (that's an in joke and I shan't tell you why), or if Jeff Bloxham (an infamous photographer within the motor sport industry) approached we must all move out the way because where he goes so does a crash, and after meeting some really passionate motorsport fans, I retreated back to race control to receive a signature on my MSA race License.
All that is needed now is for me to get in my MG Midget for the Historic Sports Car Club, 1970's series, and hopefully just wave to those lovely marshals after each race without needing their assistance.
Thank you dear marshals, may you continue to look after us on the race circuits all over the world.
(Photo copyright Lara Platman 2014)