The Marshalling Journey – Trainee to Track.
As a lifelong Motorsport fan, I wanted to give something back, so in 2013 I did a Marshals ‘taster day’ at Silverstone. The day included a tour of the circuit, some flagging practice and had visits to race control and the medical centre. Unprecedented behind the scenes access. The afternoon was spent on post and included some real action helping to recover a couple of incidents and from that point I was hooked.
I joined the Silverstone Marshals Team for the 2014 season and after a day of theory and practical training, I was ready for the season to kick off. I did around a dozen events and found my confidence and experience grew the more familiar I got with the structure of a day and the more I experienced different incidents.
One of the more memorable moments was two cars coming together on the fast Maggotts/Becketts section at the British GTs. Finding yourself out in the gravel trap, protected only by double waved yellow flags, whilst big GT machinery thunders past; you suddenly realise the seriousness of the work you do as a marshal.
The British GT incident I was involved with. (Picture from Autosport Magazine)
Part of the process of Marshal grading is to gather signatures and comments in your MSA Personal Record Card (PRC). I decided to only get signatures where there was evidence of me dealing with an incident and a useful comment could be recorded. During 2014 I got about six incidents recorded in my PRC.
In 2015 I did sixteen events, including two days as a flag marshal. We all think we know about flagging as we shout at the TV during a race “where’s the blue flags?!”. But it’s only when you are the one making the judgments in the heat of ‘battle’ that you come to appreciate just what a challenging assignment it is.
As the 2016 season commenced I asked our Marshals team coordinator to organise a grading assessment, which she did for the weekend of the World Endurance Championship; a globally televised event, so the
e pressure was on! The grading assessment consists of one day on flags and one day on incident. Saturday saw me on the flag post at Becketts. The weather was closing in as I got to post, it wasn’t looking promising. I was joined by a gentleman who was the Examining Post Chief. I naively asked; “when’s the ‘flaggy’ arriving?” His retort made me gulp; “Flaggy?! You’re flagging, I’m watching you….off you go son!”
I dived in to give it my best shot, but the session was stopped as heavy snow came down……… in April?! Once we resumed, time flew by; even the three hour ELMS race was over in a flash. Between races my assessor asked me questions on various scenarios to test my knowledge and at the end of a very busy day, he happily signed-off the upgrade section for flagging on my PRC; half way to the upgrade!
Snowy flags on post
Sunday I was on incident duty at Copse corner for part two of my assessment. I had heard stories of people not getting their incident grading signature as they had no incidents to deal with during the day. Fortunately, in the first race of the day, a Porsche Super Cup spun off into the gravel trap in front of us. After initial attempts to push him out, it was clear we needed a snatch vehicle.
We retreated behind the barrier until the JCB arrived and then went back out to connect the lifting bolts through the roof to get the car to safety. Whilst we steadied the car, as the JCB carried it backwards through the gap in the tyre wall, I realised I’d had a lot of responsibility during that incident and felt I dealt with it well. My assessor came over between sessions and went through a very comprehensive series of questions covering a range of incident scenarios. I was glad I had done my homework; it was more of a grilling than I expected! However, he was very happy with what he had seen in the snatch earlier and the answers I gave in the Q&A, so subsequently he signed my card off with a successful upgrade.
Overall, I would say don’t rush into collecting signatures and chasing an upgrade. Remember that your safety is the number one priority and only through experience will you be competent and confident. Above all else, enjoy your motorsport and if you fancy giving it a go yourself, why not check out the BMMC page for more information.