It's never too late to take up race marshalling
Do you enjoy watching motor sport?
Would you like to get closer to the action?
Have the best seats in the house?
Have you imagined yourself trackside at an F1 Grand Prix?
All for just the cost of getting there.
Race marshalling could be the answer.
I’m the co-chief track marshal at Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife for the Scottish Motor Racing Club. I have been officially marshalling at Knockhill for over 10 years.
I've been around racing cars for what feels like all my life. It's all my dad’s fault but I hold no grudges. He's a madman in general but I'm guessing the love of loud things stemmed from his mother and father, both Harley Davidson owners.
He actually got into motorsport almost by mistake when a work friend took him along back in around ’75, when races were held at Ingliston on what is now the Highland Show ground. I loved that place. I used to toddle along with him as a kid and sit on the fence as he was a spectator marshal at the time. There was always a joke that the spectator marshals used to outnumber spectators......
The move to Knockhill
I don't remember much about the move from there to Knockhill in the early 90's. Still not old enough I guess. I started attending regularly at about the age of 12. Legally however you had to be 16 to be on track, so I spent time helping out the commentators and in the pits, pressing a button so a horn would go off every time a car entered the pits.
My first chance to marshal properly.
Finally came my 16th Birthday and a few weeks later my first chance to do race marshalling “properly”. Back in that day there was a training day but it had passed and there wasn’t anything separate for new people (or trainees as I like to call them now).
My first day, I was placed out on the best corner on the track with an experienced marshal Stanley Edmonds. Stan was, and still is, one of the best marshals I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
We had a 6 car accident on the start line with Ford Fiesta XR2's and I spent my first day doing a heck of a lot of sweeping and pushing. The scariest part of my first season was last day of the season where I spent around 20mins holding the head of a female driver in place while she was cut out of her car.
This definitely felt like it was a crazy position of responsibility for a 16 year old but it taught me so much about marshalling. No matter your age you are trusted to do the job and treated as an equal no matter what your background is.
I try to always tell my trainee marshals, marshalling is 90% banter 10% organised chaos. If you are slightly kooky like myself then you will have no problem.
If you are quiet and shy, you will have no problem. If you haven't worked as part of a team ever before, you will fit in. You don't even really have to have an interest in motorsport but if you don't you will have to spend all day with a bunch of nutters who live and breathe motorsport which might not be the easiest day. There always have been (and always will be) characters in this line of volunteering. Whatever your favourite motorsport is, whatever your interest there is something for you.
If you are race marshalling you have a choice of motorbikes, single seaters, saloon cars or rallying, Knockhill provides for all of these and there are clubs like ours which will need people of all experiences backgrounds and ages to marshal them. The fun, the chat, the free tickets to the best seat in the house..... I couldn't think of anywhere better to be on my weekends.
The 10% that we work hard in can often be challenging, exhausting, very very wet and always fast paced. It certainly makes for interesting team dynamics, but you very quickly learn how to do each specific role we have.
We push cars out of gravel traps (like running in sand). We put out fires. We calm down irate drivers. We report incidents and dangerous occurrences. We are referees, fire personnel, intermediaries, athletes (haha) and health and safety inspectors all in one.
Motorsport is dangerous, and race marshalling is dangerous. It's as simple as that. It says it on the gate. It says it on the ticket. We say it in our briefings. It's not for everyone. Bad things do happen. But that is exactly why we are there. Without us Motorsport simply couldn't function as well as it does. And UK marshals? Why, they are the finest in the world. There is a reason why the Motor Sports Association get asked to train marshalling teams in other countries. And of course the crème de la crème join the SMRC at Knockhill.
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