Marshall training

Rigorous training days mean british marshals are the best around

It’s no secret how highly regarded British marshals are around the world. A group was flown out to Abu Dhabi to oversee the inaugural Formula 1 race last year; others have attended GP2 and V8 Supercar events. This is no surprise when you consider the tale of one local marshal assigned to a group of Brits at a foreign race, who disappeared to the loo during the first lap…

On a wintry Sunday I went to a marshal training day at Oulton Park and, despite the fact that two inches of snow had fallen overnight, more than 220 people were there, ready to volunteer for a job that is unpaid and involves giving up your weekends.

“I think it’s part of the British way of life,” says Andy Holley, a training co-ordinator for the British Motorsport Marshals’ Club Northern Region. “It’s all voluntary and I’m slightly taken aback by the numbers we’ve got.”

I must admit that before attending the training day, I thought becoming a marshal was simply a case of being given some flags, a slightly stale lunch and a fetching orange jumpsuit. This couldn’t be further from the truth – apart from the jumpsuit, which isn’t very fetching at all… To become an entry-level track marshal you need to do at least 10 days of marshalling, have an assessment and attend a training day. The studies then continue whether you want to be an incident officer, post chief or an examining post chief.

In the UK we tend to take our marshals for granted, but we shouldn’t. Type ‘Tetsuya Ota’s crash at Fuji’ into YouTube for an example of bad marshalling – but beware, it’s not easy viewing. However, the driver did survive – and successfully sued the circuit for a reported $1 million.

The marshals at the Oulton training day ranged from helicopter pilot instructors to dustbin men. Ian Lewis, a rescue unit marshal, explained the attraction of the job: “We’re all frustrated racing drivers. We either haven’t got the money, the opportunity or the expertise to actually race, or we love the sport so much that we want to do something to help. It’s one or the other.

“We’ve never been short of marshals here at Oulton, but other circuits around the country have struggled and in the not-too-distant past they’ve had to cancel meetings.”

I promised I wouldn’t say this, but… we really wouldn’t be able to hold any race meetings if it weren’t for our marshals. And what great marshals we have.