Sunday, 5 September 2010

The marshals at Spa

My friend Chris and I have both recently joined the Silverstone Marshals Team, so we took great interest in watching what the marshals at Spa got up to:

Smoking on Post
One of the first things we noticed was that the majority of the marshals were smoking on post, during the races. That has got to be a bad idea, surely?? I couldn't really get my head around that. A lot of them would have an umbrella in one hand, and a fag in the other. I know you've got a few seconds after a crash to let things settle before you run out to the rescue, but this still doesn't seem like the optimum marshalling stance to me.

Red flags
OK, for this one I'm not saying that this was the marshals being rubbish, as I assume it must have been down to the way the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is designed, but the number of red flags was ridiculous. 

In the support series, if someone went off the track then it would be red flagged almost without exception whilst they busied themselves with removing the car. The biblical rain played its hand of course, but it seemed strange that most crashes just immediately got the red flag treatment. (There were 7 or 8 red flags on Friday - admittedly the weather was horrible, but still). There were fewer red flags on Saturday and Sunday, because they'd bring the safety car out during races instead. (And we saw the safety car so many times that for a little while the 5 of us even stopped shouting "SEXYSEXYSAFETYCAR!!!" every single time we saw it).

I'm not really sure what they'd do to fix the situation though, as I assume the main problem was the combination of getting the recovery vehicles to the stricken cars and the repeatedly torrential rain meaning that the young guns struggled to keep the cars on the track.

The funniest track action came courtesy of a marshal during one of the support series sessions. One guy crashed his car backwards into the tyre barrier, clearly injuring his rear wing in the process. You could see that the wing was broken at one side. 

Along comes a marshal, clambering over the tyre barrier behind the car. The tyres are quite high, so when it came to jumping down from them, the marshal put a hand on the rear wing of the car to steady him as he jumped down.

However, the wing was (obviously) broken, and wasn't strong enough to hold the weight of a grown man. As he leant on it, the entire wing just snapped off the back of the car!! I imagine the team wasn't best pleased about this..! (but gosh it made me laugh).

When I've been at Silverstone, the guys have always told me that drivers can get a bit funny about you touching their car because they worry about you breaking them by putting pressure on the wrong bit.  If ever I get near a car when I'm on post, I will now always think of the image of that marshal collapsing onto the gravel with bits of rear wing falling around him...!! I'll try my best to never re-enact his comedy moment.

Best seats in the house
Being a track marshal at Spa looks like a BRILLIANT idea. They have the most absolutely stunning views of the track, and without any of those pesky fences in the way. There were several posts where we would point at them and be like "imagine being THERE!". Once we've got some marshalling experience under our belts we'll have to consider trying to get a place out there, that'd be awesome. Even if I will feel like the odd one out by not smoking on post.....! ;-)

My next day marshalling is a week today (Sunday 12th) at Silverstone for the Le Mans Series. It's been ages since my last go, so I just can't wait! I'm going to start off in the paddock, which will be cool to experience... I'll probably come back here to tell you all about it.


  1. You're marshalling for the Le Mans Series? Wow! Hope you have a great time doing it :D

  2. Thanks Alianora! I'm really looking forward to it :)

  3. I didn't notice the smoking but I did notice the relative lack of marshal posts and number of people on them, compared to the average British track. I've seen BTCC events with marshal posts closer together and 5 or 6 people on each! I'm sure some of these only had 3 or 4 people.

    Nice one on being a marshal, looks like it can be a really hard job. Have you read Ruthy?

    I'm deciding between going to the LMS, or staying at home to watch Monza..

  4. I suppose they've only got as many marshals as the ones that volunteer, and with such a long circuit it looks like they didn't have enough to have lots on each post (bodes well for if I want to have a go there one year in the future..!!).

    And thanks for that link, I've not come across Ruthy before but her posts look really interesting so I'll keep an eye on that for sure.

    I hate that I have to miss Monza for the LMS, but oh well. iPlayer is my friend. (Although I don't like not watching it live). At least the marshals seem to do their best not to mention the F1 result if they happen to know it, so hopefully I'll avoid the result until I watch it.

  5. I hope you enjoy marshalling. I can neverunderstand why people schedule real racing when F1 is on as it must cost them money. The Silverstone race must lose 10,000 people because it is on against Monza.

    I know British marshals travel all over the continent to work at various events but I am not sure if that is only track rather than paddock marshals. I am sure if you wanted to do Spa they would be happy to have you.

  6. That's a good point actually, I'm not sure about paddock marshals. Hmm. I'll have to investigate that one, just out of interest. But I'm doing track marshalling too, so at least I'd be able to do that at a track overseas. :)

  7. Hmm very interesting. We almost got run over on the way back after the GP2 race by the recovery truck carrying Jerome D'Ambrosio's car:

    And it was nice to meet you, however briefly ;) Good luck at the LMS!