Article and images by Tom McBeth
Getting involved with the sport you love is an essential aspect for any fan, so how can the casual motorsport fan up their involvement and get that little bit closer to the action?
For most sports you can join a local club, or go down the park and participate at your leisure. Motorsport, however, takes a lot more than that. Whilst televised race events draw millions of viewers across the globe, and race meetings constantly sell out grandstands across the UK, the idea of getting involved in motorsport is a pipedream to the majority. Levels of licences, backing, time and more than anything else, money, being significant stumbling blocks to the majority getting behind the wheel at any level.
We spoke with Chris Whitlock, spokesman for the British Motorsports Marshals’ Club (BMMC), about volunteers’ involvement at race events.
“Marshals are volunteers who participate in marshaling as a way of getting involved in the sport they love.”
Marshaling at a race event may involve anything from the grounds-keeping of the circuit in between races, assisting in the safe removal of vehicles from the track, managing the fans entry to the circuit, paddock and grandstands and general pit lane duties.
As many as 4,000 marshals are currently registered in the UK, which may sound a lot but as Chris points out, “The number of marshals required will vary depending on the circuit the event is held at and the duties required at the event. For example the Grand Prix Circuit at Silverstone has 30 posts and the National Circuit has 12 posts.”
When you consider that each marshals’ post could require as many as eight volunteers, the manpower required to run a race meeting becomes apparent at every level.
“In addition to these marshals working around the track there are jobs in the assembly area, start line, pits and paddock, and race control for specialist marshals.”
Whilst marshals are also treated to discounts at race events, from food to merchandise, Chris points out that, “The biggest perk is being close to the action and actually getting involved. It has been described as the best seat in the house.
“Marshals get involved in the scene shifting, lighting and the play itself. The only thing we don’t do is write the plot, that’s down to the drivers. The great thing about marshalling is the camaraderie that develops. You meet people from all works of life yet you share a common interest.”
With over 300 different race events in the UK this calendar year, it is surprisingly easy to get involved. Events ranging from the international series of Formula One, World Touring Cars and GT series to truck racing and rally cross are taking place at circuits ranging from Knockhill on the border of the Scottish Highlands, down to Silverstone in the Midlands and Thruxton on the south coast of England. All of this is before accounting for events such as karting, sprints, hill climbs, sporting trials or rallies, drag racing and commemorative events, so it’s clear that there are a huge number of volunteering opportunities available to anyone wanting to take part.
The British Motorsports Marshals’ Club (BMMC) is the only national club solely interested in marshals, it is owned and run by marshals and members can volunteer for any event taking place in the UK.
“Each club has its own way, but the BMMC has introduced a volunteering system where you can put your name down for any event. The difficulty is choosing the event. First you need to know what’s on, the BMMC posts an Events Calendar on its website.”
The likes of the British Grand Prix are by invitation only, and Chris warns that “some British Touring Car Championship events get oversubscribed so selection is usually first come, first serve. There are so many ways to go marshalling and so many different marshalling jobs we know it is confusing, so we offer taster days to anyone thinking of becoming a marshal. We will invite you to spend a day at a circuit near you where we will tell you about all the jobs available, show you around the venue and give you an opportunity to stand on a post and be shown how they work.”
If you are interested in marshaling or wish to get involved in a taster day, visit the BMMC website.
The printed version can be found here: Marshaling Mag