First and Last Post: Marshalling in the field
Every motorsport event is a carefully choreographed operation requiring multiple disciplines and skills, with the marshalling community a hugely important contributor.
A marshal is a volunteer official whose primary remit is to keep participants and spectators safe and to aid drivers and the medical teams in the event of an accident. It’s a critical role, without which an event would not run at all.
For this weekend’s Extreme E Hydro X Prix held in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, a small team of 22 marshals have come together. As the event is so unique in its scope, the marshalling team has been assembled from all motorsport disciplines, including rally, rallycross and race.
Becoming a marshal is often a calling, with volunteers lifelong motorsport fans or participants themselves. Their reasons for giving days of their time are varied, from wanting to give back to the sport they enjoy so much, to a wish to get as close and involved in the sport as they can.
Each marshal will undergo a variety of training, from understanding a marshal’s role, to more intense training such as learning radio commands and medical extraction techniques in the unfortunate event of an accident. Many also train on the job by buddying up with other marshals and benefitting from their experience.
Marshals are always amongst the first people at a venue as they need to be out on course before the vehicles take to the track or stage. They come in early for briefings from race control to assess weather conditions, course conditions and whether the event will run to time. It’s often the most evocative time of the day, with quiet and calm but an air of anticipation.
The Chief Marshal will gather everyone together on arrival for a briefing on what to expect. Weather can be a major factor in how the event can run and on the first day of racing in Scotland it was no exception as fog hit the quarry. With race control unable to see the course and the medical helicopter grounded, the timetable was delayed. Marshals are kept up to date with delays by the Chief Marshal and called to post when the racing could eventually get underway.
At least one marshal is stationed at each corner with a radio tuned into race control to hear latest updates. Prior to each session race control will conduct a radio check, calling each marshal in turn to check they can receive and send messages via the correct frequency. Communication is vital in marshalling as every marshal needs to be able to report accidents, stranded vehicles, debris on the track and other hazards that could affect the racing action.
If there is an accident on track the marshals will radio in the accident to race control so they can react with flags, safety cars or other immediate actions. They will then use all their training to help the driver or spectators. This can range from putting out a fire to helping the driver leave the vehicle or moving the vehicle to a safe place. Once the track is clear the marshals will radio into race control to inform them to resume racing activity. Some meetings will have television coverage so they can follow in real time, but most will rely on the information supplied by the marshals.
At the end of the day it’s back to the paddock for a debrief on the day. “Marshalling is such a great way to participate in motorsport,” says Sam Walker, Motorsport UK Training Officer, who coordinated the marshalling team at Extreme E. “I’ve been marshalling since I was young and love it. There’s a sense of spirit and teamwork within the marshalling community. You really are part of the meeting – close to the racing, fans and cars. But the achievement of coming together to create an event can’t be beaten.”
Get your motorsport journey started as a marshal
Volunteer marshals are the beating heart of UK motorsport. Proudly standing out in their orange overalls or marshals’ tabards, they are vital to the safe and effective running of events all over the country.
For anyone who is passionate about motorsport but does not necessarily want to get behind the wheel, becoming a marshal is a great way to get close to the action.
Click here for more information on becoming a marshal – https://www.motorsportuk.org/volunteers/marshals/