Inside Revolution: Take the inside line

Friday 17 May 2024

If you want to be part of the action, there is no better way than signing up to become a Motorsport UK volunteer. Whether you are a competitor or a spectator, the official volunteer status gives you a golden ticket to an insider’s world of motorsport, opening access to specialist training and new skills, and opportunities within a very special community where you can make friendships that last forever.

It may be rather clichéd, and often over-stated, but without volunteers, there would be no motorsport, full stop. Competitors can, of course, quite accurately argue that there would also be no motorsport without them either, but volunteering is different as it provides an access point for anyone to get involved. There are minimal restrictions and
barriers to entry, just an open door to motorsport action, whichever way you want it.

“It is such a fulfilling thing to do,” says Sue Fletcher, who has been volunteering for the last 14 years and is now Motorsport UK’s Volunteer Coordinator. “You make some
amazing friends and get so many opportunities. It is definitely a job to be taken seriously, but it is also great fun and it’s so addictive that whenever a volunteer suddenly has
a free weekend, most go straight to see what events are on and where they could go.”

Sue Sanders is approaching her 50th year as a volunteer and is Motorsport UK’s Director of Volunteer & Competitor Development. She believes the skills side is also a huge
benefit to those that take up a volunteer role, and adds: “Even at a basic level, volunteering shows people that you are reliable, intelligent, and prepared to get out and do
something. Then, depending on how far you progress, the different skill sets can really start to feed into your working life and make your CV stand out. The door-opening opportunities are incredible too. Seeing motorsport from the inside is an entirely different experience.”

Roles and Responsibilities

Motorsport volunteering can be divided into three distinct categories: Marshals, Officials, and Event Organisers. There are currently just under 10,000 marshals registered with
Motorsport UK across the four core disciplines of Race, Rally, Speed and Karting, and there are about 2,000 registered Officials. Club roles are only just beginning to be registered
by Motorsport UK, but there are thousands more actively volunteering in this area.

Clearly, different roles suit different personalities. There are some who want to get in the thick of it in all weathers, and those who prefer the challenges of running a circuit
office, managing entries, regulations, and scrutineering. The orange-clad marshals that are omnipresent on a race circuit or wearing the distinctive Motorsport UK orange tabard
on a Rally stage are the most visible, but there are many other behind-the-scenes roles that are equally important, stimulating and rewarding.

Officials, for example, can include Clerks, Stewards, Scrutineers, Rescue and Recovery as well as Timekeepers, Radio Controllers, Trainers and, in Rally, Safety Car Crew Officials and Safety Delegates. Event volunteers currently have a less clearly defined path, but these include Clubrelated roles such as Event Steward, Event Secretary, Event Chief Marshal, or many other roles that may not have an official title.

“Many of these are the unsung heroes that often very few people even see,” says Sanders. “They are the people who prepare and sweep the car park before an AutoSOLO to make sure there are no nails, stones, or sharp screws in the way; the people who bring the tea urns and biscuits, making it into something more of a social experience. They are
all volunteers who are in our sport and without whom we would not be able to run.”

Training for volunteer roles is mostly done ‘on the job’ but there are plenty of support mechanisms that help people progress, particularly when it comes to the different levels
of Marshalling and the varied roles for different Officials. Logbooks or Personal Record Cards are used to record activity, with regular assessments to ensure people are making
progress and gaining the correct experience they require if they aspire to rise through the ranks, grades, and roles.

On Post

Marshalling has a clear grading system to follow, as Sanders explains: “When you first register, you marshal alongside experienced people. You can choose any discipline and go as
far as you want. As you progress, you will reach Grade One and, after attending enough events and doing the required training programs, you can step up to Grade Two and work on your own, maybe even supporting a younger marshal.

“The first level is learning about the role and yourself in the role, and the second level is doing the job competently with sufficient expertise. In Race, for example, that would be
something like a Flag Marshal or an Incident Marshal; if it was Rally, a Timing Marshal or a Radio Operator. Some people then choose to step up to Grade Three, which we define as leading – so a Post Chief, Chief Assembly, Chief Paddock or, in Rally, a Sector Marshal.

The Marshals pathway is designed to support complete beginners and Fletcher adds: “You will never be sent out on your own on your first day and told to just get on with it. Some circuits do Taster Days, and some Clubs run Marshal Training Days, normally in the early springtime or the winter. There is also online training, but most training is on the
bank, or out in the forest/ on event, with the skills passed on through working alongside other more experienced marshals.”

When it comes to Officials, it is a similar process, with mentors allocated at an early stage and a clear path of development for each different type of role. There are separate licences for different positions and Sanders adds: “Many Officials actually hold more than one licence. Some positions are Motorsport UK appointed roles, to ensure consistency across events, while others are achieved once you have ticked all the boxes.”

“At the moment, renewal is annual and in the last few years we have brought in online knowledge assessments for some roles to ensure people have the right knowledge and
understanding and are up to date with all the regulation changes. You also need to have performed in the role a suitable number of times on recent occasions, usually the preceding two-year period, because if you have not done it for two years, my goodness things change!”

Almost all Official roles have a clear pathway guided by a modular training booklet that is designed to be similar in structure to a typical National Vocational Qualification (NVQ).
Those who are interested in trying a volunteer role, can apply at no cost through Motorsport UK, and all they need to do then is find a local Club then, depending on the role, they
may be allocated a mentor, and go to events to build up their experience and complete the booklet.

Motorsport UK’s Training Coordinator Sam Walker explains: “There are sections focused on different competency areas, including safety, judicial, or organisation aspects that you
need to know, and these elements change depending on the role you are undertaking. Your mentor is a point of contact to call and ask questions and will also be able to provide
support and knowledge so you can learn from previous situations and adapt your skillset.”

Once competent in a role, experience will take you up the ranks and Fletcher adds: “Getting to be a licenced Official typically takes about two years, with logbooks to fill in and training on the job. Once you have done what you need to become a basic level official, you can work towards a national/senior level, which typically takes a minimum of another two years of training and event attendance.”

Registered Marshals and Licenced Officials now have very clear pathways for progression but until recently there has been less formality for Event Organisation roles. However, Motorsport UK is beginning to register this group of volunteers, and instead of delivering catch-all training seminars, as was the case in the past, the Volunteer Development team is producing plans for tailored seminars/ workshops/webinars that will provide more role-specific support and training.

The Benefits of Volunteering

Being a volunteer brings with it a unique combination of opportunities and every individual will have a different experience. That could include building fantastic friendships and a feeling of camaraderie; getting an insider experience that goes beyond spectating; giving something back to the sport; or building a diverse range of personal skills and knowledge that can be useful in work and in everyday life.

Some volunteers stay in one place, becoming a regular at their local circuit, while others travel around the country following specific championships through the season. Some even get invited to attend events abroad, taking with them the value and appreciation of volunteers from the UK motorsport community. This means each volunteer is often seeing the same faces throughout the year and Sanders describes them as being like cousins. “They’re not closer than that,” she explains. “We can meet, get together, squabble and leave, but we care massively about each other.

Fletcher describes it as being a “part of belonging” and explains: “It does not matter what you do in your day job or what your background is, there’s no ‘them and us’ feeling. A new trainee could be the CEO of a multi-million-pound company, but it does not matter. It is also a very small world – there are thousands of volunteers, yet you do keep coming across the same people, which gives you a great sense of connection.

“I met my late husband through motorsport, and I know a lot of people who have their best friends in motorsport. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer and then died, it
was the motorsport people that kept me going. Even the job that I am doing now is me wanting to put something back to motorsport from years of volunteering on rescue and, more recently, scrutineering.”

Volunteering also brings with it a good dose of adrenaline, whatever your role. If you are a Scrutineer, that could be hastening to pass on crucial information a Chief Scrutineer;
in the race/ or rally control room, you might be called into action to handout or issue a penalty; or if you are an incident marshal, you are primed for action at any point. It is that
urgency, the sense of unknown, which gives every volunteer a buzz that keeps them coming back.

“Get close to the action,” says Sanders. “That is the phrase I always use. Looking at what you have done at the end of the day, you feel proud and when you go back to work, you have stories to tell. You do not have to say ‘oh, did you see what was on that whatever soap it is?’ because you have got real stuff going on, stuff that is interesting and different. It gives you energy, and it helps keep you to keep focused and sparkling!”

Volunteering not only makes your personality sparkle; it also helps a CV stand out from the crowd. “It creates a talking point with employers and there are clear transferable skills
that they can relate to,” says Fletcher. “One person I know, for example, volunteered on radio control in Hill Climbing, sending out the rescue teams when people radioed in, and
that helped him get a job receiving and managing calls for the police.”


Although very hands-on, marshalling has a huge variety of work-relevant training at all levels and Sanders explains: “At that the Grade One level, there is training for communication skills, report writing, working in a team and basic safety measures. These skills go across any type of job you might apply for, and Marshals can get certificates of recognition from the online modules or from attending the training courses.

“If you step up to the next level you take those skills to a higher level too. For example, as a Timing Marshal, you show you have an excellent ability to communicate with others,
very high numeracy and literacy, an ability to take decisions, to respond and react quickly and be comfortable working in a team under pressure. As a Flag or an Incident Marshal, you show you can follow instructions, respond in serious incidents and, again, can work in a team.

“There are particular roles that some might really enjoy more than others – people with neurodiversity, for example, tend to be great as timekeepers or as part of the results team
because they can often work results and queries out very quickly. When you get to Grade Three and become a leader, that demonstrates supervisory skills, command and control
and delegation skills. Those are all the normal leadership skills you find in any job, and all that training is included as you progress.”

Walker adds: “In some cases, a Clerk of the Course might potentially be managing a team of 60 to 100 people on an event. They may not actually be managers in their professional life, but they are essentially doing a very senior management position at an event, so that skillset you build is very transferable and we are introducing certificates from training events that volunteers can gain to explain their skills to employers.

“We are bringing in opportunities for relevant qualifications for Rescue and Recovery personnel that are similar to those earned by emergency responders, and we are going to
broaden this in the future. For example, we are working on an event management course for Clerk of the Course. The log books are very important documents for this, because they show you have that ability to go out to learn, to ask the questions and to adapt and improvise.

For competitors, getting involved in volunteering is not only a way of giving back it also provides a different perspective that helps them on track. “A few years ago, I was at a Hill
Climb when a driver marshalled for the day,” recalls Fletcher. “He saw it all from a completely different perspective. Understanding how close you get to these very fast cars, becoming more aware of flag signals, it is different seeing it from the other side.”

On top of all these experiential opportunities, there are often also some small gifted benefits to becoming a volunteer. Many grassroots events provide ‘goody bags’ containing items such as sweets, a drink, or a voucher for a bacon roll or a burger, while bigger Club events, such as Circuit Racing and some Hill Climbs, can sometimes help with costs of fuel and travel.

Moreover, some select volunteers – picked from all different disciplines and roles –even get the opportunity to influence motorsport’s future. “The sport is governed by Motorsport UK, but we are informed and guided by our volunteer committees,” explains Sanders. “Around 300 people are on our committees and are volunteers from this community, so, with experience, people can also have a voice towards future regulations and change.”

Get Involved

Volunteers span a huge range of ages and come from a wide variety of backgrounds. It could be someone who wants to open the gateway into a motorsport career; someone wanting to give back such as a current competitor wanting to help out those who help them go racing; or even a competitor’s partner who wants to play a more active role
during event weekends.

It takes just 20 minutes to register as a Marshal, after which you will receive a registration card and can apply for a free tabard. That then gives you the opportunity to apply
to volunteer at virtually every event in the UK, as well as giving you access to the many discounts and benefits that a Motorsport UK membership provides. Officials’ roles are
equally accessible and can be accessed through contacting the Motorsport UK team.

One of the most popular places to start is in grassroots competition, and Fletcher recalls trying to go to “as many different events as I could” when doing her trainee scrutineering. “Grassroots runs all year round,” she explains. “Big events such as Hill Climbs, Sprints and Circuit Racing may stop, but grassroots events carry on, as do Rallies, so you can get a lot of experience over the winter and keep your motorsport going.

“As people progress through life and whatever it throws at them, there is usually a suitable role that can be found. A lot of competitors end up volunteering when, due to health
reasons, they cannot hold a competition licence but are still fit enough to get out and Marshal or be an Official. Sometimes, if a competitor’s car is not ready for the season, they will go and help out, while some Clubs even run championships for volunteers.”

Volunteering is a fantastic entry point into the sport for young motorsport enthusiasts too, as Cadet Marshals can start as young as 11. The Scouts actually has a Motorsport badge, which encourages volunteering, and Motorsport UK is currently putting together plans to provide greater recognition and a clearer path of progression for those who join early and build up their experience before they are old enough to become an adult Marshal.

Sanders explains: “This year, we have established a brand new committee specifically for the younger demographic of volunteers. Only young people are allowed on that committee, so if I go in, I am only allowed to go in as a guest speaker and I have to leave! The purpose of it this year is to look at what journey the young officials have had and how
can we improve that.

“In the future, we will be introducing a badge scheme for the Cadet Marshals that is similar in many ways to the Duke of Edinburgh Award, then for the young officials, we will be looking at a pathway that allows them to use all of the expertise that they have gathered as a Cadet and as a marshal and seeing how we can map that across to take account of
that prior experience as they move into an Officials role.”

Motorsport UK provides a huge amount of support to prospective and progressive volunteers through online tools, workshops and an open door for any support that is required.
The Volunteer Development Team sorts and supports many different roles, while the Club and Community Development Team provide a Club Toolkit that is growing all the time with new help and support, specifically for Club volunteers.

Walker explains: “Our webinars provide that initial training, and we also have The Learning Hub, which hosts the online modules that we ask all our Marshals and Officials to
undertake. This includes everything from first aid, and CPR, to modules about Judicial and Safety. There is an enormous amount on there and it is something you can do in your own time to support your personal development in the roles you want to undertake.

“It also serves as a platform for you to look at other roles and learn about them before you go out and do them yourself. Volunteering is all about working as a team, and sometimes teams do not work together perhaps as well as they could do – so we also have modules which focus on skills, such as how to deal with different conversations. Overall, it is a very useful resource.”

The ‘Getting Started’ project has plans for a new microsite with a section on volunteering and, in the future, there are plans to create an event and volunteer management system, where Clubs will be able to post their events onto a site where all events exist by Club, venue, area or date, and licensed Marshals and Officials will be able to click through to express their interest in volunteering on those events.

There is also a Development Fund, to provide resources and initiatives that help clubs grow. Last year, for example, Bournemouth and District Motor Club was awarded a grant to
purchase a new set of tablet devices having demonstrated the effectiveness of paperless administration in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has allowed them to provide a reliable and efficient timing system for their grassroots events.

Overall, Fletcher concludes, the volunteer network is currently “very healthy” but there is always a call for more people to get involved. “There does seem to be more events now
and more of the bigger events on the same weekends,” she says. “There are not enough weekends in the year! The more marshals we have, the more people become interested in
doing the many different roles and can move around.”

Registered for action

Registering officially with Motorsport UK brings huge benefits for individuals, and it is vital for the Motorsport UK registered events they work on. Motorsport UK event permits
provide organisers with valuable liability insurance, but it is essential that those involved also have a certified level of proficiency through the volunteer registration scheme to
maintain that insurance.

Sanders explains: “It is critical that Marshals and Officials are registered with Motorsport UK so the event can run in a very safe and competent way with valid insurance in place. A lot of people who are volunteering and are not registered are excellent in their job roles, but they need to be registered and recognised for their expertise, so over the last 18 months, we have had what was called an ‘acquired rights’ scheme, which closed on the 31st of March this year.

“Through that scheme, people who were not registered were able to use evidence or information from others in senior roles to show they have actually performed in these roles
and, using that, rather than them coming in at Grade One, we have been able to allocate them as Grade Two or Three. That has been very successful, with a significant number of people with prior experience being registered at the right grade on the Marshals’ Pathway.”

Often, for newcomers, the hardest part is knowing how to get involved. The Motorsport UK volunteer programmes have been developed to eliminate that barrier and provide a clear entry point to a new world of opportunity – you just need to take that first step. Walker concludes: “No Club ever has too many volunteers, so do not be afraid to make that initial contact because there will always be something for you and who knows where it will end?”