Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Walker
To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we are shining the spotlight on some of those who give up their time for the benefit of UK motorsport. Today, we speak to Motorsport UK Training Officer Sam Walker.
How important are volunteers in motorsport?
Motorsport is absolutely unique in that its organisation is all carried out by volunteers – involving anything from putting the meeting together itself to being the people first on the scene of an accident. So, the actual skills that you learn as a person involved in motorsport can vary enormously and can be transferred into your everyday life. This could also be CPD things: soft skills, mentoring, leadership, first aid…there’s an absolute plethora that you can take away from motorsport.
What roles are available?
One of the most important groups of officials that we have are our marshals, of which there are about 10,000 registered with us with Motorsport UK. We also anticipate there’s another 10,000 more outside of the registration that we have at the moment, and they are pretty much the backbone of all of our volunteering force across all of our motorsport events and all disciplines, and they are primarily there to make sure that the event is running safely. They’re looking out for their fellow marshals, the competitors and of course the spectators where relevant. And they are fundamentally the most important.
We also have around 4,500 licensed officials, who mainly oversee the running of the event, making sure it is run to the regulations that the event is built around. We have our stewards who are there to make sure that the judicial process is followed fairly and accordance with Motorsport UK rules. We have roles like our technical officials, they’re our scrutineers: we have environmental scrutineers who make sure the noise levels are complied with at the venue, general scrutineers who make sure that all the safety equipment for the drivers and the vehicle are in-date and compliant with the blue book rules and of course, the event rules. We also have timekeepers – everything is done via a clock, either competing against one another or against yourself – so there’s always a need for timekeepers at events. They mainly use quite high-tech timing equipment but again, they’re all volunteers and they’re essential.
How do I get involved?
There’s numerous channels of actually getting into motorsports volunteering, but I would say the best way is to approach your local car club: there’s around 700 of them in the UK who are accredited by Motorsport UK. They are always going to need more volunteers because they are a volunteer-based organisation. There’s an enormous number of roles – it could be a website administrator, or it could be as a marshal. It could even be that you’re there to help make cups of tea and just be a general person to welcome people when they’re arriving at events. If you decide that volunteering really is for you, and particularly in an official capacity, we have the licensed officials pathways and the marshals pathways to enable you to develop your skills and to recognise your achievements in the sport. The more you develop and the more you attend events, the more you’re able to progress through the sport. The sport also recognises the skills and achievements of those (officials) attending events, and being a good marshal or official may enable you to attend the high-status events; for example, the Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
What other benefits are there?
I’d also say the biggest benefit of officiating, marshalling or volunteering in general is the friendship and the support that you build at events. That’s the thing with the racing family and the motorsport world: it may seem rather big, but actually it’s a lot smaller and the people that you become friends with may turn out to be friends for life.
How did you get involved in motorsport?
I went to university and studied marine biology as my main degree. I had absolutely no ambition to work in motorsport because I didn’t think it was possible. And it was actually because of the things I learned during volunteering and the skills I developed for being a Clerk of the Course or an event organiser that actually led me into the job that I’m in today! So, it has kind of come full circle.