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GP Week : Issue 179
>>> FEATURE as a F1 fan. Since I cannot be in the race driving, I will be part of the race marshalling.” As a new(ish) race, Singapore has had the responsibility of training hordes of volunteers from scratch. As a result, the race organisers have put together a very comprehensive training programme. “There are several stages of training for marshals,” Fan explains. “For fresh marshals, we have to go through a ‘General officials module’ to get introduced to race officiating and the basic duties of a marshal. Then, we go through a ‘Basic Trackside module’ to learn more about the technical side of racing, such as the racing line, meaning of flags and the Safety Car. After wards, we are notified of our specific roles and we attend the specialist module. For returning officials, we go through a refresher course first then move on to the specialist course. “During the specialist modules, we engage in group discussions and share our past experiences in dealing with a situation. We also view videos to play out scenarios and point out mistakes that we can learn from. During the race weekend, we have a speed test on Thursday and its purpose is to accustomed the marshals to their roles for the next few days. We were fully suited up and practised for different scenarios that could happen during the race, with the help of the Safety Car and Medical Car.” As a more experienced marshal, Benham worked his way up through the ranks when training was more informal. But as new safety developments emerge all the time, training as a marshal is an on-going process. “Training was on the job,” Benham explains. “Now new officials have training as well as a mentor program. The further you progress through the system the more training that is required; you need to complete theory courses and practical assessments to upgrade your licence classification. Bronze to Silver and so on. You have to be at a certain level to fulfil certain positions at different events. At any time an official can enrol on any course to further develop their skills and broaden their knowledge.” Wherever you are in the world, marshals form a tight-knit group, borne partly out of the long hours spent together at observation posts. The sense of community was immediately obvious at Oulton Park, and it is something that extends across the world. “It is really exciting to come back each time and see many familiar faces,” Fan says of marshalling in Singapore every year. “For my sector, we had a 100 percent return rate from 2011, so I think that really speaks something about marshalling. A senior official once joked that it is actually more difficult to apply to be a marshal than to apply for a housing flat, because the returning rate is so high. Nevertheless, year after year we do see new faces in the big family and it is exciting to make new friends who share the same passion.” “The same can be said of Australian marshals,” Benham adds. “The same familiar faces can be seen at several race tracks around the state. Some are even keen enough to travel all over the country to help the sport. The major international meetings – F1, Bathurst, Clipsal – are like big family reunions where everyone comes together from all over the country to put on the best show for the world to see.” “The best thing about being a marshal is knowing that I play a part in conducting the race,” Fan concludes. “It means a lot to me, when I know that the driver sees my flag and acknowledges the meaning of it, or that a right call is made to the race control when they may have missed it, or picking up that piece of debris on track that other wise could change a drivers’ race. It is immensely satisfying to know that we contribute to the safety of the race.” “The best part about it is making an active contribution to a sport which I love,” Benham admits, “plus the new friends you make along the way and the experiences you share. When I was young and stupid it was about hanging around the drivers and teams, but not everyone gets those opportunities. The camaraderie between the volunteers is like nothing else: we all work together as a team for the greater good of the sport. Sun, wind, rain even snow; I’ve experienced some amazing things trackside. Some good, others tragic. But I always know that the there is a team around me to share it all with.” There’s no denying the sense of camaraderie and community that surrounds the marshals – two months after my day spent learning the ropes at Oulton Park, an invitation to their end of year get-together lands in my inbox. How to volunteer • Australia: http://www.cams.com.au/en/Development/Get_Involved/Officials.aspx • Singapore: http://raceofficials.singaporegp.sg/vrs/index.asp • UK: http://www.volunteersinmotorsport.co.uk 38 GPWEEK.com // 38 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: