So, today’s blog comes a bit late on in the day as I spent the morning laid up in hospital after fainting during a blood test. I told the lady I don’t like needles, and she insisted on poking around in my arm until I lost consciousness and started acting like a baby. I’m feeling okay now though (thank God) and I’m ready to battle on and tell you about my eventful day at Oulton Park on Saturday during the MG Car Club Championships (which included a few Porsches too)
After making it to Oulton for the ungodly hour of 7am, queuing for about 45 minutes to sign on and then making my way to Knickerbrook I was fully woken up and ready to go, until The Sermon. It wasn’t even Sunday, but the Preacher took to his breeze blocked pulpit and started lecturing us mere Incident Marshals on the art of being a good marshal as though we were preparing to land in Afghanistan and face the enemy, only ‘lock and load’ was replaced by the less exciting; “Stay Safe and have fun.”
Luckily, the 15 marshals on Knickerbrook meant we got to pair off and do two races on one post before moving onto a different part of the corner – so I had quite a varied day. Starting off on Knickerbrook out meant that every time a car slid into the gravel trap, I was covered under a wave of pebbles and had anything needed urgent attention, I would have to wade my way through the sinking terrain to get to the poor soul. Luckily though, my first bit of action came on the other side of the track, as I monitored ‘Knickerbrook out’.
Poor old car 33b, a MGB GT otherwise known as Olive, was on it’s debut race when something went wrong and the car just rolled to a stop halfway up Clay Hill. Muggings here had to run over to the car and help to push it in a safe place with help from Andy and The Preacher, who then spent the rest of the race ‘entertaining’ us with his hilarious story about paintwork. Haha bloody Ha! I almost died of laughter.
After the race had finished and we’d all hooked Olive up to the tow truck, it was time to marshal two races from inside of the corner at Knickerbrook, and we were stood once again in front of the KnickerCastle – the breeze-blocked hut where regular marshals aren’t allowed to go. Trackside were not one, not two, but THREE flag marshals waving the flags they had brought themselves. Now I know flagging is a fun job, but three men waggling them about, come on, that’s a bit much isn’t it? Surely there would be better use of their, um, talents?
Now the problem with having three men on one flag point meant that they all couldn’t hug the corner and wave the flags in the drivers line of sight, so when the Blue flag came out of signal to slower cars that a leader was approaching, Captain Slow couldn’t see it as it was been waved about 5 metres from the track, by which point the driver was on the outside of the corner, completely missing the warning. Now I imagine anyone could see this was the case, but nothing was being done, so I told The Preacher that the drivers wouldn’t be able to see the flag. I was ignored. I told him the flag marshal needed to be closer to the track and the corner. I was ignored. I told him he needed to sort the flags out properly. I was ignored. Only when I turned away to talk to Andy, did I hear him tell the flaggy’s what I had suggested.
I wasn’t upset that he’d taken credit for it, what I was upset at is that three times I had been ignored when making a suggestion. Not once did I ignore stories of ‘exciting’ 24 hour races and whatnot, I at least humoured the man. But when I make a valid point, I was just completely blanked… well I wanted to shove my flask up his… no time, I had to move onto my next post.
For the next two races I was right on the Chicane, we even had a little wooden shed which I’ve always wanted to go in – turns out it’s nothing but a dustbin with a chair and bits of old dinner inside. To be quite honest it was a bit vile, can’t marshals clean up after themselves these days? I fully imagined a rat wandering out from beneath the old Greggs bag. *Shudders.* Not only that, but the shed was rocking like there was no tomorrow with every gust of wind. Before you get any ideas, I did check and there were no young romantics getting up to no good inside, after all, access through the overalls is like getting into Fort Knox.
I decided to lean on the old structure to give my back a bit of a rest, but it almost toppled over. Now I know at Size 12 I might not be thin enough to be a Grid Girl, but I sure as hell can’t topple a shed with just my shoulder can I? It pretty much felt like it was likely to collapse in a heap of wood and mouldy bread if I touched it anymore. And it started to rain. Great.
Finally we headed to the outside of Knickerbrook where we spent a hour stood next to the loudest generator in the entire world and got to watch how NOT to deal with a potential car on fire. Whilst I didn’t actually get to have any hands on action with this casualty, it was rather interesting to watch from the safety of the other side of the track.
The driver of the ‘Motor Lawyers’ car got out of the vehicle and stormed off whilst hurtling his gloves on the ground, and at the same time Tweedledum and Tweedledumber sauntered over starching their heads and stared at the smoking wreck in bewilderment. Obviously I was wondering why they weren’t armed with fire extinguishers pointed at the bonnet or calling it in to Race Control (to be honest, none of the problems I noticed were called into race control – ‘Let someone else deal with it’ seemed to be the general ethos on our post that day), but instead they flung open the bonnet with blatant disregard for the inferno that could be waiting underneath. Luckily for them they didn’t singe their eyebrows off, but oddly, when they returned to me, I was given a ‘lesson’ in how to treat a fire. ‘Nothing like what you just did then?’ I questioned. And that was the end of that.
After that I was in such a grumpy mood I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. Usually the racetrack fills me with joy and makes me feel as part of a team, but once again, Saturday taught me that you’ve cant just expect to be accepted into a clique of men with open arms, no matter how much lipstick you slap on or how sweetly you smile. Even when I pointed out that the mid-section of an exhaust had snapped under one of the cars, my comment was batted aside like I didn’t know what I was talking about. Needless to say, the car with the broken exhaust was called in a few laps later, someone else had obviously noticed it, and told someone prepared to listen.
It is getting quite frustrating for me now, I love this sport, but how many times can I stand being ignored and treated like a Leper just because I have breasts and make-up on? I’m not an airy-fairy Barbie just looking for a racing driver boyfriend -okay, maybe just the last part – But on the whole I know a bit about cars, a bit about bikes, and I know how to be a marshal, so there’s no need to put me in a corner and expect me to leave it to the men. I’m not going to sit there quietly twirling my hair, and I’m not going to cry at the sight of a broken limb, so there’s no need to wrap me up in cotton wool, I know the dangers of standing a few feet from a bike travelling at 140mph and I know that marshals have been killed, but it’s my decision to be there, and I want to learn and be a part of the sport I love, and no amount of being pushed into the background is going to hinder that.