It’s Bank Holiday Monday and I’m up at 6am getting ready to make my debut in the Pit Lane. I’m more than excited. I cant even decide which shade of lipstick to wear to mark the occasion. I feel like I’ve gotten some kind of promotion or something.
Pit Lane is kind of like the Mecca of the racetrack – to me at least. It’s where all the teams hang out whilst their boys are on track, and you get the joy of nosing at what goes on behind the scenes on one side of you, whilst cars hurtle down the pit straight on the other side.
I’ve always wanted to marshal in the pits, but I never dared to ask to be but there as I thought it was something to had to work your way up to, kind of like being invited to join the little tigers on the Rescue Unit or something, but it’s not. Provided you have a brain in your head and some trackside experience, you can go for it.
As it’s me though, nothing is that easy – I had my mother on the phone to me the night before warning me that; “the Pit Lane is the most dangers place of all Ruth, I don’t know if you should be signing up for that.” Fair enough right? But when I was telling my buddies about this little conversation on the way for a coffee after signing on, I happened to walk past on of the bigwig marshals, who must have only assumed I was whining about a fellow marshal once again (I’ve heard this blog is a hot topic these days) and I really didn’t have the guts to go an explain that I was actually talking about Mummy Harrison. Oh well.
Anyway, by 8am I didn’t have time to worry about what I’d said and to who, as I was flung right into the action; bubbling with excitement, caffeine and nervousness it was time to become a Pit Lane Marshal.
First task of the day was walking up and down to make sure there were ‘no children under 16, no people leaning over or sitting on the pit wall, no smoking and no taking photographs’ I loved it, I felt like a policewoman – keeping my eyes open whilst taking a sneaky glance over the wall on onto the track every so often, I knew those Wayfarers would come in handy one day….
It was amazing watching the various Radical’s hurtling around just a few feet away from us before pulling in for a driver change and bit of general tinkering, and I was gobsmacked to watch the Mini Challenge, where the new Cooper and Cooper S machines bomb around, I mean, these belong in an Asda car park with expectant mums loading them up with groceries, it’s so weird to see them in this kind of environment.
Then I got to have a go at ‘the buzzer’. I’ve never been so nervous in all of my marshalling days… the buzzer is the air horn that sounds every time a car comes hurtling into the pits for whatever reason, warning people that we have an incoming driver headed at about 45mph who is probably not a happy bunny if he’s having to pop in mid session. Basically I was holding people’s safety under my index finger, so pouring myself a cup of Yorkshire Tea or rooting around in my bag for a piece of chewing gum in case some hunky mechanic came to ask me a question (here’s hoping) had to wait.
It took me a few practice whirs to get the timing just right, but soon I was protecting people left right and centre, even during the dreaded 400 minute race with it’s obligatory five minute Pit Stops. Forget Superman, I was in charge of the buzzer in my brightly coloured outfit. I was unstoppable.
Well, unstoppable until I wandered down to the other end of the Pit to see what went one with the pit lane release lights. I was sticking my long beak over the wall to watch a bunch of cars leave the start line, when one decided to crash into the pit wall and slide up to about three feet from my face. Oh lordy, my life flashed before me – that’s the last time I try to get the best view on the circuit!
I was utterly hopeless too, I felt so ashamed that I didn’t just leap to the rescue and start coordinating traffic, picking up bits of bumper and generally being a fantastic help. Instead I just seemed to get in the way… so I ran to get a bucketful of sand, which wasn’t needed either. And I’d left my gloves in my bag. Oh, I’d tried so hard to prove I was worthy of being part of the pit crew, and I just ended up looking like a total doofus when it mattered – well, almost, I did have one car sauntering down PL and ready to just drive right onto the track whilst all the other marshals were trying to prise this Mini from the concrete wall, so cleared a route and directed him out of the pits to the Assembly Area. *Pats myself on the back*
I guess there’s no point getting worked up about not leaping over the wall with an extinguisher in one hand and a brush in the other, some of the guys I was with have been doing this for years, so watching what they did is far better a lesson than jumping in with both feet first and been taken out at 140mph by someone who missed the Yellow Flag and ‘Safety Car’ sign. Right?
Was Pit Lane everything I ever wanted it to be? Hell yes… that and much more, getting to peep inside the garages on your left and watching cars tear off the start line to your right with a team of marshals who really worked as a solid group. What could be better on a Monday afternoon when you’d normally be stuck behind a desk and pressing F5 on Facebook? I know where I’d rather be.
So, whilst I’m pretty sure I’m going to see my fair share of scraps next weekend when the boys in the BTCC roll into town, I’m hoping I can put what I’ve learnt into practise and do the other marshals proud. After all, we’re a team, so there’s no point competing for 1-upmanship, lets stay safe and enjoy the race eh boys?