Despite my many forays into Pit Lane, I had never been a part of the crew for a big meeting. I had heard rumours of pit politics, bitching and people on mega-power trips, so I was a little worried about what would befall me. Luckily though, I had the time of my life.
Saturday provided a day of sunshine, which inevitably meant I spent about 10 hours cooking / melting / boiling from the inside out in my (ironically) fireproof overalls, but it did give me a chance to try my hand at the roles I had been allocated for the following day.
Regardless of the rumours of snobbery between local marshals and BTCC marshals, I found myself with one of the most helpful, friendly and energetic teams of BTCC marshals ever, we had Bex, Daz and Kara who all hailed from somewhere around Derby and who I’m hoping to spend more time at Donington & Mallory with over the coming seasons. There was also Carole and her daughter Vicky (the eye candy) who kept the mood in Pit Lane at an all time high with their ‘let’s talk to everyone’ attitude and delicious muffins (home-baked in fact)… seriously, a 100m walk down pit lane with these two could take you a hour, it was hilarious… they knew everyone!
Once practice and qualifying began, my first and main task was to man the weighbridge with Bex, Daz and Kara, although it sounds like some kind of mega technical process, it wasn’t, but it didn’t stop me getting myself in a bit of a flap at the beginning – doing things such as not putting the giant metal place close enough to the wheels so the ‘rolling marshals’ had to push it further on, getting the cable stuck under the plate and nearly getting smacked in the shins by Tom Onslow-Coles door, however I think that was just his way of making conversation….
I also had a trial run at gridding up, which I’d always fancied but never got a chance to do as at Oulton Park, the start line and pits teams are separate, unlike many other circuits. That was the biggest rush of the day, and I’m hoping I get a chance to do it more often at Donington with the lovely Bex, Daz & Kara if they’re ever around their local circuit and not rubbing shoulders with the delicious BTCC teams.
By the end of Saturday there was nothing I wanted to do more than take off all my probans and lie on in a bath of ice cubes (well, apart from lying in a bath of ice cubes with Tom Onslow-Cole, obviously) so it was off to Stafford and an early night for this little sleepy lion, after all, I needed to get my beauty sleep ahead of my ITV4 debut!
When race day arrived it was typical that it would be hammering it down, forcing me to trudge around with a gigantic Royal Mail coat I acquired from a fellow marshal, which obviously limited the amount of hair-flicking, hands on hips types of poses that us female marshals tend to gravitate towards. That’s sarcasm by the way… before anyone starts.
After pit lane was cleared of autograph hunters, it was time to grid up the touring cars ready for the first race of the day. I was in charge of the wonderful Tony Gilham’s car, and had to stand on the brow of the hill and make sure he stopped in his designated grid position. Thanks to him taking FOREVER to get around the track and the Oulton Park markings running out 2/3’s of the way down the grid, it was a case of looking for a little chalk marking on the side of the road to find his position, and since Tom Onslow-Cole pulled too close to me and my space (who can blame him) Tony had to squeeze in on an angle. Yes, it was chaos, but we coped well and he managed to get himself sorted by the time race start got underway.
After legging it back to pit lane once the race had begun, it was time to man the weighbridge ready for the top four cars to be weighed post-race, I managed quite well considering there were two TV camera’s pointing in my direction (I suddenly came over all camera shy and totally forgot what I was meant to be doing for about 3 seconds) but after composing myself we were back on top form and ready to give massive props to Lea Wood, who finished in an impressive seventh in his first race of the 2011 BTCC season; hearing the cheers from his friends and family in the garage forced a lump into my throat as we witnessed a little star in the making doing his Honda Intergra proud.
Now that WAS buzz, and I have to thank Vanessa who usually does the grid at Oulton for letting me have a go, it’s something I’ve always seen her and the team do, and wanted a go at it. I also have to apologise to another body for bagging the job again in the final race of the day; they clearly wanted a big moment on the telly and I would have given the job back had they not started pulling faces and bitching once my back was turned. No wait, who am I kidding, I wouldn’t have. Luckily Bex & Kara have agreed to put me in action at some of the other circuits, so all is well.
Overall, it was great to be given the chance to experience a little bit of everything from behind the scenes of the BTCC pit lane. As a marshal, there’s no place closer to the action as working in pit lane, and regardless to what many circuit marshals say about travelling marshals, the BTCC Pit Team are the nicest people I have met in a long, long time… so thanks to all of you for making this weekend beyond fun!
Finally, I can’t end this blog without mentioning the news that Tom Onslow-Cole has left AmD Milltek Volkswagen to return to Team Aon Ford Focus for the remainder of the 2011 season, where he will join previous teammate Tom Chilton and newest recruit Andy Neate. Regardless of Team Aon’s frankly mediocre results, at least they know they will have the support of most of the women in the UK for the rest of the season….