Marshalling Musings – Part Two, Brands Hatch

Following on from my debut at Snetterton I had become a regular and had, for reasons I was not certain about, become part of the start line crew. I would help get the cars lined up on the grid and then stand by with my fire extinguisher through the practice session and race.

Now I was not a fire marshal as we would see them now. I wore my normal clothes and a race jacket in the organiser’s colours (probably a nylon one thinking back….). We did have a guy who wore the tin foil suit and rode aboard the fire truck, but the rest of us relied on team work, equipment and training to work at any conflagration that we might have to deal with.

On this day we were at Brands and, if I recall correctly we had an F3 race as our main event with the likes of Brian Henton, Danny Sullivan, Alex Riberio and Gunnar Nilsson amongst the entry, all of whom went on to F1 later.

The incident that I recall though is from, I think, the Formula Vee race. I was midway down the grid and we got everyone lined up in their allotted place and retired to the sidelines. The countdown boards were paraded across the front of the grid at the relevant times and engines started.

As the cacophony rose my colleague grabbed my arm and pointed. A car on the outside of the circuit had had an oil union come adrift and a growing slick was forming under the car and enveloping the rear tyres. My colleague dashed over to the car with me in pursuit having grabbed two brooms and a bucket of cement dust (these were stationed all along the barrier for just such events).

We attracted the driver’s attention, got him to shut down the engine and take the car out of gear and we pushed him off the grid onto the grass on the outside of Clearways, then started dumping cement dust onto the oil slick and sweeping it in.

Now you will recall that we had had engines running when all of this started. As we swept the dust into the oil I was keeping one eye on the starter and saw the flag rise. Together my colleague and I dashed aside and managed synchronised vertical take offs that saw us safely over the armco as the grid departed. Everyone got away safely and we, with several others this time, got to work on our oily patch and were able to work on it for a couple of laps until the field was too strung out (we were using the short circuit) for us to have a gap in the field to work in.

No damage was done, the driver concerned was grateful to have been spared a possible big engine bill and the crowd seemed to have enjoyed the extra drama. As to the starter; why had he started the race with us still on the grid? “Well”, he said, “you were on the outside, everyone could see you and I knew that you knew what you were doing and were watching me, so what was the problem? We were already running late on the event and couldn’t afford an unnecessary delay”, so that was that. How wonderful life was before H&S began to get in the way of initiative, judgement and personal accountability.

 

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