Why You Should Start Motorsport Marshalling
Formula One is at the cutting edge of technology in the automotive industry, and although for many roles within F1 teams there is less focus on grades and degrees, if, like me you want to be an engineer then you will know the importance of studying hard and achieving good exam results. Working your hardest throughout school and university is very important, however you will be glad to know (like I was) that getting a job in F1 is not only about your results. In this article I am not undermining academic performance – but excelling through school and university on its own is not enough to land your dream job in F1.
If you put yourself in the recruiters’ shoes at F1 teams, it becomes clear that it is not possible to hire solely on exam performance. As they receive hundreds of applications for every job they advertise, recruiters only have time to skim through each application. They need to make quick decisions about whether it is immediately rejected or considered further. Most fall into the former category simply due to what appears to be piles of identical applications – typically strong grades from a good university; from a lifelong F1 fan who might have done some work with their university’s Formula Student team while studying. It seems therefore that in order to succeed, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd – with a memorable application that shows how you are different from the hundreds of others.
It is worthwhile finding activities that supplement your ambition and one thing I took up is motorsport marshalling. I’m sure many of you would have been in my shoes a few years ago – at high school with dreams of designing F1 cars. As a lifelong petrol-head, and massive motorsport fan, I never imagined how much fun and how useful marshalling has been for me.
So, what is motorsport marshalling? Marshalling is volunteering at any sort of motorsport event, from autotests in local car parks to the guys and girls you see on TV in the bright orange overalls, collecting debris from crashes, waving flags and recovering broken down cars. Without volunteer marshals (and yes even the F1 marshals are volunteers) no F1 car would get off the grid at any Grand Prix. Marshalling is the perfect way to boost your CV and stand out from the crowd from others. It is also the perfect way to get closer to the action than any amount of money can buy!
There are many different types of motorsport events, so you are bound to find something fun. I personally love marshalling at autotests. As someone who thought there was no motorsport within a 2-hour drive of my house, I was surprised by these grassroots events taking place not far from where I live. Autotests are the perfect place to start marshalling, as these events are usually relaxed – a small route is set up using cones or buckets and drivers navigate these routes as quickly as possible gathering time penalties for hitting the cones/buckets. The types of jobs marshals do at these events includes timekeeping, directing drivers or monitoring the different zones check if any cones/buckets have been hit. With the bonus of a front row seat, the marshals get to see nice sports cars on a tight and technical circuit, and if you’re lucky, even get the occasional passenger ride. It never ceases to amaze me at the precision and speed the drivers use in these small local circuits.
Another personal favourite motorsport event are hillclimbs. A step up from autotesting, and like the name implies, drivers compete to race up a hill in the fastest time. These events are a brilliant way to get close to stunning cars. I’ve seen classic Lotus single-seaters, Jaguar E-types, a once a very tail-happy AC Cobra, plus many exotic cars pushing to their absolute limit. To get an idea of the speed of some of the single seaters, check out the record at the Doune Hill Climb:
Marshals get involved in a range of jobs during a hillclimb event such as assisting in the paddock, organising drivers and cars into correct orders of running, to on-track posts where you need to have to hand a fire extinguisher, radio and broom. A group of marshals will be responsible for a small section of the track, dealing with oil spills, debris, and if a car does crash then attending to the driver and car.
There is also track racing, and if you live near a local circuit this is perfect for you. Here you get the best seat in the house at some thrilling racing. Lots of these places offer marshal training, which is a great way to gather skills as a marshal and play with learn how to use fire extinguishers and roll cars safely.
Despite all the fun of marshalling, there are a couple of negatives, particularly in the UK. You need to be prepared for long days of standing in the freezing cold, and since many of these events start first thing in the morning, be prepared to lose a few weekend lie-ins. Another thing to watch out for are ticks, as a bite from one can sometimes infect you with Lyme Disease. If you ever find yourself marshalling in areas with long grass, or anywhere outdoors (ticks are no longer the realm of the countryside and can be found all over the UK), be aware and make sure to remove them properly. You should see a doctor if a rash appears, or you start having flu like symptoms/unexplained fatigue. Here is a good link to follow for advice about ticks and Lyme disease https://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/about-ticks/.
Apart from being fun for any petrol-head and being lucrative to F1 recruiters, there are also many other benefits to marshalling. Being able to hear what insights everyone has from their years of experience with race cars can be fascinating. I’ve never met someone at these events that isn’t friendly, because at the end of the day everyone is there because of their passion for the sport. The contacts made through these events can be incredibly useful too. A few months into marshalling, whilst chatting to another marshal, I was put in contact with a former F1 engineer as that is my goal destination after university. This contact proved very useful – he helped me with subject choices through school and writing my personal statement for applying to university and suggested ways I could get involved with a Formula Ford team.
Hopefully from reading about my experiences you might want to give marshalling a go. To get started then this site is useful: http://www.gomotorsport.net/New-Find-Clubs-and-Events/Find-Clubs-and-Events. By entering your post code, you can find car clubs and motorsport events near you. Then just send an email explaining that you would love to give marshalling a go. It can be daunting at first but remember anyone can marshal, under 16s might have some trackside limitations, but almost all motorsport clubs would be delighted to have young people come and help. For me, taking that chance in sending out one email to one car club led me to have amazing experiences with all sorts of weird and wonderful cars, and with all types of motorsport. It is a journey I am still just beginning but you will be amazed at where it can take you.