This was the second weekend of my 2010 marshalling extravaganza and I left Oulton Park with a burnt nose, upper lip (is it even possibly to burn that bit between your lip and nose?) and chest. Not cool, but the party times at Knickerbrook were pretty swell.
Having to arrive at Oulton for 7am meant I did not engage in my pre-race research at the local biker club on Friday night, yet I somehow still felt as if I had been run over by a tractor when I got out of the car and made my way to the signing on garage. Probably the packet of Hobnobs I’d demolished the night before.
After signing my life away and getting a fiver for some breakfast I was given a pep talk from this lady about one of the rather over-affectionate marshals who a lot of women have trouble with, little did she know that he was quick off the mark with me, after I was tricked into giving him my number the week previously and as a result ended up spending the past few days erasing texts about the size of my breasts from my phone.
Nothing a girl can’t handle though, I’m going about to let the DD’s get the better of me, fight fire with fire eh? Besides, if I start whining about blokes saying this, that and the other about my assets on my second race meeting, I’m not going to be making any friends fast am I? But don’t fret, I’ll keep you updated on the wannabe womaniser and his fruitless tactics, it could get rather interesting.
Anyway, for 8am I was on post at Knickerbrook and ready for a day of saving lives, picking up riders and waving flags – okay, just waving flags then, but a bit of embellishment never hurt anyone – and by 9am I’d realised I’d forgotten the sun cream, almost broken my leg climbing over a wire fence in a desperate bid to go for a wee and poured cement on some oil on the track – that’s what you’re meant to do if someone ’drops’ oil you know. Ingenious – Sadly the lads up at Shell hairpin found that out the hard way after spending their entire lunch hour dealing with a major oil spill.
Okay, I’m lying already, I didn’t actually pour the dry cement on the oil, I was more involved in the ‘brushing’ of the cement rather than the actual pouring, but I think I’ll graduate to holding the bucket and spade after a few more meetings. Fingers crossed.
Now, I am quite aware that in my last post I didn’t write anything along the lines of; ‘This one guy came off his bike, crashed into the wall, had a few other bikes ride over him in the chaos and had to be airlifted to hospital with his arms and legs hanging off.’ hell, you can’t write it if you didn’t see it happen, but that’s just a true side to the morbid voyeurism associated with motorsport.
Everyone always wants to know if there were any big crashes to report on and who has smashed into who, but whilst I wish I could say; “So guys, I pulled a guy from the burning flames of his battered Ducati with my bare hands” for the sake of interesting journalism, I can’t – mainly because we have to wear gloves at all times – but stick with me though, I got some action.
First off, Knickerbrook is well known for it’s ‘visitors’ – that’s what we cool marshals say when riders go ploughing into the gravel or simply conk out on their way through the Chicane, thus forcing us to put down our flask of tea and do some actual work – and our first visitor was a ‘mechanical retirement,’ which tends to be the frequent cause of riders dropping out of the race, rather than going head first over the handlesbars into a tyre wall.
Having never actually pushed a bike any great distance in the past, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on some motorcycle fairing and guide it into the recovery truck. Sadly though, I got about 10 meters before the pair of self-important recovery drivers grunted at me, snatched the bike out of my hands and proceeded to ignore my existence on the planet. I hoped we would have a pile-up of bikes later which would force them to request the help of a ‘bird’, but sadly we didn’t, which to be honest was probably for the best, as I expect they were too busy working on their tans and flexing their muscles.
At lunch I wandered up to the pits and had a sit on one of the old Norton bikes competing in the ‘golden oldies’ class. The rider was nice, telling me how he’d crashed one of his bikes in the first race and the one I was sitting on actually belonged to his son who had lent it to him for the next race. Come 3pm he’d crashed that one too. Either I’m an unlucky omen or his son is going to be very cross with daddy… I’d go for the latter, although it might have something to do with me waving frantically at him every time he came past. I really should learn to curb my enthusiasm.
After the racing resumed at 1pm, we had a few more ‘mechanical retirements,’ I also took my leggings off in the flag box which provided 10 minutes of amusement – especially to the commentators who had a great vantage point into my makeshift changing room. And then came the big one… not a big crash, oh no, better than that – I got to stop a race.
Yes, you heard me, I WALKED ONTO THE TRACK AND ENDED A WHOLE RACE, blimey I was on a power trip! A crash further round the track had meant that it was unsafe for the riders to carry on to that part of the course, so me and my buddies had to hold them all at Knickerbrook.
Wow, how full of self-importance you get when you see a bike hurtling towards you at 140mph and you’re stood in the middle of the track in your bright orange overalls just expecting (or more like hoping and praying) for him to stop at your feet. Luckily for me he did, and my Knickerbrook posse got to boss the 50 or so riders about for a bit.
Despite prancing about and trying to see if any of the drivers looked like the heads in their helmets were those of hot totty – purely for research purposes – I didn’t seem to find any Sebastian Vettel-alikes. But I wholly blame that on the fact that we’d just stopped a load of bikes on their last lap as they were battling for position; I mean let’s face it, it’s not exactly the ideal dating scenario.
And that was about it, apart from a few near misses with a pair of bees (yes, the furry flying things) not much happened on my patch… I managed to collar one of the photographers and ask him if he could take a picture of a cows face in one of the adjacent fields… he couldn’t! but it didn’t stop him and the other marshals talking about exposure, zooming and shutter speeds and whatnot, so I switched off. He had offered to be my blog photographer though, so all these wonderful pictures are thanks to him. http://www.mattsayle.co.uk/
So, riders stopped, Aftersun applied and Vettel’s failure in China pretty much sums up my weekend… until the Houghton Tower Sprint on May 2nd – remember, it’s a limit, not a target.
Oulton Park – http://www.motorsportvision.co.uk/oulton-park/
Racesafe – http://www.racesafe.org/
Cheshire Marshals – http://www.cmcma.org.uk/
BMCRC – http://www.bemsee.net/
Matt Sayle Photography – http://www.mattsayle.co.uk/