What’s it like to be a Racesafe marshal?
Their work is vital. The first on the scene to help riders get their bike out the gravel. A helping hand for a rider who’s suffered an injury. Master of the warning flags to pre-warn of any on-track dangers or obstacles. We’re talking about marshals.
Racesafe is the official supplier to MSVR for the co-ordination and operation of the marshals and associated services for the British Superbike Championship and the FIM British Motorcycle Grand Prix and World Superbike events. They have nearly 1000 marshals and medics on ‘the books’, all of whom are dedicated and committed to helping to keep motorsport as safe as possible.
We talked to Laura Maliphant, who joined the ‘orange army’ back in 2015 after a friend – who was already a marshal – mentioned it, and she’s never looked back…
“I love it. For me, being part of the orange army, I’m a small piece in the big puzzle to help make it all happen. All marshals are there for the love of the sport. You’re there to help riders during some of the lowest parts of their career – helping them up after a crash or clearing them to safety if they have had a mechanical retirement – but it’s all worth it because of the appreciation from all racers. You feel like part of a big family.
“I have made so many friends. Some of my now closest friends are fellow marshals and some of my other friends have joined after seeing what I do. It makes for a great weekend – arriving in the campsite, having a catch up after setting up my tent or van and then spending time with them during the days and evenings sometimes around a BBQ or if cold or wet then we take shelter in some of the marshal’s caravans.”
“I’ve always loved racing, but I’ve found that I now follow all the support races much more closely. We’re there to do a job and to make sure that everyone is kept safe at all times, but you also get to see some incredible racing and all from the best seat in the house. They can be long days, you’re subject to the elements and you can find yourself in some scary situations, but it is an amazing experience.”
With so many different tracks on the calendar, each brings its own fun – and challenges.
“Each track has it’s own amazing parts to them and therefore creates such different racing! Cadwell Park has the Mountain, which to see bikes flying off the top, which is something quite special! Donington Park – to see the racing that happens down through Craner Curves, and the result of some of the crashes there! It does keep us very busy… Knockhill – such a short circuit but so twisty! And with the unpredictable Scottish weather, you never know what you are going to get! Assen is a huge circuit and the Dutch marshals are so welcoming to the Racesafe marshals. It was an amazing experience being able to marshal there last year. Honestly, I couldn’t choose one track which was my favourite!”
Being so close to the action can mean that you get some real once in a lifetime experiences.
“I’ve had quite a few moments where I thought ‘is this really happening?’. The standout one for me though was in 2016, when I was marshalling Luffield at Silverstone for the Moto GP. Johan Zarco had won the Moto2 race, he pulled up at the side of the track at Luffield and waved to the marshals, calling us over. Two of us were cleared to go out to see if he was ok, I was one of those lucky marshals. As we got to him, he got off the bike and left it in our capable hands, He ran through the gravel to the tyre wall, got up and did his famous backflip right in front of us! As he was running back another bike pulled up, it was local hero Sam Lowes! He asked me to hold his bike, I held onto his bike for him and he ran through the gravel, threw both his boots into the crowd and came back to me, gave me a high-5 and rode off down pit lane. That was a moment I will never forget!”
Being a marshal is voluntary, and you’re given extensive training before going trackside.
“When you join Racesafe, you have to complete a training course in February before the season starts at Bedford Autodrome. It’s a one-day course to teach you all you need to get you out onto the trackside. It takes you through the multiple flags we have and when to use them, how to stay safe when picking up a bike, how to scoop a rider if they are unable to walk to safety, fire training and much more! It is a very well put together day and when you leave you’re a trainee marshal. Once you get trackside at the start of the season you need to complete 12 days of marshalling to be signed off. So, if you cover one full race weekend you can get three signatures. one for each day – so potentially after four rounds – you’ve done it.”
Laura’s advice to anyone thinking of giving it a go?
“Do it! Yes, it is all voluntary, but you get breakfast vouchers, free camping, and a guest pass for each day you marshal – although this year was different with Covid19, so no guests – you will get some of the most amazing experiences. Last year my name was drawn and I won a pillion lap round Knockhill with Ben Godfrey – who was a Superstock 1000 rider at the time – I did the whole lap on just one breath and was almost ‘knee down’ on the back for most of the corners!”
Find out more about becoming a Racesafe marshal here.