Running a walkabout

Having won the South Oxon Car Club walkabout / treasure hunt in 2021, it meant it was down to us to organise the 2022 event.

We decided to run it in Bicester, as it was easy for us to get to and hopefully accessible for fellow club members. We needed to be able to get there easily on week nights to plan the event, and with a quiet high street and free parking we thought it would work well. It only took one evening in Bicester to plan which was a bonus, having set aside a couple of evenings to go there.

We set 50 questions of varying levels of difficulty, and Matt checked them quickly on the night before we started. The answers were all on signs, shop windows, drain covers or higher up and all bar one question worked, so the scores were out of 49. Instead of setting tie break questions, we said the tie break would be who completed it the quickest if teams tied on number of points.

Six crews turned out with the winning score being 48 out of 49. Matt had told me some of my questions were too hard and I was a little apprehensive seeing people taking time for the first few answers, but it worked!

Example – who do you ask about medicines? Kay!

British Grand Prix 2022

In 2021, I was asked to run the P2 marshal welfare team for the British Grand Prix and in 2022, I was asked back to look after the marshal welfare team again. With Covid-19 rules changing, there was no longer P1 and P2 teams and we were one big team instead, made up of 13 people.

As in 2021, it wasn’t without challenges but with the ethos “a picture tells a thousand words,” here are a few images from the weekend. It doesn’t show the late nights, hard work and so on which went into the event, but perhaps gives some slightly different views.

On display at Coventry Transport Museum

In 2021, I saw that Coventry Transport Museum were planning an exhibition on women in motorsport for 2022.

Having spoken to the curator, Liz, I shared the information with fellow female competitors, volunteers and officials who I’ve got to know over my years in motorsport. I was pleasantly surprised to find I know over 50 women and many of them contributed to the exhibition.

As well as putting people in touch with the museum and providing some information on my motorsport involvement, I loaned a couple of my items to the exhibition. I’d never been to the museum so it was a good day out; slightly surreal seeing myself on display but interesting to learn more about transport history, too, with lots of interesting vehicles on display. My Great Grandfather worked for Francis Bennett motorcycles in Coventry, which added another interesting family angle.

A very muddy Bovington – Extreme E

Another different event, and this time it was Extreme E at Bovington. Bovington is a familiar venue having done stage rallies there, and run a test on an endurance rally, but this event was rather different. Extreme E markets itself as “the first sport built out of concern for the climate crisis. The series’ goal is to use electric racing to highlight remote environments under threat of climate change issues, and to encourage us all to take positive action to protect our planet’s future.”

Having headed down on the Friday evening, it was an early start on Saturday to report for marshalling when we were asked to assist with running the paddock. In reality, this meant a lot of chasing drivers/teams to ensure the drivers and cars reached scrutineering on time, so they in turn reached pre-grid in time, so they would be at the grid in time for the TV schedule. Although I’m normally ok at being on time on rallies, friends and family will tell you I’m always late and I felt for the full two days I was constantly clock watching! I manned parc ferme at the end and aside from ensuring people didn’t get in, at least I didn’t have to watch the clock.

I spent most of the two days with one of Extreme E’s staff and through conversations found our paths had crossed on many events; we had mutual contacts but we’d never met. It was extremely muddy (probably the muddiest event I’ve been to!) but good to see and try something different.

Deputy Stage Commander at the Three Shires Stages

Having planned to be on holiday in September, things changed and I had some free time. Then came a request to Chelmsford MC as to whether the club could help fill some gaps on the Three Shires, a closed road stage rally. We were asked if we could provide a Stage Commander, Deputy Stage Commander and Safety Officer for the Gospel Oak stage and a small team (Gary Nicholls, Matt Endean, Tony Clements and myself) was formed less than two weeks before the event. I also became the event’s Safeguarding Officer, so there was plenty to do in advance!

I spent the Friday at cricket in London, and headed over early on the Saturday for stage set up which was well underway with a team of familiar and new faces when I arrived. Our stage was initially looking a little low on marshal numbers, so I was grateful to those who travelled from near and far to help, to ensure our minimum numbers were met. Having taken on the role of Deputy Stage Commander, part of my role was marshal numbers and allocations which certainly kept me busy, as well as it being my first time using the RallyStageTeam system which took a little learning.

Needing more hands, even my Mum turned out to help by running the stage recce on the Saturday and then helping at the Stop control on Sunday – I think she is now converted to rallying! It was a long and hard weekend and buildup but overall, we were happy with how our stage ran (although always room to improve of course…). Coming in at the last minute added an extra dimension and many late night/early morning finishes to get everything sorted.

We had the most brilliant farmer (Andy) on our stage who did our bales and was a resident liaison officer in his own way. He made such a positive difference so on the Monday after the event, I set an alarm for 0445 and went to help him milk his cows – I’m not a natural farmer but I learnt a lot. I also checked the stage again (for any bits of tape or equipment left behind etc) and by 0830 I was all done.

Goodwood Stages in the sunshine

I’ve helped at a fair few Goodwood Stages over the years, and am used to the event being in February and wearing lots of layers, Dickies and once it even snowed! With the pandemic and lockdowns having impacted events, a sunny day at Goodwood was a pleasant surprise both for setup on the Friday and the event itself on Saturday.

For this event I was a Competitor Liaison Officer (CLO), alongside Ian Collings. Goodwood has strict noise limits and planning conditions so aside from dealing with queries from competitors, the CLO role can involve handing out noise tickets/warnings to competitors who have triggered Goodwood’s noise monitoring systems.

There were a few of these to hand out during the day, and I did a little marshalling too, but all in all a good day out and rather different to the winter rallies I’m used to!

Cotswold Historic

A new event for 2021, the Cotswold Historic was run by Tavern MC. It was using some areas familiar to me, having moved to Wiltshire when I was 7, and some of the venues I’d been to a couple of months previously on the Kemble Targa.

For this event I was sat alongside Gavin Rogers in his Reliant Scimitar SE5a. Gavin was Clerk of the Course, and we were running as Car 0 on the day. Many years ago I’d done both course opening and course closing on the East Anglian Classic but it had been a while since I’d been on a Historic.

The event went well, with positive feedback from competitors etc, and we had a good day. It had been a while since I’d sat in a rear wheel drive car, and it made me realise I’d missed it! Whilst we had stuff we needed to do, we also managed to do a couple of the regularity sections. Having thought it was never something I’d be interested in, I may just be changing my mind… Watch this space!

Photos by M&H Photography.

Time to give something back – F1 and Formula E

Two FIA events in a week was a little unexpected, but it was the way it panned out.

I started with four days at Silverstone, having been asked to help with signing on (Thursday), radio handout and collection to Incident Officers bookending each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday and running the P2 marshal welfare team filling the main hours of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

They were four hot, tiring but rewarding days at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix which included making sure all P2 marshals had what they needed – lots of water deliveries!

I got to meet some great people, had plenty of challenges and so many funny moments amongst the physical work and problem solving. From a hello and wave from Ricciardo, trying to jump start golf buggies, nearly being driven in to by VIPs, seeing (TRH) Edward and Sophie close up, headset bingo and many more – the “little moments” kept us going. Seeing some friends and familiar faces was brilliant too. I’m not sure any photos can do justice to what the team did over the weekend or how hot it was!

Our team of six were kept on our toes and hard work it was, but I was grateful to be involved and it was a pleasure to be asked to look after and co-ordinate the P2 marshal welfare team.

Whilst at Silverstone, I had a message asking if I could be at the Formula E event at the London Excel Centre the following Friday. With work, I wasn’t sure it was possible but work were supportive and so off I headed to London. This event was slightly different; F1 had meant a daily lateral flow test and not PCRs (as I was not in the main paddock area) but for Formula E, I had to head down the night before, have a PCR test, isolate awaiting the result (in a local hotel) and then head to the venue on Friday morning.

Motorsport UK were running their Girls on Track programme, showcasing the different opportunities in motorsport to 120 young women aged from 7 to 18. I was asked to speak to them about volunteering and officiating opportunities, whilst the girls rotated through different activities during the day, including watching track activity. They all had a variety of interests with some keen to compete and volunteer in the future.

Chin

Many of us have that one person who got us involved in motorsport, or supported us in motorsport. For me, mine was Chin – a man I met and much later found out was really called Martin Chinnery.

I discovered grassroots motorsport as a teenager, and have therefore known Chin for nearly half my lifetime. I joined Sevenoaks & District Motor Club, and not much later joined their committee. I used to get the train from London to early meetings, and it was always Chin who collected me from the station and drove me back to wherever was needed – no grumbles, he was always there. We’d get dinner and catch up, and he would encourage and support me. In those days, I never managed to persuade him to use (or even turn on!) his mobile phone to let him know if my train was delayed, but he was always there patiently waiting.

I don’t recall the first time I met Chin, but having joined Sevenoaks, it was probably at my first event I attended. I do recall being persuaded by him to navigate for him on a Scatter; I didn’t think I could do it, but as always he was encouraging and supportive and persuaded me that I really could navigate for him for the first time and it really didn’t matter how I did. From then on, I kept navigating, and it spurned my desire to try and explore as many different disciplines as possible.

After a few years on the Sevenoaks committee, I took over editing the club magazine, The Acorn. Again, Chin was there to guide me along the way and help me understand how everything worked. He would collect the copies and post them out, and we’d liaise regularly for “CCC,” Chin’s Chairman’s Chat. Looking back at the issue from June 2009, it was typical Chin with a bit of everything; he was pleased to see autotests starting again, had been spending lots of time on Crystal Palace, been out on a regularity 12 Car with his good friend Andy Kilby which they won and also competed on the Miglia Quadrato. To me, this sums up Chin and the path I chose to follow thanks to his support – lots of events, lots of motorsport, lots of variation.

Motorsport is a community, but most importantly a family. In those days, Chin was working at Sebron and between him (selling me parts) and Andy Elcomb (teaching me how to service my car, by doing it for me and showing me), I was running my first Micra and keeping things going. Through good times and tricky times, he put me in touch with people and helped me with anything needed.

In 2013, I saw an advert for a “Go Motorsport Regional Development Officer” for the South East, and I thought that was a role I fancied. By this point, I’d known Chin for many years, but I remember nervously calling him as Chairman of the Regional Association to see if he would support my application. Indeed he did, and we had a good chat about it at Crystal Palace a short time afterwards. From searching through my emails, I still have his emails of encouragement, him chasing me for news after my interview (there wasn’t any at that time!) and his genuine delight when I got the role.

Not only do my weekends look the way they do thanks to Chin, but professionally, that early support led me on to greater things; three years as a Regional Development Officer for the governing body followed by three years full time at the governing body can all be traced back to his early support and encouragement when I started in the sport, and then when I decided to apply for the Regional Development Officer role.

In recent years, I didn’t see Chin as much having moved out of area, but when I did, he was always there and catching up as if we had last seen each other yesterday. The last two occasions I saw him of course revolved around motorsport. We had a great catch up after Regional Committee in February, and a couple of weeks later we headed to Kent to compete on his Scatter. Matt and I won, my first time as a driver, but actually the memory I treasure best is sitting in The Bell in Kemsing, just like he and I used to before committee meetings, catching up over a dinner table. We last conversed when he kindly sponsored me for the London Marathon, little did I know that would be our last time.

I think it’s very “Chin” to have only learnt of how Matt met him, now. In Matt’s words;

Many firsts going on in this photo.

1.) My first event in the mighty (ex. Dave Leadbetter) MkII Astra
2.) My first rally with Ian Phillips on the maps
3.) My first ‘south of the River’ Weald MC rally
4.) And then my first real encounter with Chin, I hadn’t really known Chin before and I remember meeting him at the next Weald MC 12 car where he presented me with this photo he had taken. I remember thinking at the time how nice it was of him to photo us on the rally, and then find me after the event to pass on a copy for free. Over the years I really valued my friendship with Chin, and learnt a lot about the world of clubman motorsport from him.

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For me, I have a lot (and many things not captured here) to thank Chin for. His guidance, advice, support and everything he did helped me get to where I am today. I will forever be grateful. Thank you for everything, Chin, and Rest In Peace.

For now, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite images with him from 2009.

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Marshalling with HERO at Bicester

It may have been a weekend off from competing, but it wasn’t a weekend off from motor sport as we volunteered to help run tests at Bicester as part of the HERO Challenge. It was an early alarm call at 0515 to be at Bicester just after 0700. We were allocated Test 4, “Spitfire,” with Matt as Test Commander and us running the start.

Before the cars reached us we saw some of the normal activity of the airfield with bi-planes departing, before a busy couple of hours followed with cars arriving at least every minute, or in some cases, in little groups.

We had no real dramas to speak of, one car broke down on the test but fixed himself and got going after some time.  Some of the crews were new to rallying and had attended HERO’s training day the day before, and whilst new to rallying, everybody seemed to know what they were doing by the time they reached us.

The tests were only run once so we were home by lunchtime after an enjoyable morning.