Snetterton is miles from anywhere. Except Norfolk. That’s what people tell me anyway, I think they may be the same people that tell me Oulton and Pembrey are too far to travel to. They are all between two and three hours from me although if you live in the south of England, Snetterton is considerably easier to get to than the others mentioned.
I was not the only person to travel to get to Snetterton. We are lucky that we have such great support from the local marshals but we are also lucky that so many people travel so far to watch, work and play with vintage cars. Further down I’ll talk a bit more about marshals, officials and volunteers, but we were all there for a race meeting.
I must confess I never get to see much racing as I’m normally fairly busy on race days, but I did watch what I could from the Race Control window. The first race was the well supported Set 3, otherwise known as Owner Driver Mechanic where points are weighted towards those who fettle and drive their own cars, although it is by no means mandatory. The set is such a success due to the hard work of John and Lesley Guyatt so it was lovely to see him on the podium at the last VSCC event of the year. Andrew Mitchell started from the pit lane in his HRG due to a mechanical issue and it was a shame to see him retire just before the race ended, especially after be had carved his way through the field and also looked likely to take a podium space.
In the Vintage Seaman (Race 2), the Club’s resident tyre expert, Longstone’s Dougal Cawley managed to stave off Patrick Blakeney-Edwards for the win. I missed the race, but Dougal was sweaty but happy in the pit lane after the race. He muttered something about head gaskets and mechanical problems, scratching from a later race to save himself for the Donington Mug Trophy Race, which he won, beating Alex Peacop and Mark Groves. One of the most fun moments of the day was seeing the three of them parodying a F1 podium and spraying the champagne.
It’s often recited that motorsport cannot happen without marshals, this is entirely true but there are a couple of points I want to pick up on. Firstly, we would look bloody silly stood round in orange baby grows if it was not for all the drivers that also drag themselves out of bed at stupid o’clock so they can compete. Secondly, marshals and volunteers are not limited to that mass of people in orange overalls, affectionately called the Orange Army.
For example, at Snetterton the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Chief Timekeeper retired after 50 years. Yes he is one of the few officials that receive expenses but they are often one of the first there and last to go home. Drivers, officials and marshals alike would soon be complaining if we didn’t have race results, time screens and all the other paraphernalia that helps us know who is on pole, whether the leader is on their last lap or even if the race is due to finish.
Many people think marshals must be paid, even some marshals assume all officials are paid. Scrutineers and the MSA Steward can claim expenses, most other officials including the Clerk of the Course are unpaid, certainly in club motorsport. Officials are basically the people named at the front of your programme and the ones who’s necks are on the line if everything goes wrong. Marshals sometimes look at us like we are a bit different, we are not, I am still first and foremost a marshal, I just happen to wear an MSA badge occasionally – on the plus side I do get to stay indoors most the time if the weather is inclement.
There are another band of people often forgotten, who don’t usually wear orange and are not officials. These are the admin girls and boys who organise signing on, collect transponders at the end of the day, sort out licenses to come to the Clerk for upgrade signatures. The volunteers who staff the meeting point at the Club van. The boys and girls in Race Control, the ones who have to stay calm when there are several conversations going on at once, often when the proverbial hits the fan. The people that spectators never see or hear about. The silent volunteers, unseen by many but just as vital as the Clerk of the Course, the Chief Timekeeper or that slightly mad driver who is spending their afternoon driving an 80 year old car round in circles, just as vital as the pork pie eating Flag marshal, the assembly and start line marshals. I salute you all.