I missed out on the day of British Superbikes qualifying at Oulton because it was the Hoghton Tower Sprint today – which sees over 120 vintage and classic machines and modern day Superbikes sprint the 1/8th of a mile course up the driveway of Hoghton Tower – put on by my club, Marshals Northwest.
Arriving at this place near Preston at 8am, it was a far cry from the glamour of Oulton Park… I was wheel spinning in the boggy ground before we’d even kicked off the day, so it was hardly surprising that I instantly felt out of place in my pretty C3, with my neat hair and red lipstick. From the point when I got out of the car, women were looking at me with hatred in their eyes and the men… well, they probably thought I looked hilarious.
The problem is you see, there are so few women in motorsport that whenever a new woman comes on the block, all the other ladies scrutinise her every move and pick them apart like a Crispy Duck at the local Chinese. And on Sunday, all I was missing were the wraps and spring onions. I could feel their un-mascara’d eyes boring into me as they tried to brush their hair down whilst I made my way up to the signing on tent and for the first time this season, I felt rubbish.
You see, at Oulton there is always a sense of glamour and excitement, but here in some muddy field, I felt stupid and out of place and I was worried that the already cliquey group would just leave me out throughout the day… ‘No bother’ I tried to convince myself, I was here to watch the racing, not make BFF’s, but still, it was daunting.
By 10am it was time to head to the bottom of the drive with the team I’d been put in, and our job was to make sure the classes of riders (about 10-20) were all ready to sprint up the hill when it was their turn… this involved either bringing them up to the start line, standing behind them with a wooden chock to prevent them rolling back, or (and this was the BIG job) pressing a button to let them go.
Now I don’t know if most people who marshal are utterly stupid, but I felt like I was a grown woman in a nursery class, granted, I had to watch ‘from the wings’ for the first couple of races, but by then I’d like to say I knew what each person’s role was… enough to think I might have a go at a couple of them… ha! How wrong I was.
I tried to have a go at bringing the riders up to the start line and telling them to “wait for the green light,” which they usually chose to ignore anyway, but the commentator had a hissy fit that he couldn’t see the numbers on the bikes… quite why he didn’t take a look when they were sat waiting to come up to the line is beyond me, I mean it’s not like my arse is 20ft wide now is it?
Then I had a whirl at holding the chock behind the wheels of the bikes and sidecars to stop them from rolling back, that was quite fun actually, being stood right next to a Super Bike as it tears off the start line in a haze of noise, smoke and fumes is pretty special. Although had the chock given way and a bike rolled onto my foot, it would have been no laughing matter. Oh, and I now have bits of rubber and oil burnt into my wonderful orange overalls. Not cool.
Later on in the day I got to be the ‘button presser’ – a highly regarded role which sees the one with ‘the button’ waiting for the rider to edge his way to the start line, checking for the green flag from the marshals at the top of the hill to signal the track is clear and then pressing the button to give the ‘green light means go’ to the riders. Simple yes? Well it seems as though everyone reckons you need to be some kind of brain surgeon to be able to work out when to press a button these days…
Bless them, they’re lovely people, but when I saw a marshal run into the track and NO green flag form the hilltop and didn’t press the button, I got a pat on the back for being so vigilant. I mean come on, do I actually look stupid enough to let a rider go tearing up a hill at 60mph, right into the path of a marshal?
Whilst I was a bit disgruntled about how stupid people must have thought I was, and the slight discontent at being an outsider in their clique, I did have a nice day watching the bikes. It is sad though, how hard it is to become a part of an already tight-knit group. David Lawton, the Club Secretary was perhaps the only person who really made an effort to make me feel a part of the group whilst everyone else seemed to look on and prod and poke me like a zoo animal.
I don’t know, perhaps next time I will be able to win a few of them over, but for now, I felt like I was back in school at lunchtime – sat alone with my sandwiches with no-one to play with… and I really thought those days were over, I guess the plan of ‘fitting in’ just went up in smoke.