First Time @ Donington – British Touring Car Championship : Round Two

My first spot of marshalling this year took me down to Donington Park for the second round of the British Touring Car Championships and I’ve got to say, despite Donington being one of my favourite tracks to spectator from when I was a young ‘un; I was very disappointed with it as a 23 year old woman.

Fair enough, I have been spoiled by hanging out at Jonathan Palmer’s beautiful Oulton Park circuit for the past two years, but to say Donington is hoping to host the British Grand Prix, I reckon they have a long way to go yet.

It seems as though the circuit is stuck in the past, and with the price of an instant coffee in the ‘café’ being a shocking £2, I was dumfounded that they hadn’t even splashed out on getting a cleaner for the toilets.

Anyway, sanitisation and the quality of facilities isn’t the point of my blog… you want to know what happened with the four-wheeled wonders don’t you? Well, after the usual debacle at sign-on where people look at me as though I’m an alien because I’m a woman with nail polish and lipstick on, I was finally positioned on Craner Curves with my marshal buddy Andy. Thankfully we had a brilliant team there, including a friend of mine, Sara who was our post chief, yes, that’s right guys, a FEMALE Post Chief… whatever next? The vote?

Saturday didn’t bring much excitement at all, and our team spent most of it talking about life and eating Starburst – until I discovered the BARC Rescue Unit ‘Dream Team’ were also on site, which obviously meant keeping the lipstick and blusher topped up; especially considering I pottered into the paddock at the end of the day on the hunt for Nick Hamilton. After I finally found Nick’s car, I was in luck as he was hanging around near the back of his little ‘working gazebo’ or whatever you call those things attached to the lorries. I beckoned him over and had a quick chat about how he’s finding his racing career & what it’s like having the intense media spotlight on him, thanks to his F1 Champion brother Lewis.

Although people often say it’s easy for the families of ‘established celebrities’ to find success themselves, you’ve got to give massive respect to Nick, for how he’s built a racing career whilst being a sufferer of Cerebral Palsy. What he’s achieved is a massive inspiration to people with and without physical disabilities – it makes you think that some able-bodied people can’t be bothered to get off the sofa and go out and get a job, instead sitting at home on state benefits and aspiring to be one of the ‘stars’ on Jeremy Kyle. This guy is my star of the weekend, he was humble, had time to chat and had no delusions of grandeur. What a hero.

Enough about my new-found love for the latest Hamilton racing star now,  and onto Sunday’s action – after meeting Sunday’s Incident Officer (he didn’t do Saturday, the part-timer) I was shocked to find out he had the same name as my father… he didn’t seem to find it as hilarious as me, in fact I thought he was quite offended that someone else existed with the same name… Anyway, we planned that if any incidents occurred, only one team of us would run out to the car – and that was where my expert marshalling skills came in…

The only car casualty of the weekend came to a halt just a few meters away from me in the form on Tom Grice’s Clio; he wasn’t a happy bunny, but then again, you wouldn’t be if your wheel had split in two after you were grappling for position… I tried to make small talk before some family members rushed down to speak to him in the wake of the accident, he wasn’t very receptive, then he yelled; ‘I don’t want to do this anymore!’ Poor bloke, I told him he’d be fine if he wasn’t so naughty and just drove on the track instead of into other people’s cars. He didn’t see the funny side. After he was forced to talk to me for another few minutes he started to thaw out a little bit, until one of his family members threw him a bottle of Coke over the fence which nearly hit my head… then I gave up on being friendly. By that time the Recovery Truck had arrived, and what a DEBACLE that was.

I’m particuarly biased because the recovery guys at Oulton are efficient and really know what they’re doing when it comes to suspended tows, but when we’re on a tight tv schedule, wouldn’t it be better to listen to what others are saying before trying to hoist a Renault Clio into the air by its rollcage? Oh my, having seen a fair few cars being towed in my life as a marshal, and I was wondering why we were hooking bits of rope through the car and onto the lifting arm of the transporter, when we should have been strapping the wheels and lifting it into the air that way?

Obviously I voiced this opinion, but as usual, it was completely ignored and the Clio was dumped on the truck at a 45 degree angle, and driven back to the pits with its doors swinging open in the wind. Brilliant. Weird then – don’t you think – that when the same recovery ‘expert’ came to remove a Ginetta G50 later in the day, the wheels were strapped and it was hoisted onto the flatbed that way?

Being a woman I clearly shouldn’t have an opinion on that kind of thing, but what I can comment on was Jason Plato’s dramatic roll at the start of race two. Jeeze, I really didn’t think he’d be walking out of that one – it just goes to show the strength of these touring cars and what they’re built to withstand.

Image: Jonathan Hatfield (www.jdhmotorsportphotography.com)

After smashing into a bank, his Chevrolet Cruze rolled three times before thumping down in a cloud of smoke, amazingly though, the reigning BTCC champion walked away with just a sore neck, and his team even managed to repair the wreckage in time for the last race.

Jason said; “Just before I whacked the bank I took my feet off the pedals because I didn’t want any broken ankles. After that I just closed my eyes, hunkered down and waited for the bang. I’ll be stiff tomorrow but I still have two arms, two legs and a head, so that’s a relief.”

After enduring Jason’s famous ‘arrogance’ each time I’ve met him, its unsurprising to say that I’m just another one of the marshals who aren’t paid-up members of his fan club, but you’ve got to admire him for coming out and racing again just a few hours later… that man REALLY wants to win. Again.

It was Andrew Jordan I was cheering for though, finishing second in race one and winning race two; for me, he’s going to be the one to keep your eyes on this season… whilst the mega-babe that is Tom Onslow-Cole became the first person to score championship points in a VW Golf since the two-litre era began 20 years ago. Horray!

Were YOU there? Ruth. x

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