This weekend provided another welcome break from Miranda Priestly as I headed to Oulton Park for a cold, wet and busy Saturday of motorcycle mayhem. (PS. If you want to give me a new job, please let me know).
It was the penultimate round the Thundersport GB championship and there was still much to play for in the wet and wild Cheshire conditions. Whilst Connor Tagg was crowned GP2 Champion back at Brands, with Mintiwins Cup winner Ian Popplewell also sitting on the 2011 title. This just left James Robinson to win the Nitro GP3 Championship, with the young rider from Helmshore only needing to finish both races to clinch it.
I however, knew none of this at 8am, all I knew was that I needed to hike up to Island, get on a set of flags, and have another go at being an incident marshal. As I have said many times before I love the way the marshalling works for motorbikes as you’re part of a close-knit team who move around the circuits together and whom are all well aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So I was more than happy to take a break from the safety of pit lane, to join the A-Team trackside.
Whilst I have to admit that I spent most of the day, hiding in the box and waving my green flag, it was a pretty eventful event, with bikes flying off in almost every session, including that of my fellow Yorkshireman, Nathan Pallett – who visited us during his first practise session, as well as another team of marshals in his second race of the day. In typical Ruth-style, I was taking a break from watching the track and making everyone a cup of tea when Nathan fell off, at the other side of the track, apart from looking up and waving a yellow flag for a bit, it didn’t even register that the man stood a few meters away was in fact someone I knew, and I once again looked like a majorly ignorant monster.
We had another faller in the shape of a 12 year old boy, this time I did make an effort to chat and make sure he was alright, mainly because of the fact he was so small and I couldn’t believe he could A) hold up a motorbike, let alone tear it around a race track and B) that we let 12-year olds race, yet you have to be 16 to marshal. It’s craziness.
Anyway, after telling the young boy that I want him to concentrate finishing school before he starts on his quest to become the next Tommy Hill (so happy that he won the BSB 2011 by the way, even if he does look a bit like Super Mario) I sent him on his way, before waving at him during the lunchtime parade lap. Sadly the boy must have got a little too excited, as just a few metres up the road, he toppled over with the bike landing on top of him, and the little body had to be carried off in an ambulance. It was ever so sad, whilst still a very poignant moment highlighting just how easy it is to be injured in the world of motorsports.
I know we have lost a lot of great riders and car drivers this season, but Saturday’s racing was all about the late Metzler National Superstock 600 rider Ben Gautrey who died at Cadwell Park earlier this year. Each and every soul in the paddock with a working machine took to the track at lunchtime to pay tribute to the fallen rider. It was a moving sight which reduced me to tears, every marshal grabbed a flag and waved it high above their heads in a silent salute as the motorcade of bikes rolled past. You didn’t have to meet Ben to understand that he was a highly regarded rider, and one who will never be forgotten by his comrades in the Thundersport GB.
My most exciting bit of action for the day typically occured during the final race, when I dragged my soggy ass out of the box and into incident marshal mode extraordinaire. Little over two laps later and it was time to spring into action as Joe Barton toppled into view on his lime green ‘Kwikasfuki’ (sorry mum).
Luckily for Joe, I was on hand to offer brilliant instructions on how to get his bike out of the track and into a safe haven, having left my gloves in the box, there wasn’t much else I could do apart from giving mouth-to-mouth, and he wasn’t unconscious, so I couldn’t really justify that. Instead I made sure he hadn’t suffered any head injuries by telling about how I lived in Barnsley and worked in Leeds. Thrilling.
On that note, I think that’s the time to end this blog. Whilst many people hope to see ‘a good crash’ during their day out a race track, just remember the pain that the riders and their families suffer for your entertainment.