When you think of those integral to F1 and motorsport you think of drivers, engineers, mechanics and more, but how many people think of the marshals who work long days in difficult conditions that allow races to continue in all eventualities? Carole Brackley is one of those in the Specialist Motorsport Marshal role, and loves every minute of it. She is among a growing number of women getting involved in motorsport in this way, so we spoke to her to see where her love of the sport began and what her role involves.
Growing up around Silverstone meant motorsport was in Carole’s blood from her youth. Her father would take her to Grands Prix, bike scrambling and hill climbs which she reminisces about fondly saying she “loved it!” Having watched F1 since it began being televised on the BBC in its entirety in the late 1970s, Brackley said she was quickly “hooked”.
Her first foray into marshalling came relatively late in life, “my first experience was in 2011,” she told me. It was “a club meeting in November at Castle Coombe; signing in early in the morning with a temperature of -7°C, it was a true baptism of fire.” Although her role comes with many perks, it often requires working in cold conditions, early starts and having to train for any situation that may occur.
Specialist training is required for Brackley’s role, but the basic courses include: “theory, what flags to wave and when, hand signals, what to do when a car leaves the track closest to your post, basic first aid, radio communications, safety protocol for all situations and how to correctly roll a car which is on its roof as a co-ordinated team.”
However, the senior role that Carole has means she must also deal with the Paddock and the Pit. “In the Paddock, cars are assembled in grid order,” she told us, “prior to release to the grid for a start, a check is made to make sure all the cars have the correct scrutineering stickers and drivers are wearing all safety gear before going on track”. Whereas those marshals based in the Pits “will be assigned to a particular garage/s and or team/s”. “The marshal will observe their team/s, especially during pit stops, refuelling and tyre & driver changes, making sure no regulations are infringed,” she explained. “If they are, a Pit Report is sent up to the Stewards, for possible penalties to be given.”
Carole’s role changes slightly when F1 arrives at Silverstone. “We are bussed to and from the Wing well before and after any track action. At some races e.g. WEC, we monitor the teams from inside the garage, but we are not permitted to go in or near the garages (with F1),” she said. “The days are longer and security much tighter, to the point the Paddock is mostly off-limits and our movements are restricted to the Pit Lane and Pit Marshals Office.”
One of Brackley’s motorsport career highlights was in 2017 at F1 Live in London when she was chosen to “wave the start flag”. “(I) was surrounded by the drivers, all in a relaxed mood and getting really close to those F1 cars,” she told us. “I was also invited to a Reception at 10 Downing Street to celebrate British Motorsport, representing marshals”, another unforgettable experience that would never have happened had she not decided to become a marshal after her retirement from Defence Diplomacy.
Carole is now an ambassador for ‘Dare to be Different’ and it is something she is extremely proud of. “I was invited by the MSA and Susie (Wolff) to represent Marshals,” she explained. “I have always felt that most people feel it is a job for the blokes, but in my experience (and my case) we females are just as passionate about motorsport, and if I can spread that word and encourage more participants then I’m more than happy. Marshals are really close to the action – I think it’s a huge honour and privilege to get that close, and more females should be aware of the opportunities that exist, that don’t cost much at all to get involved.”
Brackley was also keen to share her advice saying: “Go for it! If you want to see exactly what goes on close up, being a marshal is a great idea – it’s free and great fun.” The high-profile roles in motorsport can be difficult to get to, but for fans who want to get up-close to the action and the phenomenal machinery, marshalling is an exceptional way to get involved.
We finished by asking Carole about her love for F1 and who her favourite drivers are. “Lewis Hamilton is one of a kind, a great ambassador for the sport and I’ve followed his career from the start,” she explained, adding “I think Esteban Ocon is a rising star, with great talent”.
As Carole has said, marshalling gives people the opportunity to get involved with an industry that can be difficult to get into. It also gives unique access to those who are dedicated enough to work for hours in difficult conditions. Brackley’s role allows her to represent women in the sport and also do what she loves. Through her work with Dare to be Different she is raising awareness for another job in the motorsport industry that many may not realise they can get involved in, and showing girls what they could do.
(Heading picture credit: Dare to be Different)