After Silverstone the calculator came out again and I realised that realistically I would only be able to afford to race at one of the remaining two rounds.
It wasn’t a particularly hard decision for me. I’ve been a spectator at Cadwell Park before. It is an awesome-looking track and by all accounts a circuit ideally suited to a Mini, but having had my very first race at Donington last year I really wanted to race there again.
It will be the first opportunity I have to drive at a track I have driven on before so should be interesting for me to see how I get on, and what improvements I can make on my times from last year. As ever I’m fairly realistic about my expectations but I’m looking forward to seeing how things pan out at the track.
The race meeting at Cadwell Park marked the 20 year anniversary of the Mighty Mini Championship, although I wouldn’t be able to race I still wanted to attend and if possible be involved in the meeting in some way. I’ve done a couple of taster days as a marshal in the past and really enjoyed them so that seemed to be the logical solution.
I checked the Marshalling section on the BRSCC website and found a list of contacts for the different regional centres. A couple of emails later I was signed up and ready to go!
The Mighty Minis championship had the circuit all to themselves for the day which meant that both classes benefited from extra track time including an extra 30 minute practice session and longer races.
I arrived a bit early so parked the van in the paddock and went to have a look at the track. It looked stunning in the early morning sunshine, quite a contrast to the thick fog I’d had to drive to in order to get here! It’s easy to see why Cadwell Park is nicknamed as the ‘Mini Nurburgring’.
I joined the queue to sign on. Whilst waiting for the briefing I was introduced to Keith Bond who I’d be working with for the day. Keith is a very experienced marshal from Hereford, who has seems to have marshalled in almost every conceivable form of motorsport. I was in very safe hands!
We were going to be based on the inside of the track between Park and Chris Curve. I was told there was plenty of room to park on the grass on the inside of the circuit behind our marshal post if ‘I trusted my fellow drivers’, the benefit being that I’d have to drive on the circuit to get there!! I opted for parking off the circuit. It’s not that I don’t trust my fellow drivers. I just think that I’d find it difficult explaining to my insurance company quite how a racing Mini had come to collide with my van should the worst happen!!
After climbing through the fence, we entered the track and walked over to the marshal’s post. First job of the day was to unload the safety equipment, and flags. The fire extinguishers had to be checked, flags were placed ready to use along with the safety car and caution boards. The marshal’s are kept in contact with race control either by radio or phone. We were meant to have a phone but unfortunately it was missing. I was sent to the next marshal’s post to report it and soon enough a radio was brought up to us by the course car.
We chatted for a bit about the basics of marshalling, safety being the main thing. It’s important to remember that whilst this is one of the best days out you could have as a fan of motorsport (or a poor driver!) you are on a live race track, just feet from the edge of the tarmac and as the sign clearly states ‘motorsport is dangerous’. I was going to be flagging, so it would be important to keep an eye on the posts before and after ours and react to any flags displayed there as well as watching what was happening on the area of the track covered by our own post.
The first practice session started soon enough and I had my first chance to wave a flag! The green flag is waved for the first lap of the session. As a driver it’s useful to see the flag to get an idea of where the marshal’s posts are situated. Apart from a couple of drivers running slightly wide at Park the practice and qualifying sessions were incident-free. Keith manned the radio and as per the regulations any drivers who exceeded the track limits were reported to race control.
After the qualifying sessions had finished it was time for the lunch break. I had a wander down to the paddock and chatted to a couple of the drivers to see how they were getting on.
The paddock was very busy. Because it was just the Mighty and Super Mighty Minis on track today, pretty much as soon as the drivers came off track they were getting ready to go straight back out again! Great for getting as much track time as possible but I imagine the quick turnaround would be quite tricky if you were having car troubles!
Lunch over, it was time to head back to post. I was back a bit early and chatted to a marshal from another post who had come over to say hello but before long it was time to go to work. The Mighty Minis were up first. On the green flag lap I managed to wrap the flag around the pole a bit, easily done apparently, more work needed on my technique! The front two cars, Brayden and Kelvin Fletcher started to pull away from the rest of the field from the first lap, by lap 5 the gap to third place was nearly 10 seconds with Kelvin ahead of Brayden by only 0.5 seconds. Next there was a group of about six cars running close together closely followed by the rest of the field. The lead changed on lap 7 and Brayden managed to stay ahead until the end of the race winning by 0.176 with the rest of the field continuing to change positions until the penultimate lap before taking the chequered flag.
After the cars had cleared the circuit we went out to check the track and clear any debris left on the tarmac. We didn’t have long before the Super Mighty Minis were round on their green flag lap. With more power, stickier tyres, more adjustable suspension and the distinctive sound of the straight-cut gearbox the Supers are the next step up from the standard Mighty Minis.
Last year’s Mighty Mini champion Ian Slark led the race from start to finish. Anthony Ford in car 17 looked to have second place secured until Scott Kendall in number 8 managed to pass him in the closing stages of the race. Last year’s Super champion, Jamie White, was looking good after fighting from last to 4th but unfortunately retired on lap 9. No incidents to report at from our post, although we did see one of the cars having a massive moment as they went out of sight, I couldn’t tell which one other than it was black with a white roof, how it didn’t hit the tyres I’m not sure but it seemed to head down the hill in one piece!
A quick check of the track again and the Mightys were back out for Race 2. With a partially reversed grid it would be interesting to see if the two Fletcher brothers would be able to fight through the field and pull away in the same way they did in Race 1. They were both at the front by lap 3, but they didn’t have it all their own way. Stuart Coombes in car 10 was within a couple of seconds of them, taking second place away from Brayden on lap 7, unfortunately for him Brayden had gone back past and had gone on to take the lead of the race a lap later. The rest of the field wasn’t too far behind and apart from a few changes in position seemed a lot more settled than in Race 1. Pretty uneventful from our post, but that gave me more time to watch the racing!
One more check of the track before the last race started. One last green flag lap and the race was underway. With a partially reversed grid, Ian Slark had fought his way to the front from 6th place by lap 6. Alex Comis who had been leading up to that point managed to keep hold of second place. The rest of the field chopped and changed positions until on the last lap two cars collided running onto the grass at Park Curve. The marshals at the post before were waving the yellow flags, I grabbed the green and started waving. The pink 53 car of Damien Harrington came to a stop just before our post but on the other side of the track. Thankfully he was OK and got out of the car and away from the track into a safe place. The car looked OK from where we were standing. It was the other side of it that had made contact though. The rest of the cars finished the race and came back around before leaving the circuit and heading to scrutineering.
Once the track was safe Keith and I headed over to see the damage. It was clear to see that the car wasn’t going anywhere under its own steam. There looked to be suspension and steering damage, the front left wheel was pointing the opposite was to the other. The recovery truck arrived and the driver hooked the winch onto the tow strap. Keith was behind the car helping push it on, I went around to the driver’s side and tried to steer the good wheel to help get it on the truck in as near to a straight line as was possible.
The car was then taken back to the paddock. Keith and I packed the fire extinguishers, flags and other bits away and left the track.
I headed back to the paddock and had a wander around. I came across the damaged pink car again and stopped to help the driver get it back onto its trailer before heading back to my van and setting off home.
All four races were brilliant to watch. They demonstrated everything that had attracted me to the championship in the first place. Close racing up and down the field. The only downside of watching from trackside on either side of the fence is that you only see one small part of each lap so I can’t wait to watch the races on Motors TV!
From the moment I arrived at the circuit I was made to feel so welcome. I’d advise any motorsport fan to at least try a day marshalling. There is no better place to watch live motorsport than the marshal’s post and no better group of people to watch it with. Marshals are volunteers. They give up their free time in all weathers to work at race weekends for the love of the sport. Without marshals and the other officials there would be no racing. It was a real privilege to be a very small part of the orange army, I had a fantastic day.
Thanks to the BMMC, David Owen and Keith Bond for looking after me for the day.
For anyone wanting to get involved, take a look at the BMMC website