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West Midlands Police Motor Club Marshalling Section Activities 2017

21/06/2018
The marshalling section of West Midlands Police Motor Club had a very busy 2017, assisting on several rallies and being involved in other activities including car shows and classic car tours.

The year started with our marshalling duties on the Cambrian Rally which was held in North Wales, in February. This is always a difficult month for the weather. The team included Dave Williams, Mark Wakelam, Trevor Whitehead, Paul Clackett, Henry Adams and Craig and Tom Hillman headed for our marshalling points up in the forestry around Alwen, Lyn Brenig. Although weather conditions were very cold, we did not quite expect for what transpired, the weather quickly changed with heavy snow falling with freezing conditions. The competitors were already into the early special stages of the day, but it soon became clear that even to stand up in the slippery and icy conditions was a challenge let alone driving a rally car at competitive speed.

With rally cars slipping off the forest tracks into ditches making it difficult for a clear passage of other competitors, the organisers had no choice, but to cancel the event. So our first event of the year came to an abrupt end.

The team was soon back in action at MIRA near Nuneaton, for the Horiba Stages, this is a single venue event and is always a very busy day as the special stages are run in quick succession. Our allocated task was to be at the Arrival Control. This control is before the start line of each stage, this we have done for a number of years because it is normally nice and easy - ‘wrong’ we found that a special stage start crew was also required. This is somewhat of a demanding task and not for the faint-hearted; a great deal of concentration is required, because competing cars leave the start line every 30 seconds, so no room for error. Dave Williams elected to carry out this task requiring the entry of a competitor’s number and time into the start clock and operating the traffic light system Red/Amber/Green. The day went without a problem and no hold ups.

In 2017 saw some of the team going back to grassroots level of rallying, marshalling road rallies, or should I say now navigational events, this does mean being up all night and standing in country lanes, manning passage/time controls, checking that competitors are following the laid down route. It certainly is good fun, some crews get incredibly lost, but then reading a route from an Ordnance Survey Map at night with only a magnifying glass
and small light on the move is not for everyone and the organisers to put in some difficult roads within the route, but that’s all part of the fun. We will be back out giving our support on these types of events in 2018.

As the year progressed and better weather of summer arrived, a full team attended the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages Rally; we were assigned to the classic Forest of Radnor situated on the Welsh borders, Radnor has been used on many International rallies over the years. Our task on this stage was to operate the flying finish, stop line control, passage control, radio point and to oversee an emergency service area, busy, just a little. With good weather, everyone in good humour the stage commenced on time, competing for cars coming through as expected, we thought all is going so well that we are on for an early finish and off for a well-deserved drink, strange how the wrong one can be. With the last six cars remaining at the start line waiting to start this special stage, we hear over the radio that a competing car on stage in the forest was on fire. Oh dear! Next radio message, the car in question had gone off the road, the crew were out and ok, but the car was well ablaze and so was the surrounding forest and the incident was too far away for our fire extinguishers to be of any use to them.

Rally rescue went into the stricken car, but even with all their fire equipment they could not help and the competing car by now was well alight. The local fire service attended but needed the services of our very own Paul Clackett to meet them in a local village and guide them into the forest where the car was still ablaze, but sadly the car ended up being just a burnt out shell. (Paul Clackett enjoyed the excitement) All in all, it turned out to be a long day – a very long day.
Other rallies attended included the Harry Flatters and Mewla, both events run on the daunting roads of the Epynt Military Ranges of Mid Wales. Our role for such events is less demanding we volunteer to be Driving Standard Observers, (DSO) making sure competing crews comply with speed limits on public road sections between special stages. Having checked competitors through after the first special stage, we tend to move to another location on the rally route, otherwise, it would not be a surprise for the competitors; idea is to keep them on their best behaviour.
Rally Isle of Man, is always a challenging event, not only for competitors but also officials and marshals alike,2017, saw eight from the marshalling section support this event. In previous years at this event, we have undertaken only general marshalling. However, for 2017 our task was raised to the next level to be a timing crew at the end of three special stages, and to make matters worse, the first stage we covered was the ‘Super Special Stage’ run on the promenade at night in Douglas and the last and final stage was the ‘Classic Stage’ longest of the rally which ended at the TT Grandstand, both stages were very high profile with spectators, press, organisers and sponsors all in attendance, nervous you bet. If anything was to go wrong with our timing skills in front of such crowds, well it was unthinkable. Fortunately, on these two stages, all went well, in fact, the ‘Classic Stage’ with finish line actually at the TT Grandstand, all went textbook recorded times to tenths of second was smack on.

Unfortunately, the textbook style was not the case on the other stage we marshalled which was out on the Westside of the island near the town of Peel; this was to be a bit of a disaster, to say the least. Although we were sufficient in numbers, all set up to operate the flying finish and stop control, then a major problem, the safety officials coming round to check this special stage, realised that there was no ‘passage control’ at the end of this stage, even worse there was NO special stage start crew. So after a great deal of discussion, it was realised that if we did not divide ourselves up to operate as passage control and start crew then this special stage would be cancelled. Paul Clackett and Matt Crowe, who had never been a ‘start crew’ before went forward and did a fantastic job, Dave Williams, Cheryl Crowe, John Stockall, Trevor Whitehead and Mark Wakelam covered stop line and passage control, Jeff Reynolds and Henry Adams were on the flying finish.
All went well to start with competing cars finishing the stage every 30 seconds and then major problems, the timing system which is set by the event timekeepers incorporates a beam and tracking system, suddenly decided to go faulty. It transpired that if two competitors were very close together when passing through the flying finish beam, times were being lost or inadvertently recorded against the wrong competitor. Frustrated you bet and the competitor’s well they had to queue at the stop line, everyone was now under pressure; we at the Flying Finish were unable to give correct times to the Stop line crew, competitors getting stressed. So the answer was given crews nominal times and then sort problems out at Rally HQ, with the timing stewards, which in fact was done and correct timing allocated to the respective crews.

September saw us back in Radnor Forest, Mid Wales for the Woodpecker Rally, manning Flying Finish/Stop and Radio. No problems in Radnor all went very well. The final event for 2017 was the Wales Rally G.B., our task on this event was to operate the regroup in the main street of Newtown Wales and tyre/service area based at the large municipal car park in the town. Dave Williams, Craig and Tom Hillman elected to cover the re-group and Paul Clackett, Mark Wakelam and Henry Adams marshalled the entrance to the main carpark, generally a good, but a busy and tiring day. Apart from rallies, Motor Club Members have been involved with car shows including, the Ford AVO Escort National Day at Hatton Gardens, Russ Pemberton, club member, had his rather nicely prepare replica rally Mk 1 Escort and his Mk1 Escort AVO RS 2000 on the show. ‘Worth some money now Russ’ Mark Wakelam and Henry Adams gave their help and support on the ‘Royal Enfield’ stand at the Classic Car Show NEC, it was a long, but enjoyable three days.
Members went to Rally Day at Castle Combe Race Circuit, this outing was organised by Trevor Whitehead, Trevor is planning a similar trip in 2018. ‘Classic Welsh Car Tour’ attended by Mark and Henry in Marks Mazda MX5, it was a good two days covering some classic roads of Wales and meeting similar minded people. ‘Classic Welsh Hill Climb’, ran in October and was based around Radnorshire, visited Ralph’s Cider Farm in New Radnor. Dave Williams and Mark Wakelam assisted with competitors coming in and out of the farm. This coincided with an open weekend at the Cider Farm so there were lots to see. Well worth a visit for 2018.
We have helped marshal on classic trails/rallies; run by HERO, these events are good fun and marshalling is certainly not stressful and time spent actually at the event is relatively short compared with special stage rallies. If you wish to be involved with rally marshalling or interested in other events the club gets involved with, then contact Henry Adams, email-hwadams54@gmail.com
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