Year of the Volunteer
As a volunteer official myself and visitor to the Autosport Show just after christmas it was great that our sports governing body The MSA was launching its 'Year of the Volunteer' at the same show.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
On Thursday's press day the initiative was announced on the event's high profile Central Stage by the MSA's Chief Executive Colin Hilton, reigning Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion Gordon Shedden and Richard Egger, Go Motorsport's Regional Development Officer in the East Midlands.
The central message being delivered was that the sport needs to celebrate the invaluable work carried out by these all-too-often 'unsung heroes' without whom motor sport wouldn't function, as well as showing others how they can get involved. Surprisingly every year there are more than 5,000 motor sport events staged all over the UK and whether a 12-car rally is organised by a local motor club or an international race meeting at Silverstone, they all need volunteers.
As Shedden explained, marshals really are a key part of the action and it really is a great way to be involved in this sport. The newly crowned BTCC champion also knows just how invaluable volunteers are to the safety and the well being of competitors, as a fiery incident at Snetterton last season almost cost him his first touring car title. "My car was a bonfire and, if it hadn't been for the swift action of some fire marshals, my season would have been over there and then," he recalled. "Whether I won the championship or not it came down to those ten seconds."
Here in Northern Ireland we have an organisation called the Motorsport Marshalling Partnership (MMP) which helps ensure that marshals are rewarded for the time that they dedicate to motorsport.
As well as training marshals for their roles, the MMP also organises an annual 'Rewards Day', where marshals have the opportunity to get passenger runs in rally cars.
This year's MMP Rewards Day took place late last year at Kirkistown Race Circuit and was hailed as the most successful rewards event in the MMP's history. More than 30 competitors gave up their day to say 'thank you' to the marshals, with each bringing their rally cars to the County Down venue to take the marshals for a spin. More than 70 marshals attended the horsepower fuelled day, with a variety of rally cars giving them the ride of their lives around the race circuit.
So, after a day of sliding round the track, there were more than 70 beaming faces when it was time to go home.
If anyone would like to find out how they can become involved in motorsport, perhaps as a marshal, spectator or competitor, they can log on to GoMotorsport.net or TheMMP.com to find out more.