Singapore GP – The other end of the Spectrum

This adventure started back in March, when I was fortunate enough to be able to marshal the Australian Grand Prix. My buddy for the weekend was from Singapore, Valosy Ong. With a few other UK Marshals – Dave and Sarah Smithson, Phil Goodge, Stirling Joy, Darren Nunn and Janice Wells, we learnt together that motorsport marshalling is a truly international family, joining in “signal familiarisation” sessions with other international marshals each day.

Over the days, stories of the Singapore GP became the norm; leading to a decision by Phil Goodge and I to apply – as they say nothing ventured, nothing gained. After completing the application there was a nervous wait to see if my application had been accepted.

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The other end of the marshalling spectrum meant making new friends along the way.

This wait was made even more nerve racking when Phil and other returning marshals received information confirming acceptance. A week of scanning my emails was hopeless until I was final rewarded after a week. I was going to the Singapore GP. With flights and hotels booked it was time for the adventure to begin.

An early train on Tuesday morning from Wrexham to Birmingham International Airport, saw me greeted by the announcement that the check in computers were down. Seeing lots of people in the coffee shops worrying about flight delays, I became conscious of a relatively short connection window in Dubai. Eventually, l got through check in and security then boarded the plane and after a 30 minute delay the A380 was in the air and I was on my way!

Arriving 40 minutes late into Dubai, I raced across to gate C19 to meet up with Phil Goodge for the second leg of the journey however; Phil was nowhere to be seen. As the time to board got nearer, I sent him a message to let him know where I was, but still nothing. Sitting on the plane wondering if I was going on my own, a dishevelled exhausted looking man appeared in front of me, with seconds to spare he had made it.

After nearly seven hours we landed at Singapore Changi Airport, a quick metro journey to check in at the hotel and we were ready to explore. Over 29000 steps later, or roughly 13 miles, seeing Fernando Alonso walking the track, seeing the Marina Bay Sands Hotel gardens by the bay, finding our posts for the weekend and the tent for sign on, it was time to hit the pillow.

Jetlag to sign on

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Little did I know what was ahead when I was place at Sector 20L.

Jetlag had kicked in as it was 11 o’clock before I woke up and after a late breakfast at the “Queen’s Inglish bar,” yes that’s how it was spelt, we moved down to the circuit to watch a recovery demonstration for the Porsches, every move was accompanied with an ear piercing whistle from the team leader.

Usually sign on is early in the morning but, in Singapore it is at 4:30 pm. We were given three pairs of overalls, gloves, safety glasses and souvenir cap and of course our post allocation. I was at 20L. The team I was with included marshals from Hong Kong, Poland, several Singaporeans, a native Scot as well as me, the token Welshman! We had a few tasks to finish setting up the sector, particularly around pedestrian controls due to the Porsche and Ferrari paddocks being at our post, before the FIA Safety Car and Medical car sessions.

Climate Vs Closing times

The heat and humidity were intense, lots of fluids were required along with a well needed breakfast at a cafe prior to an 11:45 sign on. However, the first action was not until 3pm. This gave us some useful time to run practice rescue scenarios from various parts of the sector using a bit of fencing to act as a car.

The day progressed without any real problems except for a Ferrari attacking a barrier in the Ferrari Challenge, my attention turned to the search for food, to my surprise everything had closed at 10 pm so all that was left was to get a quick drink and taxi to hotel to get my rest for the next day.

Learning and the faithful

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The entrance to the Ferrari Challenge paddock meant I always had something to do.

Learning from my problems on Friday night I made a trip to the supermarket to get supplies, so I wasn’t caught out by the closing times. I was grateful for the snacks I had bought as well as there was a bit more work to do today. I had varying roles throughout the day, sometimes helping with the telehandler to recover stricken cars, guiding the Porsche Carrara cup onto the track from their paddock and helping to unload any recoveries that were bringing cars back at the end of their session.

 

With my tea bought from Subway due to my food passing its consumable time (heat and humidity strikes again), I was ready for qualifying. It was an amazing sight to see the F1 cars travelling as fast as possible, and being only a few metres away I was grinning from ear to ear.

The qualifying result was a bit of surprise to the Ferrari faithful on post as Lewis Hamilton took pole position but, we weren’t done on post yet. The first track walk of the weekend commenced, I now know how the animals feel in the zoo as lots of members of the public walked past waving at us behind our caged fences.

Race day

At sign on Sunday I was given one of the official Singapore GP patches to sew onto my overalls. Everyone then went to the auditorium for the marshal team photo which was gate-crashed by a certain gentleman called Charlie Whiting; apparently he’s big in the F1 world.

Whilst waiting for the race to start, we practice debris clearing runs, a maximum of 15 seconds was given to get out and back to post. It was a real eye opener that 15 seconds isn’t as long as you think.

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The flag was loved by everyone on post

Before the drivers’ parade started I got my Oulton Park heroes flag out, to my amazement all the marshals loved it, and everyone wanted a picture with it. Even some of the drivers on the parade, in their classic cars, took the time out from waving to the crowd to acknowledge the flag.

 

Finally it was time for the race, the first hour I spent by the run off area, as the cars came surging towards me on the first lap it was a real taste of just how quick these cars can corner whilst inches away from their rivals.

The second hour was spent near the Ferrari Challenge paddock, whilst they showed passion throughout the race there was a little bit of disappointment when Lewis Hamilton was the victor. This allowed for some final jokes on post.

The weekend is rounded off with a huge meal in the sign on tent, music and a little awards ceremony. My team at sector 20L was called up for an award, something that meant a lot to the team.

Sat in the airport going home I was sad the adventure was over, I sat reflecting the different world that I had marshalled in. This is the complete opposite end of the spectrum from those windy, rain-soaked weekends in Anglesey or Oulton park where I usually marshal, but both are great experiences.

Written By John Edwards

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