I decided to undertake a further trip to my favourite foreign circuit, Kyalami in South Africa, to do some marshalling with my friends there, and the attached document is a record of my trip, which I have written for the British Motorsport Marshals Club and I will be happy if you want to use it on the BMSAD site.
8PM, 8th November 2005 – Heathrow Airport Terminal 3. As most of British motorsport was coming to a close, so I was leaving on a jet plane for a 3-week holiday in the sun of South Africa. Nothing unusual there – except in my luggage were my overalls and boots as I was going to marshal at my favourite foreign circuit, Kyalami. And not just any old meeting, but the inaugural running of the GP Masters race, plus a fortnight later the final round of the 2005 Power Tour series (the SA equivalent of our TOCA meeting). The 11-hour flight went quite quickly, as I was in the company of commentator and journalist Bob Costanduros who was also flying down to cover the event.
After a day to acclimatise (it’s amazing the effect of altitude has on your ability to do anything, as the circuit is 5500 feet above sea level and you run out of oxygen very quickly), it was off to the circuit on the Thursday for a 7AM sign-on. The reason for this was that as well as testing at the circuit, they were running a couple of the GP Masters and F1x2 cars on the streets of Sandton to publicise the event, and therefore the marshals were divided into 2 teams, those staying at the circuit and those travelling. I remained behind and worked with Collin Richardson on the race control radio with much of the practice time given to the F1x2 cars. A fairly uneventful first day, except for when the UK officiating team arrived – from my home circuit, Thruxton!!!! You travel 6000 miles away to leave them behind, and they come looking for you!
I remained in race control for the Friday and Saturday practice days and enjoyed the company of the various officials that were running the meeting. Plus I bumped into my old friend Murray Walker, who was like a kid back in the candy shop after a while away from there!!!!!
He was so buoyed up with being back at a track and in the company of so many famous names, and it rubbed off on anyone who he came into contact with.
Unfortunately, a side effect of hot weather and a prosthetic limb is that skin breaks down very quickly, and therefore I was reduced to the role of a spectator for raceday, as I needed to spend the day in my wheelchair and not wear the prosthetic leg.
But that also meant I got to see the Kyalami Marshals new clubhouse, as I was taken there for the day to view!
As you can see, it’s a mighty impressive building in which to hold meetings and functions, plus it overlooks the track on the straight between Clubhouse corner and the Esses, and therefore I was able to see several itself was okay, the GP Masters relearning how to race as some of the drivers haven’t raced for over 10 years, plus the cars were all new and therefore no one knew how they would last. parts of the circuit from this vantage point.
The funniest sights were the passengers in the Minardi F1x2 cars who had been doing charity passenger rides all weekend, with drivers like Johnny Herbert all taking it very seriously. As the cars braked, so the passenger in the back seat would headbutt the cowling in front of them, as they weren’t ready for the braking forces a modern car has! I would imagine all the physiotherapists in Johannesburg were very busy on the Monday, as over 80 fare paying passengers experienced F1 power and speed for the first time that weekend and would have the stresses and bruises to show for it!
I then had 10 days of rest and relaxation in the sun at my host’s house in Boksburg (average daily temperature 30’C) before returning back to Kyalami for the 2 day Power Tour meeting. The meeting had a variety of races, from FFords to Production Saloons to Wesbank V8s to SA Superbikes, and several of the championships were going down to the wire. As the Friday was a normal working day, I volunteered to flag marshal at The Kink (after consultation with Tony Taylor, the chief marshal). This entailed getting my wheelchair up onto the rostrum, then clambering up myself so that I could then sit and watch, and then use the iron railing to haul myself up every time I needed to display a flag. But this was also magic for me – as this was the first time I could flag marshal since my accident in 2000! Despite the deluge of the daily 4PM thunderstorm, I came away from the stand feeling rather elated.
For raceday itself, it was decided that I should join the pitlane crew and watch the personnel going about their tasks. But there was a further reason for being placed there as prior to the trip I had made contact with chief marshal Tony Taylor and said I still had a dream of flying the chequered flag one more time, the very flag I was waving at the time of my accident.
And so for the afternoon races I found myself in the crow’s nest at the startline where I joined Lyn and Annemarie. I expected to just waive the flag for one race only, probably the last race of the day but suddenly, 5 races from the end of the programme, I had the flag thrust into my hand and told to get on with it! So I did, for each and every one of those 5 races!
What I was feeling at the end of the day is beyond words, as I had come full circle finally from being seriously injured and disabled, to retaking my place on the start gantry in just 5 years!
So this is very definitely a trip to remember for me, for all the RIGHT reasons!
PS I feel it is proper to say that I am currently not allowed to flag marshal whilst in the UK, following a directive in 2001 that I received from the MSA whilst I use a wheelchair for sitting, etc. The authorities in South Africa were fully aware of this in my discussions with them, and they deemed the practices I went through as being perfectly acceptable to them and their insurers.
Therefore I do not want this to be seen as a slur against the MSA here in the UK, as they have been most supportive ever since the accident. However I suspect that in making their decision, they had to take council from outside bodies, like insurance companies, and this affects why I can do things in South Africa that I can’t in the UK.