Track marshals: men and women dedicated to competition
No less than 385 track marshals ensure the safety of the pilots and the smooth running of the Bol d’Or on the Magny-Cours circuit. Who are these men and women in the shadows, without whom the race would not take place ? Portraits and video interviews.
Day and night, the PC watches over the race
|In a building located at the end of the pit straight line, far enough from the assistance boxes, is the race HQ of the Magny-Cours circuit. The nerve center of the Bol d’Or 2008, the race management watches over 30 screens for 24 hours, linked to 20 cameras that leave no corner of the track unattended..
Everything is decided at the race HQ: Patrick Coutant, the race director, is responsible for safety and the application of the regulations. In addition to the screens, two radio managers receive calls from the marshals. In a few seconds, the decision to start the safety car, to stop the race or to award a "stop and go" can be made. Patrick Coutant is none other than the permanent track manager of the Le Mans circuit, as he explains to Site: "I came to the function of volunteer at the FFM, by my profession. I do at the Bol d’Or what I do every day at Le Mans for a living". And when asked if he has a prognosis for the race, he responds professionally:"Of course, there are teams and drivers with whom we have more sympathy, but this function requires rigor and impartiality. It is better to keep your distance from the competition to stay fair if you have to put a stop and go !"
"The marshals come from all over France and for an event like the Bol, we accept all volunteers who hold the marshal’s license.", explains to Site Jacques Bonnemain, responsible for the track marshals on the Bol d’Or, who agreed to present the work of these 385 men and women volunteers without whom the race would not take place..
Site: how the race organization works ?
Jacques Bonnemain, in charge of the track marshals on the Bol d’Or : The circuit is divided into 20 zones, placed under the responsibility of a zone manager and two deputies. So that they can take turns, they are grouped into two or three teams. For example, in the Adelaide sector, there are 49 people divided into three teams and 47 in Estoril. There are two marshals per signaling post and four per intervention post, whose job is to lift the motorcycles and help the pilot in difficulty..
M.-N.C. : It’s well paid ?
J. B. : The commissioners are all volunteers! On the Bol, they are paid for their trips and according to the number of days of presence. But this is not always the case, it always depends on the organizer.
M.-N.C. : What are the qualities required to be a commissioner ?
J. B. : Undeniably, it takes passion for motorcycle sport! This is the first condition. Then, for speed races, you should not be afraid to go on the track, because motorcycles can pass very quickly next to you. You have to be lucid, focused and know how to train the youngest. Commissioners do their job out of passion and pleasure. What they want is to be considered by the organizers, the Fede and the pilots. On the biker side, it is not uncommon to see a rider ask us who the marshal is at such and such a place, in order to be able to thank him! Usually they have their idol which they cheer on from the edge of the track. By tradition, each marshal leaves the races with the cap and t-shirt of the event. In some houses where the whole family is commissioner, there must be a nice collection of motorcycle caps and t-shirts. !
M.-N.C. : Being a commissioner is therefore also a way of life ?
J. B. : Yes, as it can be for motorcycle practitioners. There is a good atmosphere between the marshals, they travel most of the time in groups, with their camper van and their stewardship. The days before the race, there is an evening atmosphere in the parks! And when I go to see them, I have to resist so as not to have a drink at each stop !
M.-N.C. : And how do you become a track marshal ?
J. B. : For a year, the future marshal is a trainee, which gives him time to check that the position really pleases him. Then, he follows the course marshal training and takes the exam. If he gets it, let’s go! At the end of 4 or 5 years, those who wish can take the examination for head of post. This training is more educational and more focused on the management of a team than technical, because a post manager can find himself managing a team of 40 volunteers and it is not always easy. !
M.-N.C. : Young people are taking over today ?
J. B. : The succession is long overdue, currently we are starting to run out of commissioners. For the future, even if circuits like Ledenon have invested in light signaling, we will never be able to do without men to intervene on the track. And even if I stress until the morning of each race to know if there will be enough marshals, when Sunday evening arrives and everything has gone well, I tell myself that all the work we have done has not been in vain and I derive real satisfaction from it !
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