There are many ways to get involved in Motorsport without actually competing. Whatever your interests or skills, there’s sure to be a role to suit you.
All events need a number of officials to make them work. It starts with ordinary club members wanting to get involved. Some positions are licenced by the MSA but many are not. Training is provided via MSA training courses, mentoring schemes, and from help within the club. If we cannot help you then we will know someone who can! If you lack any experience in Motorsport, don’t worry. Even the most senior officials were beginners once!
The range of roles on a typical rally are explained below:
Clerk of the Course (the boss)
All events from large National events to minor club events need a Clerk of the Course, who is licenced by the MSA to oversee the whole event. They have overall responsibility for the safe and sporting running of the event and make sure the event has suitably experienced people in the relevant posts.
Depending the size and status of the event the Clerk may be assisted by one or more
Deputy and/or Assistant Clerks of the Course.
Responsible for overseeing the event and deputising for the Clerk where necessary. The Deputy must be a licenced official as he may have to take over the event whereas the Assistant can be a person experienced in the type of event or a trainee going through the licencing process. A Deputy Clerk of the Course can make decisions in the Clerk of the Course’s absence.
The Secretary of the Meeting (the organiser)
The MSA description of the SoM is “the person who is responsible for the organisation of the meeting in terms of all material and notices required”.
After discussions with the Clerks and other officials, the SoM writes the regulations and final instructions for the event, write the safety plans and risk assessments, apply for the permits, book any officials for the event, arrange planning meetings, take and circulate notes on the progress of the event, liaise with the MSA and Club Stewards other Officials and Competitors and do all the other jobs that need doing.
As the title says, this person is responsible for receiving/collating entries and handling entry fee payments.
Responsible for recruiting marshals and allocating them to the relevant stage locations, issuing tabards, instructions and specific responsibilities for each marshal and for briefing the various personnel about any specific issues that may apply to a particular event. At this year’s Carfax we utilised over 70 marshals and radio operators from 18 different motor clubs.
Marshals fall into three categories:
Positioned at specific locations around the venue to ensure the event runs safely and complies with the Safety Plan.
Operate the stage controls overseen by the Chief Timekeeper. We have all seen the starting lights and transponders at work in race meetings and rallying has moved in the same direction. Rally timing has changed over the years from using a stop watch and a flag to controlled traffic lights and timing beams. As this can be a role where practice makes perfect marshals tend to specialise.
Situated at all relevant stage radio points and other intermediate points in order to form a radio communication system for the stage. These will be under the control of an experienced and registered radio controller.
Within Oxford Motor Club we have a Licenced Radio Controller who is able to advise anyone interested in becoming a radio operator. This is an area where a newcomer can get involved fairly easily.
There is a MSA Marshals register which will be compulsory from 2017. The grading levels are:
Cadet Marshals are for ages 11 and 16. The roles available for the cadets is restricted but it gives them an insight and experience of the sport in general and is an excellent way to get them involved.
After 16 you become a Trainee Marshal with event attendance and training criteria to meet before you move up to Rally/Cross Country Marshal. Moving on up with more events and more training modules, this time more role specific you become a Rally / Cross Country Timing, Radio and Sector Marshal. Next rung on the ladder is Senior Stage Marshal and as the name implies this you need experience in many roles including stage set up before reaching the top rung as Stage Commander.
There are two more additional positions which are Senior Official covering such roles as Secretary of the Meeting, Safety Officer, Competitor Liaison Officer etc and an Examining Rally/Cross Country Marshal which is an MSA appointed position.
All details of this scheme are available on the MSA web site
Competitor Liaison Officer
Co-ordinates any queries between competitors and organisers. An effective Competitor Liaison Officer makes a great difference to the efficient running of an event as he/she will deal with the vast proportion of competitors’ enquiries without interrupting the Organising Team’s work. Ideally, a CLO will be an experienced competitor / organiser who will have the knowledge to deal with most of the queries and decide when a more official response is necessary.
Although not yet a MSA Licenced position, this person should have experience of the type of event and is responsible for ensuring correct cover in respect of Medical, Rescue and Recovery services and see that they are deployed correctly in line with the safety plan.
They will be in close contact with the Clerk of the Course and advise on any safety related issues.
This team of experienced rally officials has the responsibility of ensuring the stage is safe to run by ensuring all stages are laid out correctly and safe to run, all controls and marshal points are correctly equipped and manned and any yellow flags correctly deployed.
Previously, on larger events this vehicle may well have been known as Car 00 or 000 and runs before the fast course car [Car 0]. Moving away from “Course Car” to “Safety Car” is an ongoing change and it is becoming less usual to see a fleet of enthusiastically driven rally cars preceding competitors on stages.
In charge of the Special Stages. This official has responsibility for the preparation, set-up and running of a Special Stage.
Again, It is not yet a MSA Licenced position but, along with the Safety Officer, is one of the areas the MSA are looking at for the future.
Child Safeguarding Officer
Now a Licenced MSA position, the role of the MSA Club Child Safeguarding Officer is to be the first point of contact for all child safeguarding enquiries within the club and to ensure that children’s welfare is considered in all aspects of the club activities.
Ensure the event is run correctly. There are two types:
Club Stewards are appointed by the organising club, and, although not a licenced position, they should be thoroughly experienced in motorsport and in particular of the type of event they are overseeing. At least one of these Club Stewards must be a person whose motorsport activity is not confined to the host club and is not an official of that club.
Depending on the status of the event The MSA appoint an MSA Steward who is the MSA’s representative on the day and acts as a second judicial body at any event and are responsible for hearing and adjudicating upon any appeal against a decision by the Clerk of the Course or other event Official.
There are two types of scrutineer:
Vehicle Scrutineers ensure the vehicle meets the technical criteria for that specific event as well as checking that the competitor’s overalls and helmets and safety equipment meet the current regulations.
All events, from our club autosolo and up to International status need a scrutineer. As experience is gained you are able, by re-assessment and training, to move up the ladder.
Environmental Scrutineers ensure that every competing vehicle, regardless of event, complies with specific sound regulations.
Both of these positions are licenced by the MSA but along with all other licenced posts there is training available and a mentoring and licencing process that ensures you will be able to carry out your duties properly.
Within Oxford Motor Club we have several Environmental Scrutineers and our own sound testing equipment.
Recovery and Rescue
These two disciplines are licenced by the MSA but are all manned by volunteers.
Going back 30 years any car that crashed or just broke down on stage was left to the service team or anyone with a vehicle [sometimes] big enough to pull it out and as you can imagine this was rather chaotic and in some cases dangerous. I’ve seen Land Rovers with a long kinetic rope hooking up to a vehicle way down a bank and just pulling and spinning the wheels until it came out, a lot of the time in a worse condition than when it went off.
The MSA couldn’t allow this practice to carry on and set in motion the licencing of all rally recovery vehicles and personnel. It would be many more years before it became compulsory to use licenced units on all rallies and I’m proud to be the first recovery operator to be licenced and instrumental in bringing in the compulsory use of licenced units.
Race circuits tend to use garages with flat bed vehicles as the incidents they deal with are slightly different to the chances of a rally car disappearing down a 100ft bank.
But, we are all getting older and this discipline, as with Rescue, needs new blood to ensure its future.
If anyone attends rallies regularly you will have seen the variety of vehicles and equipment in use. The requirements are relatively simple, a four wheel drive vehicle capable of doing the job and the skills and equipment to recover a vehicle from any position.
There is training, mentoring and licencing process to ensure you are capable of doing the job correctly.
This is the one discipline where it is unlikely you will be able to get a Rescue Unit up and running from scratch [unless the lottery favours you] without a lot of effort. Most units are run by a group of like minded people with an interest in the safety of the sport. They cover all events, race and rally and are in great demand.
Again, there is training, mentoring and licencing process to ensure you are capable of doing the job correctly.
To cover all the events they need crew members so if your interest is in the safety aspect of an event then please contact me. I can let you know in far more detail of what is involved and pass on your details to the relevant people.
The officials will all have come into their posts from a variety of directions. Often, they are competitors who have realised the efforts of the Clubs and Officials that have put on events that they have enjoyed and have volunteered to put something back themselves. Sometimes, the officials believe that they can improve the events and take on the roles to enhance standards, often because of specific skills that they have learned in their own working lives. Sometimes, particularly with respect to Recovery and Scrutineers, a keen interest in the mechanical / technical side of things proves the impetus to get involved.
If you do decide that you might like to offer your services, I am sure that you will quickly find that you will be enthusiastically received and encouraged by everyone from your motor club peers, right through to the MSA themselves.