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On Track at Donington Park, Derbyshire

11:14 29 March 2011

On Track at Donington Park, Derbyshire

On Track at Donington Park, Derbyshire

Geoff Ford meets race marshal Paul Bysh and young driver Cavan Corcoran

Marshals come from all walks of life but all have one thing in common a love of motor sport. Theres always a need for more race marshals, full training is provided and volunteers can choose to give as much or as little time as they wish. Becoming a marshal could even include working at the British Grand Prix!

The first step is to apply and the British Motorsport Marshals Club website (www.marshals.co.uk) gives plenty of information and has an on-line application form. There is also an opportunity to try a taster-day as a marshal at many circuits around the country.

Paul Bysh from Chaddesden, decided to give it a go eight years ago and now regularly marshals at Donington Park and Mallory Park, just over the border in Leicestershire. Marshals are always be pleased to talk (between races) and give advice to anyone interested in joining their ranks.

I did a taster day at Donington Park, Paul told me, which included having a go at one of the busiest corners, Redgate. It was great fun and it seemed an affordable hobby, especially as I run a small business and time is at a premium.

All marshals receive appropriate training for the tasks they will be responsible for and require several signatures on their registration slip (one per meeting) before progressing to the next level. They dont expect you to be putting car fires out straight away, laughs Paul. There is so much help and support out there. Youre not going to be asked to do something you feel intimidated by. There is basic training to begin with and it gets more involved as you progress, learning how to use fire extinguishers and working alongside paramedics. The training days build up your confidence and there are refreshers every two years. When a car has overturned it can be a bit intimidating at first.

Paul is the first to acknowledge that marshalling has helped his own self-confidence. Its a massive boost to your confidence to save a life at the side of the track. There was a nasty incident a few years ago at Coppice Corner. Both cars went up in a fireball and a colleague and I were able to get the drivers out. The Clerk of the Course came round and thanked us afterwards. It certainly gets the adrenalin going, and its very satisfying to know that all that training has paid off.

There is a great camaraderie among marshals as they need to look out for each other in dangerous situations. If you need to put your life on the line, says Paul, the best person to have next to you is another marshal. You look after yourself first, then other marshals and the racing drivers after that. Everybody is helping one another, its a team effort. There is a strong bond between marshals and you build great friendships.

Paul, who started a car valeting business some 22 years ago that requires him to work on Saturdays sometimes, usually marshals only on local circuits and on Sundays, but marshals can travel all over the country and cover two or even three days at the biggest events.

YOUNG DRIVER CAVAN CORCORAN In 2007 Cavan Corcoran, a young driver from Darley Dale, suffered a serious accident at Brands Hatch. With a broken leg and shattered ankle, it was six months before the 14-year old could walk properly again, but Cavan is now back racing and hoping to make up for lost time.

Cavans first taste of racing came at a friends birthday karting party when the family were living on the Isle of Man. At the age of 11 he won the IoM Kadet karting championship. Three years later, and just three days after his 14th birthday, he was making his debut at Donington in the Ginetta Junior series for young drivers. Because I was too young they wouldnt let me test beforehand, Cavan told me. I had a 20 minute session to learn the track before qualifying 9th of 18. In the race I got a bollard stuck under the car which then understeered really badly.

The accident at Brands Hatch came two months later. Struck by another car, his qualifying session ended early, leaving Cavan further down the grid than he may have expected, and when spinning cars ahead of him in the race hit the gravel traps a cloud of dust enveloped the track. I saw cars in the gravel to the left, he recalled, so I moved to the right, but I didnt know if there was a car there because it was blind. Cavan ran head first into another car at 90mph pushing the front bulkhead back into the cockpit. His left leg was broken and right ankle shattered as his foot was trapped between the pedals.

His mother Gill witnessed the crash from the grandstand with his sister Rowena, while his father Brian heard it from the pitlane. It was horrific, says Gill. I saw the commotion and thought Cavs next in line, hell see it, hell stop. When the worst happens in front of your eyes its hard to take in, its your worst nightmare. Brian was mistakenly told that Cavan was all right and out of the car. He arrived at the scene to find his son on a drip and covered by a blanket as marshals and paramedics worked for 50 minutes to remove the cars roof and free him. As a parent its the most terrifying thing in the world, but the marshals were fantastic, I cant thank them enough.

Cavan underwent a five hour emergency operation to save his foot followed by a seven hour operation back in Derby to reconstruct the ankle under Mr Rajan, one of the leading experts in his field. I must express my gratitude to Mr Rajan and his team, says Cavan. They were absolutely fantastic. There were several more minor operations and a six months recovery period before he could walk properly again.

Cavan also missed out on a considerable amount of course work ahead of his GCSEs, but support from the staff at Highfields School, Matlock, helped him through. Cavan hopes for a career in motorsport and began a motorsport technology course at Derby Universitys Buxton campus last September, a foundation for the Motorsport Technology Degree course at Derby.

Meanwhile, Cavan has returned to the track, finishing third in the 2009 Junior TKM Kart Championship. Now 17, he has joined Silverstone Circuits Formula Academy series, which offersan excellent grounding for young race drivers, and Cavan leads the series after the first meeting. At Rockingham Cavan took pole position, but rejoined at the back of the field having spun to avoid a rivals crash at the first turn. He worked his way through the pack, taking fastest lap, to finish second before going on to win race two with another fastest lap.

Gill no longer feels she can watch her son race, but has given him her blessing. I wouldnt want to stand in his way, she says. I let him ring me and tell me how hes gone on. He has my support, but Ill watch on TV once I know everythings all right.

This is an important step for Cavan as he strives to turn his clear talent into a successful career, but one that could have been cut short before it had begun, without the dedication of the race marshals and the skill of Mr Rajan. Anyone wishing to help sponsor Cavan can contact him on 07974 648307

Anew season starts at Donington This time last year Kevin Wheatcroft was still coming to terms with the loss of his father Tom, who brought the Donington circuit back to life in 1977, and had recently taken receipt of a facility rendered unusable by the previous tenant. Yet today we look ahead to a programme of events that is possibly the most exciting in the years that I have been reporting from this historic circuit.

Kevin Wheatcroft had surprised everyone at the opening Masters Historic car meeting by announcing that he was to take Donington forward himself, rather than lease the circuit to another operator. His achievement in reviving the circuit were recognised when he was awarded the John Nicol Memorial Trophy (now on display at the Donington Collection museum) at the British Sports Car Clubs 2010 awards.

This year will see further improvements to the gravel traps and catch fencing and the creation of a greater spectator area in time for the new season, which opens with the return of the World Superbike Championship from 25th to 27th March.

Smalleys Leon Haslam will be hoping to impress at his local track as he is settling in with his new factory BMW team. Leon had plenty to celebrate in 2010 taking second in the championship with 3 wins, and marrying his long-time girlfriend Oli Stringer.

Bike fans will be back at the track again for Thundersport Superbike Masters (9th-10th April and 22nd-23rd October), the FIM World Endurance Championship (20th-21st August) and the British Superbike Championship (10th-11th September).

Four-wheeled action begins with the British Touring Car Championship (16th-17th April), FIA Trucks (23rd-24th April) and the Donington Historic Car Festival (30th April-1st May). Britcar GT make two visits, in May (7th-8th) and in November (5th) for a night race and fireworks.

The highlight of 2011 is likely to be the World Touring Car Championship. The series last came to Donington in its former guise as the European championship in 2004. There will be plenty of British interest with James Thompson, Colin Turkington and Rob Huff, together with former BTCC champions Gabrille Tarquini, Alain Menu and reigning champion Yvan Muller.

The VS-CC See Red Festival takes place on 21st and 22nd May while Johnny Herbert is among the famous names at the Superstars International meeting (18th-19th June). The British F3 and GT Championships visit in September (24th-25th).


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