As we weren’t competing in the PokerStars rally we decided that we would offer our services as marshalls for the event. On a previous Manx National Rally we’d lost stages due to lack of marshalls so we thought we would do our bit to help out.
Isle of Man event services booked our ferry and accommodation for us and Manx Autosport had kindly offered to refund 50% of the costs of travel and accommodation for anyone who travelled to the Isle of Man to Marshall on the event, which was a very welcome added bonus.
We were booked to travel on the 14:00 ferry from Heysham on Thursday 7th November. However, due to a forecast of high winds that sailing was cancelled and we ended up travelling on 02:00 sailing on Friday 8th November instead. Not ideal when we needed to be signed on on Thursday evening. Chris the chief Marshall was very understanding and agreed that we could attend signing on on the Friday morning instead. I spent the extra time at home making some alterations to the MSA Marshalls tabards – me and my Dad had both been sent XXL tabards, which even over big coats still looked a little roomy. With a few added darts and tucks they were a bit better fitting.
We arrived on the Isle of Man at 06:00 on Friday 8th November and had time for a few hours sleep in the hotel before heading over to the grandstand to sign on. For the Friday night leg of the rally we were going to be at Junction 8 of SS 4/7 Back of the Moon and for the Saturday leg we were going to be at Junction 8 of SS 9/12/15 Staarvey. We were the last marshalls to sign on and I think there had been some discussion about whether we were going to turn up or not! As an added bonus we were given a PokerStars woolly hat, a Manx Autosport thermal mug, a hand warmer and a key ring each – I do love gifts!
We spent the rest of Friday visiting Terry and John at T&J Auto’s in Peel. We took a trip to the Calf of Man and had lunch in the Sound Café. After stocking up on cup-a-soups, instant coffee and other provisions for the night we headed back to the hotel to put on lots of layers of clothing for the cold night ahead.
We arrived at Junction 8 of SS4/7 and met Claire, who was also marshalling in the same spot. Junction 8 was a modified junction so together we moved the bale and cones into position as per the diagram we had been given at signing on. Once the roads closed at 19:00 we moved the signs and cones into place to block off the access roads. We then had a bit of a wait until the first car and it was getting very cold! We could see ice forming on the roads and the bale in the junction. After what seemed like a very long wait the safety car came through and we gave the MSA delegate a thumbs up as we had been requested to do. We could now hear the sound of rally cars in ‘doing mode’ from other stages and were getting ready for the course cars to come through. However, due to ice forming at the next junction down from ours we were informed that our part of the stage had been cancelled due to dangerous conditions. What a shame not to see any cars at all! We dismantled the chicane, removed the bale and cones to the side of the road, removed the road closed signs and went back to the hotel hoping for a good nights sleep and a better day on Saturday.
The weather that greeted us on Saturday morning was not bright and sunny. The rain was already nearly torrential and the wind was definitely blowing strongly. We got a little lost on the way to our Junction 8 of SS 9/12/15 and arrived later than we intended to. When we got there we started to set up the box junction, which was very difficult in the strong winds. The barriers and tapes took on a life of their own and flew about wildly before we managed to secure them to nearby trees. We took respite from the rain by sitting in the car until the Safety car came through and then went to find a safe spot to stand in. It was great to see so many spectators out to support the event, despite the horrible weather. There was a steady stream of people coming to watch throughout the day. This time we got to see all 3 runs of the stage. Between runs we had to escape to the warmth and dry of the car as the weather got steadily worse throughout the day. Even the most waterproof of clothing begins to leak after 6 hours in the pouring rain. We were surprised and grateful to be given a packed lunch by the organisers. Thankfully there were no accidents at our Junction and once the roads were open we took down the box junction and removed the road closed signs. The rally was won by Aaron Newby and Rob Fagg in a Subaru.
On Sunday morning we travelled home on the 08:00 ferry back to Heysham. My Dad says he’s done his bit with marshalling now, he’s fed up of getting cold and wet. I hope I can persuade him otherwise though, I had a brilliant time.