I’ve finally dried off after a very wet MotoGP. Let me tell you all about my experience as a disabled volunteer Race Maker at Silverstone. From welcoming visitors in the morning to wishing them a safe journey home, and everything in between – a day as a Race Maker is certainly never boring!
It may sound obvious but yes, I am a motorsport fan! I even love whizzing around in my powerchair (often going ‘wheeee’ downhill). I’ve followed Formula 1 since the days of Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna. I initially enquired about becoming a marshal at Silverstone but unfortunately that’s not suitable for a full-time wheelchair user. I was instead referred to the Race Maker volunteer group, which I successfully applied to and joined the ranks in 2022.
My first year, and my first time at the F1, was a great experience. I was working in one of the wheelchair accessible grandstands assisting visitors with disabilities. The atmosphere was just fantastic, and I knew I wanted to do it all again. So I did!
My 2023 experience was very different, but in a good way. I was anxious beforehand as I didn’t have my PA with me, but with my pink and blue uniform on and Erin by my side, I knew I would be ok. At the start of my shift I was immediately in the thick of it. I was welcoming visitors through Gate 3, offering families with children wristbands to write their phone numbers on in case they got separated. With a record breaking attendance of 480,000 across the weekend, it’s perhaps unsurprising that some visitors felt a tad overwhelmed. Erin, my Assistance Dog, was on hand to provide comfort (and she loves cuddles anyway).
As the sun came out in the afternoon, we were moved to the information point gazebo. My supervisor always had Erin’s welfare in mind, and I was grateful to be in the shade too as I struggle to thermoregulate. We had a steady stream of visitors asking for directions; where they could charge their phones; refill water bottles etc. The best question though, asked to my colleague, was ‘where’s my car?’. How he resisted the urge to reply with ‘wherever you left it’ I have no idea! (He was able to give her some guidance based on which gate she entered through.)
After the crowds thinned, we were stood down. Some of the volunteers stayed on to attend the concert in the evening, but I needed to recoup some energy ready for the next day,
On the Sunday I was paired with a volunteer I hadn’t met before, but we quickly became friends. We worked on the information point again in the morning. Erin got a lot of attention from people who were missing their own dogs – visitors and event staff alike.
During our break we saw the Red Arrows display and I could feel the atmosphere starting to build as ‘lights out’ approached.
We were fortunate enough to be redeployed to the National Pit Straight grandstand in the afternoon, assisting on the accessible viewing platform. The roar of the crowd as Lando Norris took the lead was fantastic. The atmosphere was amazing. That moment epitomised why I love motorsport.
(Don’t worry about Erin’s ears. She had her special doggy ear defenders on and was so content she fell asleep on my foot.)
After the race we ensured that the grandstand was cleared safely. We also had to stop some spectators who were trying to take some of the boards from around the track. Fortunately they are a very small minority. After that we had a short debrief and thanks from our supervisor, and that concluded my weekend. I would have loved to have stayed for the evening entertainment but I was absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally. It took me almost a week to recover, but it was worth it.
MotoGP was a completely different experience. It was great fun, just a very different type of fanbase and general atmosphere.
I spent most of the day as a roving Race Maker, as my supervisor was keen for me to experience as many aspects of the role as possible. I was answering visitor’s queries, giving directions, and relieving other volunteers so they could have a break. The wet weather produced some challenges of its own, and we had to get creative with the emergency ponchos to keep my wheelchair dry(ish). It was much quieter than the F1 weekend, so I also had a chance to catch up with some RM friends from last year. At the end of the day I was stationed by one of the gates as part of a small group saying goodbye to the visitors. It was a nice way to conclude my duties…until next time.
I’ve always thought of myself as quite a reserved introvert. It came as a surprise to me that I really enjoyed working in customer service. Don’t get me wrong, the F1 was intense due to the sheer number of people, and I definitely needed some quiet time to recover. It was important to me that I was as involved as my able-bodied counterparts.
I love being part of the Race Maker family and I’m looking forward to my next event.