Walking Amongst Ghosts

Last weekend was my last trackside.  The Donington Park ES team organised a meal (pie, good) and kept the Donington Collection open late for marshal’s to look round after a weekend of racing with the BRSCC.  I’ve not been since I was diddy, and having learned so much about racing history and F1 it was pretty heavy-hitting.

I realised later that I’d taken a number of photos of cars belonging to drivers who’d died behind the wheel.  That might sound grim; that’s because it is.  I see a Jochen Rindt Lotus 72, and I go WOAH!  Then I remember he died in one at Monza and I realise how much I can overreact emotionally.  I mean, like, tears.

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I bimbled round, until I was the last person there and the manager (elderly gent) came round to check no-one was hiding in the footwell of a V8 BRM.  I helped him lock up, and we passed the display of Roger Williamson cars and various-abilia.

“Tom was heartbroken when he was killed.”

Roger was a protegé of Tom Wheatcroft, who owned Donington and the collection.  He died when his F1 car rolled and caught fire.  Another driver, David Purley, pulled up and tried to right the car and fight the fire.  Marshal’s didn’t have fire-retardent overalls, few fire extinguishers and the track’s fire tender took eight minutes to reach the accident… once it was released… whilst the race continued.

I’ve seen the footage, but I won’t watch it again.  Above the terror, and the anguish, and the sadness, I feel pissed off.

“Learning about that accident was one of the things that inspired me to take up marshalling.”

“Tom would’ve liked that.”

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Earlier on, at the Old Hairpin, we had a Volkswagen Golf hit the gravel trap and roll three or four times before hitting the barrier and coming to rest on its side.  I arrived on the scene 30 seconds later, with an incident officer in direct radio contact with race control, smelling fuel but with a fire extinguisher in my hands.  The electrics were isolated.  A rescue unit with paramedics, extrication tools and a doctor/surgeon arrived 30 seconds later.  The driver climbed out and walked away.  The car didn’t catch fire.

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