650 Indian marshals, 7,000 applicants, one grand prix

The Indian Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) may be struggling to stay on the Formula 1 calendar beyond 2013 but that hasn’t dampened local interest in becoming a marshal for the race in October.

Becoming a host of a Formula 1 Grand Prix is no easy task and aside from the investments, infrastructure and amenities, training is a critical step in the process of accommodating teams, press, fans, sponsors, vendors and more. In 2012, the US Grand Prix in Austin hired the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to manage a few of the more complex details of the race weekend.

The same has been true for BIC with 250 of 850 marshals in the inaugural year (2011) coming from Bahrain. In 2012, Bahrain sent only 100 marshals and this year will mark the first in which the entire marshaling crew will be comprised of Indian applicants.

It takes time and training to manage a race correctly and with lives on the line, it is critical to get it right. High-speed crashes, debris, errant wheels are all part of the risk a marshal takes but this year’s Canadian Grand Prix taught us that even the seemingly simple task of craning away a stalled car can be fatal to a race marshal.

In 2011 there were 2,000 local applications made for a marshal position. In 2012 that number rose to 4,800 and this year the co-founder of Indian Motosport Marshals Club, Prabha Shankar had to wade through 7,000 applications. NDTV has the story:

“We have come into F1 late but we are improving rapidly. Initially, the FIA (world governing body of motorsports) had advised us to take outside help for three years but they are now satisfied with the personnel we have in India. It is a huge confidence booster for us and it doesn’t mean we are going to get complacent,”

While the future may look uncertain for the Indian Grand Prix, 650 Indian volunteers will pull on the marshaling uniform and present the first all-Indian marshaling crew since the grand prix began. The training and coordination involved is not an easy task and the risk is high but marshals are often overlooked as a crucial element to any grand prix weekend and it says a lot about the efforts India has put into equipping their local folks for the position as well as garnered interest in the grand prix itself.

Having an all-Indian crew is a source of pride for the Indian Grand Prix but the bigger question may be, what will they be doing in 2014 if rumors of the grand prix come true and the race is not held?

Have you volunteered to be a marshal at a racing event? What was the experience like for you? We’ve spoken with a few folks who thought it would be a great way to get close to the race only to find that it is a heck of a lot of work and they didn’t really get to follow the race like they thought they would. Lesson learned.

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