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Thoughts arising from the recollections of those who were present on the day Jo Siffert was killed


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#1 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 15:15

Might I ask a question that has long floated around in my thoughts on motorsport history but which were crystallised by reading the memories of those who were at Brands that day 50 years ago?  As an enthusiast of motorsport history of a (slightly) more recent vintage, one of the few aspects of how motor racing functioned during the later 1960s and early 1970s that has confused me for years is why it was felt necessary to provide marshals with extinguishers yet NOT necessary to ensure that they were useable.  One might as well have said "we'll make seatbelts a legal requirement in road cars, but we'll tell the manufacturers that they can make them out of chocolate box tray plastic and waxed paper if they want".  Why did it take the efforts of JYS, Lord Louis of Trumpington and Jo Bonnier amongst others to make people understand that an inoperative extinguisher is an entirely pointless item, and that, in order for it to be of assistance, it needs to be operated by someone with at least some idea of how it operates?  I can't help wondering whether those in power viewed extinguishers are mere window dressing or whether they living in a past in which drivers were rarely trapped in burning cars (though British officials of a certain vintage must surely have recalled Richard Seaman) and therefore failed to grasp the need for effective provision. 



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#2 john winfield

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 15:46

Circuit safety had a slow, painful evolution as far as I remember. It wasn't a priority for circuit owners, nor for us spectators.  In Jo's case I know the fire marshal involved was distraught at what happened - I don't know if all of the track extinguishers were tested, a sample, or none.  Brands at least did seem to have supplied some marshalls with fireproof clothing, and there's a shot I remember from the 1971 BOAC race where a privateer Ferrari 512 is being doused in foam after a pits conflagration. Was Big Lou's condemnation of Brands Hatch fair or not? Probably, I can't recall. (I was at Clearways that day, aged 14. It struck me, as the ambulance made its way out on to the A20, how hopelessly old-fashioned it seemed, compared to the high-tech machinery on the track,   And I think photos at Hawthorns show St. John's Ambulance volunteers doing their best. Awful in retrospect.)

 

The Brands tragedy seemed to raise interest in fire marshalling (I picture Francois Cevert at one demonstration) but it clearly wasn't embraced worldwide - in 1973 Zandvoort still seemed scandalously under-equipped, and inadequate training of marshals was a major factor in Tom Pryce's death at Kyalami in 1977.

 

It took years to make any serious change.  Bob Anderson died at Silverstone in 1967 in part because the circuit allowed private testing with no medical facility present. It seems astonishing now but were things much better at Paul Ricard in 1986 when Elio de Angelis crashed? And Patrick Depailler was allowed to test the Alfa at Hockenheim in 1980 despite the catch fencing being rolled up against the barrier.  But Patrick probably didn't give a damn - things were a bit different then.

 

Going back to the original question, you would think that the high-profile, fiery death of Lorenzo Bandini in 1967, and tragic incidents involving Eddie Sachs, Dave MacDonald, Peter Proctor, Bo Pittard etc. would have been enough to ensure responsible circuit and safety management.  Sadly it took Jackie Stewart to really begin the change along, arguably, with the impact on Formula 1 of Lauda's near-fatal crash at the Nurburgring in 1976. 


Edited by john winfield, 22 October 2021 - 15:56.


#3 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 16:12

Circuit safety had a slow, painful evolution as far as I remember. It wasn't a priority for circuit owners, nor for us spectators.  In Jo's case I know the fire marshal involved was distraught at what happened - I don't know if all of the track extinguishers were tested, a sample, or none.  Brands at least did seem to have supplied some marshalls with fireproof clothing, and there's a shot I remember from the 1971 BOAC race where a privateer Ferrari 512 is being doused in foam after a pits conflagration. Was Big Lou's condemnation of Brands Hatch fair or not? Probably, I can't recall. (I was at Clearways that day, aged 14. It struck me, as the ambulance made its way out on to the A20, how hopelessly old-fashioned it seemed, compared to the high-tech machinery on the track,   And I think photos at Hawthorns show St. John's Ambulance volunteers doing their best. Awful in retrospect.)

 

The Brands tragedy seemed to raise interest in fire marshalling (I picture Francois Cevert at one demonstration) but it clearly wasn't embraced worldwide - in 1973 Zandvoort still seemed scandalously under-equipped, and inadequate training of marshals was a major factor in Tom Pryce's death at Kyalami in 1977.

 

It took years to make any serious change.  Bob Anderson died at Silverstone in 1967 in part because the circuit allowed private testing with no medical facility present. It seems astonishing now but were things much better at Paul Ricard in 1986 when Elio de Angelis crashed? And Patrick Depailler was allowed to test the Alfa at Hockenheim in 1980 despite the catch fencing being rolled up against the barrier.  But Patrick probably didn't give a damn - things were a bit different then.

 

Going back to the original question, you would think that the high-profile, fiery death of Lorenzo Bandini in 1967, and tragic incidents involving Eddie Sachs, Dave MacDonald, Peter Proctor, Bo Pittard etc. would have been enough to ensure responsible circuit and safety management.  Sadly it took Jackie Stewart to really change things along, arguably, with the impact on Formula 1 of Lauda's near-fatal crash at the Nurburgring in 1976.

Thanks John.  I certainly understand that the over-riding importance of circuit safety for drivers was a concept that required a cultural shift from "it's a dangerous sport - they know the risks" to something closer to modern approaches.  What I'm thinking about is that it always seemed strange to me that there was obviously an understanding that providing extinguishers to marshals was A Good Idea, yet I read so often in accounts of accidents that extinguishers were either inadequate in capacity or were so old that their contents had long since solidified or degraded.  In addition, there is criticism of marshal training, though not in here in the UK where it seemed to be more of a priority, such as in the Schlesser crash at Rouen where water was poured onto burning magnesium despite the evident results of such a policy being counter-productive (massive showers of molten, burning fragments flying towards the marshals) though, for me, nothing is as ridiculous as footage of Spanish marshals hosing-down Ickx's Ferrari from the inside of a hairpin and actually spraying Jack Brabham's shoulder as he came past while failing to direct much of the flow onto the car that was on fire.  Given that this accident did not cause much long-term damage, it can perhaps be viewed with a degree of amusement, but the almost silent-film comedy ridiculousness of it makes me wonder who was volunteering for marshalling duty at some of these circuits in period and whether their training consisted of anything more than "stand there and do what the guy next to you does".


Edited by cpbell, 22 October 2021 - 16:13.


#4 opplock

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 16:21

In addition, there is criticism of marshal training, though not in here in the UK where it seemed to be more of a priority, such as in the Schlesser crash at Rouen where water was poured onto burning magnesium despite the evident results of such a policy being counter-productive (massive showers of molten, burning fragments flying towards the marshals)

 

I'm told by British marshals who officiate at Le Mans that the Service Pompiers are the only people allowed to deal with fires at French circuits. It may have been different in 1968 but I very much doubt that anyone would have been trained to deal with a magnesium fire or indeed have known of a particular car's construction. 



#5 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 16:23

I'm told by British marshals who officiate at Le Mans that the Service Pompiers are the only people allowed to deal with fires at French circuits. It may have been different in 1968 but I very much doubt that anyone would have been trained to deal with a magnesium fire or indeed have known of a particular car's construction. 

Interesting - thanks.



#6 Sterzo

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 16:48

As a supplement to John Winfield's comments, I think we should take into account that the world outside motor racing was different then too. All things develop, and the attitude to risk and safety has changed enormously - change which is often derided even today. ("Health and safety gone mad").

 

For example, I doubt that fire extinguishers in work places were regularly checked to ensure they functioned, and electrical equipment which today must be checked by law simply wasn't in those days. Observance of regulations was patchy even where they existed. I remember an architect telling me the most common use of fire extinguishers in work places was to prop the fire doors open. Go further back to the thirties and my uncle had a rare skill - he could drive - so was made an ambulance driver. He soon gave it up, feeling he should have been given first aid training but wasn't. Even in the seventies, there are horror stories of injured racing drivers being manhandled into crude ambulances and taken to primitive hospitals.

 

In the sixties we in the UK kept being told British marshals were the best. I watched horrified as they ran across the track to a stopped car at Clearways during a Brands 1000k (or 500 mile) race. I had no training but thought that was not a good arrangement. In the seventies a friend chatted to a marshal at a Snetterton clubbie. The marshal was impressed by his knowledge and said they were short of marshals that day, so if he'd like to help out, he could get him an armband. At the risk of being howled down by marshals, I do think their amateur status did not positively assist progress, and may well have hampered it.

 

Behind the apparent neglect we should also recognise what appeared to be the sheer hopelessness of the situation. Cars crashed and caught fire. What on earth could you do, short of banning racing? Some burnt beyond the reach of the widely-spaced marshals at the Nurburgring. In 1976 there was a lonely - and dare I say less than agile - marshal sat high on the hillside above the ascent to the Karussel during F1 practice. It would have taken him minutes to reach the nearest section of track. The solution was, we stopped using the Ring...

 

One of the few good things to come out of Ecclestone's "loadsamoney" approach to racing was a willingness to spend on safety.


Edited by Sterzo, 22 October 2021 - 16:50.


#7 john aston

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 17:05

I was a marshal between 1969 and 75 , primarily at speed events , but also at the odd race meeting up to and including F1 . I started at 16 , had next to no training and the only time I tried to operate an extinguisher it didn't work. I wore hopelessly useless clothing (eg an oiled cotton coat ) and , seen through a 2021 prism , Seventies motorsport safety was an oxymoron. But it is entirely wrong to think of it thus - in fact , it was safer than it had ever been before , with huge strides having been made  , especially in the previous decade. Look  at any accounts of pre - and immediately post war motorsport and deaths of drivers and spectators were much more common. Critically it was also accepted that death and injury were an inevitable part of the sport . Don't for a minute think that a fatalistic attitude was confined to the sport , because by our modern standards , society  had a shockingly laisser faire attitude . 

 

As an example , consider the multiple fatalities - 29 dead and many more hurt at Farnborough air show in 1952 when a DH 110 crashed . The show went on after a short break to clear up some of the mess and that wasn't seen as unusual . See also Le Mans 1955 . By 1971 it was already unthinkable that such apparent callousness would be accepted. Sure , in 1971 we had plenty of road deaths   but actually about the same level as in the 1930s -yet we had over ten times more vehicles . A Triumph Herald  may have had  very poor crash protection by our standards but compared to an Austin Seven it was hugely safer - effective  brakes, a collapsible steering column and even seat belts . 

 

As a teenager I realised that  Denis Jenkinson and his  fellow dinosaurs were massively out of step with the way society was moving - it seemed unfathomable to me and my peer group that they opposed even basic moves to make the sport safer , as if accepting the risk of being killed or maimed was the manly thing to do . In short, by 1971 we were already on the way to making the sport much  safer - but there was still a long way to travel, we just didn't know how far . And we still don't , of course . 


Edited by john aston, 22 October 2021 - 17:08.


#8 john winfield

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 17:10

 

In the sixties we in the UK kept being told British marshals were the best. I watched horrified as they ran across the track to a stopped car at Clearways during a Brands 1000k (or 500 mile) race. I had no training but thought that was not a good arrangement. In the seventies a friend chatted to a marshal at a Snetterton clubbie. The marshal was impressed by his knowledge and said they were short of marshals that day, so if he'd like to help out, he could get him an armband. At the risk of being howled down by marshals, I do think their amateur status did not positively assist progress, and may well have hampered it.

 

 

 

Existing film footage shows how dangerous marshalling was in the early 1970s. Two incidents at Brands Hatch come to mind including, perhaps, the one Sterzo remembers. At the end of the first lap of the 1970 BOAC 1000km, Barrie Smith lost his Lola T70 on Top Straight, unsurprisingly really as the team only had two rain tyres. Unprotected marshals raced across the track and were manhandling the car and clearing the debris when, as far as I remember, the leading 917s and 512s came slithering round on the second lap. Terrifying.

Two years later, at the Grand Prix, Henri Pescarolo destroyed the Politoys at Dingle Dell and again, the marshals are trying to lug the chassis off the track when Ickx, Fittipaldi and the rest reappear from Hawthorns.  :eek:



#9 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 17:19

As a supplement to John Winfield's comments, I think we should take into account that the world outside motor racing was different then too. All things develop, and the attitude to risk and safety has changed enormously - change which is often derided even today. ("Health and safety gone mad").

 

For example, I doubt that fire extinguishers in work places were regularly checked to ensure they functioned, and electrical equipment which today must be checked by law simply wasn't in those days. Observance of regulations was patchy even where they existed. I remember an architect telling me the most common use of fire extinguishers in work places was to prop the fire doors open. Go further back to the thirties and my uncle had a rare skill - he could drive - so was made an ambulance driver. He soon gave it up, feeling he should have been given first aid training but wasn't. Even in the seventies, there are horror stories of injured racing drivers being manhandled into crude ambulances and taken to primitive hospitals.

 

In the sixties we in the UK kept being told British marshals were the best. I watched horrified as they ran across the track to a stopped car at Clearways during a Brands 1000k (or 500 mile) race. I had no training but thought that was not a good arrangement. In the seventies a friend chatted to a marshal at a Snetterton clubbie. The marshal was impressed by his knowledge and said they were short of marshals that day, so if he'd like to help out, he could get him an armband. At the risk of being howled down by marshals, I do think their amateur status did not positively assist progress, and may well have hampered it.

 

Behind the apparent neglect we should also recognise what appeared to be the sheer hopelessness of the situation. Cars crashed and caught fire. What on earth could you do, short of banning racing? Some burnt beyond the reach of the widely-spaced marshals at the Nurburgring. In 1976 there was a lonely - and dare I say less than agile - marshal sat high on the hillside above the ascent to the Karussel during F1 practice. It would have taken him minutes to reach the nearest section of track. The solution was, we stopped using the Ring...

 

One of the few good things to come out of Ecclestone's "loadsamoney" approach to racing was a willingness to spend on safety.

Good points.  I'm in my early 40s, and some of the things that I recall from the past that seemed OK then would be considered careless now.  I've said before (not here) that I think British society started taking safety seriously as a consequence of the series of disasters that took place in the late '80s and the findings that resulted from inquiries.



#10 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 17:24

I was a marshal between 1969 and 75 , primarily at speed events , but also at the odd race meeting up to and including F1 . I started at 16 , had next to no training and the only time I tried to operate an extinguisher it didn't work. I wore hopelessly useless clothing (eg an oiled cotton coat ) and , seen through a 2021 prism , Seventies motorsport safety was an oxymoron. But it is entirely wrong to think of it thus - in fact , it was safer than it had ever been before , with huge strides having been made  , especially in the previous decade. Look  at any accounts of pre - and immediately post war motorsport and deaths of drivers and spectators were much more common. Critically it was also accepted that death and injury were an inevitable part of the sport . Don't for a minute think that a fatalistic attitude was confined to the sport , because by our modern standards , society  had a shockingly laisser faire attitude . 

 

As an example , consider the multiple fatalities - 29 dead and many more hurt at Farnborough air show in 1952 when a DH 110 crashed . The show went on after a short break to clear up some of the mess and that wasn't seen as unusual . See also Le Mans 1955 . By 1971 it was already unthinkable that such apparent callousness would be accepted. Sure , in 1971 we had plenty of road deaths   but actually about the same level as in the 1930s -yet we had over ten times more vehicles . A Triumph Herald  may have had  very poor crash protection by our standards but compared to an Austin Seven it was hugely safer - effective  brakes, a collapsible steering column and even seat belts . 

 

As a teenager I realised that  Denis Jenkinson and his  fellow dinosaurs were massively out of step with the way society was moving - it seemed unfathomable to me and my peer group that they opposed even basic moves to make the sport safer , as if accepting the risk of being killed or maimed was the manly thing to do . In short, by 1971 we were already on the way to making the sport much  safer - but there was still a long way to travel, we just didn't know how far . And we still don't , of course . 

Fascinating stuff, thanks John.  I bought the volume on the BMRMC back when it first appeared and it seemed to describe a set-up that was professional (in terms of training if not remuneration) and well-equipped, and this didn't really correlate with some of the stuff I'd read elsewhere.  Was training a case of "nothing much formal, but we put the youngsters with an experienced group and they learn on the job"?



#11 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 17:32

Existing film footage shows how dangerous marshalling was in the early 1970s. Two incidents at Brands Hatch come to mind including, perhaps, the one Sterzo remembers. At the end of the first lap of the 1970 BOAC 1000km, Barrie Smith lost his Lola T70 on Top Straight, unsurprisingly really as the team only had two rain tyres. Unprotected marshals raced across the track and were manhandling the car and clearing the debris when, as far as I remember, the leading 917s and 512s came slithering round on the second lap. Terrifying.

 

I saw that the other week - it's in a BRSCC year review film that is on Youtube.  The commentary suggested that quick response and getting the driver out quickly (presumably in the expectation of fire) was the priority, and placing marshals at great risk was an unfortunate by-product.



#12 2F-001

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 17:42

In accounts looking back at the aforementioned 1955 Le Mans tragedy, we often hear it said that one reason for leaving the race running was because huge numbers of spectators leaving en masse might block access for help and medical aid and ambulances coming and going. Was this actually a prime consideration at the time - or is it post-rationalization?

 

(That is not meant as a loaded question, by the way.)



#13 LodgeCorner

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 18:04

I was there that day as a 16 year old, watching at Paddock Hill Bend. Having watched races, mainly at Oulton Park, I was at that time struck by how quick marshals seemed to react and were prepared to put themselves in danger when incidents happened. Compared to today it was clearly very dangerous and, dare I say, stupid.But as someone else has pointed out life then was different. I, and a similar aged friend, had traveled down from the north west on the overnight coach to London and then the Green Line to Brands. I wouldn't let a 16 year old of mine do that today!

 

My overriding memory of that accident though was the terrible pall of smoke appearing above the trees and then the circuit going quiet as the engines were stopped.

 

With regard to fire marshals I can also recall that Oulton made a big thing at one Gold Cup (perhaps 1971) of having fire marshals in silver fireproof suits (that looked like space suits). One can be seen in this clip, around 2.11 in.

 



#14 john winfield

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 18:05

I saw that the other week - it's in a BRSCC year review film that is on Youtube.  The commentary suggested that quick response and getting the driver out quickly (presumably in the expectation of fire) was the priority, and placing marshals at great risk was an unfortunate by-product.

 

1970 BOAC  3m 10 to 3m 50.

 

 

 

Here's the 1972 GP footage, including some firefighting.  15m 05 to 18m 30.  Marshalls certainly got close to the action!

 



#15 Doug Nye

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 18:23

My memories of that really bad day at Brands are highly coloured by a really unfortunate reflex occurrence in the pits about an hour after the race had been stopped. I was with three or four other scribblers and we knew that Seppi was dead.  We were standing, numbed really, by the Paddock Bend end of the pit block, at the foot of the control tower.  A BRM mechanic, his face white as parchment, was wheeling a stack of tyre-shod wheels on a trolley, past us to a team van which was parked on the infield service road.  Just as he passed, someone said something to me to which I reacted with a totally involuntary and nervous burst of laughter.  

 

At that moment the mechanic - and I cannot recall who it was - shot me an entirely justified direct eye-contact glance of utter, anguished, total disgust.

 

That involuntary guffaw of mine was instantly silenced.  And I felt TERRIBLE...and whenever reminded of that day, and thereby of this incident, I still do.

 

DCN



#16 opplock

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 18:24

I recall reading that Duncan Hamilton's reaction to being asked about the dangers of motor racing was "The thing you have to remember dear boy is that for the first time in years nobody was shooting at us". 

 

Those in authority in the sport during 50s and 60s are likely to have served in one if not both world wars. The casualty rate in motor racing would not have seemed excessive (if that is an appropriate word) given their experiences.      



#17 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 18:41

1970 BOAC  3m 10 to 3m 50.

 

 

 

Here's the 1972 GP footage, including some firefighting.  15m 05 to 18m 30.  Marshalls certainly got close to the action!

 

That first video was the one, thanks John!



#18 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 18:44

My memories of that really bad day at Brands are highly coloured by a really unfortunate reflex occurrence in the pits about an hour after the race had been stopped. I was with three or four other scribblers and we knew that Seppi was dead.  We were standing, numbed really, by the Paddock Bend end of the pit block, at the foot of the control tower.  A BRM mechanic, his face white as parchment, was wheeling a stack of tyre-shod wheels on a trolley, past us to a team van which was parked on the infield service road.  Just as he passed, someone said something to me to which I reacted with a totally involuntary and nervous burst of laughter.  

 

At that moment the mechanic - and I cannot recall who it was - shot me an entirely justified direct eye-contact glance of utter, anguished, total disgust.

 

That involuntary guffaw of mine was instantly silenced.  And I felt TERRIBLE...and whenever reminded of that day, and thereby of this incident, I still do.

 

DCN

Oh dear, sorry to have brought back such an unpleasant recollection, Doug.



#19 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 18:46

I recall reading that Duncan Hamilton's reaction to being asked about the dangers of motor racing was "The thing you have to remember dear boy is that for the first time in years nobody was shooting at us". 

 

Those in authority in the sport during 50s and 60s are likely to have served in one if not both world wars. The casualty rate in motor racing would not have seemed excessive (if that is an appropriate word) given their experiences.      

I suppose it was a generational matter - JYS's generation barely recalled the war and therefore didn't have the same approach to casualties as the administrators who were still of the D. Hamilton mindset.



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#20 opplock

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 19:07

I suppose it was a generational matter - JYS's generation barely recalled the war and therefore didn't have the same approach to casualties as the administrators who were still of the D. Hamilton mindset.

 

That's the way I look at it. My dad was secretary of meeting for motorcycle racing in New Zealand. I don't recall any really serious incidents in the years I attended but I'm sure his view would have been that those competing were doing so from choice unlike his elder brother who suffered a blighty wound in North Africa (lived to 94) or his younger brother who died in a motorcycle accident while on national service in 1946. 

 

I think it unfair to judge people by today's standards. Not a fashionable view at present. 



#21 cpbell

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Posted 22 October 2021 - 19:33

 

 

I think it unfair to judge people by today's standards. Not a fashionable view at present. 

Agreed.



#22 john aston

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 07:08

Fascinating stuff, thanks John.  I bought the volume on the BMRMC back when it first appeared and it seemed to describe a set-up that was professional (in terms of training if not remuneration) and well-equipped, and this didn't really correlate with some of the stuff I'd read elsewhere.  Was training a case of "nothing much formal, but we put the youngsters with an experienced group and they learn on the job"?

 I still have the book somewhere -' How to run a Motor Race '. Full of serious and useful advice from the blokes in pullovers and ties who made up the bedrock of marshalling then . It was an early step in introducing proper safety measures and sensible risk management (as we didn't call it then ). I had no training per se apart from one session after I'd already been marshalling a year or two.  My only kit was an armband . We did things that would never happen now , such as push starting cars, and in my case acting as 'chock man ' on speed event starts without ear protection . Unsilenced cars with anything up to a DFV or a smallblock  Chevy V8 were dangerously loud but I loved it , even if I now need to use the subtitles on TV ...It was Bad Form to cross the track during a race but running to crashed cars under yellow flags (ignored ) was normal - no safety car or Code 60 then,

 

The past is a different country - and our present will be just the same to any motorsport fans left in 2070.   


Edited by john aston, 23 October 2021 - 07:09.


#23 DouglasM

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 08:35

I track marshaled at many, many races in the 70's. Everything from Silverstone GP's to clubbies at Lydden Hill and Snetterton, even the Rothman's 500 at Brands, and various BOAC things there. I did many BRSCC training days at Brands, they were informative and gave me practice in tackling real petrol fires as part of a four marshal team. At some meets, four marshals on a post was a rarity, I've been observer, flag, fire and track marshal all at the same time at Snetterton. There were notices around the circuit 'Motor Racing is Dangerous', and we knew that and respected all the drivers. Looking back' I'm surprised there was so few fires, I never saw one.

Just remember a gallon of petrol can make a huge fire, training days at Brands showed us that. We were told that It's not the heat that kills the driver but the lack of oxygen, so getting it out or them out was the priority, No time to waste, just knock the fire down with powder and keep it down with foam, while extracting the driver as the fire could start again. No fire proof suits but thick jeans, a woolly jumper and boots sufficed.

A memorable moment was at Brands during a lunch break on the bank, as we were munching on our customary cheese and pickle sarnies a 'flaggie' opened a box and produced a green thing and scooped the insides out with a teaspoon and devoured it. I'd seen anything like this before. 'It's an avocado.', he informed this sarnie muncher. Strange what you remember!     



#24 cpbell

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 10:08

I track marshaled at many, many races in the 70's. Everything from Silverstone GP's to clubbies at Lydden Hill and Snetterton, even the Rothman's 500 at Brands, and various BOAC things there. I did many BRSCC training days at Brands, they were informative and gave me practice in tackling real petrol fires as part of a four marshal team. At some meets, four marshals on a post was a rarity, I've been observer, flag, fire and track marshal all at the same time at Snetterton. There were notices around the circuit 'Motor Racing is Dangerous', and we knew that and respected all the drivers. Looking back' I'm surprised there was so few fires, I never saw one.

Just remember a gallon of petrol can make a huge fire, training days at Brands showed us that. We were told that It's not the heat that kills the driver but the lack of oxygen, so getting it out or them out was the priority, No time to waste, just knock the fire down with powder and keep it down with foam, while extracting the driver as the fire could start again. No fire proof suits but thick jeans, a woolly jumper and boots sufficed.

A memorable moment was at Brands during a lunch break on the bank, as we were munching on our customary cheese and pickle sarnies a 'flaggie' opened a box and produced a green thing and scooped the insides out with a teaspoon and devoured it. I'd seen anything like this before. 'It's an avocado.', he informed this sarnie muncher. Strange what you remember!     

Thanks for your recollections - very atmospheric!  It sounds as though your training was more comprehensive than John's - maybe the increasing speed of the cars and the commensurately more violent accidents had shown that the sort of common sense stuff that had sufficed in the old days was no longer appropriate by the time you were marshalling?



#25 Doug Nye

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 12:12

I don't think it should be taken as read that all modern marshal training is superb while all old-time marshal training was grossly deficient.

 

I witnessed a roll-over crash a few years ago in which a car landed upside down and then slid backwards on a fairly soft grass verge before coming to rest still upside down.  Marshals attended very quickly but couldn't get any words from the driver, upside down in the cockpit. As I understand it, they therefore followed their training to await arrival of the meeting's medical car and qualified medics to assess his condition before doing anything to right the car.

 

What they didn't appreciate was that as the inverted car had slid backwards, the driver's crash helmet had been forced forward over his head, pulling its chin-strap garrott-tight up into his throat.  Trapped upside down in the cockpit, he was suffocating.  And with the car forcing him down into the verge he could do nothing to ease the chin-strap's pressure.  Since the car's fuel tank had an inversion valve in the filler neck there was no leak, so fire was not considered an imminent threat.  The marshals seemed to have decided, we will wait, therefore, for the extraction experts...

 

It took the energetic intervention of a passing driver - who parked and ran to assist - to spark a dynamic move to tip the car slightly, whereupon the still-inverted driver could at last move his head, release the chin-strap pressure on his throat and - with a great gasping intake of breath - realise that perhaps he might, after all, survive this one...

 

When we did the Classic Adelaide Rally for 13 years, we used to have to sit through a fairly graphic medical briefing, including a film on what to do should we encounter a fellow competitor's car crashed in the middle of a remote special stage.  It was, of course, all about preventing them from suffocating - i.e. ensuring they had a clear airway - preventing them from suffering cardiac failure (thus losing 'oil pressure', as they put it) - and sealing any leaks (as of blood).  We were shown how to fold any available paperwork into a tube if necessary, then fold that tube around a victim's neck as a handy temporary neck brace.  The dangers of spinal injuries were emphasised to us, and there was enormous emphasis placed upon keeping the victims immobilised and still seated in the wrecked car until proper medical help would surely arrive.

 

The briefing officer went on and on about not moving the victims, keeping them immobilised was keeping them safe...

 

This bothered me a little, so I raised my hand and asked, "What if the car's on fire?".

 

The answer was crisp, and to the point: "On fire?  Ooh, then you just drag the bastard out!".

 

Aussies.  God Bless Them.

 

DCN



#26 sstiel

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 14:03

There's a video online you can find where it, distressingly shows the accident. But while it plays, Jackie Stewart is talking and recounts a weeping spectator pleading with him to retire from motorsport. The spectator had seen the accident and said what he said to JYS.


Edited by sstiel, 23 October 2021 - 18:36.


#27 RAP

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 18:33

"Behind the apparent neglect we should also recognise what appeared to be the sheer hopelessness of the situation. Cars crashed and caught fire. What on earth could you do, short of banning racing?"

 

My uncle was a fire precaution expert in the Ministry of Aviation involved in certifying aircraft fire suppression systems. He was not particularly interested in motor racing but sometime in the late 60s the news coverage of various motor racing fires prompted him to write to someone offering his expertise.  I no longer recall who he wrote to, but I know that he never got an answer. I wonder how many drivers might have been saved if aircraft systems knowledge had been introduced earlier.

RAP



#28 Perruqueporte

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Posted 23 October 2021 - 21:10

I was there, and it was a dreadful end to what, until then, had been a wonderful year of motorsport for me. My chums and I had seen Siffert win in the BRM in Austria, and had been at Monza when Peter Gethin’s BRM had also been victorious. And it was the year when I first had a go at competing on four wheels, in a kart.

The shock of what happened is still with me. On that day, I was accompanied by a friend who had never been to a motor race. He was a soccer fan and had taken me to Highbury to watch Arsenal play, and in return he came to Brands to see what I had been wittering on about. We watched the earlier races from the end of Top Straight and then began walking around the circuit. We were just walking away from Hawthorn’s when Siffert crashed, and we witnessed the horrible shambles that followed. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember seeing any of the fire extinguishers actually working. My friend and I didn’t hang around after that. We made our way back to the car park and left the circuit.

With the reports that followed, came for me the realisation that it wasn’t the crash that had killed Jo Siffert, it wasn’t the car and above all, it wasn’t Siffert himself. At that age - I was 18 - I didn’t have the wherewithal to put into words what had gone wrong: the fact that the woefully inadequate management culture within our sport had been responsible for his death. I can’t begin to imagine how the marshalls at the scene felt - they must have been traumatised, likewise all of the volunteer officials around the circuit.

Jo Siffert had won the the first grand prix that I had seen, and on that glorious day at Brands in 1968 he became a hero to me. His loss and the fact that I had been right there to see it, didn’t make me lose interest in the sport, but it did make me realise that safety is everybody’s responsibility, and we all have to accept that responsibility proactively.

I was reminded of that day’s failures at the beginning of this year’s indigenous UK season, when the regs for my current discipline - sprinting and hillclimbing - asked us competitors to declare for the first time, when our fire extinguishers had last been serviced (scrutineering in the Covid era is by self-declaration, and the hand-held extinguishers permitted in historic machinery don’t have to be “in date”). I was embarrassed to realise that I had never had the extinguishers in any of my cars serviced.

Christopher W.

#29 john aston

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 06:17

Fire is thankfully such a rare sight in the sport now, and when it occurs it is almost always extinguished quickly and without undue drama . Almost .... I was at British GT race about three years ago at Oulton when a Ginetta G55 came to a halt on the infield at Deer Leap . Already on fire - driver ok but the car burned to a crisp over the next 15minutes . Every time the flames were nearly put out , up it went again , despite the best efforts of marshals. It may have been common back in the day but it was shocking to see a serious fire now . 



#30 SamoanAttorney

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 07:15

Fifty years ago I travelled to Brands Hatch to see my heroes race............

 

I scribbled my thoughts on 1971 a while back.

 

http://www.doubledeclutch.com/?p=3565



#31 Nick Planas

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 07:20

I used to think it was somewhat pretentious when marshals started to appear in what looked like last year's driver suits (late '80s, early 90s?) - thinking they were just wannabe drivers trying to look important - that was my mindset back then as a casual observer and ex-FF 'driver'. Then one of them told me in passing that he felt so much more able to tackle anything an accident might throw at him, and a massive penny dropped. I've always been impressed at how quickly they reacted, often running towards the accident while it was still happening. 

 

Does anyone here with marshalling experience remember whether those overalls were actual hand-me-downs from teams, etc (I seem to remember seeing a couple of guys in the previous year's Arrows F1 branding) or whether they were supplied brand spanking new.



#32 Catalina Park

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 08:47

Aussies.  God Bless Them.

 

As my racing career was winding down I did a bit of driving at racing circuits driving doctors and paramedics in a First Intervention Vehicle (FIV). 
One of the briefings I attended went something like this...
"Just a reminder, nobody dies at the track, they die on their way to hospital. This is important, if someone dies at the track it means the police are immediately involved and racing will be suspended and we don't want that. Even if they're obviously dead just make it look like they're still alive when you stick them in the ambulance"
"What if their head gets knocked off?" 
"Just see if anyone is looking and try and slip it back on if you can get away with it."



#33 Ray Bell

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 12:45

That's what I call the 'Jack Hinxman philosophy'...

 

He might not have been the first or the only one to say it, but it certainly was the one who said it in my hearing and it fitted his persona (and police background) to a tee.



#34 Allan Lupton

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Posted 24 October 2021 - 14:29

We could have done with that attitude at the HCA&AeC Sprint at Silverstone in November 1974 when Phil Scragg had his fatal accident.

I was a Club Steward together with Chris Tooley under Arthur Dart as RAC Steward. Arthur was out of his depth and seemed to disappear, but fortunately Chris was a man of great experience and calm when faced with a difficult situation, so took charge.

Because it was a known fatality the police were called, so I had the task of finding witnesses amongst the spectators and recording their names and addresses to hand to the police in due course. Meanwhile the meeting had to be abandoned of course, so first run times had to count as results (as I recall).



#35 bradbury west

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 00:07

I believe  that  Dr Michael Henderson, renowned for his pioneering research  and advocacy into the question of safety belts in race cars, also prepared a key paper on the  question of fire in racing cars. I think it started with the question of fire  in crashed aeroplanes and developed from there.

Roger Lund



#36 Sterzo

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 20:48

"Just a reminder, nobody dies at the track, they die on their way to hospital."

I'm pretty sure this happened at a British club meeting in 1970. (There's no way of verifying the story, but I trusted my informant). Perhaps best not to name the unfortunate driver.



#37 D-Type

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Posted 25 October 2021 - 22:40

I'm pretty sure this happened at a British club meeting in 1970. (There's no way of verifying the story, but I trusted my informant). Perhaps best not to name the unfortunate driver.

That is certainly the case in Italy.  Under Italian law, somebody mjust be held responsible for a death at the track, but not in aambulance or hospital.  Hence the problems with the deaths of Von Trips (and spectators) and Ayrton Senna, but not with Jochen Rindt or Ronnie Peterson.



#38 DouglasM

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Posted 26 October 2021 - 08:06

As I wrote previously fire was a very rare occurrence, please don't imagine that in the 60's and 70's racing cars were bursting into flames in every crash. I think in all the years (1960's to 1980's) as a marshal and a driver (no good) there were only two fatalities. As far as I'm concerned,seat belts more than anything saved lives.  



#39 68targa

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Posted 26 October 2021 - 09:58

How can one forget that Oct day. Standing at Druids and seeing the pall of smoke and then silence as the race was stopped and just knowing that this was going to be bad.

 

This thread reminds me of seeing a fire demonstration held prior to the 1967 BOAC race at Brands.  It was to demonstrate a new fire resistant suit for use by marshals, rather like a suit of silver foil and full helmet. . I never saw them again and thought it was due to cost or maybe a comfort issue.  I have just found the announcement in the programme which states that  Bell's have developed a new lightweight rescue suit made from alluminised asbestos ....