Pirelli International 2017 Exclusive – Behind the scenes view.

By Barry Lindsay

Rallying is a lot more than a driver and navigator in a car going as fast as they can, anyone who wants to get involved in the running of an event is part of a big team of officials. Here’s an insight to only my small part of a big event.

Pirelli meetings start about September 7 to 8 months before when all it is,  is a blank note pad and a copy of Kielder map with a red line on it. Following the 2016 debrief it was obvious more chicanes were needed. So    I was to organize another 42 large bales wrapped and stored for winter. Along with another role I was appointed that first night; the role of Chief Marshal.

By December’s cold icy days, a route and format were decided and I went on a route survey choosing points we could have chicanes  where  a  marshal could man them and have a car parked at or near. The conclusion after this was we are going to need a lot more bales.

By February chicanes were now Bales, barriers and cones so they were organized but the logistics of it all was very fluid. By now I had Stage commanders appointed stages and they were well on with recruiting their marshals.

Time was ticking away and the monthly meetings turned to fortnightly  now, and this is where Dave Love starts wanting stage  equipment  lists from Stage commanders and the email return from Dave is normally  ‘ HOW MANY??!!’ and then he starts ordering more signs each year.

By March I decide I can’t do anymore rally’s or car prep until after the event. Most nights are spent emailing or phoning either prospective marshals or Stage commanders. Now it is critical to get marshals to the predicted numbers we chose a few months previous.

When we get to the week before it’s “if this plan works for the chicanes great”, if not it’s not good! 29 locations over the 50mile road network of Kielder and building starts on the Friday a week before. Myself armed with two nephews, head to Kielder to distribute 170 Motorway cones (No they weren’t picked up off the M6!) along with 25 plastic barriers and 30 sand bags.

Weekend before and now we need the 42 bales taken up, dropped off and last year’s 42 picked up and distributed. All I can say is that was a big day and thanks to Kenton Pattison for all his help.

Final meeting the Tuesday before is a hectic one, putting packs together with all the different safety plans, regs and passes etc.

It’s Wednesday night before the rally and I picked up my hire van, then up to David Loves store to meet and get one stage commanders kit ready for Thursday morning when he wanted it… To be met by Edwin Love, “why  you here tonight? It’s tomorrow night!!!” A quick call and a plan B was called into action. Needless to say Edwin & I found everything I needed but the van was full. I left Edwin frantically putting more goodie bags ready for another load on the Thursday night! In all he would pack 550 bags and I don’t know if we had more than a handful spare.

Thursday morning a few little jobs to do on the way up to Kielder dropping off SS2 stage commander gear at his B&B then to set up the chicanes on  the quiet roads and mark the busy ones ready for the recce on Friday morning.

Refuel the van and to Gretna for another Stage commanders  gear  and other 2 stages of Goodie bags, water, Prestone giveaways along with ‘my’ spares kit for the weekend. Don’t open the van door- it is full! Dave now  has his van and it was loaded up too with just about everything else.

Friday morning and I had three chicanes to build before recce and somewhere to watch in case log wagons needed through. Competitors say they are tight but you watch an log wagon try to get through and they were up to try without moving the bale. Advantage of the barriers & cones. This would also be opened in the case of a rescue rapid response during the event. So putting an arrow up at 6am at ‘Spadeadam’ to the cuckoo that forgot what time it was because I counted 10 and it was still going! It was a clear frosty morning as I set up the first  chicane  then waited for my deputy who was going to watch this chicane. I then  moved on to the next to be set up. This was more of a challenge, the heavy wet   bale I couldn’t move…Now what? Ratchet strap round the bale to the tow hook in the van and I manage to get it where I wanted. Next one was easy then I met Andrew Graham & Kevin Faunch “Recce Early Bird” Opening gates who noticed a board was in the wrong place so I headed there before meeting a stage commander 8 miles away. I’m now a little behind my time schedule. A log wagon blocked the road just before I got there so sorted   the back out! Next mission was to observe the recce and had 4 points to look after while Deputy was doing others. One was a good double chicane but there was abit of complaining they wouldn’t get round in an R5 but yet drove them in a standard road car easy enough. A couple were adjusted ahead of the recce just to show we were listening to their side.

Following the recce I then checked most of the route looking for continuity between stage commanders and Stage 4 was set up for the BRC and the Delegate went through then I went through to change some junctions for the historics as they did a route with fewer chicanes. This took longer than planned but by 6.15 I just had 5 junctions of SS1 to check on my way out of the forest when NO not now…. A puncture. When I picked the van up I asked where it was and they said Ring the breakdown assist… great I’m  sure they will find where I am. However a bit of a walk to find phone signal and between Brian Davidson and David Love they found what they wanted on David’s van and told me where it might be on mine. Bingo walk back yes it’s there so change it. Right get out of here! Checking the junctions on the way.

Saturday (Rally day) I’m now a passenger with Brian driving in a SG Petch Isuzu pickup loaded with fire extinguishers and a full range of  spares. Judge of fact sheets were to give to radio crews on the chicanes took a bit   of time as they were all behind box junctions. I got plenty practice hurdling the tape that made the box! But dropped time so at service we got back on schedule after the next two we were getting ready for something to eat but another puncture. While Brian set about changing it the 000 car arrived and at one point I was going to swap vehicles as I was changing chicanes and signage but while it was all getting decided the wheel was changed.

A busy run through the stage with a bit of altering and checking but we were dropping off schedule and the Isuzu needed fuel at Kielder.

We did catch up with schedule and finally got bate well into the afternoon. Stage 4 was another stage it was agreed I’d be doing a bit of changing with chicanes, thankfully the Friday night setting up meant everything was just to turn, uncover or cones to move however by the 9th chicane we had 000, stewards right behind. But we were done… Not quite the chicane at start    of SS4 needed marshalling so we returned via the road. Barry Armstrong was on start but I was at least going to see a car in competition. They gave the 6 bale weave a fair pounding and some bales were going to struggle to survive and would need repairs on the Sunday!

Sunday only four stages, but marshal numbers were lower on the Sunday  so these were to check but each Stage commander was happy by the numbers some extra turning up and some I knew, in SS5 Jonathan Lodge being one of them and other radio crews were given a route to cover SS8 also to get the cover we needed.

After marshalling the chicane again we headed back, with that part complete we could have a quick look at Brampton. While there we were asked to run as Closing car. So checked the numbers through and followed the crews to Carlisle. The remainder of the day was packing up at H&H  then unloading the clear up vans. A messy job but I missed most of it this time with being at H&H.

Monday its all over they say… Those bales we took there, were now  pictures of bales in ditches, over edges and a few with no wrap left this    was going to be another hard day.

Again Kenton and I with tractors and trailers just after 7am while Dave, Brian & Barry A were going round collecting the cones.

One of the bales was even stolen during the night, baffled but it was nowhere to be seen. However 42 arrived back at the quarry store, the good ones heaped, the damaged ones set aside then back for the next 42 and same again heaping the undamaged, but crikey… half of the quarry was covered in damaged bales! Some with little messages written on ‘Ouch that hurt’ and ‘this is a comfy bale’ which brightened a bit of our day. No proof of who wrote it but I know the SMC  editor was marshalling that junction!  (I have no idea what you’re on about? *hides white paint pen*, Ed.)

By 8pm we had repaired what we could by walking round the bale with more wrap or using silage repair tape but some were just a right off! No plastic and no string to hold them together. They would be going home but strapping damaged bales onto a trailer is a challenge in itself. By the time we got home and tractors returned Kenton & myself had had enough and the clock had struck 11pm.

So the moral of the report is, if you’re not competing on an event get involved by other means. There is plenty you can get involved in, do as  little or as much as you want. There must be something you fancy a challenge at? Whether it be the computer side and paperwork, physical stuff on setting up and taking down, planning things… there is something for everyone. If you do want to get involved in the running of motorsport events. Please do speak to me, I can introduce you to it on the Blue Streak which has just the same work but on a different scale.

Thanks to everyone who helped me during the event, your help was much appreciated. As for next year… we shall see in September, in the meantime lets get on with the Blue Streak!