Now the spectators rarely think of Race Control except when there were unexpected delays. Drivers and crews usually curse at Race Control and figure everyone there sits in climate controlled comfort in easy chairs drinking fancy coffee and eating caviar. Maybe somewhere but certainly not at Mosport in the 70’s. Race Control was in a wooden box like structure on top of the old pits on the infield with the Starter’s Stand across the track. Non opening windows and no heat. Metal chairs and not enough of them. Crowded conditions and terrible Mosport coffee, usually cold by the time you had a chance to drink it. At least we stayed dry! In the room would be the Clerk of the Course, his Assistant, the Chief Course Marshal and usually two Phone operators plus two or three other senior race officials and sometimes a Steward. The Head of Timing and Scoring often popped in and out. The Chief Course Marshal and the 2 Phone Operators were normally very good. The club running the pro races was the Canadian Race Drivers Club and we did request certain people from the Marshaling group, CRCA. They normally concurred.
A timetable for the weekend was worked out in advance with Mosport. CRDA were contracted to run the races for a fee. We did have shares in the track but little real say. We would build in time gaps for lunches, potty breaks for marshals and make allowances for guardrail repairs and pick up of damaged cars. Agreement reached all would be fine until we got a program. Invariably the track added in something without our knowledge and there went any gaps. Enough preamble. What follows are examples of problems, one exasperating and one serious.
The exasperating one happened on the Sunday morning of the 76 GP. Cleaning up the track after Sat. nights drunken spectators plus a Mosport add on had us really tight on time. Back then the F1 cars had a morning warm up. Mario Andretti went off at 2A and the question was do we stop warm up to retrieve him. They had to have x minutes of running and there was x time gap that had to be there before the race. The race had to start on time! Our window was disappearing. The Senior at 2A was a very long time experienced marshal and she was also on the phone. So the Clerk of the Course asked, through the CRCA tower operator (protocol of going through the Chief Course Marshal was conviently ignored by all concerned) if he had gone off on his own and was he in a safe place? The reply came in loud and clear ‘I don’t know.’ We all could hear the various stations. The is he in a safe place was repeated. Same response.
Next ‘Well how far from the track is he?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Can you see him?’
Yes, but I can’t judge distance.
‘Any idea how far off he is?’
By now some drivers were going by the tower shaking their fists. Quick questions to turns 2 and 3 brought little help although 3 did say he did spin there.
Now this particular senior was a good general marshal but should never have been a senior. Some drivers complained that we stopped the warm up and others complained we took too long to do so!
The next case was potentially a disaster. We were lucky. It was a Can Am race and Jackie Oliver and George Follmer were on the front row. They had an intense dislike of each other and both were fierce competitors. They started racing before they came onto the starting straight. The rest of the field were strung out far behind and in disorder. Clearly it was a no start and the starter correctly kept the yellow out. They didn’t care. They were racing full bore. That is when things went horribly wrong. The starter threw his flags in the air and the yellow actually landed on the track! The balance of the field didn’t know what to do. A few took off at speed but most just took it easy.
Meanwhile Oliver and Follmer were still flat out ignoring the Yellows everywhere. Here they were running as hard as they could and by now the balance of the field were trundling around. What to do and less than a minute to do something. Instructions were sent to the Starters bridge to throw a Red and the Checker. Hopefully somebody there would do so and the two flying idiots would respond. It worked thankfully and a possible disaster averted. It took a while to get everyone lined up and the riot act read to Jackie and George.
For the next start Paul Cooke was on the stand and although the Starter waved the green flag Paul was running things. CRDA had a new Starter for the next race.
Normally things did not go wrong like that but you never know.
Ed note: The photo above comes from the CMSHG group on Yahoo. It is a great place to waste some time looking at old racing photos! If you look in the background, you will see the old pits, which were torn down a few years ago to make way for modern pit equipment that teams bring with them.