A while back I wrote about the early days of marshaling at Mosport.
Recently on the Canadian Motor Sport Historical Group site there have been some stories and many pictures posted of the first race at Mosport. It was not the Players 200 as many think. The first race took place a few weeks earlier and was organized by the now defunct Oakville Trafalgar Light Car Club. Dave Cook, a long time enthusiast, track announcer, race car owner and Mississauga Counciller was a key organizer.
The track was not really even finished. The final layer of pavement had not been laid. It stayed that way for many years as the contractor, Beamish Paving had not been paid. There were logs, tree stumps and many rocks along the verges and banks. By the time the Players Race happened most of the bigger junk had been cleaned up.
A large percentage of the cars at the first race were driven to and from the track. Some were flat towed. There was even a 2.4 Jaguar Sedan running whitewalls.
Today, seeing the Barrett-Jackson auction the few tow cars would be worth high 5 figure dollars!
It was my first race as a marshal. I had worked Friday practice at turn 2 and that was my first real experience. On race day I was stationed at turn 10, the last turn. Real road racing, as opposed to airport cicuits, was new to almost everyone. Practically no one, officials, marshals or drivers had ever been faced with one. A very few drivers had run at Watkins Glen or Waterford Hills. But Mosport was something new even for them. Alan Bunting, the bulldozer operators and the topography had resulted in one of the most daunting circuits ever. It still is!
The male marshals moved from duty to duty on each corner. Flagging (usually two, face to face), Safety (fire extinguisher and/or crowbar) and blue flagger, normally someone with a few races under their belt, were the duties. The phone girl was tied to her phone. If there was more than one operator the spare(s) twiddled their thumbs. Females were considered incapable of doing anything but talking on the phone and only then what they were instructed to say. A real bone of contention that lasted well into the 70’s. Quite a few good marshal’s, both female and male quit because of this attitude. The Senior Marshal on 10 was the late Louw Broadfield. He was half way between old school and more pragmatic. The face to face really was useless at 10 as the position meant the flag man could see everything so Louw did away with face to face.
The first several races were pretty sedate as drivers tried to come to grips with a pretty daunting venue. I am sure many were remembering that their race car was also how they had to get home and the family transportation!
My baptism of fire, literally, happened well into the day. I was the flag man, backing up the lights we had in those days. I was also designated as a fire marshal with a large CO2 fire bottle. Most extinguishers were dry chem but quite a few were CO2. Hugh Sutherland’s 100S Healy popped into sight just past 7, going into 8 well and truly blazing. Hugh was already sitting on the back deck. We on 10 sort of went ‘wow’. Then the Healy came through 9 still going like stink and Hugh sort of steering from outside the cockpit. Now we really woke up. He was drawing a bead on us, me in particular! My yellow flag went flying and I grabbed the fire bottle and moved very rapidly out of his trajectory. As the Healy mounted the so called safety earth berm Hugh went backwards onto the track. The car landed right on top of the rest of my flags, still blazing away. I raced (well sort of, have you ever carried one of those 60 lb fire bottles?) to the car. Another marshal arrived about the same time with another CO2 bottle. We both let fly. Well he did. Mine went pfffd. Another try. Same result.
Since I was looking like a fool and there were flames shooting out of the cockpit I figured no one would notice if my extingusher was useless if no one could see it. I stuffed it into the cockpit. A couple of more tries and it worked! That fire was out. Real good firewall! Meanwhile it was a losing battle up front. No master kill switch then and the fuel pump was gaily ticking away feeding the fire. Trust a normally useless Lucas fuel pump to work when you did not want it to. The Healy 100S had louvres all along the hood and the other bottle was being shot through them slowing the fire but not putting it out. The hood was secured by a leather strap in the midst of the fire. I realized the marshal using the other bottle would soon be on fire himself as flames were coming out of a side duct on the side of the Healy onto his untreated coveralls. I stuffed (long nozzle) my bottle into the duct and it again worked. This actually really slowed the fire down and Louw with a very good knife could now get his gloved hands in and cut the strap. Hood off and we quickly doused the fire.
An exciting first marshaling event.
I still do not trust CO2 fire bottles! After that I carried a short Bowie style knife and gloves.