One of my great friends works in the Autosport archive, and when her team was moving offices and purging some of the books they no longer wanted, she nabbed me a few that she thought I’d like, and one I was most excited about was 50 Years of Motorsport Marshalling by George Copeland. And folks, let me tell you: what a book.
I don’t exactly know what I was expecting, but I know I certainly thought we’d have a history of marshaling overall, maybe some data on how modern marshals compare to those of the past, and how crucial marshals are to the safe functioning of motorsport overall. And while I got some of that, I spent most of this book having a giggle.
The book was published by the British Motor Racing Marshal’s Club, of which Copeland was a longtime member, and it has a distinctly British bias. That’s totally fair: British marshals refined the art of marshaling, creating training programs and unions that became the model for the rest of the world. There’s a reason for British marshals to be proud.
But this was absolutely a book written by someone who probably had no intentions of ever writing a book, and it shows. Copeland has done some research, but he frequently admits that there are parts of marshaling history that are beyond him. He offers chapters to the recollections of his fellow marshals, a large part of which end of reading like acknowledgements thanking their friends who hung out with them at the track. There are several chapters about these British marshals chatting about what it’s like to marshal in other countries, which was generally just boiled down to, “These Germans do things a lot differently!”
I don’t want to say it was totally bad, because it was a lot of fun in its very specific way. While I knew marshals were volunteers, I wasn’t aware of the fact that they often grouped up based on region and stuck to the same few tracks, generally the ones that treated them the best. But it was a bit frustrating to have those facts repeated over and over, by multiple different people, and in much the same way.
Overall, this is one of those books that I’m really stoked to have because it does offer a great picture of the evolution of marshaling conditions — and I’m especially thankful to the Autosport archive for purging books, because this bad boy sells for over $750 on Amazon.