It is not far ago from the WRC event EKO Rally Acropolis 2022, and I am counting the days to travel abroad. Destination: Singapore. But what am I supposed to do in Singapore? Well, let's take it from the start.
A relevant announcement of a program by thw FIA which aims to strengthen the participation of female executives in motorsports in combination with volunteering. At first, I was not so keen to read it as in my country there are no formula races and a little exhausted after work, so I saved it in "favorites" to read it another time. But, when you love something is really difficult to neglect. A few hours later, I read it all and I was excited by the opportunity that was given. I filled the form and sent it. The positive answer came after a month and it literally made my day!
A few words about the FIA WOMEN OFFICIALS’ EXCHANGE PROGRAMME as announced:
"The FIA Women in Motorsport Commission and the FIA Volunteers and Officials Commissions have joined forces to create the first ever Women Officials’ Exchange program. This new initiative aims to promote and encourage participation of female motorsports officials around the world. It is also an opportunity to introduce women to all the essential roles carried out by the volunteers at the highest level of the sport. 24 ladies will join. They will attend the Singapore Grand Prix with least one year’s experience of officiating in any roles in their home country. The program will give them their first experience both abroad and at a world championship event. All this thanks to Mohammed Ben Sulayem [FIA VOC President], Deborah Mayer[FIA Women in Motorsport Commission President], Janette Tan[Asia-Pacific Representative of the FIA WIM Commission and member of the FIA VOC] and of course to the team that was our hosts and co-ordinators.
Our 'experience' started on Thursday morning when we reached the circuit. The grand prix is in town. Our arrival was 'news' that has been spread days ago, so we received a very warm welcome from all members. First days were a little exhausting as we faced a humid and hot weather. Add the orange suit, it made it a little more difficult. But you could see only smiles! The team of 24 women was amazing. It is really nice to share your passion with people who are on the same page. Moreover, for some of us, it was our first time in F1 gp event, so we had to learn more from others and of course we could not hide our excitement.
My official position was at turn 11. But I had also the chance to be at the meeting of seniors on Saturday. As in our rally, there was a conversation about pointing out improvements, problems that were solved, the schedule and it was really clear to all to take care of their team members as well as themselves by hydrating drinks. In addition we had the chance to walk throught the circuit and visit pit lane! What an experience!
I still remember the sound of formulas approaching our sector. I had never seen a formula with engine on, and now I was soooo... close! My sector, as a team was incredible. They are usually the same persons so they have created bounds, they communicate well and this helped to understand their actions. of course, they explained things, answered questions and more.
In general, the sector is separated in two groups. The first group is in charge for the flags. If you have ever noticed there is a 'cage' where the flags come out following the regulations and circumstances. The second group is the intervention team. Their role is to be spread among the sector and observe the vehicles which pass. If something goes wrong or an accident happen they will intervene after communication with race control. But their duty starts earlier as they are responsible to observe the stage and check for items that should be removed from the road. We need a clean route, as they say. Of course, there is a radio marshal and one more person has to check the pass of its car. Last but not least there is the ambulance, the fire truck and the intervention vehicle. Something useful to point out. There is given a certain period of time before qualifying starts, where the intervention vehicle and the commander are doing a rehearsal under time of their reaction in case of accident. This is so important for safety reasons. Think only that gp is organized one time in a year.
The race day has come and everyone is really excited! The forecast for rain does not scare anyone! The parade with old classic cars gives a pleasant note. As it comes to TSS The Super Series & W Series race everything went as scheduled. A special moment that I will remember is on the W Series where there is women drivers, our team let my Μexican friend and me to be in flags on our own and interface with the radio marshal (also woman).
As the time for the F1 race approached, the clouds thickened. In a few minutes later, there was rain. Postponement of race was inevitable. After rain stopped, the effort of executives to clear the track was quick and well co-ordinated. If you watch some video clips, you would have seen the brooms on fire! Of course, I had the opportunity to help! After about an hour, we had the start of race. During the race, there were some accident, but everyone was ok. And this due to safety measures that are taken both for vehicles and on track. Although the regular 61 laps were scheduled, only 59 were completed due to the two hours time limit being reached. The finish and the waving of checkered flag created a thrill for all of us as everything went well. I didn;t feel ready to leave the spot. The days spent with all of them and not seeing them very soon, left a strange feeling. On the plus, I extended my stay in Singapore and managed to see them for dinner, as we had done in previous days.
A big THANK YOU to my sector, SECTOR 11L and the 23 beautiful ladies for sharing this experience!
The experience I received from this program is valuable. I hope more volunteers will be given the chance to participate in similar programs as well as be able to communicate my experience accordingly! To conclude, I would like to thank Takis Pournarakis and Nikos Korovilas for the connection before the start at ERT Channel, as well as Giannis-Marios Papadopoulos and COSMOTE TV who at the end of this race, they gave me the opportunity to share my excitement and love for motorsport and volunteering!
PS: This September was a month that I would describe "full" in terms of motorsport activities. In a stream that started with pre event test of WRC teams, the WRC-EKO Rally Acropolis itself, the first test of our rally car with the new setup with our friends being around, a well-spend Sunday as I say, and a ticket that gave me my first experience in the highest level of the sport.
We don't stop here. Rally Diaries is ready to spend a weekend that will bring up our passion.