A tribute to the unsung heroes of motorsport.

Caution: Some images in this article might be disturbing.
 

Mark Robinson (38) was a highly knowledgeable F1 fan who had been visiting the Canadian GP since the early 80s.
Image Courtesy: Facebook

Motor racing is a risky sport, no one needs to be told about that. Its dangerous not just for those who participate in it, but also for the hundreds of officials and staff on support duties at such events. Last Sunday, at the 2013 Canadian GP, we were faced with a rude and brutal reminder of this very fact.

Mark Robinson (38), who volunteered as a marshal for Sunday’s race, slipped under the wheel of a crane as it was carrying Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber from the track, which had crashed in the final laps of the race.

Image Courtesy: globalnews.ca

Robinson, reportedly, dropped his radio while walking with the crane and reached down to pick it up. The crane/tractor operator could not see him and as a result, ran over him. Robinson was airlifted to Sacre-Coeur Hospital by helicopter after being stabilized by race-track trauma nurses. He was declared dead in hospital. An absolute tragedy that could only be described as a freak accident.

The previously posted image of the incident has now been removed as it was seen as an insensitive gesture towards the incident. It was included in the article solely for purposes of bringing attention to the dangers of marshaling but many people didn’t see it that way. I respect those opinions and have taken the image down.

Marshals volunteer for this work out of their love and passion for motorsport. Their work is absolutely critical for the running of any motorsport event. They routinely put their lives at risk to ensure smooth and safe running of racing events. They’ve saved numerous lives over the years and many have lost their own lives in the process.

F1 went through a major overhaul of safety regulations in the 90s after the horrendous weekend at Imola ’94. Everybody knows what happened there. As a result, deaths have been rare in F1. The last time a marshal was killed was in 2001 and this is only the third fatality since 2000. An absurd, but very unfortunate, incident. According to his friends and colleagues, Robinson was a highly knowledgeable F1 fan who absolutely adored and almost worshipped the sport. He’d been attending the Canadian GP since the early 80s. As expected, almost all the teams and drivers have expressed their grief and shock over the incident.

An official enquiry is underway:

The Commission de la sante et de la securite de travail (CSST) said Monday that six months—give or take—would be needed to complete the report. “Our inspectors were on the site last night and looked at the overall situation and what they will try to figure out over the next couple of days is what exactly occurred,” CSST spokesperson Jacques Nadeau said on Monday, adding that interviews with fellow volunteers would be forthcoming. “They probably know exactly how he went under the tractor that was carrying the car,” Nadeau said. “But we need to let them cool off and let them find their senses. Our main concern is that the workers are in good health.”

FIA president Jean Todt issued a personal statement on behalf of the governing body:

“I would like to share my profound sadness, and that of the whole FIA community, following the tragic death of the circuit worker, who was working as a volunteer marshal at the Canadian Grand Prix,” Todt wrote. “My thoughts, and those of the FIA members, are with the worker’s family and friends and we all wish to extend our sincerest condolences, as well as our support, in these most tragic of circumstances. This tragedy has affected us deeply, and the whole of motor sport is profoundly touched by it.“In volunteering to be a marshal, he had made the choice to give his time, his knowledge and passion in the service of motor sport. All over the world, it is men and women like him who make possible the organisation of motor sport events. Without these thousands of volunteers who give their all selflessly, motor sport would simply not get off the starting line. I and the FIA want to share with each and every one of the pain resulting from this death, a hurt that unites us all today.”

Silverstone marshals have planned to pay tributes to Robinson when the F1 fraternity reconvenes at Silverstone later this month.

In the event of this tragedy, all I can say is – marshals deserve a lot more credit and recognition for the work they do for free. Putting your life at risk for something that you love is not something all of us could do. My thoughts and condolences remain with Mark’s family, friends and colleagues.

And to every brave marshal out there – you guys are the unsung heroes of motorsport!

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24 Comments

  1. As a racecar driver myself…they are the guys who make sure we are ok after a off or a shunt….they clear the cars….all of this for the love of motorsport, we all are fanatical about racing, if we race, of if we marshall, or if we are spectators….thank you for your commitment, dedication and love….for what we all love….may you rest in Peace Mr Mark Robinson.

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  2. I am brazilian marshal….we are all fanatics racing cars. Thank you Mr Mark Robinson!! Rest in Peace!!!

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  3. I know that marshalls all over the world, are greatly appreciated by all involved in motorsport. Although we and the circumstances we have to attend can be overlooked. I am grateful that we are being given a higher profile, be it under such circumstances. I personally have been marshalling for over 20 years, and whenever there is an incident I hope that it is not serious. As this is not the reason that we do what we do.

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  4. My brother is a marshall and has been for years. I will never forget being at Silverstone for the GP a few years ago and they played Tina Turner’s Simply The Best for the marshalls, SO appropriate!!! They put their lives at risk for the love of the sport and get no monetary reward for doing it!! Well done all of you.

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  5. From a Nurburgring-Marshal: A salute to Mark from the depth of my heart! We all know what can happen (I know some marshals who got hardly injured), but we do it, because we love it! It doesn´t matter, which side of the planque is your´s, or where in the world you´re part of motorsports – we are one family, united by one passion. I´ve lost a brother I never met, but I´m sure, one day we´ll have a drink together, in the great paddock that smells like gasoline and hot rubber!

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  6. As a long time Flag Marshall in México I´m deeply touched by this unfortunate incident; Me and my collages in my country work at races for the love at our motorsport, many times we stand no matter the heat, the rain, or cold. Only our love to Motor racing. Have all Volunteers Marshalls a heartfelt hug. Mark Robinson an Angel is back in the Heavens. watch for all of us

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  7. As a British marshal I find it sad that such a tragic event needs to be illustrated with an image of a dying man. I hope Mark’s family aren’t suffering too much with the endless republishing of that harrowing image.

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  8. I am a Flag Marshall (Flagger) as are my Mom and Dad, Sister and SO many of my friend many of whom are so like family that I call them Uncle or even “other Dad” :) and to see this story hits home and I am deeply moved. I hope that all the family at that track knows that they are in our thoughts and prayers. On any given weekend there are hundreds if not thousands of us at tracks around the world just doing what we love! So this weekend lets wave an extra checker for Mark and watch each others backs and as we say, Play Safe!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  9. I echo Graeme words , we don’t need the image any more. As a fellow Marshal my thoughts go to his family and colleagues in Canada. I will be wearing a Canadian flag on my overalls at the GP in 3 weeks. RIP Mark.

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  10. As track Marshall for almost 6 years now, in Barcelona Spain I am (and I know my colleagues are as well) deeply touched about the lost of Mark. He’s one of us, and we are all one. Mark Robinson RIP,

    We, at least in my place, will try to do something to commemorate the memory of Mark this weekend at the MotoGP GP of Catalunya.

    RIP Mark, you will always be in our minds.

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  11. I completely understand the emotion behind the image and why some of you feel it should not be shown any more. Many of us have seen it a few times too many since Sunday, but, there are a lot of people who haven’t even heard of the incident and the image is included only to bring to attention the reality of the environment in which these brave marshals work. I was aware that it could cause distress to some people and that’s the reason I put a warning on the very top about it.
    We’re all saddened by the incident and I myself wouldn’t want to see any of those images again. But, I didn’t write this just for myself or for those of us who have already seen & heard about it.

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  12. Kyalami Marshal are deeply saddened by the loss of a fellow marshal, may Mark join the big race track in the sky . RIP MARK

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  13. Man that so, so sad. As a journo Ive had many close calls with motocross bikes flying near my head after a rider loses control. Anything near or on a racetrack is susceptible to the dangers the racers deal with. This is such a sad sad incident, prayers to his family and friends and may he Rest In peace. :-/

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  14. that’s tragic news ,deepest thought’s to his family but let’s also spare a thought for the crane driver and what he must be going through.

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  15. Without the marshall’s doing their job, which is unpaid and sometimes forgotten or ignored by race commentators, there wouldn’t be any racing at any level. So everyone who works in motorsport and gets paid for their work and as a recently retired photographer who covered MotoGP, SBK and BSB has to thank the marshalls for their unpaid and dedicated work all other the world.

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  16. Here in Catalunya, some of the Track Marshalls decided we needed to do something to show our deeply sadness about the loss of Mark.

    This is why we have taken this picture in his memory

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    1. Thanks for that picture. Its heartening to see the respect, appreciation and care shown by marshals from all over the world towards this incident. We motorsport fans and the whole motorsport community are indebted to you for your voluntary services.

      I’ve shared it on our F1 community and fan pages.

      Reply

  17. Thanks for your kind words Ritesh,
    It is indeed a big loss the one of Mark, I believe every track marshall is feeling that loss deeply inside because we know it could have be us someday; this is why we are all one.

    Reply

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