Mendips Raceway’s Mr Starter – aka Andy Chant tells us about what makes him tick, what it’s like doing his job and his aspirations for the year…
My First meeting was 1977 at Taunton / Smeatharpe when Bill Batten 667/167 won the F2 World Final. I managed to get on the track straight after the race.
There’s a picture of me and my brother on the track near Bill Batten, stood just to my left is Shirley my future wife.
I have been a life-long fan and spectator and have travelled thousands of miles. Love watching fast and hard racing.
I was a mechanic for my father and brother-in-law. (Ex 672.671) Mike and Steve North. For ten years.
For a while, I was a Brisca F2 weighing officer. This was a very challenging role, which showed many aspects of our sport, which many people take for granted.
There are many situations, laughs I could talk about, but the one that stands out by a mile, was when I weighed at Cowdenbeath. 641 Dennis Middler came to the scales with his new car. We put the straps on, then it was lifted. Unfortunately the bar slipped off and landed straight up like a flagpole in the middle of Wee Dens brand new aerofoil. Den’s dad took it very well. Well that’s what a local told us, because we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Something about my parentage and being from the West Country. Anyway since that we have always spoken and he hasn’t asked for the money for a new aerofoil.
Race day for me starts with me making sure I bring the flags and lap boards. Might seem stupid but I have done this once. Ask Pat… her Blue Peter knowledge came in very handy that day!
Once at the track it’s straight to the pit office and sign in. Then for the next three hours before the meeting starts, the marshals and officials have to deal with anything from car park duties to collecting rubbish to checking that all the safety equipment is working. Generally, all the things which the paying public and drivers don’t see. To be fair that’s how it should be.
Then its time to go racing!
Full respect to Pat and Graham. They, like all the promoters, do loads more behind the scenes.
As many people will know, I’m ‘Mr Starter’. My main role is making sure the races are started fairly. So as the gaps are maintained and no one jumps the start. This doesn’t always work, but look what I have to work with lol lol!
Many people ask why the flags aren’t quicker when required for a caution. The lap at Mendips is between 14 seconds for the F2’s and 20 seconds for bangers. From the moment of the incident to getting the info to the steward and then back to me can take time.
We had a Banger driver who crashed and we didn’t act quickly enough. This at the time caused much keyboard hero work but like every track, you take praise as well as the criticism. In the light of this, I asked Graham if our Big Banger meetings could we do away with the yellow flag. Also the Marshall nearest the driver, if he got a thumbs down could go to a straight waved red. Graham said we could try it. This has worked very well. This is what I like about working with Graham. He will listen and if it’s a good idea, will let you run with it.
Also as Starter, I feel that the Starter has to be part of the show. Be very flamboyant in his appearance and make sure if the paying public can’t hear the PA they can see who’s in the lead, just by looking at the starter.
My trousers have split on many occasions. I’ve had my flags and lapboards knocked out of my hands by the Brisca F2’s. I have fallen over on the parade lap. Once I fell over the safety fence landing on my elbow, which cracked two of my ribs. Whilst being attended to by the St John’s, Barry Goldin 401 came over, thinking he was going to ask how I was, Or so I thought… no he asked if I had broken his trophy. Cheers Barry!
Have been hit by flying wheel nuts, had bits of metal fly by. On one off my first meetings, Chris Love came out of turn four out of control and hit the Armco just before me sending his wheel my way. I bailed out and landed on the floor safely, only for the St John’s lady to jump on me. Not too sure which was scarier?!
Firstly please no RAIN this year; we had our fair share last year!!
This year we have the National Hot Rods coming to Mendips in September. Also the Brisca F2 Semi Finals will be held at Mendips on The 4th Of August. Our last Championship Meeting was the Grand National where one driver was a bit too keen for my liking on the Start.
Last year The West Of England Championships for the Junior Rods, Special Rods and Rookie Bangers were a great success …. Also the Hot Rods and Robins entertained the crowds brilliantly… long may this continue in 2013.
Many things are going on throughout a race. Every lap, I have to indicate who’s in the lead and issue any flag that the Steward tells me. Also, the Clerk of the course is advising me and the steward of any incidents that are happening around the track.
Other tracks I’ve started at are Taunton, St Day, Cowdenbeath, King’s Lynn, and Skegness. Out of those I have to say Cowdy by far stands out. You can’t beat standing on the wall with the Saloons flying by your feet inches away.
Not many tracks but would love to do more, only time will tell.
On a personal note I’d just like to thank all the officials and promoters for letting me loose on their tracks.
I’d quite like to have a go at being a Steward. Also have done one F2 World Final, would like to do at least one more before I get too old and hang up my flags.
To Shirley, Chris and Becs. I drive them mad on race days.
Also to anyone who shouts advice from the terraces. I hear you just don’t have to listen to you. Heay Jonny !!!!!!