Behind The Scenes – Sophie Clark

Over the course of the season F1 Stockcars.com hopes to talk to those people behind the scenes that make the show happen. The unsung, under-appreciated, under-valued heroes of our sport. Without these guys we would not have any racing to watch at the race tracks.

The views and opinions in these interviews are of the individual and may not be those of the Promoting body, the Governing body or any other organisation involved with Oval Racing.

The Coventry Team including Sophie Clark (second from right)

Name: Sophie Clark

Role at Race Track: Meeting Co-ordinator – Coventry Stadium

Give us a brief description of what this involves? Prior to race day I work closely with Jeremy Heaver, Simon Bennion and Dave Robottom on how this meeting is scheduled to run. We work on some events up to 12 months in advance. We compile formats if it is a special event, grids, time schedules, support formulas and go through step by step what will happen when from the moment the pit gate opens.

On race day we have pre-race meetings with staff to brief them on their roles during the evening and explain what this event has in store. We have to make sure everyone is equipped with race formats, grid sheets, driver’s lists etc. We have to ensure all staff and drivers are signed in and scrutineered before the event starts. Lots of paperwork involved! We are constantly clock watching throughout the day so that the meeting starts on time, if you are just two minutes late you are playing catch up all night. All drivers have to be informed when and where they need to be. Once the green flag drops we are constantly chasing drivers to grid them up ready for their race, we try and work two races ahead therefore have one race on track, one race lined up ready and then the next being prepped.

Throughout the night we have to make sure that the meetings runs as planned and everyone i.e. fans, drivers, staff are happy and enjoying the event.

Results have to be posted in the pits so drivers know if they have qualified and also so that race fans can stay up to date. Once the meeting is complete we don’t finish until all staff have signed out and results and paperwork is complete and then websites / social media is updated with all the latest info.

How long have you been doing this? Since 2010 at Coventry.

How did you become involved in doing this? After 14 years of being the Managing Director of Rebels Racing and organising a formula it was time for a change and Coventry offered me this position.

What’s the hardest part of this job / role? It is physically demanding as you are pretty much running about all day especially from 6.30pm onwards it is non-stop, it certainly keeps you fit. You probably do more laps of the race track than many of the cars put together during a meeting!

Do you have to undergo any training to do this job / role? Or was you mentored? With my previous experience I was pretty switched on to what was required. We do still have to have staff training and be updated on rule changes and health and safety on a regular basis.

What would be the best way for others wanting to do this job / role at a race track to get involved? At Coventry we are always looking for willing helpers. We are happy for anyone to join the team and see if they have what it takes whether it is flag marshalling, office work, race control – anyone who wants to give it a go should just get in touch with me via the website – www.coventrystox.com

How has doing this job / role changed how you now view racing? As I have been involved in the organising side of the racing I am always watching how a meeting is run and what officials are doing what and when, you can learn a lot from visiting other tracks and watching how their teams work.

From doing your job at the race track, what frustrates you the most from common misinformation / missing knowledge from the everyday race fan? One of the most frustrating thing is the ‘abuse’ you get from fans / drivers when you hold the gate for a driver and you get the shouts – “you wouldn’t do that for a white top” the fact is we do at Coventry but it doesn’t get noticed. If we wait for Paul Harrison or John Lund for example it’s favouritism but those people probably didn’t notice that we held the gate for a lower grader the race before. We run a very tight ship at Coventry and last year we introduced the two minute timer which we stuck to but this may have gone unnoticed to some fans.

By the same token it’s tough when you are working in the pits standing next to a driver / team who are working their wotsits off trying to get out for a consolation only to tell them that time has run out but unfortunately we run on such a strict time schedule we have to keep it moving along swiftly.

Do you still enjoy watching racing when you’re not involved with your chosen role / job? Yes very much so, when you are brought up with racing it’s part of your life. Sometimes you may lose a little enthusiasm but then you witness a cracking race and it soon comes back with a vengeance

What do you think could be done to make BriSCA F1 better for –

1. The Fans – If you’d have asked me a few years ago I would have said more insight to how things are run and how tough it is for drivers and officials. We don’t just turn up on a Saturday afternoon and everything magically happens. For drivers they spend their entire lives living and breathing the sport with many, many hours in the garage working towards race day. However now we are in such a fantastic media age fans do have the accessibility by following drivers on facebook and twitter and reading insights to their lives on websites such as F1Stockcars.com and then the fans can see to some extent what is involved. Fans are starting to feel more ‘in the know’ and I think that’s great for the sport.
We need to bring back the boos and the cheers on the stands to give a meeting an atmosphere, for anyone who follows Nascar they will see how passionate their fans are and this adds to the ‘show’ and I feel by drivers giving their fans feedback this can generate heroes and villains.

2. The Drivers – Ask a driver what would help them and I think the vast majority would say cash!! Any extra sponsorship deals that promoters can get to pass onto drivers is massive help, especially to those lower graders on a budget who don’t receive prize money. For those people who say F1’s are lucky, they get paid to race, well the start money would hardly cover the petrol cost for the race car nowadays never mind the diesel for the truck. It doesn’t have to be monetary sponsorship but companies may want to donate prizes and gain some publicity at the same time, it all helps.

3. The race track / sport as a whole – We need more fans, more people through the gate benefits the sport as a whole and not the promoters back pocket. The more people who visit will encourage tracks to update and put money back into the sport. I do feel for promoters when people talk about them like they are creaming the sport. No-one is in this to make millions, and these stadiums stand empty 90% of the time. However I realise it’s a viscous circle as certain tracks need investment now to be appealing to the family audience. As a mum of a three year old there are several tracks I wouldn’t go to because it’s not child friendly. We need to encourage the families back into the stadiums as the children are future supporters / racers and promoters who offer reduced rates for the families are certainly making an effort but more needs to be done.

How would you describe BriSCA F1 Stock Car racing in 2 sentences? Adrenalin pumping, thrilling, powerful and intense. BriSCA F1 really is the only formula that creates ‘that’ noise and shakes your bones!

Do you remember the first F1 meeting you attended as a fan? Where, When and memories of. Can’t remember as I would have been a babe in arms but my first memories are travelling with Birdy (Graham Bird) who my Dad sponsored and watching him cause chaos and carnage wherever he went!

What is you fondest memory of the sport –

1. in your official role? The 2010 World Final at Coventry. All the hard work and effort that the team put into that weekend paid off. To hear the roar of the crowd when we brought the cars out in reverse was spine tingling.

2. As a race fan? So many to choose from over the years but after being a Mr Finn fan for many years (I can just remember him winning the points) it was brilliant to see Craig take the silver like his Dad and I’m looking forward to seeing him show it off in 2012. Both he and Paul Harrison are great ambassadors for the sport and I think BriSCA FI’s have a brilliant year ahead.

What / who’s had the best F1 Stock Car or Cars in your opinion? Anyone who attempts something new to be honest, the Finn Tilter may not have been super fast from the off but the engineering and thought process behind it is impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing a shale car in 2012 which is something very different from another superstar that is currently in the process of completion but I’m sure F1Stockcars.com will be on the case as soon as it exits the garage!

Sophie Clark

From all of our readers at F1Stockcars.com, Thanks for doing your Job at the race track.


Previous Behind The Scenes: Stu Milnes

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