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Around 50,000 spectators will watch the three days of action of Repco Rally New Zealand later this month with 1,500 trained volunteer safety marshals taking responsibility for their safety.
Volunteers make the running of the 39-year-old event possible, says Andrew Jenkin, who fulfils two volunteer positions himself, the overlapping roles of assistant clerk of course responsible for safety and chief safety officer.
The largest annual world championship sporting event held in New Zealand, Repco Rally New Zealand runs from 28 to 31 August and is the eleventh round of the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Without the enthusiasm, expertise and dedication of the pool of more than 2,000 volunteers, the event simply couldn’t run, says Jenkin.
“It’s particularly significant to note that our event, Repco Rally New Zealand, is frequently judged one of the best run WRC events by the WRC teams and the FIA. That feedback says so much about the knowledge and skill our people bring to their jobs as safety marshals, timing crews, service park marshals and media centre personnel, to name just some of the jobs our volunteers perform.”
The safety crews cover all 16 rally stages held in the Waikato, Otorohanga, Waitomo and Franklin districts during the three days of rally action.
The event draws on local sports and social clubs in the region for the safety crews and Repco Rally New Zealand then shares the spectator ticket proceeds with these community organisations.
“They come from the local Lions, football clubs, farmers and schools; all people who give up their time to stand out on the stages – whether it’s raining, windy or sunny – to make sure our spectators are safe and well looked after,” says Jenkin.
Working to a regimented plan in accordance with FIA-prescribed regulations, Jenkin’s role covers the safety of all those associated with the event, the majority naturally being the many thousands of members of public who enjoy watching rally each year.
A gargantuan logistical exercise, 1500 high-visibility vests will be allocated to the 1500 safety marshals who will end up serving in areas cordoned by 60 km of barrier tape and up to 7.5km of plastic mesh.
As an example, Jenkin says Sunday’s picturesque 29.82km Whaanga Coast special stage will have 170 marshals deployed along its course. “They are there to make sure spectators are looked after, supervise food areas and access to toilets,” he comments.
“This year we’ve got more information in the official programme, just trying to raise public awareness for spectators to do the right thing, follow marshals’ instructions and stay off the road while the stage is running. Through their co-operation, spectators help ensure everyone gets to have a good time and support the local community through ticket proceeds.”
Having first recruited a small team of area co-ordinators, Jenkin says this team then arranges the stage co-ordinators who, in turn, assemble the spectator point head marshals and their ensuing allocation of assistants.
Having been involved for more than ten years as a safety officer, he says this year’s plan started back in January when he was appointed to the position as chief safety officer. Jenkin says seeing people respect the need to keep others safe and making a contribution to the local economy are all rewards for the task, which involves countless hours outside his day job.
With 65 entrants from 25 countries, Repco Rally New Zealand is set to see the world’s best rally drivers in action from Thursday 28 August when the event’s ceremonial start takes place in downtown Hamilton. The following three days of rally action are centred around the Mystery Creek Event Centre, where spectators can enjoy rally action on the super special stage, and a wide range of entertainment, displays and activities.
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