By Lyn Leong | Pit lane walk – a term that many race-goers, fans, staff are all too familiar with. To many, it is just a walk down the pit lane to get “up close and personal” with their favourite teams and drivers. But how does it happen and what does it take to make it successful and enjoyable?
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A by-default action to every start of the race weekend is to confirm the schedule. Time is needed for preparation on the day itself even though many meetings would have gone by weeks leading to this. As in Singapore, all the pit lane walks happen in between a support race and a Formula 1 race qualifying or actual race; there is a limited time allocated for this. And this is where the challenge lies – to be able to usher all the Paddock Club™ guests back to their suites within the stipulated time. We are not talking about tens or hundreds, but we are referring to 2000-3000 guests, the majority of them in their suits, gowns and stiletto heels. These guests will be in their queue in the Paddock Club™ way before pit lane walks are open. The excitement to see your favourite teams will definitely outweigh the queuing time, noise and aching legs.
When the track is cold – a term commonly used in motorsports – the pit lane is open. Guests are being led into the pit lane in batches, and the walk will begin from the last team garage to the first and do a U-turn for the return journey. While this is all happening, the clock is ticking furiously. Our mission is to manage the crowd and most importantly, manage the time needed to close the pit lane; so as to hand it back to the Race Control. This is where we have a non-negotiable cut-off time for the guests to enter the pit lane as a return walk from the end of the first garage will take a minimum of ten minutes, excluding guests in their stiletto heels. Now comes the crucial moment; when it is finally time to close the walk, we will need to lead thousands of guests back to their suites.
Safety is crucial to all as much as timing is the essence. We need to manage the guests, be it emotionally or physically and we need to bring them all back safely at a stipulated time.
We can never have peace of mind until the very last guest makes an entry to the gate leading back to the suite; until we retreat all our crew and protection officers, until we retrieve all our ropes and apparatus until all is clear from the pit lane. One can imagine every minute and second counts before qualifying and race go live on international television. And this is our job, we take it very seriously.
Now that the mission is accomplished, it starts all over again the next day.