x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Race-day marshals play happy families at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

An Abu Dhabi family has trained to work as marshals for this weekend's Formula One Grand Prix.

Ivan Ingrilli, his wife Jody Michelle Ingrilli and their son Shelby talk over the procedures they will have to follow ahead of this weekend’s F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where they will be marshals. Antonie Robertson / The National
Ivan Ingrilli, his wife Jody Michelle Ingrilli and their son Shelby talk over the procedures they will have to follow ahead of this weekend’s F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where they will be marshals. Antonie Robertson / The National

ABU DHABI // For one race-mad family, the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix is a time they all work towards the same cause.

Ivan Ingrilli, his wife Jody and son Shelby, 19, are all part of this year’s marshal crew and Ivan and Jody have been with it since the race first arrived in the capital in 2009.

Two years ago Shelby was old enough to join them.

Ivan, 51, is a motor engineer and has been building and modifying racing cars since he came to the UAE from Australia 21 years ago,

Ronan Morgan, the clerk of the course for the F1 race on Sunday, says the Ingrilli family are a good example of a “very good core of people with us since 2009, which is amazing”.

About 100 marshals have worked the race since its inception. In its first year, 350 of the 700 needed were flown in from the UK as local race authorities trained up new talent. Now, there is a waiting list of those hoping to be involved in the biggest event on the sporting calendar.

“Now we’re self sufficient,” Mr Morgan says.

Ivan has seen the event and the community grow considerably since the start. In addition to motor sport being his passion, volunteering to marshal was also time “to give something back”, he said.

“It’s a big community which now goes to many of the events such as the Desert Challenge and those at the Dubai Autodrome. Every event that’s held needs marshals.”

For F1 volunteers, it is a dream job.

“It’s the pinnacle of the motor sport calendar and everyone is fascinated by F1,” Ivan said. “It’s easier to find marshals for F1 than anything else.”

As time goes on the event becomes more social, with marshal regulars forming social groups within the bigger group itself.

“It’s a real mix of men and women, people of all ages and from all over the world,” he said. “It’s mostly race enthusiasts but even our friend who volunteered because he was a yacht enthusiast has become hooked on F1 now, too.”

Shelby, who will go to university in Australia in February, has been racing motocross competitively since he was 7. The buzz of working with F1 has been an eye opener for him, even after growing up around racing cars and on the race circuit.

“I didn’t realise how loud they were,” he said. He found that out by getting up close to the cars through his marshal support role, taking food and drink to other marshals on the various posts around the track.

The community around the marshal team has become part of the fun, he said.

“I didn’t realise how many people from around the world really follow F1. I was also surprised to see so many women marshaling. Growing up around this, I’ve never seen as many women on the race circuit before as I have for F1.”

His mother, Jody, also grew up in a race-mad family, with her father involved in sponsoring a team and working on cars. She said having marshals with both driving and event experience is vital.

“We work so close to the track and it’s a dangerous course,” she said. “It’s an advantage to understand the rules and regulations of a motor-sport event.”

Being an F1 family has its pros and cons. While they all share a passion for cars and racing, the Ingrilli family prefer to work separately “so we don’t get on each other’s nerves”, she said.

“We like to keep it professional. Most people don’t even realise we’re all related.”

mswan@thenational.ae