16/07/2024
Malta, MT
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Unsung Heroes of Motorsport: Jeremy Cassar

In our ongoing series, “Heroes Beyond the Track,” we had the pleasure of exploring the behind the scenes and preparation during Hill Climb events with no other than Jeremy Cassar, the Clerk of the Course.

What does the preparation process for a hill climb event entail from start to finish?

  • Before every event, a physical assessment of the particular road which will be used, is required.
  • Following the physical inspection of the road, one must access the road conditions and determine what works are required to have the road in a good state for the event. Such works also include cleaning of debris and patch work. Clean and smooth surfaces lead to better traction and impact safety.
  • The process of applications of all the necessary permits and no objections from police, local councils, TM, CPD, medical organisations, etc. needs to be done for each event.
  • Organise a team of officials and helpers.
  • Race weekend starts on Saturday afternoon, with road preparations, followed by the final set up on Sunday early morning.

Running of the event also consists of:

  • Cleaning up the area used after the event.
  • Media write ups.
  • Updating of championship points and standings.
  • Hopefully we stop there, totalling 4 weeks of work for each event.

How far in advance do you start planning for a hill climb event?

Planning starts from 3 weeks before, and sometimes it proves tight too.

Can you walk us through the key stages of preparation for a hill climb race?

The key stages are many and they are all linked together, and finally blend into the actual race. Everyone has their own way and style of organising. Without permits we cannot race; without officials we cannot race and without participants we cannot race either. Experience has taught me how to juggle with timing and after doing this for over 8 years, I can proudly say that I have a very loyal and reliable team, and this is the most important thing for me.

The Team and Roles

Can you introduce us to the core team behind organizing a hill climb event?

The Hillclimb and Sprint National Championship and other club level events related to Hillclimb and Sprints have been and are still solely organised by The Island Car Club, for the past 63 years. The Committee of the said club are the organisers of the events, and whilst as a committee we have various individual roles, we still work tightly together and do whatever needs to be done, even if it doesn’t fit into our specific tasks. The committee get everything organised and prepared from beginning to end, however the actual running of the event is split into various official roles, each with their own responsibilities, all following the same National Rules. Officials vary from race to race according to availability.

What are the primary roles and responsibilities involved in making the event a success?

To organise and run an event were one can say the event was a “success” varies from individual to individual, but the following points are necessary so that I can call an event a success:

  • 4 complete runs are done.
  • No injuries and no or minimal damage is done.
  • We start on time and finish early.
  • The fastest person wins (we are racing against the clock, and I don’t like a winner winning because the faster person was disqualified or anything similar).
  • No protests are made.

How do you coordinate with different team members and ensure everyone is on the same page?

I am very strict and even with everyone. The rules are there for everyone and its my duty to enforce them. We have good communication with our drivers and are always available and willing to listen to fresh ideas and improvements.

Specific Role and Responsibilities

Can you describe your role as the Clerk of the Course in detail?

I am the General Secretary of ICC, so I try and avoid being the clerk of the course as much as possible. As the person responsible for the organisation of the event, I keep myself in a position where I can intervene between competitors and officials when and if needed. A Clerk of the Course is the person that runs the race, however the organisers are responsible legally, so it is my duty on the day to monitor everything from beginning to end. Notwithstanding the latter, I have been Clerk of the Course for several events, when necessary.

What are your main responsibilities on the day of the event?

My main responsibilities are making sure the track is in the best possible standard, all officials are present, all drivers are in order and on time, and all road closures and diversions are organised and manned by officials.

How do you manage safety protocols and ensure compliance with regulations?

There are race regulations and legal obligations we need to follow. Sometimes they clash and can be mis interpretated, but I take it upon myself to find the best balance.

Challenges and Struggles

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in organizing hill climb events?

The voluntary help, which is on the decrease, and the extreme costs we have to pay for government entities like CPD and TM officials, which run into the thousands of euros per event.

Can you share a specific incident or challenge that you had to overcome during an event?

The weather sometimes gives us a good challenge. On the day, important and quick decisions need to be made, which sometimes involves counting our losses and calling it a day or pay more hoping we can continue.

A couple of accidents I have handled are very hard to forget. Although no injuries were sustained, they are stuck in my head, and they are a hard pill to swallow.

How do you deal with unexpected issues or emergencies during a race?

One must be mentally, physically and administratively fully equipped and always prepared. We have an average of 70 cars per event, with 4 runs each event. With an average of 280 runs during the event, one must be ready for anything.

Sponsorship and Funding

How important is sponsorship for the success of hill climb events?

Its very simple. With the huge costs the club pays to organise and run an event, and with the current entry fee the drivers pay, it is impossible to organise any events without our sponsors.

Behind the Scenes

What logistical aspects are crucial for the smooth running of a hill climb event?

Good communication is key. Good communication with authorities, officials, drivers and helpers is the foundation of a smooth event.

How do you ensure that the course is in optimal condition for the racers?

We have safety plans to follow. However, the road conditions vary and can cause challenges.

How do you handle the administrative work involved in the event planning?

The administrative work is mostly teamwork, and at the moment I am proud to say that we are a very good team.

Personal Insights and Experiences

What inspired you to become the Clerk of the Course?

I believe that in life you have to gain experience in as many roles as possible to be able to understand, teach or monitor a group of officials. I have done scrutineering, marshalling, chief marshalling and COC many times over the years. But what keeps me going is the great team of committee members and officials that I work with.

What keeps you motivated and passionate about your role?

New challenges and targets.

Can you share a memorable moment from your career in motorsport?

Too many to mention! Each event has its story, but a couple of moments that will keep ringing in my head are:

A huge storm during the Mdina Grand Prix where I was assisting. We managed to change the set up of the track according to the flooding road conditions and grip levels, and turned out to be a successful day of racing in the wet .

  • Track records.
  • Penellu, which had a 100-car entry list was a challenge, yet it was successful.
  • The increase of families supporting drivers on the day.

How do you see hill climb events evolving in Malta over the next few years?

I am working on new locations, which require a lot of work. But once concluded, it will be worth all the work. Therefore, the future looks promising.

What are your goals for future events?

8 events – 8 locations.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in the organizational side of motorsport?

Choose the motorsport you prefer. If possible, compete in it so that you can understand the drivers’ point of views. Then start from the bottom and work your way up until you reach your goals. And then set a higher goal.

Unsung Heroes of Motorsport: Jeremy Cassar

Kimi Bugeja Second at the 5th Round

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