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Unsung Heroes of Motorsport: William England

In our ongoing series, “Heroes Beyond the Track,” we have the distinct honour of exploring the world of motorsport officiating with William England.

As a member of the Administrative Council and a dedicated motorsport official, William England plays a pivotal role in the sport. His involvement ranges from making high-level decisions for the federation to overseeing the operations of hill climb and karting events. His presence is felt in every aspect of the sport.

Can you describe your role and the tasks you undertake in motorsport?

That question opens up a broad spectrum of answers. In addition to serving on the Administrative Council, I am deeply involved as a motorsport official. My responsibilities span from making high-level decisions within the federation to managing the operations of hill climb and karting events. My role requires constant presence and attention.

We strive to support clubs to the best of our abilities, tackling challenges and securing funding from organizations such as SM, FIA, and MOC. Despite our efforts, there is always more work to be done. My duties include handling rule books, operational guides, and training programs, all part of my responsibilities as Vice President and Official. I also oversee the licensing process for the Malta Motorsport Federation (MMF) and manage most FIA projects and communications, working closely with our General Secretary.

What sparked your interest in becoming involved in motorsport event management/officiating and how did you transition into your current position?

In my early teen years, I served as the PRO for the OMC, marking my entry into the club scene. Following that, I founded the Customer Classic Car Club, which, despite strong belief in its purpose, struggled due to a lack of support and was short-lived. My next venture was with the Porsche Club Malta, all while I was also restoring my own vehicles and working on motorsport projects. Regular Sunday visits to Hal Far, and previously Ta’ Qali, fuelled my passion, inspired by my dad’s love for cars. In 2011, Tonio Cini brought me into the Malta Motorsport Federation.

What does a typical day or weekend look like for you when you’re working at a motorsport event, and how does your role contribute to the smooth running of the event?

A typical day can range from uneventful administrative tasks to a whirlwind of licensing activities in Q1, or post-event chaos with issues cropping up when it’s already too late to address them. The key is to focus on explaining, training, maintaining calm, and fostering good relationships. As a nation known for our passionate approach to sports, it’s crucial for officials to remain composed and level-headed.

Safety is paramount in motorsport. How do you ensure the safety of both competitors and spectators during races, and what specific protocols do you follow in your role?

This topic is extensive and cannot be fully addressed with a brief response. Firstly, we have comprehensive safety plans that serve as robust guidelines, allowing for some flexibility as long as any changes are agreed upon and documented. Our foundation is always the FIA guidelines, hill climb guidelines, and sporting code.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as an official, and how do you and your team overcome them while ensuring the event runs smoothly?

Probably the biggest challenge is the lack of knowledge about the rulebook. Many people are unaware of the rules they need to follow and rely on hearsay instead. This issue is compounded by the limited overseas exposure, which is costly. As a result, we encounter situations that are not covered in the rulebook and require discretion, which can vary from person to person. This leads to expectations of consistent outcomes in different situations, even though no two incidents are identical. Factors like angle, entry point, and visibility can all influence decisions. Balancing discretion, fairness, and impartiality is crucial in these cases.

Could you share a memorable or particularly challenging experience you’ve had while working at a motorsport event, and how did you handle it?

I recall assisting Josef Abela and Charlene Bartolo at Trendo Bondone during the FIA HillClimb Championship. We had to explain and issue chicane penalties to a large number of drivers. In the local scene, such penalties often provoke anger or worse. This time, delivering the penalties in Italian added another layer of difficulty. With 32 penalties to hand out, it was a tense situation, but we remained calm and composed, ensuring the process went smoothly. Stewarding requires clear explanations, fairness, composure, and a thorough understanding of each unique situation.

What qualities do you believe are essential for someone to succeed as an official, and how do you cultivate and demonstrate these qualities in your role?

Answering that question is quite challenging. The approach largely hinges on the discipline in question, its regulatory framework, and the ease or difficulty of implementing changes within it. The initial step involves grasping what deviates from the standard and why, determining if it’s tolerable, and deciding whether an immediate change or a structured change process is necessary. Each discipline is unique, so what applies to Hillclimb might not necessarily apply to drag racing, for instance. Communicating this clear understanding and effectively advocating for your vision to various stakeholders, including officials, clubs, and their members is crucial.

How do you coordinate with other officials, teams, and drivers to ensure the smooth running of an event, and what strategies do you employ to maintain effective communication and collaboration?

In my role within the MMF, I coordinate the call-out for marshals and officials, but any success is truly a team effort. I’ve cherished Hill climbing since a young age and still strive not to miss any event, whether I’m watching from the side-lines, marshalling, or stewarding. The key to our success is teamwork. Every role is essential, and no position is redundant, it’s all part of one cohesive team. We must support each other; if one person overlooks something, others must be there to provide additional eyes and ears. In my opinion, this collaborative approach is the only recipe for success.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a marshal or official, and what steps can they take to pursue a career in this field?

If you’re passionate about the sport, you don’t necessarily need a vehicle to participate. Consider volunteering to join an event as an observer, shadowing different roles. Read extensively, ask questions, and repeat the process. If an opportunity aligns with your interests and skills, seize it. Familiarizing yourself with the Sporting Code and Regulations, especially how disciplines operate overseas, can provide valuable insights into the bigger picture and suggest ways to contribute to improvement while being mindful of financial considerations.

In your opinion, what are the most significant changes or advancements in motorsport in recent years, and how have these impacted your role and responsibilities?

It’s politically risky to provide a concise response, yet delving into full details would be too lengthy. Our focus is on expanding the marshals and officials group, which is crucial. Over the next two to three years, we aim to have three homologated venues. However, we still have work to do to ensure proper regulation and enforcement. Currently, regulation is lacking, and enforcement poses challenges. Nevertheless, Hillclimb events are attracting a good number of new entries, and the IKC Karting track is gaining well-deserved attention. Additionally, drag racing is experiencing a positive response. If we continue fostering growth alongside regulatory improvements, the Mediterranean Motorsport hub will serve as tangible evidence of our success.

Motorsport events can be intense and high-pressure environments. How do you and your team manage stress and maintain focus during races, and what techniques do you use to keep a clear head under pressure?

Who claims we handle stress? We merely conceal it, taming it with sugar, doughnuts, and laughter. Every event sparks nerves in some form. We outline our roles, establish reference points, scrutinize the regulations, and listen intently. Then, we maintain composure when executing our tasks.

What do you love most about being involved in motorsport as an official, and what motivates you to continue working in this field?

With an appreciation of over 80% of the individuals surrounding you, a seamless event unfolds through effective teamwork.

How do you see the future of motorsport evolving in the coming years, and what potential innovations or developments do you anticipate in your role?

The three approved venues will usher in a transformation whose magnitude we have yet to fully grasp. We must transition from a mere club focus to a broader organizational perspective, backing events, sponsoring venues, and supporting event sponsors. The management of motorsport must adopt a business-oriented mindset, or risk inevitable failure.

Are there any specific regulations or protocols that you think need more attention or improvement in the motorsport industry, and how do you advocate for these changes in your position?

We must implement regulations aligned with international standards, departing from the localized approach ‘Only in Malta’ type rule. A clear roadmap outlining the transition is imperative. Given the unfortunate occurrences of severe accidents, it’s crucial to acknowledge the inevitability of encountering more challenges. Proactively addressing potential scenarios is paramount, rather than perpetually reacting to them after the fact.

Can you share any behind-the-scenes insights or anecdotes that fans might find interesting about motorsport, and what aspects of your role do you think are often overlooked or underappreciated?

There are too many to list. Perhaps we could consider a concise live series to cover these topics! 🙂

Lastly, what message would you like to convey to motorsport enthusiasts about the importance of the work done by marshals and officials, and how can fans support and appreciate the efforts of event management teams?

Without officials and marshals, motorsport events cannot exist. Finding interested individuals is already challenging, and volunteerism in this realm has dwindled. It’s crucial to value their time, efforts, and dedication. Events simply cannot proceed without their crucial contributions, just as they can’t without the involvement of clubs and the drivers affiliated with them. Recognizing the hierarchy on event days, engaging with others both during the event and socially, and embracing motorsport as a familial community are all integral aspects of participation.

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