By Marius Matthee : Marius Matthee is currently a member of the FIM’s International Environmental Commission and also serves as Chairman for the Environmental Commisions of FIM AFRICA and Motorsport South Africa. An Environmental Health Practitioner by profession, he has been a devoted motorsport enthusiast for over 40 years. He shares his experiences, at the recent Bol d’Or FIM World Endurance race, with us:
People will often ask the question, “What is your job like?” or “What exactly do you do as Environmental Steward at a motorcycle race?”
I therefore thought it might be educational and enlightening to share, with our readers, a typical weekend in the life of a FIM Environmental Steward. These observations come from my years as a FIM Environmental Delegate as well as my experiences as Environmental Steward at national and international race meetings in my home country and on the African continent. Environmental focus points will differ slightly from one race to another, but for the purpose of this article, I will use a recent visit to the Bol d’Or 24h Endurance race in France as reference. However, before I elaborate, let me first explain the rationale of appointing an Environmental Steward at FIM championship race meetings.
One of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme’s goals is to establish a culture of continuous environmental improvement across motorcycle sport worldwide. It seeks to establish at all times the highest environmental standards during the organisation of FIM motorcycle meetings in collaboration with the hosting Federation, race organisers, venue owners and competitors.
For each FIM Championship event an Environmental Steward is appointed, whose duty is to deal with environmental aspects related to the meeting. The hosting country (Federation) must appoint the Environmental Steward and the FIM may also appoint an official as Environmental Delegate. The latter is always a member of the FIM’s International Environmental Commission and will further evaluate the efforts made by the organisers to address environmental compliance. The Environmental Steward must be appointed prior to the event in order to ensure that the various roleplayers respect the guidelines and rules of the FIM Environmental Code. It is perhaps worth mentioning that all appointed Environmental Stewards have to pass written FIM examinations in order to be accredited and licensed by the FIM. It is thus essential that this official shall have a thorough knowledge of environmental matters that are associated with motorsport activities.
The FIM usually appoints their Stewards/Delegates several weeks prior to a meeting. This allows one to make the necessary travelling and accommodation arrangements well in advance. Travelling from the southern tip of the African continent to a destination far away can be most challenging and time consuming in the end. Asked to officiate at the 2014 Bol d’Or, it meant flying out of Cape Town to Paris. After saying goodbye to my incredibly understanding wife and kids, I boarded the plane on the Monday evening for the long flight via Dubai. Paris was not my final destination, though, and some more travelling was required (by train and taxi), before I finally reached the Magny-Cours Circuit late on the Wednesday afternoon.
Collection of my race credentials and passes at the circuit’s accreditation office is always my first call of duty when arriving at a race. After sorting out these formalities, the next stop of call is the International Jury room to be in time for the first Jury meeting. Upon arrival, I always introduce myself to the FIM Jury President, Clerk of the Course, race secretary and other Jury members. In recent years, I also found it worthwhile to contact the Jury President a few days prior to the race as a courtesy. Race officials work in a challenging and sometimes tense environment and good collaboration and mutual trust and respect is required. It is thus of utmost importance to establish a good rapport with the International Jury members and other race officials.
The same applies for the race organisers and/or circuit owner, as I always send them a copy of the FIM Environmental Code a few weeks before the event. This is also an opportunity to ask questions and to obtain valuable information pertaining to the basic environmental infrastructure of the venue. This information comes in handy when performing my duties during the race meeting. It is naturally advisable to familiarise yourself with all information concerning the event and to get a general impression of the circuit/route and its fascilities before the start of the first Jury meeting.
The first practice rounds for the Bol d’Or and supporting races commence on the Thursday morning with much excitement and anticipation for both competitors and race officials. Four long days lie ahead and it is thus important to get a decent start to each day by having a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy breakfast and refraining from any consumption of alcohol the previous evening.
A professional approach is expected from the Environmental Steward in discharging his responsibilities and it is important to arrive well prepared. Apart from wearing the appropriate dress code, I find it useful to pack a basic kit that will be helpful in executing my duties. This includes the environmental checklist for the specific racing category, pocket camera, notebook, pencil, circuit & paddock plan, pit allocations, official entrants list, race credentials and my FIM Steward licence. A copy of the FIM Environmental Code is also essential. This copy is not so much for consultation by the Environmental Steward, but to present to others in case of a misunderstanding or misrepresentation by the race organisers, venue owners or competitors.
It is important to arrive at the circuit each day well before the official programme starts. After a brief meeting in the Jury room, the stewards will go out on the circuit to conduct the mandatory safety inspection. I usually make use of this opportunity to orientate myself and to get an idea where the most popular spectator spots are located around the circuit. After the circuit inspection, I will commence my routine inspections of the circuit facilities. These include the paddock, pits, circuit infrastructure, parking and access areas, camping sites and food vendor facilities.
I usually start my inspections in the pit & paddock areas. Here I initially check for the correct usage of environmental mats by the competitors and their teams. Solid waste and effluent water disposal from these areas also needs special attention in order to eliminate potential pollution. Ablution facilities in the paddock are checked to determine nuisance free disposal of effluent water.
Facilities for the public need special attention as well. I inspect the ablution and waste collection facilities to determine if these areas are functional, clean and serviced. Parking is another key area and good management is required to eliminate traffic congestion and the blocking of access routes. Various other areas of importance is also being inspected and evaluated, ranging from sporting aspects like sound level readings of competing motorcycles, sound level of public address systems, camping facilities at the circuit and food vendors. All of these have a direct or indirect influence on the environment and need close monitoring.
Notes are made during inspections, summing up all-important aspects of the event that relate to the environment, and to evaluate the efforts made by the organisers and/or promoters in order to respect the FIM Environmental Code. Feedback on the day’s findings is given at the Jury meeting at the end of the day’s activities. It is the task of the Environmental Steward to immediately inform the Clerk of the Course in case of non-respect or violation of the provisions mentioned in the Environmental Code. Sanctions relative to the infraction can be pronounced in the end. The primary role of an Environmental Steward is that of an educator and it is rewarding to take note and give feedback of good environmental conduct during of after a meeting. My camera is always at hand, since photos can be used as reference material to illustrate the aforementioned. One must always be committed to provide a quality service in the end that will benefit all the protagonists.
Throughout the race weekend, more or less the same pattern is being followed - more inspections and evaluation of the key environmental focus points, followed by feedback at the Jury meetings. My role as environmental educator is not neglected and questions must be answered from time to time. It is also a good opportunity to share information pertaining to environmental issues with the various roleplayers.
Interaction with competitors and race organisers can be interesting, challenging, technical and even humorous. A typical example was when a crew member of a well-known racer tried to convince me that using a baby’s disposable nappy was as good as the absorbent qualities of an environmental mat.The team somehow forgot to bring an environmental mat to the race and the nappy served as emergency backup. Well, I guess they deserved full marks for originality in the end. It is heartening to see to what lengths some organisers and circuit owners go in order to address environmental awareness. I recall the time when the circuit manager of an internationally famous circuit explained with great passion their efforts to create various environmental initiatives and by showing to me proof of their work.
Just before the completion of the last race on the Sunday, and before the last Jury meeting, I complete the relevant environmental Checklist and hand it over to the Jury President or Chief Steward. This document is the environmental steward’s official report on the meeting and addresses all environmental observations. It will point out areas of good practice and will also mention concerns and recommendations for future meetings. It is extremely important to be unbiased and objective when you complete the checklist and to make sure of your facts. This is also the time to share notes with the host country’s environmental steward. The latter’s report needs to correlate with my own. After the race, I also prepare a debriefing report for the FIM, with photos, summarising all the environmental aspects of the event.
After the final Jury meeting, and after the results have officially been approved, it is time to pack up, say goodbye to my fellow officials and start the long journey back home. By the time I eventually get home, I have spent a few semi-sleepless nights, reviewing where I went right or where I went wrong in the execution of my duties, but always still eager to repeat this experience all over again.
I find it impossible to put down on paper everything that I do, but I think I have given you a good idea where the Environmental Steward slots into the bigger picture at a meeting.
My advice for other Environmental Stewards… the right approach is essential! Be strict, but fair, honest and considerate in your dealings with others. You need patience, tact, a passion for racing and environmental matters…and last but not least, pack those walking shoes!! You can only earn your stripes by covering long distances on foot over a race weekend and not by sitting in an office all day.