Sharon Kuzaj: “I encourage women to become track marshals”
Motorsport is about passion, devotion and excitement and, if not for the unwavering dedication of the thousands of track marshals around the world, it simply could not exist.
Those people who, driven by their love of motorsports, give their time and energy to ensure safety on and all around tracks. From the pinnacle of motorsport in Formula 1, to smaller events, track marshals are always there to see that the race goes on.
Females In Motorsport spoke to Sharon Kuzaj, a young French track marshal who’s been officiating for over a year. This F1 and World Rally Championship fan, whose passion was inherited from her grandfather, didn’t always think about becoming a track marshal.
“I wasn't really familiar with it,” Sharon tells Females In Motorsport.
“It was a friend of mine who told me about it because she knew that I was interested in motorsports.
“I didn't know that it was possible to train to become one. I thought it was a professional thing - I didn't think it was voluntary.”
Becoming a track marshal is another way to live your passion and your dream. It doesn't matter whether you are a man, a woman or anything else. The most important thing is to be like Sharon: committed and passionate.
“I try to encourage women to become track marshals,” she says. “There were a lot of us at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was incredible! Even during the F1 Grand Prix, it was impressive.
“When I go to my little events, on my little circuits, there are three of us and here there are 150 women. It's a source of pride!”
As with many other things, women have always been present but not always in the foreground and this is something we’re trying to address.
“When you go to other circuits, you meet other female marshals and you see that some of them have been doing it for 20 years and they’ve struggled to make it clear that they have the right to have a passion for motorsport,” she says. “And that's what I'm really trying to fight for.”
Sharon is keen to pass on her experience and passion, but above all, she wants to show that a woman can be a track marshal.
“People often look at me and say 'but can a woman be a marshal?' Well yes!” she says. “A woman can be a marshal.
“They will push me to do something that I thought I couldn't do. They'll say to me 'come on, we'll train you so you can do it and then you can say to yourself that you've tried it at least once'.
“It's a different world. I know that sometimes the world of motorsport can be very harsh, but it's not like that for us. You can do anything whether you're a man, a woman or non-gendered. We are a family.”
One of Sharon's first experiences as a track marshal was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year.
“Being a marshal there is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life,” Sharon says. “If there’s anything I can advise someone to do, it's this event.
“You feel special when you marshal there. Whenever they see you people say hello, and they thank you. They thank you for your passion. It's really a very family-like feeling.
“I'll do Le Mans every year for the rest of my life.”
Nevertheless, being a track marshal takes dedication and drive. It's far from being an easy job.
“When you go on the night shift and you're on duty for hours, it's really complicated,” Sharon says. “[At the French Grand Prix], it was extremely hot. It was very challenging.
“In the suits, it must have been over 40 degrees, so it was very strenuous. But in terms of spectacle, you always experience something exceptional.”
The life of a track marshal can also be full of surprises, such as meeting drivers or getting a look behind the scenes at major events.
“It’s really about being there and enjoying the experience,” she says. “This year we had a special visit to the pit lane, just for the marshals and it was incredible. I was able to meet Sophia Floersch!”
Being a track marshal at the 24 Hours of Le Mans or at the Circuit Paul Ricard for the F1 Grand Prix differ hugely. They have different organisations, and different ways of doing things.
“One of the main differences is that at Le Mans you do everything,” Sharon says. “You can be a fire marshal, you can be an intervention marshal or you can be a flag marshal.
“In F1, you’re really tied to your position. I was at station three but I was doing intervention and I stayed on intervention all weekend.”
Sharon, who was originally due to attend the Grand Prix as a spectator, was persuaded by her Head of Station and friend, Tony, to have her first experience in F1 as a marshal.
“It was a childhood dream,” Sharon says. “At the same time, I made my grandfather's dream come true - he got to see me on TV! He was so happy and he said to me 'I couldn't be prouder that you followed my passion' so it was a very emotional weekend.”
“I did an intervention on Denis Hauger in qualifying in F2 and on Hartog in the Porsche Supercup,” she says. “The one on Denis Hauger, it was just an engine failure so he stopped and we just had to take his car off to safety.”
“From the moment the car is safe, the driver is the most important thing,” she says. “We don't want anything to go wrong and have a big crash like Zhou Guanyu at Silverstone. Those are things we don't want to see. And in any race, whether it's W Series, Porsche, F2 or F1... we don't want anything dramatic to happen.”
One can only admire all these marshals who sometimes risk their lives for the safety of others. Examples abound in the history of motorsport to illustrate the courage and dedication of these fans like no other, we can never thank them enough for all the hard work they put in at every event.
If you are interested in becoming a track marshal, visit this page to find out more or contact your nearest circuit.