The Inaugural WAMS Officials Exchange Program heads to the Formula 1® Singapore Grand Prix this month and Michelle Luke is the worthy recipient. At 44, this sales rep by day has she’s been involved in motor sport as a competitor, official & spectator for 30 years and will experience a once in a lifetime opportunity working in various roles at the Grand Prix. Before she goes overseas, WAMS caught up with Michelle to get to know more about her and the work she does:
So how did you get started in motorsport?
My father was a rally driver when he was a lot younger, so I started with him, working at rallies, doing stop/start finish procedures, radio communication through State Emergency Services, then I started navigating in rallies when I was 14. I had always gone and spectated at motorsport events and thought, “How do I get to be on the other side of the fence?” Then one of my friends who had worked in pitlane at Bathurst said to come and work with them. So my first event in circuit racing working as an official was at the Bathurst 1000 in pitlane and on the grid, and I was lucky enough to grid the cars up on the front row. It was an unbelievable experience as a first timer, so once I did that I was totally addicted!
What do you love the most about motorsport?
Apart from the sound of the cars racing, I love the interaction with other people and being so close to the action rather than just watching it on television. Being right amongst everything that happens, being able to help people, to promote the sport, and to encourage other people to come and work at motor racing events. For a lot of people, working at motor racing is a bit of a dream come true and don’t think you can actually take part, but you can through officialling.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the work that goes on behind the scenes, what could a typical day at a racetrack for you include?
Yes I find a lot of people assume that I just turn up on the day and have a great time watching the motor racing. But depending on my role, I could be busy looking after officials who have problems, in race control doing paperwork, filling out report forms, handing out grid sheets, training new officials, and at some events I could be organising the officials’ accommodation, delegate where the officials will be working, doing the radios, briefings, etc. So a lot of people think it’s very cruisy, but it’s not. A lot of my personal time is spent preparing for events.
So what are some of the different areas within officialling that you’ve enjoyed working?
I’ve done flagging, I generally work in pitlane and on the grid, I’ve also worked in marshaling or dummy grid, I’ve also go my Event Assessors qualifications so that I can help other officials upgrade their licenses. In my role as a Senior Official I get to train a lot of new officials and I’ve recruited about 21 new officials over the last eight years who now regularly attend race meetings, so that’s always a prime focus of mine. I put a lot of time into it because I get a lot out of the sport and would love to see people who are passionate about motor racing be involved as well. If I can bring young people into the sport and train them to do the job well, it will hopefully encourage them to come back and grow their own leadership and management skills that you can then implement into your work and home life as well.
Is there a dream role you’d like to have one day?
How excited are you about being part of WAMS’ Inaugural Officials Exchange program?
Honestly I couldn’t believe that I had won! I was humbled because I have a lot of female friends who are senior officials so I knew that I had really stiff competition and that there were some ladies with some fantastic experience. A lot of the females I work with I associate with outside of the sport as well and I think that the camaraderie is a big part of what we do and the friends that you make. But this will be my first overseas motorsport job so I’m really looking forward to fulfilling lots of different roles, which will then help me be able to encourage other women to see what can be achieved and look at what the sport can give back to you. It’s all about promoting the sport that I love and encouraging others to do the same.