2020 may have been a tough year for many people, but one person who hasn’t stopped smiling is Wakefield Park race official Kate Eppelstun.
If you’ve raced at Wakefield Park, there is no doubt you will recognise Kate and you will have benefited from her pure passion for motorsport and thorough organisational abilities.
Starting as a flag marshal at the Gold Coast Supercars event more than 13 years ago, Kate has officiated at some of the highest-profile race meetings in the country but she still calls Wakefield Park home.
Kate has been the chief flag marshal for many events but more recently has occupied some other roles in race control, such as Deputy Clerk of Course. She said there have been some challenges towards the end of 2020 but all-in-all, the Wakefield Park community has been lucky.
“After the initial lockdown earlier in the year, we were able to go racing again and in the end we didn’t miss out on too many events,” Kate said.
“The biggest issue has been complying with social distancing regulations; it’s meant we’ve had to spread people out and we haven’t had as many people on some of the flag points as we would have liked. It’s always a shame when you have enthusiastic volunteers who want to help out, but you have to turn them down because of limits on the maximum number of people on site.”
After a few months on the sidelines, Kate said the competitors were very forthcoming in displaying their appreciation to the officials.
“The Wakefield Park competitors have always been fantastic for showing us their gratitude but when the lockdown ended and we were able to go racing again, they were particularly grateful, which was lovely,” she said.
Kate has been enjoying her newly-acquired skills in race control.
“I’ve been finding it interesting and learning some new skills,” she said.
“It’s awesome to have people like Jess (Nicholson) and Nick (Goring) to learn from.”
While Kate said 2020 produced plenty of highlights, she singled out the final Motorsport Australia NSW State round as her favourite moment.
“Jess, Nick and I have worked hard for many years on recruiting officials and at the MA NSW State round, we achieved our goal of having every flag point manned, a full crew in race control and a full crew in the pits,” she said.
“It was an awesome weekend and just to top it off, I was fortunate enough to receive the Officials’ Favourite Official Award, which was a real honour.
“Everyone in the Wakefield Park officials team gets on famously – we’re like a big family. The circuit management, especially Dean and James, are fantastic as well. They give us everything we ask for and go out of our way to make sure we’re comfortable.”
Jess Nicholson, who has worked as Clerk of Course for many Wakefield Park events, said Kate’s best qualities are her dedication and knowledge.
“I’ve worked with Kate since 2014 and I’ve always found her to be so dedicated, open and approachable,” Jess said.
“She’s been a valued member of the team as the chief flag marshal, but more recently she’s been working in race control and doing a fantastic job – she certainly knows her way around the track and has a thorough understanding of the regulations for running a race meeting.”
Wakefield Park manager Dean Chapman said Kate’s contributions are valued by not only the other officials, but also the competitors.
“Kate is the one who puts a team of officials together for our race meetings to ensure they run in a professional manner, and she has created a fun and harmonious culture among the officials that is the envy of other venues all over Australia,” Dean said.
“There were many challenges this year with events being cancelled and some officials not being able to travel, but Kate took it all in her stride.
“Wakefield Park is very proud and fortunate to have someone of Kate’s calibre; she takes pride in her role and she really does live and breathe motorsport. There are not many drivers who race at Wakefield Park, who wouldn’t know Kate.
“Kate’s husband Craig also deserves a special mention because he supports her in everything she does.”
Benalla Auto Club Group CEO Chris Lewis-Williams also recognised Kate’s efforts, highlighting her organisational skills.
“Kate is a natural organiser; she’s perfect for overseeing the officials’ team and working out who is best suite to each role,” Chris said.
“Her priority is always to look after the officials and ensure they are respected for the job they are doing for Wakefield Park events.”