|Married father-of-four Plunkett, aged 39, has been marshalling with a passion on rallies throughout Northern Ireland since his late teens. His efforts in recent years to encourage more people to become marshals has now earned him the UK`s top marshalling accolade.
Plunkett will collect the prestigious Alexander Forbes MSA Marshal of the Year award trophy at the MSA`s annual awards ceremony in London in January, and also a cheque for £250.00. The ceremony is attended each year by some of the most famous names in British motor sport.
“It`s a great honour but not something I`d ever set out to win,“ says Plunkett, from Cookstown. “I just love marshalling – it doesn`t matter if it rains sometimes because you become a part of the action and there`s the sense of having done something worthwhile. You also make some great friends along the way.”
Plunkett`s roles these days include Deputy Clerk of the Course and also Chief Marshal on the popular International Ulster Rally. His work since he started marshalling as a teenager in the mid-Eighties has been tireless.
Perhaps his biggest achievement came in 2000, when he helped found Northern Ireland`s new Motorsport Marshalling Partnership. This is now supported by 11 clubs and encourages volunteers to take up marshalling with loyalty rewards, such as team tours, give-aways and paid-for trips as spectators to a round of the World Rally Championship. Plunkett has also ensured that marshals receive training days with doctors and rescue crews, and his efforts having even attracted funding from Northern Ireland`s Sports Council.
Plunkett adds: “It hit me fairly early on that without marshals, the events don`t go ahead. And I love the events far too much to let that happen, so I decided to try and do something about it. It`s taken quite a bit of co-ordination, but it`s been worth it and we`ve been helped along the way by some very supportive people.”
Allan Dean-Lewis, Head of External Affairs at the Motor Sports Association comments: “It is a tribute to Plunkett that there is now a good team managing the Motorsport Marshalling Partnership in Northern Ireland, and it is also fitting that this nomination honours the time and effort he has put into the safety aspect of motor sport.”