Mark Spowage from Sothall, Sheffield is hitting top gear after being crowned Patrol of the Year – the AA's top accolade for its roadside patrols across the UK. This was announced at the AA Employee Awards held on 10 May 2014.
In his new role, 39-year-old Mark will spend the next 12 months as the 'public face' of the AA, representing the UK's biggest and most trusted motoring organisation within the motor industry and before the media.
The judging began in February with regional heats across the UK. In March, the five finalists were put through intensive technical and driving tests, panel interview and mock live TV interviews near the AA’s training centre in Leicestershire.
Mark, who has been an AA Patrol for 14 years, lives with his partner Michelle and has an 18-year-old stepson and 6-year-old son.
This is his second job – when he left school Mark served as an apprentice mechanic with Sheffield Council and spent 10 years working on cars, vans, heavy goods vehicles and plant.
But, he reveals, he comes from a circus family.
"We ran Uncle Sam's American Circus and Planet Circus," Mark recalls.
"When I was younger I used to spend my holidays looking after lions, elephants and horses, but always had an interest in mechanical things!"
I managed to rescue the snake without harm to either it or the person's car, or me!
Mark Spowage, AA Patrol of the Year
Maybe his circus background helped when he attended a member who had a six-foot-long snake wedged in the boot lining of a Peugeot.
"That customer was very happy to have the snake rescued without harm to either it or to his car and for me, the satisfaction of sorting out problems for a member at the roadside and seeing them drive away happy is the best part of this job. That applies whether it's a professional footballer's Ferrari F50GT with a flat battery or an old Ford Fiesta with a failed clutch master cylinder, which I managed to repair using a 2p coin amongst other things!"
His award is due credit for his service
Steve Dewey, AA Road Operations Director
And Mark's dream car? "Well, I attend some really amazing vehicles in this job. But I really fancy an old split-screen VW camper or perhaps a 1956 Ford Popular."
Steve Dewey, AA road operations director and former patrol, says: "AA patrols have one of the best and most challenging jobs in the motor trade – you're effectively your own boss, working on pretty much any vehicle and in all weather. But there's more to it than just the technical aspects.
"Our patrols like to say they fix the member first, then the car, and Mark typifies these values that set AA patrols apart. His award is due credit for his service to members at the roadside and he’s a fantastic ambassador for the company."
The AA awards were held on Saturday 10 May at The Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, South Wales.
The AA Patrol of the Year award started in 1987 to recognise the service and dedication of its around 3,000 patrols at the roadside. Last year's recovery winner was Tony Rich from Warrington, Cheshire.
(14 May 2014)