I would be interested to hear your views on whether you think motor racing officials should be paid and if they were, to what level. At the moment we are talking for those that are not volunteers, the princely sum of mileage and expenses. In return they are giving up their time, being put under a great deal of stress in the event of an incident, getting virtually no thanks when they get everything right and total vilification when they get it wrong.
“Get it wrong?” – Yes, it does happen and more frequently than you would imagine. This is the reason for the questioning title.
Whilst the MSA does insure and take responsibility for its officials and they can be censured or worse for failure, the fact they are not paid and so there is no “commercial” or fee based transaction which, in my mind, means that the level of professionalism can always be doubted and their decisions open to question.
Two events over this last racing weekend set this blog post up – 1 went bad and the other had a positive outcome.
Before I relay the incidents, let me roll out a couple of sections of the MSA Blue Book and MCRCB code, which governs British Superbikes (just for consistency).
MCRCB CODE – APPLIES TO BSB 2009 MCRCB Yearbook
18.104.22.168 (a regulation that has been in place since 1995 when the MCRCB was established)
If a race has to be stopped after the leader has completed two thirds of the original race distance, rounded down to the nearest number of laps, it will be considered to have finished
a) The order of classification shall be based upon the order of last crossing the finish line prior to the showing of the red flag, and only competitors who are racing at the showing of the red flag will be classified.
MSA Blue Book - Circuit Racing (Q) says;
17.3. With the exception of 6.2.6., unless the SRs or the Championship Regulations state otherwise, to be classified as a finisher in a race, only cars which have covered at least 80% of the distance covered by the class winner and which cross the finishing line under their own power within four minutes of the overall winner will be classified.
6.2.6; All starters in an Endurance race will be classified in the results according to the number of completed laps.
5.4.3; Any race stopped after the leader has completed 75% of its duration may be considered to have finished, unless the Clerk of the Course, in consultation with the Stewards of the Meeting, deems it appropriate to restart the race. If not restarted the result will be based on the order of crossing the finish line at one lap less than at the time of the first showing of the Red Flag. Only cars which are under their own power at the showing of the Red Flag will be classified.
So now you are getting a hint of what the incidents were this weekend – race stopping red flags.
I was at one of the events – the GT Cup supporting races for the Blancpain series which was at Brands Hatch on the GP circuit. Wonderful racing, hard and fast; lovely cars, well prepared, with a lovely howl from the Ferrari, a sonorous bub, bub, bub burble from the Bentley and of course our Lotus Evora with the distinctive V motor noise. Two 4th places from the first two starts were the results of good gearing preparation and some monstrous work from Gareth. In the 3rd race, the 45 minute, pit stop one, we came out from our pit stop and just lost 4th place so 5th was looking like the result when our friend Richard Chamberlain, who was running 3rd in his Tango orange 935 Porsche made an unscheduled exit from the race (Is that a posh phrase for crash? Ed).
RED FLAG..Race end.
The timing screen showed us as 4th…………………..then 5th………………….then 4th and then 5th again as the remaining cars went through the timing beam and the whole race was backdated one lap whilst we were in parc ferme.
Time to reach for the rule book because it looks like we are going to be diddled out of a 4th place finish here. Rule found (5.4.3), chest puffed out, battle garments put on…………………
And just before we engaged the enemy, sorry Clerk of the Course, (old military training habits die hard), the NMA Lotus Evora went back up to 4th and stayed there.
Now the Blancpain series do not consider their results final until some time after the race or qualifying or practice. There is good reason for that and given the high profile nature of the series, TV coverage and top spec drivers, they know that they need their results to be beyond reproach, first time, every time. Hence the 4th, 5th, 4th, 5th and finally 4th – the automated timing systems don’t know the rules, so they do what they are told, but the officials applied the rules properly and come to the correct outcome.
The result is a professional series, with consistent rulings that people want to be part of and that includes the results.
A friend of mine was racing in Ireland this weekend, like he does most weekends. This friend is really rather a good peddler of race cars in fact, with a number of titles to his name. In other words he has been around a while and, because he builds his own race cars, is no stranger to the rule book.
Single seaters in the wet are hard work and have a nasty habit of trying to spit you off into the boonies at every opportunity. My friend was enjoying his bit of giant killing in his underpowered but sweet handling racer and got to second in what I am reliably told was a nothing short of a monsoon (normal for Ireland then! Ed) when the leader (silver car) exited stage left on a puddle and turned his race car into scrap metal against the barriers (He was completely unhurt I am pleased to say) The race could not continue with the debris is a dangerous position. RED FLAG.
Under the rules my friend knew he should have won and whilst he wants to win in a fair fight, the fact that the opposition took themselves out of the race is not his issue. A win is a win. Imagine his surprise when on the 1 lap countback he is second and stays there.
Replay scenario from event 1; rule found, chest puffed out, battle… (get on with it, Ed) and off to the CoC.
The CoC wasn’t having any of it – he bluffed and he blustered and he quoted rules that don’t exist and he “interpreted” rules that did. His 2, yes 2, assistant CoC’s made Trappist monks look positively talkative and did “speak no evil” monkey impressions.
His crucial response was that not everyone completed the immediately preceding lap before the red flag was shown, therefore in his eyes the countback goes back to the last lap that everyone completed, ie two laps back not one.
So my friends reply was - 'OK, so we are now going back two laps?' COC says 'Yes and on that lap the silver car was leading'
My friend quoted the rule (5.4.3) 'only cars driving under their own power at a time of red flag will be classified' (so the silver car, having caused the race ending red flag should not be classified).
The CoC - to his dismay- stated that no such rule exists.
When it was pointed out to him in the MSA Blue Book he changed tack and says 'No, the count back lap overrules this' adding that this was his final decision and the results stand – the lead racer, who caused the red flag, who was not “running under his own power at the showing of the red flag” was first and my friend was second.
As an aside to this I am told that at least one other very dubious 'I'll find the rule later' decision occurred next day as well.
So, did the CoC in this case not know the rule book, was he so arrogant that having made a decision that was wrong and then being presented with the correct position he couldn’t bring himself to man up and admit fault? I know that CoC’s have to be certified and trained but they are not retained as far as I am aware. So I don’t know why this plainly wrong decision was made but my friend is now left with a decision of his own – appeal or leave it.
The massive sums of money that float around the top end of motorsport do not filter down to club racing, and this is a travesty – it is no different in Premier League football, tennis and probably many other sports. I would not be surprised to hear that affiliated competitions in other sports are in the same position as our own – unpaid volunteers or expensed and sandwich token officials that carry responsibility that is just not commensurate with their remuneration.
I think it's about time some of these officials got paid properly in order to appear and prepare (training etc). We all pay real and proper money to go racing and professional “referees” should be part of the payback.
Roger Grimshaw - NMA Tutor