oldSTAGER No.111
August/September 2008

 

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Regulations, Regulations, Regulations

There are General Regulations (GRs) from the MSA, Supplementary Regulations (SRs) which are event specific and Ragulations (sic), all of which have the potential to compromise an organiser or competitor.

You would like to think that the GRs provide a solid foundation for governing motorsport but for as long as I can remember the blue book has contained many anomalies, inconsistencies and some vagueness. The rewrite and re-indexing for 2008 didn’t help much; in fact when I received my copy I spent a day highlighting problems for future reference. Now my well thumbed version contains more red than blue. Just to quote one relevant inconsistency regarding category 3 historic cars: GR H119 says, definitively, that such cars cannot be classified in the overall results; yet H96 says that this may be changed in the SRs!

There are many such flexible paragraphs in the GRs and organisers should ensure that these are specifically addressed in their SRs. For example: route information may only be given out in advance on daylight road rallies if the SRs permit – H42; you may want to clarify your finishers’ requirement – H86; pedantically extend your OTL limit to 30 minutes 59 seconds – H75; allow a crew to be in more than one team – C(a)64; and allow a reduction of lateness at halts – H80.

Then there are regulations which don’t exist so you have to invent them; I call them Ragulations. Two enormous gaps come immediately to mind: Special Tests and Codeboards.

The acknowledgement of Special Tests occurs only in H57 and H96, but how should these be conducted? As autotests, special stages or something else? The GRs offer no guidance other than they should not be run at greater than 30 mph. But how do you officially calculate the distance for the average speed? If you have to circumnavigate a cone is the distance just the negligible circumference of the base of the cone, the distance a well-handbraked Mini would travel or the wide circle of a Volvo Amazon? Perhaps I shouldn’t dwell on that one since an organiser would always choose the absolute minimum distance to trim the bogey time.

As for test fault penalties, well, as an organiser you just make them up. And that’s a problem because I guarantee that you will find different procedures and penalties from event to event. Five seconds a cone fault or ten seconds? What exactly is a cone fault? Does a nudge but not a displacement qualify? If you drive the wrong side of a cone, is that a cone fault or a wrong route – the latter is often more punishing with a maximum test time (aka target time if you are adopting special stage terminology) penalty. But how is the maximum calculated? Again (and this applies to stages also) there is no MSA formula or guidance. My own standard is to simply make the target time a factor of three times the bogey time.

Some events have a lap consistency test on a race circuit. Since this is not a regularity or special test does the 30 mph restriction apply? The MSA are currently considering this problem.

Code boards continue to confuse and unfairly affect results. The GRs acknowledge their existence in terms of size and content requirements in H62, but that’s as far as they go. Should you record them in ink only? Where and in what sequence do you record them? Do you have to get the marshal at the next manned control to sign for them? And if you or the marshal forgets, is there a specific penalty? How forgiving should an organiser be regarding readability of codes? In a bouncing car the letter K can easily be jogged into the letter R.

I could go on, suffice it to say that as an organiser if you must use codeboards, reserve a whole page in your regulations to unambiguously define your practice and procedures. Better still, just use permanent roadside features for route checks, or avoid them completely on regularities since a wrong route will lead to penalties anyway.

Rallying is a technical sport and we need regulations to govern the way it should operate. Yet for me there is nothing more frustrating than seeing disgruntled competitors at the finish of an event because the organisers have left loopholes and ambiguities in their regulations.

We all want fair competition so it’s essential that organisers spend time tweaking their SRs; give your draft to the keenest competitor that you know and get him/her to look for problems. Take a look at the Cloverleaf Rally regulations: I wouldn’t presume they are perfect but they are weightier than similar events since they aim to practice what I preach here.