An article caught my attention in this week’s issue of Autosport which, if you have a copy to hand, is on page 77. But in case you don’t – or you’re too lazy to bother reading it for yourself – allow me to summarise its contents for you.
Said article reports that the Motor Sport Association – the governing body for motor sport in the UK – are encouraging race officials to get tough on drivers who exceed the track limits to gain an advantage.
To assist the race clerks and stewards, a set of guidelines has been issued on how to tackle any off-track offenders and ensures that there is an element of consistency at all national events across the country.
A statement in the May issue of MSA News reads: “The Motor Sport Council and Race Committee have agreed that track limits should be strictly enforced at race meetings and have instructed all clerks of the course to adopt a consistent approach.
“Competitors are therefore advised that breaches of the regulations concerning track limits will be penalised as follows:
- Second offence: warning flag.
- Third offence: five-second penalty.
- Fourth offence: drive-through penalty.
- Fifth offence: exclusion.
“The white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track,” says article Q 14.5 of the MSA rule book, “but kerbs are not, and a driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.”
The current regulations do suggest that penalties should be imposed for any off-track escapades that are deemed to have resulted in an unfair advantage, but until now, there has never been a penalty sheet system in place for track limit offences.
It should, in theory, help officials clamp down on those who flout the rules, as it provides them with some much needed clarity and guidance on how to tackle the issue as well as giving them the confidence to take a strong line.
Despite requests from MotorSport Vision boss Jonathan Palmer – who runs Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Cadwell Park and Snetterton – competitors will still be allowed to place two wheels outside the white lines without being penalised.
You can see why Palmer wants to see the track-limits rules tighter than they are, for it is ultimately he who pays to maintain the areas of his circuits that cater for any over exuberance, and MSA-sanctioned races account for a sizeable portion of MSV’s events calendar.
But at this stage, such a drastic change would be taking things a little too far. Call it romanticism, call it what you like, but there are few spectacles in motor racing more exciting than seeing a driver teetering on the limit of adhesion, and the easiest gauge of that is often when they’re carrying a large chunk of speed through a corner, two wheels rumbling across a kerb.
Exceeding the track boundaries completely, however, shows a general lack of ability to drive a racing car; such is the fine line between a hero and a villain.
In any case, the MSA should be applauded for taking the issue seriously and for producing a set of sensible guidelines in which competitors and officials know what to expect in the result of any misbehaving.
All that remains now is for fellow rulemakers to follow suit and ensure that race circuits and categories are a much fairer and equal place for all concerned.
Image credit: LS Photos.