ROBERT BAR­RIE

More from our res­i­dent racer

Classic Porsche - - Contents -

“ARE FLAGS THE BEST WE CAN DO IN THE DIG­I­TAL AGE?”

Acou­ple of re­cent race meet­ings have got me think­ing about driv­ing stan­dards and dis­ci­pline in his­toric rac­ing. Itʼs not that there is a prob­lem, just that there may be room for im­prove­ment. There are three ar­eas in which is­sues typ­i­cally arise. The first is track lim­its and what is done when they are ex­ceeded, par­tic­u­larly if an ad­van­tage is sought or gained. Un­til re­cently, you ex­ceeded track lim­its if you put four wheels over the white line on the edge of the Tar­mac. That re­mains the case else­where, but the rule has changed in the UK.

Here, for a few sea­sons now, you ex­ceed track lim­its when you put one wheel over the same white line or be­yond a painted kerb. Many pe­riod pho­to­graphs of cars cor­ner­ing at the limit are now illustrations of them ex­ceed­ing track lim­its. Can that be right? Any­way, I imag­ine this is why my num­ber was shown with a black-and-white driv­ing stan­dards flag at the Sil­ver­stone Classic. Hmm.

For now, let me sim­ply say that the sig­nal­ing gantry is in an aw­ful po­si­tion and itʼs not clear – other than via in­tro­spec­tion – what the sig­nal means. Move the gantry – the clue is that the che­quered flag is re­peated on the straight – and con­vey the in­for­ma­tion more clearly.

Next, and more se­ri­ous from a safety point of view, are yel­low flags, waved yel­lows, slow zones and safety cars. All are dif­fer­ent ways of han­dling in­ci­dents on track while stop­ping short of stop­ping the race. We are sup­posed to slow down un­der a yel­low flag and to do so con­sid­er­ably un­der waved yel­lows. Okay, got it, but what does it ac­tu­ally mean? I think we would all have dif­fi­culty putting a num­ber on it.

The speed per­mit­ted in the slow zones at Le Mans Classic was clearly quan­ti­fied at 80kph. A num­ber of com­peti­tors still seemed to strug­gle, but at least it was clearer what they had or had­nʼt done. The safety car is an­other source of mis­un­der­stand­ing. It prob­a­bly does­nʼt help that itʼs usu­ally sig­nalled by a yel­low flag with an SC board.

As we have seen, a yel­low flag means slow down, ex­cept that un­der a safety car you donʼt re­ally slow down un­til you catch the car in front, which is it­self do­ing the same thing. Sooner or later, you form a line be­hind the safety car, which then con­trols the speed.

To say it does­nʼt al­ways work like that is an un­der­state­ment. The usual

prob­lem is that some­one slows down too much too soon!

The pro­to­col that yel­low flags, waved yel­lows, slow zones and safety cars have in com­mon is that thereʼs no over­tak­ing. I was sur­prised then, when fol­low­ing a safety car at Sil­ver­stone, to be over­taken by some­one seem­ingly slic­ing through the field. I dis­cov­ered, after the ses­sion, that this be­hav­iour at­tracted no sanc­tion. Could it have been un­seen? No. It would have shown up in race con­trol. The cars have transpon­ders that show their po­si­tions at all times.

I am not in favour of penal­ties be­ing handed out with­out good rea­son – a quiet word or two can of­ten work won­ders – but this was a case, un­like my in­con­se­quen­tial track lim­its ex­cur­sion, where some­thing was surely re­quired.

The re­luc­tance of the of­fi­cials to is­sue sanc­tions at Sil­ver­stone con­trasted with the readi­ness of their coun­ter­parts to do so at Le Mans. Need­less to say, as soon as the safety car went back in, some­one else shot past me well be­fore we reached the re-start line on the track!

Then there is car-to-car con­tact. Again, I was sur­prised by what I saw in one of the races at Sil­ver­stone. Some con­tact is, per­haps, un­avoid­able. So-called rac­ing in­ci­dents hap­pen at far higher lev­els of the sport than we can sen­si­bly as­pire to. But some is avoid­able – so how to en­sure the avoid­able is avoided?

Peter Auto – the or­gan­is­ers be­hind Le Mans Classic – re­quire those re­spon­si­ble to pay half of the re­sult­ing re­pair bill. Iʼm not en­tirely sure what the process is by which re­spon­si­bil­ity is de­ter­mined, or whether the out­come is en­force­able or ap­peal­able, but the pro­vi­sion may nonethe­less be a de­ter­rent.

An­other pos­si­bil­ity – prac­ticed in cat­e­gories of con­tem­po­rary rac­ing – is to say where pro­fes­sion­als and ama­teurs com­pete against each other, the driver from the higher cat­e­gory will be held re­spon­si­ble un­less ev­i­dence clearly shows the con­trary. It would be very in­ter­est­ing to see Good­wood try some­thing like that at the Re­vival!

A fi­nal thought is that some, if not all of the above, could be im­proved by bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Are flags the best we can do in the dig­i­tal age? Is it time to al­low more tech­nol­ogy in his­toric rac­ing? It would­nʼt be pe­riod cor­rect, but nei­ther, as we have seen, are the cur­rent track lim­its not to men­tion a num­ber of other fea­tures of what is an in­creas­ingly mod­ern and pro­fes­sional pas­time. CP

This is al­lowed, but in the UK you have to be in­side the white line at the end of the kerb. (Photo credit: 2-Litre Cup/jayson Fong)

Robert Bar­rie is a classic Porsche en­thu­si­ast through and through. As well as com­pet­ing in his­toric events with a va­ri­ety of early Porsches and or­gan­is­ing track days, heʼs also a pur­veyor of fine classic au­to­mo­biles

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