ROB LAD­BROOK

“Bri­tish GT can change things very quickly”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News -

Ever heard of the ex­pres­sion ‘too many cooks’? For­mula 1 cer­tainly has, but for­tu­nately na­tional motorsport tends to be good at keep­ing things sim­ple.

If some­thing is wrong, it tends to get fixed pretty quickly around the UK cir­cuits.

We re­cently had a great ex­am­ple of this fol­low­ing the Bri­tish GT Cham­pi­onship opener at Brands Hatch. All was well as the race be­gan and cars cir­cu­lated with­out is­sue for the first 40 min­utes.

Then, bang! Phil Dry­burgh’s As­ton rolls to de­struc­tion on one of the fastest parts of the cir­cuit and the racing is neu­tralised, but not with a safety car, with the new Full Course Yel­low ‘Code 80’ rul­ing. It lim­its all cars on track to 80km/h (50mph) at all times dur­ing a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent.

It caused prob­lems up and down the grid, as teams and driv­ers grap­pled to un­der­stand the rule, and of­fi­cials strug­gled to en­force it. Rick Parfitt Jr was un­der­stand­ably ag­grieved to have lost a good chunk of time, and ul­ti­mately the race, be­cause of the rule.

Code 80 isn’t to­tally new. It’s been used since 2014 in the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship, and to great ef­fect. The is­sue is that the cars in the WEC are far from basic cus­tomer prod­ucts, like GT3 and GT4 ver­sions are.

Many in the WEC have elec­tronic lim­iters that can en­gage the 80km/h limit, and the WEC uses an array of data masts and teleme­try for every car, so of­fi­cials can eas­ily see any cars stray­ing be­yond the set limit.

In na­tional motorsport the sit­u­a­tion is very dif­fer­ent. The only lim­iters most Bri­tish GT cars have are the pit ones, which are set way un­der 80km/h, so the rule re­lies on driv­ers us­ing their right foot cor­rectly. For of­fi­cials it’s a night­mare too. Some cars were cir­cu­lat­ing far too slowly dur­ing the FCY. It led to a huge va­ri­ety in what were meant to be con­trolled lap times, and ac­counted for much of the loss, or in­deed gain, in time gaps be­tween cars.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the race SRO of­fi­cials, led by Bri­tish GT man­ager Ben­jamin Franasso­vici, met with time­keep­ers, stew­ards, driv­ers and team bosses.

It was talked about, the is­sues raised, and the rule was post­poned there and then – at least un­til the rel­e­vant tech­nol­ogy can be fit­ted to make it more con­trol­lable. Don’t get me wrong, FCY is the way for­ward for Bri­tish GT as it im­proves the flow of a race com­pared to the use of a safety car.

It is ad­mirable how fast action was taken. Barely any­body had left the track be­fore a de­ci­sion was made and im­ple­mented, and back to safety cars we go, al­beit only for the mo­ment. No squab­bling, no bick­er­ing, and no silly pre­sen­ta­tions of ex­per­i­men­tal new rules. Sim­ply back to what we know works.

Imag­ine if the top level of our sport could op­er­ate quite so ef­fi­ciently…

Bri­tish GT: back to the safety car af­ter quick action

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