Five New Year’s resolutions for national motorsport

Two years ago, Autosport set some aims for national racing, but given how much has changed since then and what is still to come, it seemed the right time for five more going into 2022

Five New Year’s resolutions for national motorsport

New Year’s resolutions. Yep, it’s that time of year again when many are setting goals for the next 12 months – some of which inevitably fall by the wayside as the realities of life make them difficult to stick to. Two years ago, Autosport (9 January, 2020) set five resolutions for the world of club racing, and it is interesting to see whether they were achieved.

The pandemic helped with two of them as, since COVID-19 hit, there has been far greater collaboration between clubs and that’s set to continue this year. And it helped solve the issue of organisers booking too much track time. The shortened 2020 campaign meant available dates were at such a premium that there was no wastage.

The three-month hiatus between March and June 2020 also meant there was far greater enjoyment when racing did finally resume and there was a sense of nothing being taken for granted. It was just a shame it required a pandemic for some of these attitudes to change.

Insight: The data that underlines how club racing thrived during 2021

Given how different the world was two years ago, it therefore seems appropriate to set five fresh resolutions for 2022.

Poor calls in race control were an undesirable but common occurrence in 2021

Poor calls in race control were an undesirable but common occurrence in 2021

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey Photography

1. Improve standards

Autosport club reports were littered with instances of bad calls from race control during 2021. We appreciate that being a clerk of a course is a difficult task requiring split-second decisions. But the number of times a stricken car was recovered in a questionable way or a safety car failed to pick up the leader, completely skewing a pitstop race, was unacceptable. Perhaps more stringent monitoring of clerks (and stewards, too) to make sure they are up to the job is needed and additional training given where necessary.

One of the 2020 resolutions was for motorsport to ‘stop shooting itself in the foot’ but, when the upper echelons of the sport featured such farcical scenes, maybe it is no surprise there are gripes in the grassroots. However, the problem of bad standards is far from exclusive to officials. Drivers must improve as well. Too many fell into bad habits in the aftermath of the pandemic when briefings became electronic and less useful. One problem area was failing to slow for yellow flags, while there was a worrying number of exclusions from meetings for abuse – physical or verbal. This is unacceptable and needs to be stamped out.

The average age of volunteers is rising, so a concerted effort needs to be made to recruit younger enthusiasts

The average age of volunteers is rising, so a concerted effort needs to be made to recruit younger enthusiasts

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey Photography

2. Recruit more volunteers

During the early phases of the pandemic, it was impossible for new marshal recruits, for example, to be trained. But, if conditions allow this year, it is vital that more volunteers join the ranks of those that help to enable motorsport to run safely. It is no secret that marshals, scrutineers, clerks and timekeepers are getting older and there is a desperate shortage among some of these volunteer roles. It must be noted that a number of key figures in these positions died in recent years and there needs to be a concerted effort to swell the numbers and get the next generation involved. But thinking outside the box is also needed: perhaps there should be an obligation that in order to get a race licence you must also have completed a day’s marshalling or assisting in race control the previous year?

Smaller venues like Anglesey need to be supported to sustain the health of the national motorsport industry

Smaller venues like Anglesey need to be supported to sustain the health of the national motorsport industry

Photo by: Steve Jones

3. Support smaller venues

At the end of 2021, Autosport pored over the data from the club racing season and looked at series that performed well and those that struggled. One of the most staggering takeaways was the sheer domination of circuits such as Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Donington Park and Snetterton over the schedules. Yes, these attracted slightly larger grids, but it is important for the health of motorsport as a whole that smaller, independent venues are supported.

There are some encouraging signs for 2022, such as new events planned at Anglesey. But that trend is not universal and it is worth noting that these circuits need to play a part, too. Their staff must be accommodating, delivering good service and facilities, in order for clubs to want to visit in the first place.

Scrutineering confusion needs to be avoided in future

Scrutineering confusion needs to be avoided in future

Photo by: Steve Jones / HSCC

4. Sort out scrutineering

Another impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was the drastic change to the way race meetings were run. Scrutineering was one area affected, with assessments of every car before qualifying replaced by spot checks and an online pre-event self-declaration. As restrictions eased last year, clubs had more flexibility, but governing body Motorsport UK did not fully grasp this opportunity to devise a new strategy for the future.

Instead, the 2022 default is that pre-pandemic mass scrutineering returns while clubs will be permitted to submit alternative proposals for trial ahead of new guidelines being produced for 2023. This means a hotchpotch of different procedures is set to be in place, creating confusion for competitors. It is imperative the issue is resolved for next year.

The 750 MC and HSCC began offsetting the carbon produced from their racing activities in 2021 in an effort to lessen their environmental impact

The 750 MC and HSCC began offsetting the carbon produced from their racing activities in 2021 in an effort to lessen their environmental impact

Photo by: Steve Jones / HSCC

5. Consider the environment

That may be an incongruous statement for a motorsport publication to make. But last year’s COP26 summit was one example of how the issue of climate change is not going to disappear, and for motorsport to have a future it is vital it starts playing its part now. Public perception is crucial and the time for action is here. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting anything as radical as banning petrol or diesel-powered cars, instead other actions need assessing.

The pandemic meant events went paperless but other changes can be made, too. Some clubs, such as the 750 Motor Club and Historic Sports Car Club, have begun offsetting the carbon produced from their racing activities, and this is a sensible way to lessen the environmental impact of the sport we love. Perhaps it’s time for all the major racing clubs to adopt such practices. Last year’s Walter Hayes Trophy was a Motorsport UK sustainable pilot event, but the effect was limited. While a positive step in recognising the issue requires addressing, adding a few recycling bins in the paddock and ‘encouraging’ people to share cars when travelling to the circuit is not going to be enough. A far greater plan is needed.

As with all New Year’s resolutions, some of these are more realistic and feasible than others. But, given the pace of change over the past few years, who knows what could be possible and how club racing could be improved for the benefit of everyone over the course of 2022.

 

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