Video analysis: UK motorsport's new track-limits rule

The Motor Sports Association's new rule on track limits in UK racing is already proving to be a seriously contentious issue, despite not yet being applied in racing conditions

Video analysis: UK motorsport's new track-limits rule

UK motorsport's governing body has deviated from the FIA's own guidelines to introduce a tweaked regulation for 2014.

Competitors will now be penalised if they run beyond the outer edge of any kerb (or the white line at the edge of the track where there is no kerb), whereas before they could run all but one wheel beyond the edge of the track without penalty.

As an example, under the previous rule AUTOSPORT's Ben Anderson is not only legal here in his approach to Paddock and Graham Hill Bend at Brands Hatch, but is taking the normal racing line established over several years:

THE NEW RULE:

Regulation Q14.4.2: Drivers must use the track at all times and may not leave the track without a justifiable reason.

Q14.4.2.a The white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track.

Q14.4.2.b A driver will be judged to have left the track if any wheel of the car either goes beyond the outer edge of any kerb or goes beyond the white line where there is no kerb.

PENALTY SYSTEM:

First offence: Reprieve
Second: Black-and-white warning flag
Third: Five-second penalty
Fourth: Drive-through penalty
Fifth: Black flag

WHY WAS IT INTRODUCED?

The argument for its introduction is that drivers were abusing the old rule, and there was a lack of consistency at different circuits because of an ambiguous definition of what counted as the track.

"The rule is a massive step forward," said MSV chief Jonathan Palmer.

"The FIA rule officially made it OK for drivers to use as much grass or surface beyond the white lines as they could."

MSA chairman Alan Gow added: "It's the fairest [option]. You've got to draw the line somewhere on the limit of the track."

DIMINISHING THE SPECTACLE

European Le Mans Series GTE champion Matt Griffin was one of the rule's biggest critics when it was announced last August, and says it risks making a "boring" spectacle of racing.

"It's a ridiculous idea," he told AUTOSPORT. "The worst I've ever heard.

"Drivers will come from elsewhere, not understand what's going on and get penalties. It'll be detrimental to UK motorsport.

"It's also boring for the fans. Cars will be just driving around inside the white lines, not kicking up the dust.

"Look at the chicane at Knockhill with cars on two wheels - it's iconic."

WORRIES OVER POLICING

While it's unlikely to be a significant issue for major series like the British Touring Car Championship, which utilises in-car and trackside cameras to enforce regulations, there are concerns for smaller events without such luxuries.

"Quite how they're going to properly police it, I don't know," Gow admitted.

"You can't expect observers to see every movement of every car on every track, so it is going to be difficult."

Palmer, chairman of the Association of Motor Racing Circuit Owners, added: "It's no different from what it is now.

"An observation has to be made [and] common sense needs to prevail."

GREY AREAS

What will constitute "justifiable reason"? What about an incident in a heated, wheel-to-wheel battle in which a driver - having already received a warning - runs wide, but does not gain an advantage?

What if the infringement is almost invisible to the naked eye?

Such innocuous incidents will be thrust firmly into the limelight this season. And they could become the catalyst for a far greater, long-running controversy.

The change will put pressure on drivers to adjust approaches honed over many seasons, and on officials to carefully delineate between clear breaches of the rule and genuine mistakes.

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out when UK racing gets back underway in a few months' time.

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