13 Apr: Safety Review – Progress ??

… The Jaggy view of progress …

It’s now just over two weeks since the Border Counties and just over 2 weeks to the Granite City and some might think that all of the Safety Review Group fears and pre-season hype have peaked and are fading away. Not a bit of it.

The engine may be ticking over with an almost imperceptible burble, but underneath the warm and gently vibrating exterior, the internals are whirling around like the aftermath of a bomb in a bolt, nut and washer factory. To achieve the required degree of change within such a short timescale is proving to be very challenging – a more polite way of saying feck’n difficult.

First on the calendar was the Snowman where the organisers were put through the mill big time. It was no less frenetic on the Border Counties, and now the Granite City is working through the interim recommendations with the Jim Clark Reivers already aware of the mammoth workload required.

Just last week, all organisers of Scottish Rally Championship events were invited to join an evening conference call with the Safety Review Group and the appointed Safety Delegate to reveal and discuss some of the early findings and make recommendations. Naturally, no press were invited and nothing has been publicly reported, but the fact that there was such a meeting is of interest because it confirms that the process is ongoing. Just a pity no one thought to inform the rest of us. Whatever happened to open-ness and debate? This is an amateur sport, mostly run by amateurs and enthusiasts, and therefore just the kind of people who have a really strong desire to know what is going on and keep on-side.

Of particular concern were two very similar comments overheard recently from two different event teams: “The fun has gone out of it now. Whereas in the past it might take a day and a half to set up the required stages for a one day rally, it now takes a week!” Which brings to mind the words of Churchill, “never have so few been asked to do so much” if you’ll pardon the misquote!

The big fear here is that it will drive many of our stalwarts away from the organising side of the sport. And with no organisers, there will be no sport. I can already detect a mood of dismay sweeping through rally club lock-ups and club nights.

And don’t go thinking there is light at the end of the tunnel. As yet we don’t know how long the tunnel is.

More recently, the Safety Review Group was planning to introduce an interim set of rally organiser’s guidelines by the middle of this month. That has now been delayed till the end of the month. Apparently an early draft of this interim brief had been circulated to certain high heid yins who expressed the full range of emotions from horror and disbelief to incredulity and bewilderment.

The reason for this additional delay would appear to be the sheer number of requests and recommendations being put to organising teams, ranging from the blatantly obvious to the frankly ridiculous. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

It’s not just advice and guidelines though, a number of practical measures are already being put in place. For instance, the first of a series of Training Exercises for Course Car crews is due to be run very soon.

Neither is this a purely Scottish problem as the organisers of recent multi-venue events in England and Wales are finding out. There have been a couple of recent awareness meetings in the north and the south hosted by the MSA, the Forestry Commission and the Motorsport Safety Review Group. Very similar to the one two months ago in Scotland, these meetings have also stressed the fact that traditional methods of running the sport need to change.

On the marshalling front, past, present and future volunteers are being asked to sign up to the MSA Marshals Registration Scheme, which is not as simple as it could be, but please have a go if you have an interest.

Up till now most clubs have run their own Marshals’ Training courses, but the MSA is seeking to put in place a proper structure with approved Trainers and Courses. If that sounds intimidating, it isn’t. It won’t be like going back to school – hopefully – so don’t be put off by the thought. No need yet for books and jotters or ‘excuse-me’ notes from yer mammy.

Similarly, spectators still don’t know the new rules of the forest, but for the moment the recommendations are that they should be in place before the first car and remain there till the last. No walking in and out during the running of a stage or crossing the road. We all know it makes sense even though it runs counter to what we have all done and enjoyed in the past. That rule applies to spectator-approved and non-spectator stages as well. If some folk have local knowledge and seek to avoid the crowd and don’t go to these suggested locations, then as long as they act responsibly, there shouldn’t be a problem.

But don’t blame the organisers or the regulators, this was all brought down on our heads by the eedjits, that selfish minority who seem hellbent on ruining it for everyone else.

Meanwhile, the two year time scale is down to 21 months – and counting!