An interesting heading to this month’s heroics missive comes from the Stealers’ Wheels song released in 1972 and I thought that I would tackle the controversial or maybe difficult subject of force majeure and how best to deal with this on events especially in the UK where we are seeing increasing levels of traffic which impact on the results of the events.
In Latin it means chance occurrence/unavoidable accident.
In other parts of law it refers to an irresistible force or unseen event beyond the control of the organisers.
So the definitions and the laws are quite clear in respect of motorsport. We considered this along with a number of events in the UK and implemented, last year, the joker system which initially allowed the crews worst late penalty (if you have been held up by an incident of force majeure) to be reduced from the maximum of one minute to 5 seconds. This was only implemented on the Tulip type less competitive events and seem to be well accepted and worked in a number of incidents. Although what it does is lets off crews who make a mistake and are late at a control so it is impossible to decide upon what is the reason for the crew being late i.e. more force majeure from a member of the public, or if they have taken the wrong route. We can look to the various results throughout the year and in general it worked to give the correct result in the event. One event which highlighted how this can impact on the results was the Scottish Malts 2018 when we had a tie for first place. Both crews had a maximum score reduced to 5 seconds (they both would have still, even without the joker system, been in the same positions with the gap to 3rd place closer). One car made a navigational error and got a one minute penalty reduced to 5 seconds. The other car got held up by a local resident and a 1 minute penalty reduced to 5 seconds. Therefore in some people’s eyes was an unfair situation, but how as an organiser do you decide upon which penalty gets reduced to a joker and which doesn’t?
Having looked at those results we decided that a reduction to 5 seconds was actually too generous and a decision was made to increase the joker penalty to 15 seconds on the recent 1000 Mile Trial which seemed to work better particularly on events where penalties are lower. It’s a compromise between those held up through no fault of their own and those who made a navigational error.
One or two crews on the 1000 Mile Trial, unfortunately had more than one incident of force majeure or had made navigational errors and had instances of force majeure, so only got one of their maximum penalties reduced to 15 seconds. There was only one crew on the event who did not use their joker and they ultimately won the event which proves that you only need good navigation and some good luck in order to win the event on a public highway in the UK.
Going forward, is there any way to improve this?
Everybody has ideas on how to deal with it. As an organiser, we have to take the view that this is one of the problems with competing on the public highway in the UK (we don’t tend to see this problem on foreign events) although I have personal experience of losing a Classic Marathon with an incident of force majeure in France!
Do we look at a more complicated method?
The first time you receive a penalty of over 15 seconds it is reduced to 15 seconds. The second time you receive a penalty of over 30 seconds is that then reduced to 15 seconds?
It provides a lot of complicated work for the results crew, although computer systems can cope with it.
On the recent Three Castles event they had a two tier joker system with the first maximum score reduced to 5 seconds and the second to 15 seconds. In some respects this means that the navigators have 2 strikes for any navigational errors and realistically the driver has two strikes for things beyond his control.
The question for me is are we sanitising rallying too much and those who have been competing for a number of years realistically accept that force majeure and being held up on a public highway is just part of rallying and we all have to get on with it. Having competed and organised well in excess of 500 events, force majeure raises its head on the majority of events to a greater or lesser extent. The problem being with daylight rallying on a public highway there is a lot more traffic than there was when I started rallying back in the late 70’s!
I think by allowing the reduction of the late penalty to 15 seconds on the less competitive events where the average timing point error on regularities by the competitive crews is between 1-2 seconds is a good balancing figure, 5 seconds we felt was too generous and 30 seconds we feel is too great. Penalties are capped at 1 minute on the more competitive events and we feel that this should still remain. Certainly on the longer events like the Classic Marathon and Rally of the Tests there are a number of issues where navigational errors can take you towards your maximum and we do not wish to give the navigator a get out of jail card, although that needs to be considered going forward. The get out of jail card on those events is capped at 1 minute i.e. you could be up to 5 or 6 minutes late which if you are on a European event you would get the full penalty. So we think that is a good compromise. There is some discussion on whether the maximum penalty should be reduced to 30 seconds but at this present time there is no intention to change it.
I have no doubt that this will generate a number of thoughts and comments but I thought it best to put our position and why we act in the way we do in relation to the issue of force majeure on events.
Till next time ....