We had our first incident near the end of season 2. Two cars tried to occupy the same space. The damage was minor, but the cause got me to thinking. This series is a “gentleman race” series (no offense to the female drivers, “gentleperson” just doesn’t sound right, and our female drivers don’t seem to have “these issues”). “Gentleman Racing” generally invokes images of upper-class Englishmen running around in vintage cars having a swell time and generally being very sportsmanlike to each other. There’s only one problem. Well, actually two. We’re not English, and testosterone trumps gentlemanly behavior. In the heat of a race, the “red mist” sets in, and normally mellow dudes refuse to give an inch. Now, if this were professional racing, with money and sponsorships on the line, of course a more extreme level of behavior would be warranted. But this isn’t pro racing. This isn’t even club-level racing. This is the most grass-roots racing around. There’s no licensing, and unfortunately, the two drivers in this incident haven’t had much instruction from us. This happened in our thirtieth race. Two years, thirty races, one incident. We’re not unhappy with those statistics. But the incident was caused by our failure to communicate a fundamental difference in our series.
Back to our “gentlemen”. Our series has some specific rules around giving racing room and car to car contact. One is supposed to hold one’s lane if there’s even a hint of another car in the area. One full car width of space is minimum. Let them race. When you think about it, it’s not like the car coming up just transported there. They’ve done something right. And again, there’s no cash awards or prizes of any kind, just friendly competition. But we all know those guys who can’t be good sportsmen. No one “owns” the line in gentleman racing, and this is a definite derivation from normal club-style racing. Also, car contact is strictly forbidden for obvious reasons. In this case, where I own most of the cars involved, I’m begging people to please not bang up my babies.
So this season, season 3, we will formalize the gentlemanly behavior with penalties, probations, and p-bans (I couldn’t find a p-word that worked to carry the alliteration). But we’re instituting these rules to keep our series what it has become, a fun, non-threatening way to learn how to race. We want close racing and we thrive going into corners two and even three cars wide. We just have to make sure we spank the bottoms of the naughty drivers. To help instill the new rules, we’ve recruited a friend who just happens to be a chief SCCA steward. And not a chief like our “Chief of Many Things” I mean a chief in that he’s the head honcho. We turn the series over to him to ensure that even if the founders are caught up in some unsportsmanlike conduct, we’ll be penalized, too. Although we normally contain our unsportsmanlike behaviors to the paddock, it’s been known to happen between the “Chief of Trying to Show me Where the Braking Line is” and myself. It’s normally unintended. Normally. We definitely reserve those days for when the witness count is low.
But I digress. I still stand by the statement that our series is the cheapest way to get started in racing. Grab a Harris Hill Membership, build or rent a car for less than you can build or rent a Miata or a Porsche 914, and come learn how to race. We’ll even give you race training to get you comfortable before your first time on track. Season 3 has most likely started by the time I get this published, but we have until November 2017 for this season. We run more than 16 races per year just at Harris Hill, and this year, we plan to expand to other venues. Come be part of the fun!