Making the Sport Safe, Fun and Fair: PART ONE
Motorsport UK has worked in the background as a governing body for over 100 years, but is undergoing a change of culture and mission. Since the arrival of Chairman David Richards the organisation is shifting to one that is much more membership-oriented, with greater ambitions for the sport; and yet many of its considerable existing efforts remain unseen. Here we meet the people of Motorsport UK and take a look at the often-invisible work being done day in and day out.
Circuit racing, sprints, hill climbing, drag racing, karting, cross-country, rallying, autotests, trials, rallycross and autocross; the motorsport calendar in the UK is packed to the rafters. Motorsport UK sanctions around 4,800 events every year, from organising the whole of the FIA Wales Rally GB, the sporting officiation and marshalling of the FIA Formula 1 British Grand Prix, through to thousands of grassroots events. This latter element is growing thanks to fresh initiatives aimed at breaking down the barriers of entry and engaging new audiences, like arriveand- drive karters, STEM students and sim racers. “We need to galvanise local member clubs to run events more regularly and encourage younger people to take part, whether as marshals, officials or competitors,” says David Richards.
There are currently 441 different championships and around 4,800 competitive events being run in this country every year. At Motorsport UK there are teams for each of the disciplines, and who guide the 13 relevant Specialist Committees in rule making, administration, as well as providing service and pastoral care to members. The diversity in motorsport disciplines and series demonstrates the sheer breadth of issues being considered every day at Motorsport UK.
Sitting at the core of the organisation, is the Technical Team, led by John Ryan, now in his 21st year with Motorsport UK. One of the many challenges faced by the technical team is the range of technologies themselves. They’re dealing with vehicles that in some cases are over half a century old, to cars that are so new and extreme they are pushing the definitions of what is allowed. Their mission is to maintain a level playing field, and always with consideration to the highest standards of safety.
Regulations are developed through a range of Specialist Committees, populated by over 200 sector specialists from across the motorsport family. These volunteers give up their time to consider how to improve the sport from the perspective of keeping it safe, fair and fun. The internal team work alongside the Committees to progress this essential work and guide it through the review and consultation processes, both internally and externally. Ultimately all of this ends up in The Blue Book of rules and regulations, which evolves inexorably over time to adapt to the changing nature of technology, safety and marketplace needs.
“From a regulatory point of view, one of the biggest challenges is to balance the development of safety regulations at a level appropriate for each level of the sport,” says Technical Director John Ryan. “One of our targets is to ensure our competitors have the best possible protection, but without the associated costs becoming prohibitive”. Another important development for the rule-makers is incorporating alternative-powered vehicles, such as hybrid and electric cars, into the sport’s infrastructure when previously motorsport had been largely based on internal combustion power. In addition, the organisation works closely with the FIA on safety research projects and represents UK manufacturers such as Ford, Bentley, Aston Martin and McLaren when homologating their cars with the FIA. The Technical Managers are also responsible for the training of technical officials such as scrutineers and timekeepers.
“Currently,” says Technical Manager Michael Duncan, “we’re undertaking an interesting project to develop low-cost accident data recording systems which will provide us with information to aid us in the development of the next generation of safety innovations. But perhaps the key output of this will be the data to allow the reduction in onerous measures if not supported by evidence to prove their need.”
But it’s not just from a sporting and technical perspective that Motorsport UK works to protect its members. Jennifer Carty is Motorsport UK’s Compliance Officer and leads the governing body’s safeguarding programme, anti-doping and illicit drugs testing as well as anti-alcohol testing.
Jennifer explains: “We have a duty of care to competitors, to protect the integrity of the sport, and to maintain safety. My role is diverse and also includes the management of safeguarding cases. Safeguarding complaints can range from child welfare to adult welfare, serious abuse cases to poor practice cases and bullying issues to ‘culture issues’, mental health issues and many more. While it is necessary to have policies, procedures and guidance in place they are almost pointless if they are not well received, embedded in the sport, understood or adhered to. Safeguarding in motorsport will not simply be a tick box exercise and we’re continuing to develop this area to protect and support our members. “
“An unseen side of my role is the vetting of applications for Non-EU competitors or workers to participate in UK motorsport on a tier two or five sports visa.”
Motorsport UK also prides itself on offering judicial and legal support to all members. Jamie Champkin, Motorsport UK’s Regulatory Officer is responsible for handling regulatory and disciplinary issues. This can relate to all areas of the sport, whether championship regulations, event regulations, Motorsport UK regulations; the role is incredibly varied. Jamie also represents Motorsport UK in National Court, a separate judicial body who host monthly hearings at Motorsport UK House and is the ultimate source of judgement on all legal matters that arise in the sport, from technical infringements to driving standards.