Sunday 21 April 2013

Rally - Granite reflections

Looking back on yesterday, I had a ball. I haven’t had so much fun at a rally for ages. Word had spread around pretty quickly amongst the crews, service crews, marshals and officials that I had not been officially ‘invited’ and therefore not signed on as a member of the Press.

Scrutineers  pointedly turned their backs as I approached, then swung around laughing at the ‘uninvited’ guest, service crews offered cups of tea and buns and then withdrew the offer – because I wasn’t really there. Marshals ‘ignored’ me with a ‘knowing wink’ and offered to open barriers, lift tapes and otherwise offer entry to places that spectators should not be able to access, but I gratefully declined their kind offers.

It was all a big joke, a hoot from start to finish, and everyone appeared to think it was ridiculous - well nearly everyone.

However I did spend a lot of time pointing out to anyone who asked that it wasn’t a personal slight, nor was it just ‘Motorsport News’ who’d been given a body swerve, apparently NO press were invited, not even from the local newspapers.

Joking aside, I would also like to stress that I abided by the sport’s rules regarding access to places which were restricted to signed-on personnel. I would never jeopardise the safe running of an event for personal reasons.

In fact, it became quite a challenge to do my job within those restrictions, and the results of my endeavours will be in Wednesday’s issue of MN for others to judge. I have to admit, I did miss out on a few stories.

The organisers claimed that not inviting the press saved on manpower and cost. No-one was needed to officiate at a Signing-On desk and there was no need to print forms and extra materials. They also stated that their actions were not intended to put the press off and that the original message on the website was misconstrued.

For myself, being accredited at a rally is not about ‘a dangly round my neck and a sticker for the car’, it’s all about access to the competitors to gather information, getting an up to date entry list plus stage timetables and details. Being denied access to the crews, as they lined up for the start and again at the finish, made information gathering extremely difficult. Thankfully there were no such restrictions at the service area.

On reflection I managed pretty well, but that was down simply to experience and knowledge. And perhaps it was indeed fortunate that no inexperienced youngsters, or even experienced old hands, from local newspapers turned up to report on the activities of their local crews.

Where other sports welcome such folk with open arms, they would have been in for a surprise here!

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