Saturday 17 February 2024

Rally - A wee problem

I am currently hard at work on the next volume of the history of the Scottish Rally Championship (1990-1999) and have encountered a wee problem – copies of the ‘1980 to 1989’ volume are still available, see me at the Grant Construction Knockhill Stages Rally tomorrow Sunday 18th. I’ll have a couple of boxes with me if you missed out at Christmas or have a birthday coming up !!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the problem. I have in the past claimed that some on-line historic rally results websites may not be 100% accurate. Well it appears that some of the records I have may not be accurate too.

Cast your minds back to the early 1990s. It may be hard to believe nowadays but there was general discussion and much dissent amongst the ranks of club rally drivers back then that those who could afford to invest in four wheel drive machinery had an unfair advantage over everyone else.

The solution? Penalise the four wheel machinery. Gawd, did that cause a kerfuffle! There were many against the idea but many more all for it and different events and championships came up with their own solutions. However, what was almost universally accepted was the adoption of some sort of penalty per stage mile applied to competitors’ times. Some wanted a one second per stage mile penalty whilst others wanted a one and a half, two or two and half second penalty.

This meant that competitors had to check event Regulations beforehand to make sure they knew what penalty was being applied, because this would have an effect not just on final totals but progress during the event. In the majority of cases, the penalties were applied after the rally just before Results were declared Provisional giving crews the opportunity to check their positions before Final Results were declared.

It was therefore a wee bit more difficult to keep an eye on rivals’ times during the rally itself because rally timing was based on actual stage times, penalties were only applied later.

And this is where the real problems arose. It would appear that these final totals were calculated by human, not by computer – that’s because computers count in decimal points whereas humans worked in minutes and seconds. As we all know, some folks cannae coont very well!

That becomes even more complicated where an event counts towards two different championships, one of which has introduced the 4WD handicap and the other hasn’t, which meant two separate sets of ‘results’.

A recent example I encountered proved even more difficult. Although the Regs stated that they organisers would run a 52 mile event, on the day the actual total stage mileage was 47. Trouble was it would appear that those who were counting the final ‘totals’ added 52 seconds to the 4WD finishers times instead of 47.

I was fair flummoxed by this whole carry-on but once Official Rally Results have been declared final no queries or protests will be accepted by the organisers or the sport’s governing body. On that basis I have had to work with what was officially produced on the day – even though I know some final results from some events are wrong!

No doubt I will encounter more discrepancies as I work my way through this next book. Fortunately the 4WD handicap system was later removed as this was obviously the way automotive technology was going, but it didn’t half cause a stramash at the time.

To order copies of ‘The Scottish Rally Championship 1980-1989’ see below:

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