Dear BSCRA Council,
It is with genuine concern and deep felt passion for the tradition and the importance of the 1/32 Nationals, that I write to you about the published changes to the 2009 1/32 Nationals.
As Area Coordinator for Area 6, I was approached about the suggested changes, during the last area round on March 8th. I had not been informed of any changes, other than the published proposals, after the council meeting, and was therefore very surprised when I was told about what had been published about the Nationals. Many concerns were raised at the time and I have since spoken to the majority of Area 6 members to get their views on the three main changes I have mentioned below. With Area 6 being the second largest area for membership, I would hope that the views of BSCRA members would be considered by the BSCRA Council.
There are 3 separate issues in regards to the timetable which has been published. These appear to have been decided with no consultation of the membership, or approved proposal being put forward. I would question if the council actually have the power to implement these changes as they are part of the competition rules and have always required a proposal in the past, using the change in format of the Sports Car class as an example. The council cannot accept a new, unpublished proposal, on the day of the meeting, unless they feel that circumstances prevented the proposal being made in the normal manner.
Below, I have highlighted the concerns of Area 6 members and the issues which they feel need addressing:
1. Friday Evening Practice
· Any serious competitor will feel obliged to attend or they will risk being at a serious disadvantage
· Anyone not from the immediate locality will be forced to find and finance an extra night’s accommodation (not a great idea in the current financial climate)
· Friday is a normal working day for many people and they may not be able to attend even if they so desired
· Anyone not qualified for F1 will need to attend a minimum of two days before their class, lest they are placed at an even greater disadvantage
· The practice time does not allow segregation of classes and drivers (novice racers could run a CMG production chassis against a Formula One or Eurosport chassis, resulting in any number of multiple chassis breakages, disappointment, and bad feeling towards novice and experienced racers alike)
· In addition to the above this idea goes against the very ethos of equality in terms of track knowledge that has always been a major part of the BSCRA 1/32nd Nationals and made it one of the great, prestigious events it currently is
2. Racing Novice Production after Formula One
· Novices may well be younger members and will be tired at the end of a long day
· Any novice who has also qualified for F1 will be going onto the track for the first time with an open class car, not fair on them or anyone else in their heats
· Any novice who has also qualified for F1 will have a major advantage over other racers, who have not qualified in F1, in production
· With the old programme many senior racers assisted novices, not to mention helping out marshalling. They may now be inclined to get back to their accommodation and out for a meal, leaving the novices and race controllers to fend for themselves
· Novices will not know what time to turn up for racing and could be left standing around for ages before they race, not being particularly impressed, or not turning up at all
3. Eurosport Qualifying
· All the classes at the Nationals are independent of each other, and there is every chance that some racers will not have qualified for all three classes and will be at an unfair disadvantage
· Some racers may not be in a position to attend all three days and will be at an unfair disadvantage
· Due to no fault of your own in the previous classes (being taken out by someone else, marshalled into the wrong lane, etc), you could be disadvantaged in Eurosport from the start
· It is therefore not acceptable that a racer’s chances in Eurosport can be restricted due to events in separate classes.
Overall, Area 6 members, feel the changes that have been made have been done so without any consultation of the membership and most definitely do not benefit the majority of the membership. When people embark on the qualifying process, (as early as September in some areas) they should know where, when and how the Nationals will be run. Whilst people can fully understand the problems with securing a venue for the Bank Holiday weekend, two of those things have now been changed, making it unfair to the membership and not commensurate with encouraging new, novice racers. There are at least five members in area 6 who would have attended the nationals this year, if some of the issues had been sorted before the qualifying started. This has cost the BSCRA membership, numbers and revenue, and I urge you to reconsider your changes and the way in which they are implemented in the future.
Please can you respond to the above issues and reconsider the views of the membership, who clearly feel passionate about BSCRA Slot Car Racing, as they pay their membership in the hope of the BSCRA representing them in a democratic and fair manner.
Thanks for your mail. Chris F is away on holiday at the moment so I will reply on behalf of the Council. As much of your letter is a verbatim copy of a mail I have received from someone else I will copy and paste my replies to him in some cases, and I will also use material from Chris which he has used in replying to similar queries. I have also taken to opportunity to analyse last year's entry at the nationals in some detail, and the figures I quote are based on my analysis.
I also published a detailed explanation of the Nationals improvements on UKSlotracing on March 11th so will start by reproducing these:
At the BSCRA Council Meeting we discussed the running of all our meetings for the next year, and how we could make them better for the membership as a whole.
We do this every year, making decisions on race format, timings, pricing,
trophies, transport and a host of other stuff to ensure the meetings run
smoothly and are fair and enjoyable for as many members as possible.
This year we have made some improvements:
Held entry fees the same as last year for adults, despite increased costs.
Reduced entry fees for under 16s from £13 per class in the open classes to £5 to encourage junior members to race in more classes.
Moved production to after F1 on Saturday so that the event can start on time with full grids and avoid the delays experienced in the last few years with production taking a long time owing to small fields causing fast rotations and races with fewer than eight drivers, both of which massively delay the event.
This is a calculated risk and we hope that by running F1 smoothly and
efficiently, open racers will have enough energy to stay to help and support
their clubmates in the production class, making that class more of an integral part of the event than it has been in recent years and thereby fostering Production racing as a feeder into the sport.
Further revised the Sports class following feedback from the membership that 'proper' finals for Overall and Main grade would make a better end to the event and make a better way of deciding the championships than the 'win from any final' format. We have had to sacrifice individual qualifying to achieve this within the timeframe needed and will use a fair method based on earlier qualifying results to seed drivers into Sports heats.
Following requests from the membership at previous Nationals and at the Council meeting we have introduced open Friday evening practice. This will allow racers who have not yet raced on the track to gain their first experience in a less pressured atmosphere, and allow the many racers who already travel down on Friday to take advantage of the track. In previous years (pre-Newbury) this has not been possible at the 1/32 nationals as the track was being built on Friday night and we are trying it this year following similar successful practice sessions at BSCRA and BOC events.
These improvements together with other matters were discussed, voted on and agreed by the Council in accordance with the formal agenda and within the BSCRA constitution, in order to fulfil our mission to make slot racing more accessible and enjoyable, so we hope that everyone comes prepared to give this season's changes a try, in the knowledge that we will continue to review and improve all the events we run, year by year.
You will find all the necessary details on the BSCRA website.
Looking forward to seeing you at the 2009 Nationals at Vodafone, Newbury.
Best regards, Rob
You raise the question of whether the Council is empowered to make these changes: the answer is yes, and the precedents are annual - every year we discuss and make changes to many aspects of the nationals. If you take a quick look at the handbook you will see that there are very few rules to change - it says we have to run a meeting, and that's about it.
You mention democracy, well we follow the parliamentary model to some extent - elected representatives who take decisions in the best interests of the greater whole. Democracy is not the same as "everyone votes on everything".
The elected representatives at the BSCRA Council have literally hundreds of major meetings under their belt, and at least three of my team have been custodians of the "Nationals Tradition" for over thirty years.
Specifically on the restructuring of Sports last year (incidentally the umpteenth restructuring of class formats agreed at Councils over the years), the membership voted on two proposals about track calls and four proposals about the grading system at the Council last year. There was no proposal to the membership about changing the Sports format.
I'm not really sure I follow your separate point about the Nats venue: we announced a change of venue in good time and for good reasons. I was able to step in and offer Newbury (against my better judgement personally!).
If people in Area 6 had genuinely not joined BSCRA because of the 2009 1/32 Nationals venue being Blackpool I honestly don't see what we could have done for them at that time (January 09) when it became clear that we could not find a cost-effective venue in Blackpool. There was (just) time for them to sign up to BSCRA in order to compete and I believe one of them was able to take advantage of this opportunity.
Many BSCRA members join year in year out whether or not the Nats are near them. If there are really people who join on this basis then that's a fact of life about moving the Nats venues around the country. We have now published venues up to 2010 which is a major improvement on the earlier situation.
If however as Area 6 coordinator you have signed-up BSCRA members who can now get to Newbury, and have spaces left to allocate in your area allocation, you can now allocate them to people who previously may not have wanted to travel to Blackpool, which is surely positive rather than negative for your membership. Ian Fisher is also ideally placed to advise you if places over and above your allocation may become available.
The remainder of your points, numbered 1-3, are virtually verbatim copies of points I have already answered separately in a different correspondence with a different BSCRA member from a different area. I will therefore largely reproduce my answers to the earlier correspondent.
1. Friday Evening Practice
Any serious competitor will feel obliged to attend or they will risk being at a serious disadvantage
I disagree - serious competitors will cope with their existing track knowledge and be able to set up their cars correctly even if they miss the Friday. People not familiar with the track however will be able to be much more competitive.
Anyone not from the immediate locality will be forced to find and finance an extra night’s accommodation (not a great idea in the current financial climate)
It costs £19 to stay up the road at Travelodge, even less if two or three share, and the total cost for a room for the entire weekend is less than £90 – as little as £30 each for three sharing. Many many racers, for example from Scotland and the northeast, already travel on the Friday. There is a large concentration of racers nearby who can choose to pay £19 or come by on the Friday and return home. There’s also a large number of people who come to the Newbury Nationals and sleep in their own beds each night.
All entrants will find that we have frozen entry fees despite increased costs (eg for storage, transport and venue costs), and that we have reduced the costs for a junior to less than half per open class (£13 to £5) of last year’s (ironically the cost for four classes goes from £39 to £20 – enough to pay for a room of their own on the Friday!)
Friday is a normal working day for many people and they may not be able to attend even if they so desired
The nationals is a special event, as you say, and plenty of people already take time off work to attend. Plenty of warning has been given to allow people to book holiday with their employers. It's the last day before a Bank Holiday weekend, so huge numbers of people already take this day off as holiday or flexitime.
Anyone not qualified for F1 will need to attend a minimum of two days before their class, lest they are placed at an even greater disadvantage
90% of entries in the open classes race in all three. Only two racers in last year’s Saloon entry had not already raced on the Saturday. The vast majority will therefore be unaffected by this change. Some racers will feel they don't need or want the extra practice.
The practice time does not allow segregation of classes and drivers (novice racers could run a CMG production chassis against a Formula One or Eurosport chassis, resulting in any number of multiple chassis breakages, disappointment, and bad feeling towards novice and experienced racers alike)
We haven't published any rules yet on class segregation. It’s a good idea and we will do it.
In addition to the above this idea goes against the very ethos of equality in terms of track knowledge that has always been a major part of the BSCRA 1/32nd Nationals and made it one of the great, prestigious events it currently is
You are mistaking a compromise for equality - why should a driver get three times the track learning time just because they qualify for three classes? Why shouldn't a racer unfamiliar with the track be able to take advantage of organised extra track time at the meeting if they want, to bring their knowledge up to that of the aces?
The myth of equal track time (actually the more successful I am the more track time I get) is just a convenient compromise which disadvantages people who don't race every class in every event. This is a fundamental inequality which we can partially correct, probably for this meeting only. It’s possible because of the nature of the Newbury booking, and it’s made more important because it’s the first 1/32 nationals on this track
2. Racing Novice Production after Formula One
Novices may well be younger members and will be tired at the end of a long day
Yes, or they may appreciate not having a very early start to be the first race on, early in the morning. They have the opportunity of coming down later, and don’t forget that if they are in Saloon too (half the field last year), they won’t, as last year, have to wait around for FI to take place as Production and Saloon now run back to back in the timetable
Any novice who has also qualified for F1 will be going onto the track for the first time with an open class car, not fair on them or anyone else in their heats
Yes, agreed, but the numbers are very low (four last year in an entry of 49) and as above they can practice the previous evening.
Any novice who has also qualified for F1 will have a major advantage over other racers, who have not qualified in F1, in production
The numbers are low (four last year in a field of 16) and as above all prod entrants can practice the previous evening
With the old programme many senior racers assisted novices, not to mention helping out marshalling. They may now be inclined to get back to their accommodation and out for a meal, leaving the novices and race controllers to fend for themselves
Actually, the number of senior racers helping novices on Saturday morning is very low, most choosing to arrive late or busying themselves setting up, refusing multiple calls to marshal or help in any way and delaying the meeting by between one and two hours versus the published timetable. As explained above we are taking a flier that the start to the meeting is improved by the change. Of course they could all go out for a meal afterwards, but we will be no worse off and at least we tried to fix the problem. Don't forget this behaviour penalises the future of our sport. Present company excepted!
Novices will not know what time to turn up for racing and could be left standing around for ages before they race, not being particularly impressed, or not turning up at all
We will publish a timetable and have a better chance of sticking to it, because it will be more predictable with full grids and lots of marshals in F1. In previous years we have lost 1-2 hours on the schedule because prod is so difficult to run. This means that not only will novices have a more reliable start and finish time than was possible with F1 last year, but the majority of racers won’t be kept waiting.
3. Eurosport Qualifying
All the classes at the Nationals are independent of each other, and there is every chance that some racers will not have qualified for all three classes and will be at an unfair disadvantage
Actually this only impacts people who race in Sports and no other - the system I have in mind caters for people who race in sports and one other effectively. Will be a problem but will not produce more or fewer anomalies than one minute qualifying.
Last year, every entrant in Sports had already raced in at least one class. Only two people in Sports had not raced in all three.
I have done a dry run of the proposed format and it does a good job of sorting people of like ability into heats. Unlike ISRA, there are no sit out spots at stake so it is simply a matter of achieving this.
Some racers may not be in a position to attend all three days and will be at an unfair disadvantage
I think you're repeating yourself.
Due to no fault of your own in the previous classes (being taken out by someone else, marshalled into the wrong lane, etc), you could be disadvantaged in Eurosport from the start
That’s why we're basing it on qualifying, where you drop 50% of your runs in each class. Then (as I'm currently thinking) you drop your worst qualifying performance of the two. That leaves you with six opportunities to screw up out of eight heats and you can STILL top qualify! I think that's pretty robust.
It is therefore not acceptable that a racer’s chances in Eurosport can be restricted due to events in separate classes.
Why not - it's a fair and robust method of seeding people for heats. The real racing is yet to come!
James, I hope this answers your questions, and I hope you and your family enjoy this year's nationals as much as the two previous events at Newbury.
Best regards, Rob