After winning a Formula Kart Stars Heat at Rowrah recently, Cadet driver Alex Stott was excluded along with two other drivers because of non compliant chain-guards.
Championship rules require him to count a zero score for this race, effectively scuppering his title hopes.
Alex and his elder brother Nick had first started racing karts in Canada where the family lived for several years before returning to Britain.
Both brothers became prominent WTP contenders and last year Alex performed brilliantly to take 2nd place in the Little Green Man Championships behind Sam Priest. Were it not for his steering wheel coming off at Kimbolton, he might conceivably have taken the title.
He switched to Comers this year and was immediately recognised as a serious contender for the British Championships. During the opening round at Rowrah he overcame an earlier set-back in qualifying to capture 3rd place in Saturday’s final. On Sunday, he claimed his first Formula Kart stars race win before being excluded by the scrutineers.
The decisions were based on an MSA ruling that effective protection must be provided over the top and sides of chains and sprockets. Any guard must also extend to at least the lower plane of the rear axle.
According to Malcolm Fell, this is where the problem lay. Some drivers at Rowrah were running 99 tooth sprockets and needed modified chain-guards to accommodate them, he claims. Many modifications were quite legal but in three cases the guards failed to meet current requirements. These were reported to the Clerk of the Course who took action as he saw fit. I completely understand the frustrations of those involved, but there is no doubt that rules were contravened.
Alex had raced in eight earlier meetings, including a round of Super 1 at PF, without any challenge. At Rowrah the chain-guard passed through safety scrutineering and five further inspections, claimed his dad, Colin. They included meticulous checks after Alex took 3rd place in Saturdays final and again following his pole position on Sunday morning.” Normally it wouldnt be possible to demonstrate conclusively that the guard had remained unaltered throughout all these races and the previous eight meetings, but its such a prominent feature that photographs taken by Chris Walker have actually provided all the proof we need.”
Scrutineers are judges of fact and their decisions cant be challenged, but an appeal against the penalty imposed is allowed. Our team wanted to appeal but couldnt do so without consulting me and obtaining the fee, Colin points out. I was running Nick in Minimax as a privateer and by the time we came out of Parc Ferme it was too late to lodge an appeal. I thought the best course of action would be to write to the MSA but they dont seem interested. Either the most experienced officials have failed in their duty of care towards children in nine previous events (Blue Book section G7.1.5) or else one particular scrutineer at Rowrah is wrongly interpreting rules. That surely must be considered exceptional and worthy of further investigation.
Martin Luther-King once said that an injustice to anyone is a denial of justice to everyone Im not particularly concerned with arguments as to whether or not Alex Stotts chain-guard was illegal. The salient point is that it didnt affect his performance by one jot. His subsequent technical exclusion automatically triggered a penalty written into Formula Kart Stars regulations designed to discourage cheating. Theres an old biblical saying that the punishment ought to fit the crime. In this particular case, I dont believe that it does.
You dont see many people wearing pin-stripe suits at kart meetings these days, although their presence is being felt on an increasing number of occasions. Last months issue of Karting magazine carried an advertisement from Julian Young & Co, Solicitors and High Court Advocates. Apart from representing drivers and teams before MSA Tribunals, they also offer instant advice by telephone to those competitors lodging a protest or who face disciplinary penalties. This isnt exactly a new development. Other law firms have offered similar services for many years now but its not something that I particularly welcome. Before long we could see certain drivers actually being accompanied to race meetings by their legal advisors, if, indeed, such a situation hasnt arisen already.
Most competitors tend not to think about the possibility of being involved in judicial proceedings. Theyll arrive at a race meeting with numerous sprockets, wet tyres and all of the paraphernalia required for optimum performance. Its a fair bet, though, that the rule book will have been left lying in a drawer at home. Taking it out occasionally and having a good read might prove more beneficial than studying all of the various technical manuals. Id also recommend Samantha Tomlinsons informative guide to protests and appeals that appeared in the April issue of this magazine. It may not be quite as effective as hiring your own solicitor, but just think of the legal fees you could save.
The MSA has now launched its tendering process for the new Cadet engine that will run from January 2013 onwards. I dont expect there to be any shortage of applications. For manufacturers, suppliers and engine preparation experts alike, the stakes are pretty high. The competitors interests shouldnt be forgotten, either. In order to thrive, karting needs an entry level class where costs can be kept relatively low. This applies especially to maintenance costs.
The MSA statement talked about a new Formula Cadet engine. I dont believe that too much should be read into this. Im sure that all those associated with the Comer W60 motor will present a strong case for the status quo to be maintained. Lets hope that the process will be completely open with all relevant factors properly considered. I, along with many others, eagerly await the result.