The recent flurry of activity in the ongoing affair of the ‘Christodoulou’ Rotax engines once again bought the activities of scrutineers into sharp relief. When was the last time you saw a karting article make the front page of a national weekly motorsports publication, or even the lead article on page two? In the immediate aftermath of the judicial hearings in December 2005 the UK Karting website notice board had further long threads about the case and these continued for weeks into the new year. Quite rightly, a lot of the comments were congratulatory and these were well received. Some were along the lines of ‘about time too’ and, while I can’t argue with that (scrutineers and the MSA are ever-diligent), sometimes things transpire that don’t provide the result you might have desired. Scroots do a great job, often in difficult circumstances. Most folk accept that prerace scrutineering is part of race day procedure. Checking a helmet and suit takes only a moment and very often the kart inspection reveals an omission made during that late night, race weekend build. However, having someone wanting you to strip down your engine at the end of a long day, when you still have a long drive to get home, seems less appealing. And of course today, when the majority of engines require professional fettling to keep them in good order, there is the further prospect of freighting the engine to the builders, paying heavily for the privilege of his ministrations and then the return freight and late night fitting prior to the next event. So a visit to the scrutineer is a bit like a visit to the dentist, it’s painful and it’s you paying for the privilege! Of course, if fair play is to be maintained then scrutineers are an essential part of a race event.
They’re mostly good sorts, often ex-racers, usually very helpful and wanting to get home just as much as you do! But if the level playing field, of which we all talk incessantly is to be maintained, scrutineering must be supported at every level. You can help in a number of ways. Firstly, as seems to be prevailing at all levels of the organising that goes into a motorsport weekend, scrutineers are in short supply. Some that we have, while being extremely knowledgeable, are getting a bit long in the tooth and we need new blood. The remuneration is poor and out of all proportion to the effort required. You often operate in less than ideal conditions and sometimes deal with awkward situations and difficult people. However, if you are thinking of ending your driving career and want to put a little something back into the sport or to maintain the spirit of fair play you have employed during your racing activities, here’s your chance. Or perhaps you have a friend or relative who would like to be involved in motorsport but doesn’t fancy the driving. The training is pretty straightforward and there are lots of folk ready to assist. You don’t need to have a degree in mechanical engineering and all the information you will need is at hand. You will get the support of the MSA and the respect of racers for a job well done. Then, there are the conditions under which scrutineers work. Let me say that, as a scrutineer myself, I am very fortunate to be based near Buckmore Park which I consider my ‘home’ circuit. We have perhaps, the best scrutineering facility in the country and, on behalf of all my fellow scroots I would like to thank Bill and the team at Buckmore for what they have provided. However, as I have chosen to follow championships around the country, I do encounter very varied conditions at other circuits. If you can imagine the accuracy to which I can measure on a workbench in a well-lit, heated facility such as Buckmore, think how difficult that is to duplicate at 4pm on a cold, wet and windy autumn day at a less well-endowed circuit. This isn’t an appeal to all circuit owners to improve their facilities, as desirable as that might be.
We are all aware of the financial difficulties involved in operating a motorsport facility and I am sure all circuits provide the best facilities their resources can muster. But, as a competitor, perhaps you could offer the corner of an awning, a floodlight, a workbench or a space heater to the scrutineers at the end of the day? You can also help both the experienced scrutineer and the trainee by offering some of your expired kit. As a competitor in a particular formula, you handle your engine and its components regularly; perhaps stripping it as well and you are familiar with most aspects of it. That familiarity only comes about by doing various functions regularly. Imagine having that level of experience and knowledge with six or ten different types of engine. That is what you are expecting from your scrutineer, when most scrutineers only come into contact with an engine for a brief period on a Sunday afternoon. Certainly they have all the technical information to hand but implementing the testing procedures only comes with experience. So imagine you have, for example, an old BT82 engine at home in various parts. Perhaps a barrel that has reached maximum oversize and a crankcase through which a conrod has long since departed.
That may seem like a pile of junk but, if the major mechanical components are still capable of rotating as originally intended, then a trainee can witness the essentials of it and the more experienced scrutineer can polish his skills or refresh the memory. Scrutineers check your kart to make sure as far as is possible that it is safe to compete and that it complies with the eligibility regulations. Remember however, as is clearly stated in MSA regulations, the responsibility for the safety and eligibility of the vehicle rests with the competitor, not the scrutineer. We aim to be fair, open and honest. There are no secrets to what we do. We will explain what we are looking for and give you any guidance we can about the preparation of your kart. It is not our intention to catch you out or trick you. You can help us by presenting your kart in a clean and tidy condition, having any paperwork prepared, wearing your race suit and having your helmet and gloves ready. With your support, we can obtain enough of the right kind of knowledgeable scrutineers to ensure that you do indeed end up racing on a level playing field, one in which your driving and adjustment skills, rather than cunning or deceit, will see you win the day. All of the above will help us to identify anyone who is trying to race outside of the rules.