Here is the full video of the yellow flag violation:
So, yeah, I had no idea I’d done anything wrong, as I either didn’t see the yellow flag (the only thing I cared about in that race was the white car behind me) or thought the marshals further on had the green flag.
Bear in mind the camera is much higher than my eye line, and so my vision was very much blocked by the cars between me and the incident (ironically, the stationary car causing the yellow was Jamie Harrison who had just won the B class championship!).
I wasn’t intending to violate the yellow flag conditions, the safety of marshals and other competitors was in no way compromised, and I later dropped four or five places down the order so didn’t gain any advantage.
I do not in any way dispute that I overtook under a yellow flag – only the fact that the imposed penalty took me from second in the championship down to fourth in the final race deciding the season.
Called to the Clerk of the Course
My name was called after the race to go see the Clerk of the Course, and to take my video footage with me – which I did very promptly, breaking off celebrations and went straight there. I still had no idea I’d done anything wrong, and thought they were checking my footage to try to catch someone else doing something (I didn’t think I’d be able to help here, either).
I was told what I’d done after the Clerk had spoken to two other drivers, and we reviewed the footage. She said she had three choices of penalty for the offence:
Exclusion from the race.
A 10 second time penalty.
Points on my race licence.
I pleaded for her to take the third option – especially as several other Vee drivers had been caught overtaking under yellows in the previous race, and NONE of them had been given any kind of penalty at all.
She was firm but friendly, and argued that the consequences to my championship were not her consideration. Fair enough but COME ONE!
I had no choice but to sign the document to say I’d done it.
I was told that I could appeal the decision on one of three grounds if I paid the fee (about £240!!!!!!!) in cash within 30 minutes:
That the offence had never happened.
That the penalty applied was too harsh or unfair.
Another option that I don’t recall.
Of course my grounds for appeal would be that the penalty was far too harsh as it would decide my championship position, and lose me a podium trophy.
In the circumstances, I would be effectively paying £240 to make sure I held onto second in the championship. After all, nobody would be so heartless as to turn down my appeal on those gorunds, would they?
750 Motor Club were supposed to be there for us drivers, to keep us happy, and would make a sensible and compassionate decision, right?
Appealing the penalty to the stewards
I told the race organisers that I would be appealing, and that stopped the clock as I ran to the paddock to try to raise the cash – but someone had let it slip that they could take payment by card if they had to. I should hope so too! Who carries any cash these days – let alone that much?
It had already been around 2 hours after the race finish, so most were packed up and heading home. Tim Probert handed me my two third place trophies as I went past, but I gave one back telling him it was in dispute. Then I went back up to the Stewards with Glenn, Michelle, and James Harridge and chatted with them about my options and what was happening.
I had to write out a statement on my appeal form, in which I made it clear with my first point that I was appealing the penalty, but the Stewards were already pressuring me to hurry up as they wanted to leave for the day.
I waited while they sat in another room considering it, and reviewing my footage.
There were two stewards from 750 Motor Club, one head steward from the MSA, and an observer there.
They called me in and questioned me about my appeal, asking me to watch my footage again.
I thought this was a bit strange but did it, and they told me repeatedly that I’d overtaken under a yellow flag.
I already knew this, and had acknowledged that in my previous meeting with the Clerk of the Course.
The 750 Steward kept telling me I’d overtaken under a yellow flag and would not budge an inch or listen to anything I said. I seemed to be getting through more to the MSA steward, but every time I seemed to be persuading him to my side of things the 750 steward would chime in again telling me I’d overtaken under yellow.
He kept repeating that their recommendation for overtaking under yellows was to exclude me. When I asked why there were three options available to them he refused to answer or discuss it.
Again they kept going over the aspects of my yellow flag violation, speaking about the safety issue (oh, where the marshals were on the opposite side of the track, well off the track, and behind other cars??) and insisting that I had overtaken before the green flag post.
It was like I was arguing with a bunch of people that the sky was blue, but they just kept telling me that the grass was green.
The whole atmosphere was extremely hostile, with all of them against little old me. I stayed polite and calm, but couldn’t help feeling they would just bully me down on anything I said. You are technically allowed to take in a representative, but are told in no uncertain terms that this is discouraged and the stewards don’t like it.
You can call in other drivers as witnesses – which I was asked if I wanted to do – but why would I when I was arguing the PENALTY??!
They asked me to leave the room as they discussed more, and I knew I had no chance at all – and the 750 Motor Club Steward was the main one properly gunning for me. Thanks for the support.
I was called back in and they told me that their decision would stand, at which point I again tried to tell them that they were deciding the championship with a penalty, and THAT was what I didn’t want to happen!
I was threatened with total exclusion again for raising my point, so decided to just shut up.
They told me to go back and wait outside and then they would be out soon with the forms to sign.
“Can’t you post them to me?” I asked, having been there for around three hours.
“No, you need to sign to say that you agree with our decision.”
I didn’t thank them as I left, but also resisted slamming the door on my way out. There was no chance I was giving them another second of my time, so told Glenn, James and Michelle that I was leaving now and wasn’t going to say I agreed with their decision.
I was left with the feeling that the appeal process is totally pointless and just a money-making scheme. I felt that the club at least would have cared that deciding the final race of the season with a penalty (that didn’t even need to be applied!) doesn’t look great for the club, and none of the drivers would appreciate it, either!
I have some pride shining through the bitterness over it all as I got the decision through the post a week or so later, when I read the “Driver left” bit where my signature should have been.
I just have to remind myself that they can’t take away the fact that I did it on track – I won that second place in the championship with a great drive after a head-to-head scrap!
I have also filed a formal complaint with the MSA about how my appeal wasn’t even heard or discussed by the stewards in that meeting, which they have failed to respond to in their stated 10 days. I chased it up a few weeks ago and was told that it will be looked at, and they apologised for not sending an acknowledgement.
We’ll see how that goes – I’m guessing absolutely nowhere. Either way it won’t change the result – but maybe people standing up a bit will get them to change things in the future?
I’m debating uploading my full complaint letter to them, but will hold on and see what they respond with, first. So far it’s been over a month…