22 May BEHIND THE SCENES: SCRUTINEERING
The overriding responsibility of the scrutineers is the safety of the competitors. It is their job to ensure that each competitor’s car or motorcycle conforms to all the safety requirements laid down in the regulations for that class, and for racing in general by Motorsport South Africa.
Some of the possible problems the scrutineers look for are self-evident: There must be no oil, coolant or brake-fluid leaks, each wheel must have all its wheel-nuts in place and properly tightened (don’t laugh), there must be no cracks in the windscreen, the driver’s seat must be firmly and correctly fastened to the floor of the vehicle and the safety harness or seat belt must be correctly mounted to the body of the car.
All of these apply even to the street-cars participating in #RobotRacing and Street2Strip events.
When it comes to racing cars and motorcycles, however, it gets interesting: All sump plugs and drain plugs must be safety-wired, and on motorcycles the front brake calliper mounting bolts must also be lock-wired. All breather tubes must empty into a suitable container.
The battery and fuel tank must be separated by a firewall and each must be correctly fastened to the body of the car. The roll cage must be of the approved type and correctly mounted.
There must be clearly marked towing points front and rear, as well as a master electrical cut-off switch inside the car, and another on the outside. Most importantly, in the case of a closed car, both front doors must be able to be opened from the outside so that the marshals can reach the driver after a crash.
All safety harnesses have their date of manufacture on the label, and are guaranteed by the makers for five years. Due to the cost of these harnesses, Motorsport South Africa has extended their permissible lifespan by another five years, provided that they show no visible UV damage, cuts or nicks – but after 10 years they must be replaced.
Lastly, the driver or rider has to present his or her vehicle for scrutiny in person, in order that his helmet and racing suit can also be checked for safety compliance. All of these checks are focused on ensuring maximum protection for the competitor in a crash; the scrutineers will tell you that few drivers (and still fewer riders) will argue if the scrutineers spot a safety issue on their vehicles.
The scrutineers also have another vital function: They are also responsible for ensuring that each vehicle complies with the rules for the category in which it competes. Simply put, this is to ensure that the racing is fair and that no competitor enjoys an unfair advantage.
In practice, however, it’s not that simple. This requires detailed knowledge of the class rules, read together with the general motorsport regulations, and is usually left to specialists who are expert in each category.
Often a competitor will argue that his vehicle is eligible when a scrutineer says it’s not. The scrutineer will then refer to the chief scrutineer for second opinion, and the competitor may refer to the Clerk of the Course if he wishes.
Nevertheless, the scrutineers insist that they are there to facilitate the racing, not to stop competitors from taking part.
If they find an issue on the car or motorcycle, they will always try to refer you to a workshop at the circuit, or even a fellow competitor who can help you sort out the problem, and as far as possible they will make themselves available to re-inspect the car or motorcycle, so that it can get the all-important ‘scrutineering sticker’ and be ready to race. Theirs is a finicky job, where the devil is literally in the details, but our safety is in their hands, and we salute the Killarney scrutineers for being as thorough as they are.