After a Crash, Part 3: Seeking Justice

christinaylam
By christinaylam
Apr 23, 2020 | Safety, Crashing | Posted in Safety , Features | Never miss an article

Read Part 2

Read Part 4

Racing has its own judicial system, with checks and balances similar to the rest of the world. There are laws that SCCA racers must abide by, and those can be found in a 700-page document called the General Competition Rules. 

If you break the GCR’s laws or rules, the sanctioning body has a system in place to issue corrective action in order to maintain a fun, safe and fair environment. 

I recently filed my first protest against another driver after a major crash and found the system to be swift to dole out much needed justice.

The GCR covers rules, regulations and procedures for the sanctioning body. Here you can find every detail about classing, licensing requirements, race operating procedure, and any possible question you could have about SCCA racing. 

When a driver, crew or official is in violation of the GCR, you may file a protest against the offender. This covers anything from car compliance, on-track behavior to race results and even the actions of a crewmember or official. 

Protests must be filed in writing and submitted to the race director or chief steward of the weekend. The protest should identify the section of the GCR that has been violated. A signature and fee of $50 (or $25 at regional races) are also required. Typically, this must be filed 30 minutes after the end of a session or when the results are posted.

To avoid competitors filing protests in bad faith, the GCR does require that your protest be reasonable, logical and based on sound evidence. If your protest is not well founded, not only will you lose your protest fee, you could face additional penalties from the Stewards of the Meet, or SOM.

Once a protest is filed, it goes to the SOM, where evidence is reviewed. Think of this as presenting your case in front of a judge. Evidence such as in-car video from both parties is reviewed, and external witnesses may be called. Similar to fighting a speeding ticket, you are innocent until proven guilty.

Penalties if found guilty range from monetary fines to loss of event points or finishing position to severe penalties such as loss of competition privileges. Each penalty is associated with a number of points that can tally up on your license. Points expire after three years, but if at any point your racing license accrues more than 10 points, you could be put on longterm probation or suspension.  

In the case of my crash, the ambulance took me to the emergency room minutes after the impact, so I was not able to file a protest myself. 

While I was lying halfway into the CT scan machine, Hugh Stewart, my driving coach, called me and explained my protest options. He could file a protest on my behalf against the offending driver, but it would do nothing to change the situation. My car was still sitting on the side of the track in a million pieces. 

Seething with anger, I was adamant that he file a protest.

SCCA took action and recovered in-car video from my car, video from several other cars behind the incident, and a video that a spectator took of that first-lap incident. The other driver involved was unable to provide video from his car. 

After viewing all angles of the incident, the board quickly determined that the other driver was at fault for causing the crash. We were on a straight portion of the track, and my car and steering wheel were straight on. All video showed the other driver veering from one side of the track to the other, making contact with my car and then continuing to push until I was sideways and then in the wall.

The protest that Hugh filed for me was upheld, and the other driver was given a penalty of last finishing position in the race and a three-race probation period. 

Probation meant that he could continue to race, but only in his region until the probation period was complete. This might seem like a slap on the wrist considering the amount of damage that was caused (and the other driver did not have a scratch on his car). I respect SCCA’s ruling on this matter since it was justice served. It may not seem like much, but I was thankful for it as this was my only form of closure on this day.  

I have not posted the video of the crash, and to be honest, I’m not sure when I will. It was many weeks after the crash before I could bring myself to watch it. When I finally did, it was heart-wrenching to watch all of our efforts to build the car vanish in a split second. 

Many people suggested posting the video to call out the other driver for his actions. But villainizing the guy does not change the results, and more importantly it does not do anything to benefit the motorsports community.

Hugh picked me up from the ER late on that Sunday night with what was left of my M3 in tow. The pitch-black summer night still had a light at the end of the tunnel. We discussed a plan of attack for the next morning since we needed to bring the car to the shop. Body panels would need to be stripped off so the body shop could give an accurate estimate. Hugh has fixed plenty of badly wrecked race cars, and there was hope for this one, too.

It was the most hectic day in my racing career: first crash, first ambulance ride, first time filing a protest. 

I accepted the risk of racing long ago knowing that one day my car could go home in pieces. I drew the short straw that day, but justice in the form of an upheld protest kept me moving forward and focused on my goals—which are bigger than a single bad weekend.

 

Read the rest of the series:

Part 1: Three Types of Wrecks

Part 2: The Day After the Wreck

Part 4: Building a New Race Car From Scratch

Part 5: A New Roll Cage for the New Race Car

Part 6: The Thrash to Meet a Firm Deadline, the SCCA Runoffs

Part 7: Before Returning to the Track, Time to Make It Look Like a Real Race Car

Part 8: 60 Days After Destroying the Race Car and Building a New One, It's Time to Take the Green at the Runoffs

Part 9: Pondering Future Racing Plans

 

How Christina got her start in motorsports.

 

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Comments
RyanGreener
RyanGreener Reader
4/20/20 8:47 a.m.

Looking back, it really was just a slap on the wrist. I wonder why drivers are not penalized more for things like this because it keeps people from coming back.

christinaylam (Forum Supporter)
christinaylam (Forum Supporter) New Reader
4/20/20 8:56 a.m.

In reply to RyanGreener :

I like to think of the system more to "reform" bad drivers rather than punish. Punishing without reform will lead to the same problem soon after. Most people don't learn their lesson. Putting somebody on probation and forcing them race regionally and cleanly hopefully creates some changes in that person's driving before they return to the Majors. 

Penalty is not doled out based on the damage caused but rather the rules broken. In this case there were 4 rules in the GCR broken. Most of the time, these broken rules do not create such catastrophic results. 

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
4/20/20 9:08 a.m.

I think the real reason it strikes people as a wrist slap is they have caused you a major financial harm without feeling financial repercussions. I can see how making people at all monetarily liable is a huge can of worms, but the opening to that kind of hurt with no wrongdoing on their own part is what keeps many people from jumping into the water on wheel to wheel. 

bluej (Forum Supporter)
bluej (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
4/20/20 9:15 a.m.

If you're comfortable sharing, has the other driver reached out to you at all? I can't imagine having it confirmed via upheld protest that I was at fault, and not making some sort of effort to make amends to the other parties racing effort.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
4/20/20 9:23 a.m.

Sports car racing was historically a 'gentleman's sport' and the GCR still reflects that to some degree. 'Back in the day' amateur race cars didn't cost what they do today. Entry fees were nominal. Tires lasted a long time.

I've been on the earth a half century, have worked hard and made some reasonably good financial decisions in my life but W2W racing is still almost elusively expensive.  I got out after realizing I could only do 2-4 events per year if nothing bad happened but if I did wind up with a heavily damaged car that would probably be it for me. So I sold out while I had a car that worked vs one that was crashed.

I suppose I could do LeMons or something but it isn't the same as SCCA or NASA racing.

Going racing is a VERY serious decision. This series of articles should be required reading for anyone thinking about it. Don't misunderstand; racing was (briefly) a real adrenaline rush blast of fun for me but it has a lot of real expensive downsides to it that need adult consideration.

christinaylam (Forum Supporter)
christinaylam (Forum Supporter) New Reader
4/20/20 9:49 a.m.
Apexcarver said:

I think the real reason it strikes people as a wrist slap is they have caused you a major financial harm without feeling financial repercussions. I can see how making people at all monetarily liable is a huge can of worms, but the opening to that kind of hurt with no wrongdoing on their own part is what keeps many people from jumping into the water on wheel to wheel. 


Racing in general is a huge financial risk. It is an unwise financial decision from the get go that spends a ton of money just to turn it into noise and smiles. Something about that risk captivates the hearts of all motorsports enthusiasts. If the sport assigned financial blame to parties in an incident, it would kill off club racing. Imagine having a mechanical failure on your car which in turn caused somebody else car damage or physical injury and now being responsible not only for your own vehicle but somebody else's as well. 

 

bluej (Forum Supporter) said:

If you're comfortable sharing, has the other driver reached out to you at all? I can't imagine having it confirmed via upheld protest that I was at fault, and not making some sort of effort to make amends to the other parties racing effort.

Negative. 

He did show up to Runoffs at VIR to spectate, and I went to try to find him to have a chat. My search came up empty. He is certainly entitled to his choice of not acknowledging this situation and walking away. 

 

ddavidv said:

Sports car racing was historically a 'gentleman's sport' and the GCR still reflects that to some degree. 'Back in the day' amateur race cars didn't cost what they do today. Entry fees were nominal. Tires lasted a long time.

I've been on the earth a half century, have worked hard and made some reasonably good financial decisions in my life but W2W racing is still almost elusively expensive.  I got out after realizing I could only do 2-4 events per year if nothing bad happened but if I did wind up with a heavily damaged car that would probably be it for me. So I sold out while I had a car that worked vs one that was crashed.

I suppose I could do LeMons or something but it isn't the same as SCCA or NASA racing.

Going racing is a VERY serious decision. This series of articles should be required reading for anyone thinking about it. Don't misunderstand; racing was (briefly) a real adrenaline rush blast of fun for me but it has a lot of real expensive downsides to it that need adult consideration.

Racing has gotten more expensive as the cars become more powerful, tires are more grippy, and the lap times drop. The risk remains the same but what is at stake has gone up. There is something about a sprint race in a competitive field that gets the blood flowing. Endurance races often bring in other factors like teamwork or making the car last, but the risk of losing a car is still there. I hope people can gain some insight into the realities of racing from the series. 

GregAmy
GregAmy New Reader
4/20/20 9:58 a.m.

Your experience is exactly why I always encourage drivers to name someone else on their entry as "the entrant".  Your Entrant has the same authority to file paper on your behalf in case you're not available (or are not sure if you want to do it; he can be an objective "heavy" for you). Plus, the Entrant can be with you during the processes/discussions as a second set of eyes, ears, and opinions.

If you don't have any crew (or a Significant Other) to name then two drivers can get together and name each other as the Entrant.

I've seen this strategy used effectively many, many times.

GregA

 

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
4/20/20 10:01 a.m.

I was taught early on that if you are not emotionally and financially willing to leave your car and or your body in the track dumpster, you  should not be on a racetrack.

 

I thought I was, but discovered I was not. So I don't.

 

Pete

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
4/20/20 10:09 a.m.

Christina, your a class act. So many people would have been on the internet vilifying the other driver. While I dislike competitors who think this is a contact sport, I'm also not a fan of internet lynching.

As for the SCCA's protest system; On one hand you could say more should be done but on the other how do you gauge intent? Drivers make mistakes, it's usually a misjudgment or getting in over your head.  Regardless the system has worked pretty well for decades and I can honestly offer up a better way of doing it.

ddavidv good on you for being able to realize it wasn't worth it for you. I agree, would be racers should read this series. Even for notoriously frugal folks as myself who run cars costing all of 5K it would still take months to recover from that.

When I road raced motorcycles I could not afford to crash and being young didn't really have a plan for what to do if I did.  It's nice to see this series, if you're planning to go wheel to wheel racing you do need a plan in case the car gets written off.

IndyLegend33
IndyLegend33 New Reader
4/20/20 12:11 p.m.

I appreciate you giving us the details about what you went through post-crash. Usually, we hear about the good results with a few challenges along the way. When something like this happens, people tend to keep it quiet/behind closed doors. This can be a real shock to someone's system, especially if you haven't been in a situation like this before. In your case, a lot of new things hit you all at once (no pun intended). Good on you for having Hugh file the protest, and also give you respect for not calling the driver out. What is done is done now, but I feel it's important for others coming up in the motorsport world to see that "other" side of things just so they know what they're getting into when they jump to W2W.

Us, as racing drivers all make mistakes. Mistakes are every lap we drive on a track in fact. Some mistakes cost much more than others - Good to know SCCA continues to have a well-standing reputation for being fair and diligent with handling situations like this. Hope you're staying safe during this time.

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