Most motorsports fans are usually smitten with nervous but excited anticipation as the start of the new season approaches. I am no different. But, unlike most motorsports fans, I have a distinct advantage. I am at liberty to commence investigative exercises to ascertain what is happening with the various teams and how advanced they are in their preparation for their tarmac assault.
Usually, my road-trips unearth intriguing information, material which at times is more classified than that which was depicted in Zero Dark Thirty! Suffice it to say that my interrogation sessions usually serve the purpose of soothing my ‘lack of racing sorrows’ and also they heighten my expectations of what the season has to offer.
Unfortunately, when I began ‘nosing’ around searching for sensational bits to stimulate the motor-racing soul, what I encountered pulled the rug from below my already unsure feet! Race-car drivers and teams, thankfully, in Jamaica, are usually relatively easily accessible and at times a phone call is not required to confirm availability. I cannot imagine a journalist/reporter walking into McLaren Mercedes’ facility and being granted an All Access pass and an interview with the head-honcho, when no prior arrangement was made.
But, that was exactly what happened when I opened the door to a facility owned and operated by one of the more powerful individuals in Jamaican motorsports. What I saw, however, was not encouraging. His machine was still in its 2013 colours but, it was in a far corner on the shop floor as if it was hiding from the limelight. There was a surprise nestled in the engine bay. The engine bay was barren, devoid of motor, lacking power, no engine! Why? I asked. Was it being rebuilt, refreshed, etc.
The answer I got metamorphosed into a frustrated tale told by an individual who was at his wits end with the entity responsible for organising circuit racing in Jamaica. Essentially, the ‘new rules’ which will govern circuit racing for the 2o14-2016 period (Technical Regulations) were the source of his discontent. The mandatory requirements for all vehicles remained unchanged, new classes were introduced for example B39 and Improved Production (new for 2014) but as you continue reading the Principles of Classification onwards, understanding his anger driven tirade became easier.
For the 2014 season, cars which race in Bracket classes and Improved Production must race at no less than the manufacturers advertised curb weight! In the Modified Production classes, the engine capacity has changed – for example MP-1 (na) in 2013, had a 1600cc upper limit, that has changed to 1850cc for 2014. The individual I spoke to was excessively passionate when the cc limit was being discussed! Weight for these machines is arrived at by multiplying engine capacity by the established lbs /cc, then add 180 lbs ( for the driver – the extra-large drivers escape)! There are also weight penalties which apply to all wheel drive and tube frame machines!
I am no expert in issues steeped in technical jargon and I will never pretend that I am. If you are so inclined, read the rules (jrdc.org) and share the view you adopt after reading them. I am also not on a neutral playing field and as such I will tread with discretion. But, several individuals I have spoken to are of the view that they would have preferred if this approach was not adopted.
There are also suggestions, which may be baseless, that there are individuals with an agenda of one form or another, who are seeking to gain an advantage. I am in no position to confirm or deny those views. I have also gathered that there are teams which are busy applying the rules as they currently exist inorder to create competitive machines .
But, there are also individuals, who have gone the extra mile to create machines which complied with and were competitive while conforming to the 2013 rules, in a climate that is rather unkind to hobbies – because whether you want to accept it or not, motorsports in Jamaica is largely that, a hobby – these individuals are far from being pleased!
No competing driver/team earns a massive income from motorsports. It is not yet the professional business others might pretend it is. What is my point? Decisions which are as far-reaching and game-changing as these rules are, considering the composition of the governing club – yes the JRDC is still a club – should only be arrived at – cliche approaching – with all the stakeholders, including in this case, the drivers and teams, onboard (their input, cooperation and full support).
In a climate swimming with mistrust, egos and finger pointing, sustainable, substantial progress will be thwarted. And that helps the sport in no way shape or form. So, will the 2014 technical regulations create an unbearable burden for drivers? We will see how well they adapt or carry the weight at the first race – in April!
Cecil Munroe Gleaner On-Line Writer