So you've passed your ARDS test, got your licence, prepared your race car and filled in your entry form... Great news!
However, a race paddock early on a Saturday morning can sometimes be a frantic, confusing place. With a little planning you can get your race meeting off to the right start though, so we've put together a few tips to help you prepare.
Most competitors choose to arrive at the circuit on Friday evening. This gives them time to setup awnings, unload their car, etc. Circuits will usually allow access late into the night but it is always best to check the FINAL INSTRUCTIONS document for the event. For MSVR meetings, it will always be available on the Calendar page of this website and as you will see below, contains lots of important information, including access times.
You will also need to consult the PADDOCK PLAN (again available on the calendar page) to find out where your series/championship is based. Sometimes you will have use of the garages, sometimes you might not even have access to power or water (who said motorsport is glamorous?) so do check before you leave home and turn up prepared! Often there will be a "Parking Team" present who will be able to help and direct you in the Paddock.
Different circuits have different rules in the Paddock, but they all stem from the same idea - SAFETY. Race paddocks are by definition working areas; noisy race cars and members of the public have the potential to be a bad mix! You will be required to use cable covers, raise tail-lifts and move empty trailers to a dedicated area. Again, please follow any advice given to you by the Parking Team, and event-specific notices found in the Final Instructions.
Signing-on is where your race licence (and possibly other documentation) will be checked. At MSVR meetings this is often available on Friday afternoon, but will always be available on the Saturday morning. The time and location for signing-on will be detailed in the EVENT TIMETABLE (again on the Calendar page) so you should check this carefully.
It is vital you arrive there on time, and with the correct paperwork. This will always include your current, valid race licence; you might also have an Upgrade Card, which can be handed in at the same time for signatures. If you don't have your licence for any reason, you should report to Race Admin as soon as possible - if you are a MSA-licence holder, there are ways we can help you.
Once your licence has been checked and you have signed the indemnity form, you will be given a scrutineering ticket and an event programme. DO NOT LOSE your scrutineering ticket; if you sign-on on Friday you will need to keep it safe until your allotted time on Saturday morning!
If you are new to the circuit, you will be given a copy of the New Driver's Briefing Notes - please take your time to read this as it is full of useful information which will help you over the weekend.
Scrutineering is the process of having your car and equipment checked to ensure they meet all the relevant saftey criteria.
A MSA-licenced scrutineer will check your overalls, helmet, gloves, boots and of course your car, and you will only be allowed to race if eveything passes their inspection. The time and location for this is on the Event Timetable - IT IS VITAL you arrive on time (not early unless otherwise instructed) as the scrutineers will be very busy and may not be able to check your car/equipment outside of your allotted time. This is where you hand in the ticket you received at Signing-On; it shows the scrutineer that your documents have been checked too.
The technical requirements for cars vary from series to series but can always be found in the SERIES REGULATIONS; the basic safety requirements can be found in the current MSA YEARBOOK (or BLUE BOOK) in sections J and K. The Yearbook also contains the standards for your personal safety equipment (including a Frontal Head Restraint device) so please ensure you are familiar with the requirements and arrive at the circuit prepared.
Your car will be issued with a sticker to confirm it has passed scrutineering, and that must remain in place for the duration of the event. If it doesn't pass, you may have a busy morning ahead trying to fix the issues!
The final test for your car will be NOISE TESTING. The location and time for this will be detailed in the Final Instructions document. It is often carried out in the ASSEMBLY AREA on your way to Qualifying.
Drivers may be required to attend a Driver Briefing. The location and time for this is also outlined in the Event Timetable. Please make sure you have checked these details and arrive on time - you could be fined for missing the briefing.
At the briefing, the Clerk of the Course for your race will explain the format, rules and any other items he/she feels are important to you. The Clerk will oversee your sessions from Race Control and will hear any judicial matters too.
This is the ideal time to ask questions if you are unsure about anything. The Clerk will be very happy to help, and it is obviously in your best interests to go out there prepared. Don't forget to sign the form to say you were at the briefing before you leave!
So, you've signed-on, passed scrutineering and attended Driver Briefing... which means the next step is to head out on circuit!
More often than not, you will start your qualifying session from the Assembly Area. This will be pointed out on the Paddock Plan if you are unsure.
You will usually be required there 20 minutes before your session is due to start (have you checked the Event Timetable?). As mentioned before, this will probably be where your car is noise tested. PLEASE NOTE: Sessions can run up to 20 minutes early, so please listen for updates over the PA system. When called, you will head out of the Assembly Area and on to the circuit for your session.
After your session, you will be able to collect a copy of your lap times from Race Admin, although some Series Coordinators will hand these out to you in the Paddock itself.
Race start procedures vary by series and circuit - make sure you have checked the documents or asked the Clerk of the Course for your race.
The start procedure will be outlined in the Final Instructions, and will usually use the lights at the startline. Again, please make sure you ask if you are unsure about anything! The technical regulations for circuit racing can be found in Section Q of the MSA Yearbook.
After the race you may be sent to Parc Fermé pending post-race inspections. If this is the case you and your team will not be allowed to carry out any work on the car at all. Please follow the instructions from the scrutineers accordingly.
If you finish in the top three, you will be ushered to the podium by a member of the MSVR team. After the ceremony and interviews with the commentator you will be able to return to your car, and then to the paddock.
Race results will again be available from Race Admin - and don't forget to collect your Upgrade Card after your last race if you left it when you signed-on.
It is possible that the action on track may not quite go to plan... if so, the Clerk of the Course may choose to speak to you after the race.
You will usually be called up to Race Control where he/she will discuss any infringements and/or penalties which have been applied. You always have the right of appeal in judicial matters; the MSA Yearbook (Section C) outlines the procedures which must be followed.
Of course, you may feel that another competitor has acted inappropriately during the race, and the first step would be to speak to the Clerk. Notwithstanding that, you have a right to protest another driver.
The MSA have produced a helpful document outlining the protest and appeal processes, and this can be found via the link below. Please be aware, all MSA officials have been instructed not to provide you with any advice on the Appeal process so the onus really is on you to be prepared.