WEEKEND LONG-READ: How to run a COVID compliant rally – video insight into last weekend’s Argyll Rally in Scotland thanks to Kerry’s Shane Buckley

WEEKEND LONG READ How to run a COVID compliant rally – insight into last weekend’s Argyll Rally in Scotland thanks to Kerry’s Shane Buckley

London-based Kerry co-driver Shane Buckley contested the recent Argyll Rally in Scotland

It was the first rally to run in Scotland in well over a year and there were a lot of new procedures in place to make the event COVID-19 compliant.

Kerry Motorsport News caught up with Shane a few days after the rally to find out what was different, how it all worked and what Irish organisers could learn from the event.

“The onus is on the competitor to have things right,” says Shane.

Entry process

The entry process is more or less the same, login, enter details of driver, co-driver, car and class.

Once an entry has been placed, each competitor got an entry (not seeded) number.

Within at least a week of the event all outstanding details had to put on the entry forms – gone are the days of waiting until paper scrutiny to introduce your navigator to the rally organisers (Paper scrutiny did not exist anyway but more of that later)

However, modifications to an entry can be made by the competitor using a link provided by the organisers. But it needs to be done a few days before the rally to give organisers time to verify new licences etc.

If there was a delay in any entry number furnishing details then that entry number was placed at the back of the list until sorted. It is worth pointing out that there was a big demand for a place on this rally and being on the reserve list was not going to end very well.

Mechanical Scrutiny

This was all done online before the event. As an extra precaution, Shane’s driver Anthony O’Brien invited his local scrutineer to exam his car on the Saturday before the event.

This was not an event requirement, it was done as a peace of mind exercise as both crew members had not competed in a long time.

A few days before the event, all scrutiny details pertaining to an entry number had to be uploaded to the event website.

This included helmet, overall and Hans homologation numbers, seat and belt numbers, fire-fighting equipment numbers, the spare turbo’s seal numbers etc etc. Failure to do this on time put you back on the reserve list until it was sorted.

Before you think you could pull a fast one and rock up with an out of date helmet or a non-compliant race suit, the event scrutineer could randomly inspect any car of his or her choosing.

The Chief Scrutineer will assess which cars he wishes to inspect. Note that the Scrutineer will; • Avoid Contact with vehicle internals where possible.

Scrutineers will wear PPE when inspecting a vehicle. • Scrutineers will decide on checks to be carried out to minimise contact with vehicle.

External checks with driver in vehicle or remote to scrutineering point observing social distancing requirements in force at time of event.

Internal checks with driver out – and sufficiently clear of vehicle observing social distancing requirements in force at time of event.

 • MSUK Scrutineering stickers for new Helmets/FHRs to be applied in accordance with MSUK revised procedures. •

No need for paper scrutiny, licences etc were all uploaded to the event website and all verified long before the weekend of the event.

Before setting out for the event both competitors had to take their own COVID-19 test (common enough practice in the UK, most large employers would expect employees to do this at least once a week)

This is a self-swab process (the HSE in the UK issue these free of charge) A person self-swabs mouth and nose and mixes the swab with a solution-mix. The results are more or less instant, each kit is bar-coded and the results are supplied to the NHS website. An email confirming this test is issued and then it must be supplied to event organisers – if the test is positive, well then you know what to do. Stay at home!

Again, any delay in this process is only adding to the chances that you will not start the event.

Only two mechanics are allowed to attend with each car – a four-person total is all that is allowed and extras are not getting into the service park. Both mechanics will have also supplied the above self-swab results. And without it, they are not getting in!

“The organisers will at the appropriate time request COVID Declarations from all competitors, support crew officials and marshals. Competitors, support crews officials etc are encouraged to down load and activate the NHS Scotland Test & Protect App,” according to event regulations.

“It is imperative that everyone adheres to the COVID -19 Event Resumption Guidance and the requirement to wear face masks/coverings for the protection of others and for the continuation of motorsport. In escalating order of severity, the following actions will apply for non -compliance of the event restrictions. 1) Verbal Warning 2) Following a Second incidence of non-compliance by the same individual, the COVID-19 Officer will refer to the Clerk of the Course and Motorsport UK Steward(s) A formal Waring will be issued. 3) Any further non-compliance will result in removal from the venue

DIRVERS BRIEFING

Competitors and their crews were required to provide their own face coverings and hand sanitiser.

Drivers briefing was done via a youtube video, sent to all competitors in advance of the event. Entirely up to yourself if you watched it or not but if there was a specific regulation change announced in the video – then you lose out!

Time Cards and timing

“Timecards will be in the rally pack they will be for competitors reference only,” according to the event regs

“The definitive checks will be the stored times in the clock and the marshal’s check sheet.”

The last sentence is important but first, we need to understand the start procedure.

Competitors due time at Main Control One was published on the digital notice board, as were all other changes and bulletins. An email or text message was sent out, so competitors knew when to check the notice board.

“At this point,” explains Shane, “ I got my start time from the notice board. I figured out who was running in front of me and behind me and lined up. As our minute approached we drove to the yellow board and on our minute crossed the red board. The clock went blank – after a few seconds it came back on – showed us our actual time and car number. I looked at the marshal, she looked at me and away we went. I wrote the actual time into the card myself and off we went to stage one. The only person who handled my time card all day was myself.”

CONTROLS

The arrival control into stage one was much the same procedure as above.

Once clear of the control, this event was on minute intervals for day one but reverted to 30-second intervals on Saturday to make up time following a blockage.

Once the car is on the start line, the clock goes blank, a few seconds later the start time and car number appears, the co-driver marks the time into the card, gets ready for count-down and enters the stage.

“This all worked fine until it went to 30 seconds, a few were caught out with the new time and were not quite ready for the stage start,” adds Shane.

At the flying finish, the co-driver records their finish time, as normal and double checks that off the car number and time published on the stop car clock. The codriver writes in the finish time and works out his due time to the next control.

“One thing to watch,” says Shane, “We caught a car on a stage. By the time we arrived at the stop-car the time of the previous car was still displayed. We could have taken that time but it would have meant being early into the next stage.”

There is a lot going on for a co-driver, but this is a simplified insight into what it takes to both compete on and run a rally in these times.

If you have further queries, please ask through Kerry Motorsport News’ social channel and get a discussion going.  

This is not the full picture but it shows the changes that are coming

Thanks to Shane Buckley, Martin Fairbairn for his photos, and the videos produced by Mull Car Club

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