Editorial - Who checks the checker?
Those with long memories of past editorials will remember that I have been less than convinced about the usefulness of safety scrutineering as conducted by the MSA's scrutineers. It is not that I don't value the thorough examination of my race car in the company of a skilled mechanical competent individual, but that I think that the few minutes spent with a MSA scrutineer are by necessity superficial, and that the timing of scrutineering generates as many problems as it might detect.
In eleven years of racing a scrutineer only pointed out something useful that I had missed once, and that was at the last meeting I raced in. Offsetting this minor triumph is the loss of my engine cover at Cadwell Park, it was secure when I arrived at scrutineering and I consider my failure to re-secure it correctly inexcusable, but explicable because it had something to do my leaving the scrutineering bay after my qualifying session had started. The loss of track time that I had paid for was of great concern to me, but of no interest to the scrutineer. Incidentally, I was not late to scrutineering, merely last in a very long slow moving queue.
Throughout these eleven years the scrutineering repeatedly missed faults, and occasionally saw faults that did not exist. When one has time, it can be quite entertaining explaining how one’s car is designed, but I would prefer to do it at a less stressful time. My overall conclusion is that any competitor who believes that a scrutineering ticket means that his or her car is race worthy is making as big a mistake, as is the individual who believes that a current MoT certificate is proof of a car's roadworthiness, yes it has some value, but it is far from the whole story.
So if scrutineering is of little practical use to the competitor, who does it benefit? I suspect that it can be compared to CRB* checks, which are generally recognised not to exist for the benefit of individuals, but for the protection of organisations. In the event of anything occurring, the organisation can always say they did something and have satisfied the letter of the law.
It would be interesting to hear some scrutineer's apocryphal stories
of how they protect competitors from themselves. I think such stories
should be from personal experience, tales such as Colin Chapman painting
cardboard silver and trying to pass it off as an aluminium bulkhead are
now old enough to be regarded as historic.
The MRC runs cars of different engine specifications within its classes, there are three different engines being run in Mono1800 alone, such variety generates its own problems for the scrutineer.
Currently trust figures large when it comes to engine specification. In many cases the trust extends beyond the club, my single seaters were bought outside the club, and raced as purchased, trusting the accuracy of the vendor’s description. My knowledge of what was inside my 1800s engine's block was nil. Some more professional competitors will be horrified by this, they would not race any car where they have not examined each and every rivet personally, and tightened every bolt. But my philosophy, is probably typical of an appreciable number of Monoposto competitors who are only likely to strip down and fix something that has broken. And such is the reliability of some modern race car components, like the internals of an engine, that they can remain unexamined for years.**
Thus I trusted that the vendor's description of the car when I purchased it, and when making an entry. In its turn the club trusted that my entry was accurate.
Fortunately for the scrutineer, he is not alone, there is an unofficial cross check on engine performance, every other competitor in one's class. If two cars in a class don't run in tandem down a straight, the driver of the slower car suspects the engine in the faster. 99.999% of the time these suspicions are groundless, but after the race the driver of the faster car will be told that their car has a 'strong' engine; they have been warned, others are watching.
Patrick Huston 11/04/10
* I enjoy the stories circulating in the medical profession about pathologists
requiring CRB certification; think about it!
Like scrutineering, an MOT is no guarantee of fitness for purpose.
A Lotus 18 Aluminium bulkhead - a US rebuild, so it is probably real aluminum.
Asst ed takes issue with Ed as he vaguely recalls the FFirsts having some sort of portable dyno. One of our readers will know...
Pathologists require CRB.... American humourist Tom Lehrer told of the young necrophiliac who achieved his ambition by becoming chief pathologist.