I read Andy Prill’s letter in the May issue of Historic Motor Racing News and wish to comment. This is an answer from the FIA Head of Administration and Sporting Coordinator for circuit matters.
Knowing where the FIA is headed will come down the line, but at the moment the Historic Motor Sport Commission and its Sub-Commission remains, the FIA is, as I write, getting its Circuit Sub-Commission restarted post-Covid in order to deliver for the community. Rumours are easily spread but the facts are the above.
We understand one of the points raised is the lack of transparency and information, but we do our best. The FIA arranges the meetings and the representatives attend, minutes are circulated and reflect the various subjects discussed. All the decisions you’ve reported were minuted and the responsibility of the representatives is to share with their clubs. Yet, we do understand there might be a broken link. But we also stress to organisers to ask their clubs and representatives should they have questions. This is how the governance and the system works and we all have to abide by this process, the FIA included; we talk to clubs and they talk to you.
When it comes to the Historic Technical Passport (HTP) system, I personally have been tasked since 2019 together with the Vehicle Compliance Sub-Commission to head it up and implement the processes that ensure that the existing base will be consolidated for the future of the sport and bring consistency, something we lacked and duly recognised some time ago.
Appendix K and HTPs are the bedrocks of historic racing for a reason, they are the regulations that form the basis of our sport. Without regulations there cannot be sport and without the passport, there can be no way to control the cars. I personally do not think the system is broken. We are now at a point where the number – between submission and acceptance – over the first quarter of 2023 is 358 new applications, renewals, variants or updates submitted for 383 accepted.
You may ask why there are 30 files more accepted. Simply put, we have files that take more time than others, not necessarily because of non-compliance, sometimes just because of administrative problems or constraints on the ASN and that means they take more time to resolve.
I also read that people want to know how many files are sent back. Basically, every second file is sent back due to administrative faults or incorrect pictures. This is a matter of due diligence for scrutineers as they are the ones using those documents out in the field. With two runs of communication to clubs per week, it works well, and we are regularly able to turn over and issue applications within 24 to 48 hours.
When travelling to a country where a VISA is required, do you look at the validity of your travel documents, or engage in the procedures to obtain a VISA before booking the flight tickets and accommodation? There is a timeline and process in achieving the above, be it for a VISA, travel document, or for an HTP.
Moving onto the fact that procedures are not equal in every country, I will say that we have rules and guidelines but clubs or ASNs are at liberty to enforce those the way they see fit, just as it takes varying lengths of time to obtain visas in different countries. Some believe it’s easier to get papers one way or the other, but in the end, they all get to the Geneva office and final review is undertaken equally for all by our specialists.
Back to processes, a big part of this task is administrative, safety and making sure we do not ask questions that are out of the scope of the regulations or of what is not our responsibility to judge. In the last few years, the team that handles the files has gone through its own review, some have departed, others have come in, but we have succeeded in focusing on our work and duty, which was not always the case before. Yet people still point to the unproductive part of a business rather than celebrate the numbers, which are clearly good.
Back to Appendix K and HTPs, and why these are essential tools. They exist for a purpose and it is to regulate and define a legal spectrum to historic competitions. This cannot be done by the same parties that organise the races in order to avoid bias. How often have we heard, do this, or include that because it enhances safety or reliability? Too many times, but never did it serve a purpose of slowing down the cars.
With a growing interest in the sport the main issue that we face today is the loss of knowledge of the cars, rules and regulations. The majority of organisers around the world operate under Appendix K but they clearly all have their own specific allowance here and there, be it sporting or technical. This lack of reliance on the basic regulations and system has led to blaming one, when in fact all are equally responsible. If you read Appendix K, except for safety, it’s basically a condensed version of 60 years of Appendix J. But when organisers start allowing specific freedoms, the system gets distorted and confusion ensues.
There was a time when racing a pre-66 GT or Competition Touring Car was all about a homologation form, Appendix VIII and IX to Appendix K, but those days are long gone because one or the other organiser allows for this and that. And in the middle there is a preparer that does not understand the governance and sells performance to an owner who gets angry at a system of which he probably couldn’t quote a single article of the rules and regulations, but he was told it was acceptable by another person in the paddock. That’s where we are at.
As to cars with non-compliance, I would say there are the odd old HTP’d cars from when the system started and where the structure was very different. Later, starting from 2017-2018, the system picked-up because of dialogue and feedback we took from the owners and clubs. For the papers that are wrong, there are procedures, and we take our duty to enforce it where the organisers cooperate. We get reports from eligibility delegates and that has to be a positive side, keeping the standards high.
To finish, I will say the following: The FIA operates transparently and has an open door policy – up to 7 days a week – as organisers that have our phone number can verify. I’ve resolved issues riding my bike on weekends too. I believe that we are trying our best in terms of rules and regulations to achieve consistency and fairness – and give back to the sport. See the FIA Historic Database which we try to update monthly, or simply the HTP system where I speak for the 20 specialists who give an opinion on the cars based on one common strength, the fact that they read and know the regulations the way they must be understood and again, the numbers are good. Then there is the online system we are developing and which we hope to start live testing with some clubs from this summer onwards.
The service email address – email@example.com – is not a secret, and we will answer the best way we can and within the quickest timeframe possible. But, let’s try and be proactive as well. Why not try and setup a communication line here within the magazine and with information coming down the line. Together with Carol we, the FIA, will try to work on this.
Head of HTP Administration/Sporting Coordinator for Circuit Matters
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