Before the start of the 2013 Spa 24 Hours one of my press room colleagues offered the opportunity to enter, for a modest fee, a Safety Car Sweepstake. It was simple, how many times would the Porsche safety cars be scrambled during the 24 hours of racing action?
And whilst there were far, far fewer at Spa than we had at Le Mans this year it would certainly be true to say that the two early race interventions in particular had a pretty dramatic effect on the overall pattern of the race.
It’s worth making it clear immediately that there is no criticism whatsoever being offered here over the judgement on scrambling the safety cars, or of their conduct on track, but with a 65 car starting grid, and all bar two of those having GT3 machinery, a half lap effective penalty for c. half of the field served to thin out the leading pack too much and too soon.
So what is the alternative if the field needs to be brought under control?
We’ve written on these pages before about the Creventic organisation’s ‘Code 60’ system which, when there is an incident requiring the field to be brought under control, sees marshals posts display purple flags or lights requiring the field to reduce their speed to no more than 60km/h.
It’s been used safely and effectively for several years by Creventic, most notably at the Dubai 24 Hours, and I will admit that, before I saw it in operation in person, I was a major sceptic.
It is though universally respected, sensibly enforced (with a combination of visual observation, GPS data and lap time data) and, of course, the Race Director always has the opportunity, should the need arise, to utilise a safety car instead.
It’s advantages are clear: It is a simple procedure, it penalises nobody, and it allows racing to resume, in pretty much the same way it paused, when the ‘purples’ are withdrawn.
I’d like to see it trialled elsewhere, and so too would many competitors, some of whom suggest that it’s just possible perhaps that it suffers principally from the ‘not invented here’ attitude that can sometimes prevail with well established organisations.
Let’s hope that wouldn’t be the case for a measure that could have a positive impact on not just a race, but in overall safety terms too.