Draft Punk - How the Black Flag Fiasco Ultimately Ended

What cha gonna do when the flag’s for you?

From the infamous movie, Days of Thunder, everyone who’s seen the movie also knows this quote by Harry Hogge: “No, he didn’t slam into you. He didn’t hit you, he didn’t nudge you, he rubbed you, and rubbin son, is racin’!”

While this is true in many series around the world where wheel-to-wheel racing is an outright contact sport, in the SCCA it’s not so much. The SCCA is for amateur racers, club-level drivers, people who otherwise likely do not have an endless funding to go racing anything they desire. At the grassroots level, it’s a place where much talent is born and developed, yet is equally welcoming of the lesser talented. But that’s OK! If you pay the fees, you and have every bit of right to be there as anyone else.

So what happens when competition gets REALLY competitive? While this is “club racing,” some of us choose to take our competition very seriously. This is especially true for drivers who are after something beyond regional races. While some of us choose to work hard and drive hard, others get creative and invent cheats that give them an advantage. Sadly, this skews the points standings for all the other drivers who are playing it straight.  An instance of such cheating occurred this year with a competitor who suddenly entered in my class and began running way, way up front.

As it turns out, this competitor got very creative. The cheat was almost ingenious, but blatantly obvious under any normal tech-inspection. Simply put, it involved a blinker lever, a wire and a ram-air box which essentially became a “pull-lever-to-pass” feature in an already quick car. Needless to say he was caught and put on probation for a technical infraction. However, because of how late in the game it was actually discovered, the points standings remain unchanged.

To make matters more complicated, there have been several verbal interactions that are, how I shall say, less friendly. Instead of ranting and raving about this openly, I kept my head down and continued to drive. I’m clearly up against some folks with a bit more motor, but normally that’s something I can work around. At least when the game is played fairly.

To explain briefly about what happened at Thunderhill in June of 2014, is really quite simple. With the new Thunderhill 5-mile track, there is now a very “technical” section and the older “faster” section. If you’ve got any driving ability, the technical section gives you a tremendous advantage. As shown in qualifying, I out-qualified the aforementioned competitor by over 2-seconds. In the mix of avoiding crashes and such, this competitor got around me in a high-speed section. Then began an endless, and I do mean endless, chase in the technical corners.

In a Miata, 5-miles goes by very, very slowly. Especially when someone in front of you is very slow in the corners but can pull away on the straights.  The race quickly became such a miserable experience, seemingly and hopelessly stuck behind someone who brake-checks, and clearly has no direction or reason why he is doing what he’s doing. On it went, a bumper-chase with me following a black and yellow road block.

A few attempts were made to block me along the back straight. If I had played my cards right, there were times where I could have gotten around him. But doing so was going to become a situation of “forcing the issue” and sometimes with people like this, you really don’t want to force any issues. And frankly, I can’t afford to fix any resulting damage.

As time went on, he got less consistent and with me directly on his tail, there were several instances where I had already committed to throttle while he was busy braking. As a result I bumped him. Not deliberately, but it still happened. Few of his inputs were consistent enough to clearly know when or how much he was going to brake, which resulted in a few nudges out of the corners.

After a few pumps, taps and a very visible bump-draft down the main straight, I was called in for “deliberate contact” by means of the much dreaded…black flag. Yes me, little miss play by the rules, never hits or bothers anyone Geri Amani, got black flagged for contact. On the white flag lap, sadly. I was in P4.

Needless to say I was infuriated. Not only because I got taken out of the race by a flag, but because the kind of bumping that was happening was much less fierce than any contact I have received by others. I would never punt anyone off track or perform some other cruel deliberate action, but with my experience some “rubbin” has been pretty commonplace with Miatas. But, per the SCCA rules, we are not allowed to have any contact whatsoever. While this might be a rule written in black-and-white, it’s obviously not followed much in this region. However, in my situation, after four reported instances of contact, I was noted in the wrong.

After tempers were cooled and impound dismissed, then began a very lengthy process of review and discussion with the stewards on this late Sunday afternoon. Typically, the stewards are very good at handling situations like this, so I let them do their job. I had to write a statement of what happened, why it happened, and what the result was. I called a witness, as did my competitor. From there, statements were reviewed, including my in-car video.

It was ultimately determined that the black-flag penalty would be thrown out. But, because I was called in before the race ended they were not able to give me any points. Not only did I lose to a known cheating competitor, but at that point in time, he took the points lead away from me.

I will be the first to admit, I absolutely understand why the stewards made the calls they did while the race was happening. SCCA does try very hard to be fair with such matters, and they have to be very diplomatic with their decisions too. I should also note, being beat by a competitor via good driving and quality race craft is completely acceptable. In fact, I almost always congratulate those who can out-drive me—some of them have become great friends in the paddock.  But being a woman and a racer of principle—congratulating a cheater isn’t something I will ever do.

I later discovered that the significant other of the competitor I was chasing is also a known flagger for the region. At the time this was unfolding I didn’t realize this was the case, which I no doubt believe complicated matters in the committee’s review. However, it’s clear that the SCCA stewards looked at the right pieces of evidence, evaluated the situation very carefully, and obviously disallowed any politics to influence their final decision.

Case dismissed.

So the next question many of you might ask…what I would do differently? After reviewing the video with several experienced racers, much has been learned and gained from this event.  For one, I will defend and pass more efficiently moving forward. A wise racer once told me, “we train people around you on how we are going to race. I’m sure they would say you are a fair/safe racer and that is good, but you don’t want them to think you’re a push over and you’re going to take it.” There is truly a fine balance between being too aggressive and being assertive, as illustrated in this story.

Second, no matter how fairly you play the game, sometimes the cards you get suck and there is nothing you can do about it. Stay cool and let it unfold. Third, some people are cleaver, but fail to use their cleverness for good. The “pull-lever-to-pass” kind of creativity never bids you good karma. That stuff always comes back to get you later, but be prepared for cheaters in this game.

And finally, it appears I now have a new nickname … “Geri-the-Bully”… Thanks guys smile


Posted on 07/09

Page 1 of 1 pages

News & Blog Archives
When Push Comes to Shove - Creating a Better Place to Race

2014 Season Recap

Geri Amani as Precision Driver and Actor/Actress Double in “The Rush - Mustang Moments” Commerical

World without Doors - Piloting the Honda Powered F1600 at Road Atlanta

Touring Car Adventure [ Mazdaspeed Motorsports ]

Geri Amani Finishes 4th in Debut US Touring Car Race in No.3 TNI Racing / SanDisk Mazdaspeed3

2014 Mid-Season Report

Draft Punk - How the Black Flag Fiasco Ultimately Ended

Highway Survival Coaching: Fear vs Car

Precision Drive for Audi Sportscar Experience Promo

The 25 Hours at Thunderhill - Racing in the E3 Class

Tire Pressures and Swaybars D@mm!t

Lagunitas Brewing Co Donates Raffle Items for the 25 Hours for Taylor Lynn Fundraiser

25 Hours for the Taylor Lynn Foundation - Take a Moment to Give Back!

Racing Recap - Progress Through the 2013 Season

Spec Miata Festival at Sonoma 2012

Ready to Race—Again

Photographic Retrospective

Not IF but WHEN - Miata Crash at Infineon Raceway

Jim Russell (SimRaceway Performance Driving Center) – Highway Survival Course

Racing on the High Banks

Student vs Teacher

Working, Testing and Travel - Summer 2011

Exhaust Fumes, Loud Noises, and Amazing cars

Returning to the PRI Show in Orlando

Archives by Date

January 2015
November 2014
September 2014
July 2014
January 2014
December 2013
October 2013
July 2013
July 2012
April 2012
March 2012
January 2012
November 2011
September 2011
August 2011
May 2011
March 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
August 2010
July 2010