Poll is at the bottom of the post
The disqualification of Thom Richard in Precious Metal in the Gold Unlimited race last Sunday at the 2014 National Championship Air Races in Reno has created quite a stir among fans of air racing. And while it's easy to assume that it's Precious Metal fans that are confused and frustrated the most, I believe it should apply to ALL race fans for the sake of sport going forward. Ultimately, the TRUTH of this situation is what really matters, and getting to that truth, to uphold the integrity of the event, should be the goal of everyone involved.
First Things First:
First I want to make it clear that I'm not anti RARA (Reno Air Race Association) in anyway. My first experiences at Reno were as a kid from 1967 thru 1970 (I was born in 1961) and while I didn't return until 2009, Reno is forever etched into my mind from those early years. I love the Reno Air Races!
I also ran a Christian rock music festival for 10 years. I was the founder of the event as well as the lone organizer. In 2008, the last year for the event, I had 45 bands on 3 stages over 3 days... I understand how difficult 'events' are to pull off. I very much respect the work done by RARA in making the races happen year after year.
Also, after the tragedy in 2011 at Reno, the task of moving the races forward, under far greater FAA scrutiny, had to make the work harder than ever to accomplish.
According to the statement released by RARA on September 16th, Thom Richard and Precious Metal were disqualified on the second lap for crossing the East Showline. A single judge is responsible for making the call on the East Showline, and the ruling by the Contest Committee is not open for appeal according to the rules.
There are several areas of concern in this situation. Why does only one person have so much responsibility/power? Why is there not an appeal process where evedince can be presented to correct a mistake made by a single judge? Why was the disqualification not announced immediately in the interest of safety? (a aircraft deemed to be operating outside the course boundaries should be prevented from continuing to race in the interest of safety).
And... why does the statement from RARA not address any real evidence that the showline had been crossed? At the very least, a full explanation of exactly where these boundaries are should be provided, along with a clear indication of where the judge was positioned. Without this information, RARA has created the impression that they are in the position of defending a decision without any real evidence.
Thom Richard made the cockpit race video available to the race committee for review. While the statement says they don't normally use cockpit video since they are all different, they did however review the video from Precious Metal.
I admit that without knowing exactly where the supposed crossing of the showline took place, it's hard to make a judgment with the video. From a PR standpoint, this is another reason why RARA has a huge responsibility, for the sake of the races going forward, to provide exact details of where these boundaries are and where the crossing is supposed to have taken place. However, the video doesn't appear to show any point where Precious Metal is outside of the race course boundaries as I am aware of them.
Pylon 2 Screenshots:
I'll state again that I don't know exactly where the supposed crossing of the showline took place, but I've captured screenshots from the video showing the position of Precious Metal at Pylon 2 as a reference for its position on the course. Since the racers enter the course from the south down the chute, pylon 2 is not officially passed on the first lap. The first screenshot shows the pass by pylon 2 on lap number 2. The relative position of Precious Metal changes from pass to pass, but it would certainly seem that all of these passes are within the course boundaries. There are 7 images all together, for laps 2 thru 8.
If and when we find out exactly where they say Thom crossed the East Showline, we can use the video to clarify if that seems possible. Again, I provide these screenshots as a general reference point only.
click any pic to enlarge
I'll be the first to say that if it can be proven that Thom was operating outside the race boundaries, then the disqualification should stand. I'm a huge fan of Thom and the Precious Metal Team, but I have no interest in seeing the Team receive a trophy if they did not abide by the rules. Out of respect for all the teams and the races in general, we should all have the same goal here in mind... the rules need to be followed. However, RARA has not provided any conclusive evidence that the rules have not been followed, and the video certainly seems to indicate that the rules were followed.
This is all very important because RARA is allowing the fans to believe that Precious Metal was robbed of a hard fought third place finish, and the situation is greatly affecting the ability of many fans to have faith in the system. When fans in large numbers lose faith in the system (and turn their back on an event) it's hard to survive as an event. This is why I personally believe that RARA must make the effort to clarify all the information in this situation.
So I've put up a poll for people who were at the races this year (or at the very least were serious about their intent to travel to the races in 2015) - With the handling by RARA of the Precious Metal disqualification, will you attend the 2015 Reno Air Races?
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