There is / was no WRC timing investigation by the FIA, don’t be silly!

Hopefully I don’t need to remind you about the recent public “outburst” of FIA flavoured anger, directed at the timing service providers in the World Rally Championship. World’s motorsport authority sounded properly pissed, for a highly political institution that is, and they were throwing big words around, such as investigation and consequences. Finally, we thought, someone realized that it’s time to put an end to the shamefully poor service by current providers, SIT. FIA sounded like it meant business for a split second or two, but only if you were able to ignore what preceded this little PR stunt of theirs.

Ever since Rallye Monte Carlo, FIA and SIT were being criticized for utterly unreliable timing service, and as the months and rallies rolled by, we were literally holding our breaths during every rally weekend, hoping nothing will go wrong on the stages. Every time a car appeared as stopped, we had to ask ourselves, did they crash or had some mechanical failure, or is the timing simply not bloody working again. There were, and still are, cars with no results showing on the split times sheets, which basically means they’re somewhere on the stage, but rally HQ and teams have no idea where. This shit’s been going for months, yet FIA will happily deny that.

So, what happened with this so called investigation? Well, first we laughed a bit, then laughed some more, all while FIA again switched into radio silence mode. Instead of informing public about the outcome of this infamous investigation, and acting upon it’s results, they were busy preparing something else. They were working on another neat little PR stunt thingy.

In the latest edition of its AUTO magazine, FIA published interesting feature, describing the many challenges WRC organizers have to face in terms of safety of both competitors and spectators. First half of this article is quite interesting as it talks about the crucial yet not so exposed inner workings of safety teams during every WRC event. This part I enjoyed and it really was a well deserved tribute to unsung heroes of WRC rallies, the marshals, medical personell, helicopter pilots and many officials, clerks, etc.

But then, THEN, FIA casually slipped into a twilight zone. If you had no idea about what kind of timing service SIT is providing, this article would reassure you everything was working flawlessly, and the only time service was lacking was in Monte Carlo. Of course, FIA will not talk about these problems in public, nor will the press for most part, so unless you tried to use timing services yourself, you simply would not know. Are they lying? You bet your missing split time they are!

Given the total lack of communication between the FIA and the fans of WRC, it’s no wonder they didn’t even try hard in wording this second half of the “safety” article.

Actually, I find that this article insults me:

  • FIA says cars are NOW fitted with tracking devices (yet cars were tracked for years before SIT unless I am horribly mistaken)
  • FIA says SIT decided to combine radio and GPRS based tracking systems, used in recent years, into a single service
  • they say this new service is more reliable and accurate
  • before saying that they claim that GPRS and radio systems were prone to signal failures, which to me reads as “previous timing provider sucked balls, so we had to improvise and this is what we came up with”
  • FIA apparently found a way to make two negatives become a positive (both radio and GPRS are prone to signal dropouts? Let’s combine them!)

The article then goes into the so familiar “throw in some reassuring words and sweep this shit under the rug” phrases. It says problems were present only in Monte Carlo (you fucking idiots [so sorry about the language], there were all sorts of timing issues yesterday in Finland). And then, the Mother of it all – they throw in the final solution phrases, the ones that should keep all investors and bosses happy.

“While there were some problems on the Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening rally of this year’s campaign. the modernised hardware and new software will offer a number of benefits once it is operating to full capacity.”

So wait just one minute. Are we operating on full capacity or not? Is the service reliable or not? Save your hardware and software gibberish for those that dig that crap – I work(ed) in IT (not that this gives me any kind of ubercredit, just allows me to share some of the not so commendable working habits in that particular industry) and I am very much aware that by using these two phrases you can get a lot of pressure off your back, all while actually not doing a single bloody thing. Is it a bad working practice? You bet it is! I gave up on it very early because it only leads to being despised and sidelined, but it’s still alive and used regularly around the world. Want to keep someone not so computer savvy calm and happy? Tell them things are being upgraded, and see them smile. It’s just bad practice, dear FIA. Even if you did upgrade your things, let me tell you, they’re not working as intended.

I didn’t even bother reading a bit about this FANTASTIC new system soon being able to flash yellow light in car cockpits, alerting crews of dangers ahead. Or the low-res camera they plan to use to be able to see crews at all times. How will you bloody see them if you have no signal from the car at all?

With every slip and slide I am more confident there is some shady business taking place in this (or)deal, someone is keeping certain structures happy with whatever kind of goods. Is it the good old corruption? It could be. Or they’re simply really so careless and reckless that only a major fuck up, caused by this thing they call timing service will force them to pull their heads out of their asses. Preferably, before it’s too late.

You can read FIA’s article, as well as a nice little disertation about the richest man alive, in FIA AUTO magazine (it’s on the page 35 I believe). Big thanks for the tip goes to World Rally Blog’s twitter mate Karlip. Finally, I once again apologize for the language, but I cannot keep calm and polite when the other side is so openly rude.