July 28, 2018

At our weekly Fun Comps, the Saturday Night Showdowns, judging has always, and will always be a complicated issue. I and a group of consultants have put in a lot of time and effort to come up with the best judging guideline we could. For myself, this has been a very stressful project, and although on the surface it may seem like only a few pages, but to get there has been a really huge task. I was glad to see our final revision put to the test and I have to say judging has never been easier or smoother. For those who were never a part of judging prior to this, all I can say is it was considerably more difficult. Imagine making a call based on 3 different sets of rules, and you get one person who insists on a rule that the other 2 never even heard of. Sometimes it wasn’t very pleasant and definitely was not consistent.

After the last Showdown, I was lucky enough to find myself in a conversation with someone who obviously felt a bit cheated on the judging. Of course I wanted to hear what their thoughts were and make any necessary adjustments if needed. The topic was based on their run and how they were penalized on something they felt nobody else was being penalized for. There can be a few reasons for this:

1 – After each round, we as the judges will announce what swayed the decision. “Tim advances due to Joe spinning out on his lead run”.
2 – As they were listening in on the judging, they didn’t hear the penalty that applied to them come up other than when it was judged for their run.

We do not have a single person competing who is pulling off perfect runs. Not a single person.

So what does that mean? It still doesn’t address the issue of why someone lost for a reason not given prior to their run, and possibly even after.

In each run there are many different situations being considered at any given time. No two runs are identical, and the judges are making their decisions based on the most obvious or most heavily weighted errors. The more skilled drivers end up being scrutinized more severely than we’ll say a beginner. That does NOT mean they are judged any differently than the beginner, it means their mistakes will not be as big or as obvious.

Every judge should go into every round fresh, knowing anything can and will happen. There should be no predetermined winner in mind, or any type of performance expected. Every round is anyone’s to win. First timer or seasoned veteran, you just never know.

Example A – The Beginner
The typical beginner may have a hard time holding the qualifying line. There will probably be a lot of corrections, erratic driving, slowing when they shouldn’t, shallow angle, missed clips, etc.

The judges will take this all into account when making their decision. Although all this is going on throughout the run, the statement of, “They made a huge correction in turn 3”  or “They missed clip 2” may be stated by one of the judges. Basically pointing out something that is probably going to sway things the most. This doesn’t mean that is the only issue, it simply means that’s the one that stands out the most.

When the results are announced, either reason will probably be given. The long, itemized list of other errors will not.

Example B – The Veteran
The typical Veteran will be able to pull off some very decent runs. Maintaining the qualifying line is probably not an issue. Hitting clips, not an issue. Maintaining angle, not an issue. However, there will be some mistakes being made. Depending on who is competing, these errors may come into play.

When evaluating the run of the Veteran, the same exact things are being considered in Example A and B. ALL THE SAME RULES APPLY TO BOTH. The main difference is, the Veteran isn’t having issues with the qualifying line or erratic driving, but they are still being judged on it. If the Veteran manages to pull off a near perfect run, you may hear something such as, “Their angle was a bit shallow on clip 4” or “They had to reach a bit for clip 1” These are the key points that MAY come into play on the following run. This doesn’t mean that is the only thing they were being judged on, it simply means these are the “Worst” incidents of the run.

If on the following run this same driver cannot maintain proximity with the Lead Car, when their loss is announced, the reason given will be “The Chase did not maintain proximity”. The other points aren’t given, they were just observations “Just in case”.

Example C – How This Is Applied
When 2 competitors are closely matched in skill and ability, the judges need to be very critical of the performance of both, especially if both are capable of laying down near perfect runs. For arguments sake, we will say both Lead and Chase runs are identical with the exception of Lead Car “A” ALMOST missing a clip while Lead Car “B” was as deep as possible in the same clip.

After an extremely clean lead and chase, you might hear, “The only thing I saw was “A” almost missed clip 1.” Basically looking for anything that might sway the decision if it comes down to that.

If a One More Time “OMT” is not an option, the decision would be based on Lead Car “A” not following the qualifying line as well as Lead Car “B”. This in no way suggests they were judged any differently than any other competitor during the entire comp, it is simply judged that way based on the level of performance of both drivers. Both were held to the same standard as the competitor in Example A, but the key factor was not a factor in Example A.

Being a part of judging and listening in can be very beneficial to everyone. Competitors will learn exactly what is being looked at and why certain decisions are made. There is a lot of reasoning behind certain calls, and it can greatly affect decisions made during their runs.

My personal take on the issue presented, before anyone feels the judging was unfair toward them,  they need to ask themselves a few questions:

  • Could it be POSSIBLE I did what the judges called me on?
  • If roles were reversed, would I feel losing would be the correct call for me?
  • Can I see everything that is going on, and concentrate on driving?
  • Am I so good, I can see what I’m doing and what my competitor is doing at all times?
  • Do I know the rules better than the judges?
  • Is my opinion completely unbiased?

Remember guys, judging is not easy. If you think it is, then you definitely are not ready to judge. If you aren’t ready to judge,