Coventry race format explained.

The White & Yellow top race at Coventry has become something of a favourite with race fans, so when the race format reverted to the traditional three heat format for the September meeting, we asked Coventry’s Sophie Clark to explain the decision.

We changed the traditional 3 heat format to create a Whites & Yellows race to encourage lower graders and new drivers into the sport by creating one race that was a level playing field which also created a greater opportunity for the prize money to be shared out to the lower grades. We needed to get new drivers, or those that were taking time out from racing, back due to a drop off in available drivers which gave us a choice to reduce to five races or to effectively run five races with an extra W&Y race.

It was, and has been, a great success with frequently forty W&Y grade drivers now booking in, compared to the pre-change, when we got in the twenties. However, it has created more problems than it has solved. It has become one of the best races of the night with a lot of contact which has helped to grow drivers confidence in giving and receiving hits, however that has to be balanced by the huge increase in damage.

We also found a few W&Y drivers refusing to take part in heat 1 due to the costs of repairs, and they preferred to wait for heat 2 or 3. The drop-off in car numbers due to damage was making heats 2 and 3 appear to be boring as there is not enough cars on track, so the racing became roundy-roundy. But when a driver was hit it tended to be at higher speeds, thus causing more damage which led to low car numbers in the consolation.

So by changing it back to three heats it was hoped that spreading the lower graders across three heats would lead to lower damage, higher car numbers in the first four races, more competitive racing, and a sort of levelling effect across the races.

We had no idea if it would work, or be accepted by the public and drivers, but we have been delighted by the response which has all been positive.

What it tells me is that the sport has to have flexibility in order to keep the racing good, and the courage to take the decision to make changes when you could face a backlash from drivers and fans. I am sure that one race day where it worked is not enough to base long term decisions but in the short term we will look to keep to the traditional three heat format.

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