I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who wonder what it’s like in an average day of being Chief Steward for F.I.R.S.T. (Federation of Internet Racing and Sanctioning Trust). I’ll try to explain what we do with protests, the process of investigating cases, and some of our philosophies behind some of the most common decisions we make.
(F.I.R.S.T is the sanctioning body of iRacing’s competition.) As the Chief Steward for F.I.R.S.T. it is my responsibility to review any conflicts, rules violations or conduct violations that may happen at iRacing. We have the unique responsibility of enforcing the rules of the iRacing Sporting Code for the thousands of competitors who compete, from all around the world, in our sanctioned races that occur 24 hours a day.
Since we do not have real world physical damage that costs us real world money when we hit the wall, there has to be some type of comparative consequences for having an accident or making a poor decision on the track. The ratings and licensing systems are comparative consequences and act as deterrents for being involved in accidents. As you increase in license level the formulas for improving your performance will get tougher. By the time you reach the upper levels of the service you should be a pretty competent driver. These systems are set-up to take care of the bulk of incidents that happen on the service. Over time drivers will have to improve their skills to climb the license ladder and to take part in the upper tier races. The iRacing system’s primary goal is to compare you with all the other drivers on the service and then sort you so you are racing similarly-skilled drivers when the races are split.
Normal racing incidents are covered by the rating and licensing system I just mentioned. Accidents that are not malicious, in violation of the Sporting Code or very unusual in nature will not be accepted as the subject of protests. It is very important that we allow members of our service to make mistakes without putting them under the scrutiny of the sanctioning body for every incident they are involved in. In fact, one of the basic ideas of iRacing is to allow our members the opportunity to learn from their mistakes as they try to improve their ratings, license levels and driving skills.
When a protest is filed, the first thing I do is to make sure it contains all the information needed to do a fair inquiry. In Section 8 of the Sporting Code we offer a template that can be used to fill out a proper protest. This information is important because it allows us to access logs of the race. It is also very important to include a replay of the incident in question. When we have a replay that shows a malicious action we are able to take quick and immediate steps to prevent such actions going forward. In short, the proper evidence allows us to make the proper ruling.
At this point, I will read over the complaint, then view the replay and/or pull the chat logs from the race. After reviewing the evidence there are a number of conclusions that can be made. The first conclusion is whether or not the protest involves malicious intent, conduct violating the Sporting Code, or very unusual circumstances. If so, the protest will move forward. If not, it’s regarded as a normal racing incident, and a note will be sent to the protester explaining why the ratings and licensing systems are in place to cover such incidents and why we will not move forward with this protest. However, if the protest is found to contain a violation of the Sporting Code, we will then review any additional evidence, interview other members if needed, and then make a ruling. It is our goal to educate our members for their first offense. If malicious activities are repeated we will take steps to ensure these activities do not continue going forward.
On an average week between two and three hundred protests are filed. When reviewing these protests our goal is to provide a structure and culture which make iRacing an enjoyable and fun service for people who like to race. We’re out to make better racers; not to kick members from the service. However, on occasion it is necessary to remove members from the service. Luckily these instances are uncommon. But when we do remove someone from the service, we do so because we believe it is what is best for the other members and the service as a whole.
As you can imagine, roughly 50% of the members involved in a protest are not happy with the outcome. Sometimes it’s because they see that driver on the service after a protest and they believe the member should no longer be here. Other times the person penalized does not believe he should have been penalized. Because of this it is only natural to see occasional complaints about the system on the forums. I hope the explanations in this article will provide members with a better understanding of how the system works and the process for handling protests.
In those cases where a penalty is assessed, that penalty is strictly between me and the iRacing member who was protested. One, I don’t want to turn what is potentially a valuable learning opportunity for that member into an exercise in public humiliation. Two, I do not want to argue with the protester when, in many cases, they believe nothing short of a suspension or outright expulsion is satisfactory.
Overall, I believe our service does a great job not just appropriately penalizing malicious behavior but in helping members learn and progress from routine incidents. Is there room for improvement? Sure. We also recognize the need for educational tools for new members. We are still growing and working on these areas. As we go forward you will see them implemented into the service.