Enumeration of the league's rules and policies.
The following are the basic rules that apply to all members of the league. Their purpose is simple: to maintain a friendly and collaborative environment where people with various backgrounds, skills, and levels of commitment can enjoy membership in a community dedicated to a common interest. That interest is virtual motorsports. Not surprisingly, then, most of these rules relate to behavior associated with participation in simulation racing activities, but like any community there are some rules that need to be explicitly stated regarding participating in the community itself. We'll cover both categories.
General Community Rules
Be respectful. Period. Disrespectful behavior and attitudes will not be tolerated at all. This shouldn't need to be spelled out - you know what it is. Just behave the way your mom tried to get you to behave when you started school. As humans, we're conditioned to rely very heavily on non-verbal communication cues, virtually none of which are available to us in what is almost a purely virtual information medium. Give people the benefit of the doubt, don't overreact, apologize first and early, and accept apologies gracefully.
Behave appropriately for a group of people of mixed gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.. For many of us, we may never know anything specific about a person besides their login name, and maybe what their voice sounds like. Don't assume anything. We're not censors or thought police or culture nannies, but some things are clearly not appropriate topics for discussion in this context. Our forum does have an 'Off-Topic' section, and we expect off-topic subjects to be discussed there, but any conversations that are inflammatory (either initially or eventually) or grossly inappropriate will be terminated and removed if necessary. This policy applies to any and all official channels of communication shared by members of the community (forum, group emails, in-game chat, voice chat, etc..).
Be a good sport. Remember that this is all just for fun. Dammit. Life's too short to get your knickers in a bunch over a stupid race. This would apply even if we weren't faking the whole thing on computers. Noone's job, reputation, manhood, sponsorship, or health is at stake. Please don't take this stuff too seriously. We'll make mistakes and so will everyone else, including you. Brush it off and be thankful that all we have to do is hit ESC and start over.
Be yourself. Don't pretend to be someone else, real or imaginary, or falsify your identity, or assume a persona for your participation in the league. Yes, this rule is basically unenforceable, and relies on the honor system, but if it becomes known that you have lied or misled or impersonated anyone, we reserve the right to terminate your league membership. The reason for this rule is that being yourself means your behavior reflects on YOUR reputation. Noone has a free pass to behave badly with the excuse that they've done so using a throwaway identity, or under the veil of anonymity. And don't think of this as a restraint - think of it as an opportunity. Good behavior sticks to your reputation just as well, and demonstrating good sportsmanship and a constructive attitude will cause people to want to both compete with you and to be your friend. And this league is as much about forming friendships as it is about racing cars. So be yourself, and know that the friends you make are real friends.
Online Participation Rules
The following rules outline what's expected of you as a participant in our events, both in practice and on race day. These aren't the actual racing rules, which follow in the next section, but rather the logistics for which you're responsible as a driver (and/or team leader if you should happen to occupy that role).
You must share your vehicle setup. Success in this league will not be gained through information hoarding or obfuscation. Helping everyone improve is part of the league's charter, and one of the best methods available is to collaborate on setups. Believe me, in the end you will benefit more from sharing (and having others share) than you would from hoarding. And, human nature being what it is, you'll invariably be afforded more generous behavior from people on track as well. To a certain extent, team-related communication can be conducted covertly, for the purposes of role-playing the team competition, but you should always consider whether the league would benefit as a community if the information or discussion were conducted openly. In other words, your default behavior should be to share and communicate openly, and covert team communications should be used sparingly.
Your in-game name must be your real name (<first> <last>). This applies to both your game profile as well as your username in voice chat. We expect everyone to apply an appropriate amount of grown-up decorum to this activity and using our names (both full and real) is a great place to start. Also, it helps everyone develop better trust in each other, both on track and off, which also sows the seeds of more civilized behavior. On a more practical note, maintaining a consistent naming policy ensures that we're able to reliably and accurately associate race results with drivers in our database. You can use the Grid Motorsports software to easily change the profile name, just click on the 'Driver' tab in the program. Furthermore, having a consistent naming scheme relieves a lot of administrative overhead both for the marshals executing the events as well as the developers implementing our results processing tools.
You must connect to the voice chat server. This is required of you even if you do not have outbound voice functionality (i.e. you don't have a microphone). The marshals rely on the fact that all drivers participating in an event are capable of receiving information audibly, and of responding to any marshal commands. You may communicate back to both the marshal and the field via the in-game text chat, but no accommodations will be made for you if you are not able to hear output from the voice channel. You are strongly encouraged to obtain a functioning microphone (comfortable stereo headsets with a boom mic are affordable and well worth the investment for any gamer). Note that this rule only strictly applies on race day. If you wish to not utilize voice chat during midweek practice sessions, that's your prerogative, but realize that you'll be missing out on a great deal of the communication that occurs among other drivers.
Voice chat should be kept to a minimum during qualification and race sessions. This is mainly to allow drivers to focus on their driving without multiple conversations in the background, and to keep the channel generally available for marshal commands and commentary. During practice and warmup sessions, no such restrictions apply, though keep in mind that like any crowd, the more people there are trying to speak at once the more difficult it is for anyone to be heard or understood. So even if the voice chat technology accommodates multiple simultaneous speakers, be prepared to to take turns.
Voice chat should be configured to use Push-To-Talk (rather than voice activated). The reasoning behind this is twofold: First, it helps filter emotional outbursts and in fact liberates drivers to make such outbursts without being disruptive or creating conflict since they can relieve the immediate stress without automatically broadcasting it. The need to make a conscious action (pushing a button) to communicate tends to be enough to keep people from broadcasting the incidental frustrations that are inevitable and are generally never constructive. The second reason for this policy is that voice activation is notoriously finicky and often results in a lot of 'noise' in the channel. Noone wants to listen to you breathe or chew potato chips, or hear the fan blowing air on your mic, etc.. And even the most disciplined driver can't control cell phones, or barking dogs or crying babies. Rather than constantly struggling with everyone to individually eliminate the noise, it's best if the channel is not broadcasting unless someone actually chooses to push the button and speak. Obviously, we can't know for sure if you're using push to talk, but we reserve the right to disconnect/mute you from the voice server if you start broadcasting disruptive noises.
Apologies should be offerred and accepted readily and sincerely.
Offering apologies is very important, because the difference between a bonzai dive bomb and misjudged braking on a clean pass attempt is sometimes negligible. An apology might be the only tangible difference to everyone except the driver who attempted the pass. This is also true in real life racing.
Accepting apologies is equally important. Sometimes when you get punted it is not malicious, intended, or even preventable. Sometimes it may even be your fault (brake check, mis-shift, mental lapse, etc). Unlike street traffic rules, the trail vehicle is not always guilty and the lead vehicle is not always innocent. So trust that when somebody apologizes for a punt, they mean it.
Yield to on-track traffic. If you're off-track or have spun or in any way are not able to drive with the normal flow of traffic at the normal speed of traffic, you must yield to traffic in your attempt to recover. It is the responsibility of the driver who is recovering to ensure that they come back up to speed and into traffic safely. It is NOT any other driver's responsibility to yield to such a car. During non-private qualification sessions, be extremely conservative in this regard -- if you've screwed up a qualification lap, it's already screwed up, so don't screw up someone else's qualification lap by being aggressive or careless in your recovery attempt.
Space occupied by another vehicle is space that you cannot occupy. Sounds simple enough, but it's probably the concept at the heart of most incidents. The rule is stated as simple and straightforward as this so that it can be applied to many circumstances that otherwise might devolve into multiple arcane and convoluted rules. This rule requires the following maxim: the space beside your vehicle is considered to be occupied by another vehicle when that vehicle is visible from your cockpit view using a 4:3 viewing ratio and the default cockpit camera. If there is no vehicle in view, then the space beside you is available for you to occupy. Similarly, if there is a vehicle in view (even if the vehicle is only partially in view - it need only have barely achieved the visibility threshold) then that vehicle is considered to be occupying the space beside you and you are not at liberty to move into it.
- Clarification for a turn: in the case of over-taking into a turn, the 'occupied space' distinction hinges on the average braking point for the turn. At that point, the visibility criteria described above is applied to the two vehicles. If the trailing vehicle is visible, the lead vehicle must consider the inside position occupied for the duration of the turn. For the trailing vehicle, if it has not achieved the visibility threshold, it must consider the inside position as unavailable for occupying except by the lead vehicle for the duration of the turn. After the apex of the turn the space inside of the lead vehicle again becomes elligible for occupying.
Longitudinal bumping (bump drafting, etc) is penalizable. Longitudinal (nose-to-tail) incidents will be evaluated contextually and may result in a penalty if it is deemed that the contact was reckless. The penalty will be proportional to the egregiousness of the fault. We understand that incidental bumping is not entirely avoidable, even in real life. In order to pass well-matched cars you sometimes have to follow extremely close, which means a slight mis-prediction on the part of the follower results in a tap, as can slight brake use by the leader. So bumping won't automatically result in a penalty, but can and will if there is clearly identifiable fault and especially if the incident imparts a competitive advantage to the faulty driver.
- Lateral bumping is penalizable. Lateral (side-by-side) incidents will be evaluated contextually and may result in a penalty if it is deemed that the contact was reckless. The penalty will be proportional to the egregiousness of the fault. As with longitudinal bumping, we understand that incidental bumping is not entirely avoidable, particularly given the limited peripheral visibility in a simulation setting. So incidents won't automatically result in a penalty, but can and will if there is clearly identifiable fault and especially if the incident imparts a competitive advantage to the faulty driver.
You get one move down a straight. This means no swerving back and forth, no blocking, etc. The one move sets your line going into the corner. If you set narrow, you enter narrow, you don't get to reset wide at the last moment. Your one move cannot be 'into' another car (see the rule above: 'Space occupied by another vehicle...'). If the space is taken, it is no longer yours for the taking. The following is an example of blocking. Don't do it!
Blue Flag Behavior (this will probably be new to most drivers): A driver who is experiencing blue flag conditions (they are directly in front of a driver who is nearly a lap or more ahead of them in race position) is NOT required to yield to the driver behind them. Normal racing conditions apply to the situation. The lapper (the 2nd driver) must execute a normal pass just as they would under any other positional situation, if they wish to get past the lappee (the 1st driver). The lappee is similarly bound by the same normal racing rules, namely that they must not block or exhibit any other prohibited behavior. Both drivers should consider the situation to be functionally identical to any other positional encounter during the course of a race. This rule can be summarized as: "Racing is racing." We, as a league, are choosing to make no special dispensation for lapping circumstances. This policy is not only very simple to understand and execute, it is in actuality the most competitively fair policy. It minimizes the burden of subjective analysis on both drivers involved, and it establishes a level playing field for all drivers.
Overtaking at the start of the race is restricted to exclude passing after the braking point of the first turn. What this means is that you can take advantage of a good start out of your grid position, and can overtake cars prior to the braking point for T1, but you must not try to out-brake or dive inside cars into T1. Rather, as you reach the braking point for T1 you must simply occupy whatever position you find yourself in, for the duration of T1. Note that this only applies at the start of the race. After the first execution of T1 this restriction does not apply (for T1 or any other turn). This rule exists to help eliminate accidents at the start of the race that are typically due to over-aggressive behavior on cold tires and full tanks, with drivers playing chicken with one another in the middle of a packed field of cars. It also helps prevent drivers (inexperienced or otherwise) from making kamikaze dives into T1, thinking they can gain multiple positions in the blink of an eye. This kind of behavior invariably ends in tears and with people feeling victimized and frequently having their race ruined before it even gets started. Rather than trying to remedy the situation with multiple race restarts, we've just disallowed the behavior that tends to cause it.
Clarification of fault: note that you can be in violation of this rule even if there is no contact or incident resulting from your behavior. A marshal may deem that your actions created unnecessary risk to the other drivers, even if you managed to 'get away with it' and not actually harm anyone else. In other words, this is not a 'no harm no foul' rule. The purpose of the rule is to condition drivers to be less competitively aggressive in T1 at the start of a race. If drivers are only ever penalized when something bad actually happens, it creates an environment where they will push the limit and gamble that they can pull off aggressive and risky moves, and that is precisely the attitude which ruins races at the start.
Looping on the grid at the start of the race is penalizable. If a driver loses control of their vehicle on the grid at the start, a stop-n-go penalty will be imposed upon them. This may sound a bit harsh, but looping at the start is really one of the most disruptive and victim-riddled type of incidents, and there's no justification for it occurring. A single driver losing control of their vehicle at the start can wreck the race for multiple other drivers. Practice your starts. If you're not nailing them consistently, then use Launch Control. If you're looping even with LC, then ask for help since that's a very rare circumstance. If you think you're going to be slow off the grid then say so - there's no shame in it and it lets those behind/beside you make the necessary mental adjustments for a safe and clean start.
Any grievances should be brought immediately to the attention of the marshal or acting admin. Judgement and/or rectification may or may not be made immediately, either for the current race or the current session. If you get upset and log off without discussing things politely, we'll assume you were in the wrong and won't consider the matter further.
The penalty for infractions of any of the above rules will be dependent upon the severity of the infraction. It may consist simply of a verbal warning, but can be the loss of league privileges and possibly being banned (temporarily or permanently) from all league resources and activities.
For race-related infractions, if a marshal is present they reserve the right to assign penalties via the in-game marshaling mechanisms - i.e. a stop-and-go penalty of length consistent with the severity of the infraction. These are non-reviewable for the purpose of scoring, but can be discussed post-facto for the purpose of rules clarification. If a marshal is not present, infractions will be handled by the acting admin and/or via consensus from the drivers present at the time.
The race-related penalties are intended to influence behavior and maintain a positive league environment, and are not intended to rectify the competitive harm done by an incident. There is no feasible way to reverse the competitive harm done to a driver victimized by another driver during a race. Penalties in racing can only be punitive, they can not be truly restorative. So please don't interpret the marshal activities as some sort of 'fairness' mechanism. Also, the marshals cannot process every incident that occurs, but rather must budget their attention over the entire field and be as judicious in the application of their responsibilities as possible. Incidents will be missed. Assessments will occasionally be wrong. Just get over it and figure that in the long run what comes around goes around and if something didn't go in your favor that you felt should have, eventually something probably will that shouldn't.