Regardless of how new you are to racing, the number one thing track workers hate is when you put their lives in danger. There is zero tolerance for racers disregarding yellow flag conditions or driving in an otherwise unsafe manner. Track workers, in particular the tow truck crew in the above gif, are made out of soft meat that can be absolutely obliterated if impacted by a near 100 mph BMW-shaped projectile. Human life is more important than winning an amateur racing trophy, or your ego, as if that needed to be explained.
A handful of days ago the popular YouTube channel VINWiki had an entrepreneurial bootstrap-type self-help money book guy named John Hope Bryant on to talk about his experience racing in American Endurance Racing in early 2018.
If you watch the video below, you’ll see Bryant clearly has not learned the lesson that the track workers were trying to teach him.
Bryant tells his side of the story in a way that makes him sound incredibly innocent. He confidently regales the audience with a story in which he claims that he might have accidentally passed a car under yellow conditions. He was shown a black flag, for what he didn’t know, and asked his team to confirm it wasn’t for him. Then continued on his way, passing more cars under yellow. Then, once he pitted to serve the black flag, officials were short tempered and shouted at him. Bryant was parked for the remainder of the event.
From his tone in the video, all I can hear in my mind is my favorite Parks and Recreation character, Mona Lisa Saperstein stating, “I have done nothing wrong, ever, in my life.” You see, even if he did mess up a tiny little bit, the officials were mean to him. Furthermore, they definitely made a mistake by being mean to him because he’s a wealthy and powerful dude who is friends with a guy named Ford.
By downplaying his own culpability in the situation, and laying heaps of blame on the race officials for being rude to him (How dare they!) Bryant’s video immediately attracted the attention of the AER series officials themselves. They’d been called out in public forum, and felt they needed to explain the reasoning behind their rough treatment of the racer. You don’t get tossed from a race for an accidental low-speed pass under yellow.
I’m not sure why Mr. Bryant felt the need to relay this story to the world a year after the fact, or why he downplayed the passing-under-yellow situation, or why he completely misrepresented the facts of the incident. What I do know is that AER is out to clear its name, going so far as to call Bryant out on his lies. Lucky for us, they came with receipts.
AER issued a response Monday to the video’s accusations, and wouldn’t you just know it, they had onboard video from the yellow flag segment in question. The yellow flag period begins at 48:45 in the video below, and you can ride onboard with Bryant as he passes nine cars under FCY conditions. The two yellow flag laps show Mr. Bryant continuing at full race pace, which AER corroborates by saying these laps were timed at 1:42.2 and 1:44.1 respectively, which are within mere seconds of his fastest session lap time of 1:41.1.
Most egregious, however, is the pass at 50:20 in the video where the driver initiates a pass at Road Atlanta’s Turn 8 complex within feet of a stopped E30 competitor, two recovery vehicles, and several workers to driver’s right.
To AER’s credit, the series’ response document does apologize for the severe tone the safety workers took with Mr. Bryant.
From AER’s prepared statement:
After the fact, as cooler minds prevailed, the official apologized to Mr. Bryant and even invited him out to dinner. Mr. Bryant did not reply to the apology or invitation. But the actions of this official do not minimize or remove the unbelievable risk and danger that he presented to all parties involved. And now, a year later, it is our opinion that Mr. Bryant is minimizing and being cavalier about the facts of the situation. For instance, Mr. Bryant states that there was “a yellow flag”, and that he “wasn’t going very fast.” As you can see from the in-car video above, this is not representative of the truth; Mr. Bryant ignored over twenty-five yellow flags and was driving at race pace..
Race officials don’t give a shit if you know Henry Ford III. If you do something stupid that puts them or their friends lives in jeopardy, you’re getting parked, and there’s no use arguing that fact.