Black Flag

How many of you run a business where you have to tread the fine line between giving your customers a great time and “punishing” them? We aim to provide our customers with good, old-fashioned service. We also aim to keep our customers safe as they race around our circuits, at just one inch off the ground.

Despite some companies’ failings in the basics, it is actually very simple to give good customer service. You can start by welcoming your clients, being attentive to their needs and requirements, making them feel valued. We try to always achieve that from the start – when you call Sales or arrive at one of Circuit Receptions. But we also have to keep all of our customers safe. We thus give them a safety briefing that tells them that they risk being penalised/disqualified if they break our circuit rules.

Luckily, the overwhelming majority of Daytona’s customers show due respect to the safety and sporting rules oin the tracks. But a side-effect of giving people the opportunity to compete in motor-racing is the so-called “Red Mist”. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Red Mist is used to describe the totally irrational behavious that some people exhibit when they become ultra-competitive and when they feel that someone else is unfairly taking advantage. I am sure that most of us have felt a mild road-rage when someone cuts us up on the way to work. Now amplify that one-hundred fold when someone bumps into you during a kart race, pushes you wide and overtakes you – in direct contravention of the no-contact rule.

It is outright rude and dangerous to bump other drivers – of course accidents and mistakes happen but we sometimes see people who rely upon the karts bumpers to assist their racing. So now factor in ed Mist AND a black Flag. The black flag is the one the race officials use to send a miscreant driver to the Pits for a penalty.

With their heart beating at 150-200 beats per minute, the driver sees the black flag and instantly realises that they have to go into the Pits whilst all the other drivers can continue lapping and leaving them behind.

So how do Daytona’s Race Directors and Pit Managers handle these situations? Well, the first thing we do is to take a huge deep breath. Then we ask the driver to take one too! It is amazing how quickly the Red Mist can clear if everyone just takes a couple of minutes to calm down.

Our mission is not to make the race winner happy. He or she already is happy. They have just won the race. Our mission is to make everyone else happy. Whether they lost the race due to their own mistake or due to someone else’s driving behaviour. So now I would take you back to my original question…

… how many of you operate a business that involves telling off some of your customers for being naughty?

It really isn’t easy and after 21 years of trying to tread the fine line, I can tell you that I have taken a lot of very deep breaths. But if you used to race with us in Wood Lane back in the early 90’s, then I should probably apologise to you in case I hadn’ learnt this valuable lesson before we discussed your black flag.

Jim Graham
Team Daytona

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