Yesterday we ran an article about the strange, unjustified penalities RaceDepartment stewards handed out after the opening round of their BMW 235i Series for Assetto Corsa. Three of the top four drivers including Hany Al-Sabti, Jack Keithley, and Paul Patrick were given a combined total of eight minutes worth of penalties for non-intentional track boundary violations that gave them no clear advantage over their opponents. Even drivers who benefited from the revised running order voiced their complaints that the penalties were too harsh, and two teams withdrew entirely from the series.
Today, we received a submission from a RaceDepartment staff member who wishes to remain anonymous, regarding the events leading up to the bizarre penalties and the state of RaceDepartment as a whole. It’s important to note that while we share a positive relationship with RaceDepartment and the guys behind it, what we’ve been told and shown is too important to sweep under the rug or downplay.
Greetings to Chris and James,
A few of us saw your article and agree with how you feel. You and many other drivers are 100% right in that the penalties to Hany, Jack, and Paul were not warranted.
I managed to get some information from the parties involved, and here are the original penalties that were agreed upon by the stewards:
1. Hany Al-Sabti: 8 seconds – Cutting
2. Jack Keithley: 14 seconds – Incident with Niki Djakovic & Cutting
3. Paul Patrick: 20 seconds – Cutting
4. Niki Djakovic: Warning – Cutting
I don’t agree with Paul’s penalty, but the stewards still tried to blame the incident on him. Obviously these penalties are much more reasonable than what RaceDepartment ended up doing. I have absolutely no clue as to why things escalated so badly. Most staff members thought Bram’s idea for complete disqualification was not reasonable and I guess a compromise was made? In my opinion, things got political too quickly and the huge penalties were designed to appeal to certain teams and drivers. It’s quite the norm for this type of stuff to happen at RaceDepartment, and staff are encouraged to lie to protect each other in public, even when someone is wrong or they don’t agree with what’s said after having read what some staff members have posted.
I think the bigger problem surrounding this chain of events is the toxic environment RaceDepartment has become. If you speak to anyone who’s been involved with RaceDepartment previously (most have moved on with their own projects), they have all had issue with RaceDepartment because of one man, Bram Hengeveld. It’s a recurring theme time and time again when RaceDepartment gets itself into a twist. And each and every time Bram is the one asking why it’s happening and then labeling everyone else haters who have an agenda against him.
Going even further, after having spoken to some of the older ex-staff members, there are stories flying around that a select few current staff members are allegedly pocketing the income from RaceDepartment for themselves. These select few staff members, whose sole income is from RaceDepartment, have managed to buy themselves new cars and pay for their own accomodations meaning some serious money is being made here. This would be fine in most circumstances, except RaceDepartment is a registered business in the Netherlands. RaceDepartment is not a hobby like some sim racing sites, but a full-time job. None of the listed staff members are paid any sort of formal wage, and are instead considered volunteers – something that goes into a really interesting legal grey area and someone will get sued if they can make sense of that landscape.
After trying to fact check with other ex-staff members, they too voiced concerns that a select few staff members may be pocketing the money. By law, the Netherlands requires any business to be paying staff at least minimum wage of 1,500 EUR per month as dictated by Dutch law. Also, there are no set working hours, which are also required by Dutch law. You can’t just decide who is a volunteer and who is a “true” staff member worthy of receiving payment. Someone will inevitably explore this legally.
I still contribute to the site because there are many good people involved as well, but the ugly politics are starting to take center stage and it’s easier to confront them immediately than pretend everything is fine.
Alright then, I guess that’s three points we can respond to.
One, the original penalties seem pretty reasonable. Unfortunately, as I saw with my own teammate during the qualification round of the Game Stock Car Extreme series, the fast guys occasionally do cut the track. A 20 second penalty makes sense, even if the cuts were miniscule. Destroying the chances for certain front runners to compete for a championship definitely implies there’s some sort of political manipulation going on.
Two, I haven’t encountered any problems with RaceDepartment, but when I wrote for them, I had my own agenda. Bram was fully aware that I would pump out articles on my time, and I made an effort to totally ignore any internal politics since any content I submitted was out of sheer boredom. This appears to have been the right approach when dealing with the site judging by everything in the submission.
Three, if the stuff about RaceDepartment potentially violating Dutch business laws is legit, it’s probably not going to be very long until this all ends up in front of a judge.
As always, if you have your own piece of news you wish to share, head on over to our Submit page.