Possibility of tragedy inherent in motorsport


ANALYSIS:It is spectacular to watch cars being driven to their limit, but the dangers are obvious, writes NEIL BRISCOE

THE TRAGIC accident in Co Cavan in which two spectators were killed when a competing rally car lost control and struck them, has reminded us that motorsport is dangerous – inherently so – and that goes for fans and competitors.

There may be warnings here for the upcoming Bavaria City Racing in Dublin, which is not a race but a “demo” run conducted by Formula One cars, rally vehicles and other high-performance cars and bikes.

Without the element of competition, the risk will be much lower, but doubtless there will be flinches as cars pass within feet of spectators on crowded footpaths.

Tonne-weight projectiles travelling at the limits of adhesion are spectacular to watch, especially close up, but a loss of control can always lead to tragedy. It is the nature of the sport and a major, if dark, part of its appeal.

“I don’t think we’ll know for some time yet exactly what happened,” said Alex Sinclair, chief executive of Motorsport Ireland.

“What we do know is that a rally car left the road and collided with spectators.

“Why? We just don’t know yet but we need to find out. The gardaí need to complete their investigation first, but we will be having a meeting on Tuesday night to explore any possible avenues to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The incident in Cavan is the second serious crash in Europe this month involving spectators at a rally.

Two people were killed and 15 were injured when a car crashed into a group of fans during the Maures regional rally in the south of France on May 19th.

Prior to that, a man in his 60s was killed when struck by a rally car in the southeast of France in April, while a 19-year-old was another casualty of French rallying back in November.

Not surprisingly, the French government has resolved to take action on the issue of rallying safety, with minister for sport Valérie Fourneyron saying in a statement that the incident “poses a serious question of public security during automobile events”. In the case of the French incident, early reports indicate that spectators were standing in an area marked as forbidden – an escape road for cars that miss their cornering mark to overshoot into. Policing such sprawling groups of spectators on mostly public ground can be very difficult.

Any action taken internationally would be dealt with by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the world governing body for motorsport.

Sinclair said: “We’ve been in touch with them already and they are very keen, of course, to see that all forms of motorsport are as safe as possible.

“We have an incredibly good safety record here in Ireland. The last incident involving a spectator was in 1986.

“Now, there is no such thing as 100 per cent safety in anything but we will keep trying.”