It's not really part of my form to discuss other forms of Motorsport on this Blog and as such I'm a little reluctant to break form, but at the Cavan Stages Rally in Ireland yesterday two spectators were killed and 5 injured after a Ford Escort Rally Car lost control on the roads outside Bailieborough, a small town in County Cavan.
According to reports the two who killed in this tragic accident were Rally Co-Driver Caroline Cleary, who was not participating in the stage and Sports Photographer Joe Lane. To their families I wish to offer my sincerest condolences and to the 5 who were taken to hospital with injuries, including the driver and co-driver, I wish them a speedy and successful recovery.
There is a tendency at times like these to seek quickfix solutions to the very apparent crowd control issues that plague many motorsports, but none moreso than Rallying. There is no quickfix solution unfortunately.
While we F1 fans are cosseted behind high fencing and separated by wide run-off areas and distance we, like the rally fans, would prefer to be right up on top of the action.
Where do we go to watch our races? We go to the bends and the bumps - those places where we are likely to see overtaking, mistakes, or crashes. It is the nature of the Petrolhead to seek out the most thrilling sights and the most controversial corners where crashes can happen and, in rallying, the fact is that these locations are along the public road where little or no protection is available.
I have to confess that a few years ago, during testing at Silverstone, I had no issue of personal safety in my head when finding myself at two Marshall breaks in the armco fencing at Vale and Abbey. Armed with my Camera I stepped into those breaches to get the best shots possible of the cars under breaking. Stupid, yes but would I do it again? Sadly the answer is probably. We have a trust in the drivers' proven abilities in the cars. They've done it many times, they've studied the stage in detail with their co-driver, they have notes in respect of hazards, corners, bumps, speed, and gears, they are as well equipped with information of the course as pilots are in plotting their flight paths. This, unfortunately, never accounts for the unexpected.
This does not negate the fact that safety should be looked at in rallying but I'm just pointing out that it is the nature of the fan to seek out the best viewing points and that this nature often leads the fans to ignore personal safety to do so. I don't know how you might control rally fans gathering at the most spectacular locations, certainly, as with F1, the photographers are allowed far more leeway than others at these events.
No death in Motorsport should be taken lightly and I am upset at the outcome in this instance, but kneejerk reactions and quickfix solutions will not help the sport to recover from this tragic accident.
Serious consideration must be given as to how we might improve the safety of spectators at rally events but the solutions will be difficult to implement without the support of the die-hard fans.