April Editorial – Three Topics

Safety
Races usually take place in complete safety, thank heavens, and drivers almost always get out of their cars as fit as they were when they got into them. For that we should all be grateful, which is a prime chance to recognise the roles of all those present at race meetings whose main task is ensuring the safety of all concerned. Well done all corner workers / marshals, just for being there, and being prepared to make the effort.

It doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate that the greatest dangers occur when a fast moving car hits something stationary. We already have several examples of such incidents this year:
- Kevin McGarrity hitting the wall at Sebring and breaking bones in his feet
- Kelvin Burt hitting the Konrad Saleen and the rescue truck at Barcelona on Saturday afternoon
- Jamie Campbell-Walter hitting a Viper splitter on the straight at Barcelona (all right, it wasn’t stationary – it was flying at him)
- The F1 mess at Interlagos on Sunday, with Fernando Alonso hitting a wheel lying on the track.

Looking back a little further, what about poor Ignazio Giunti hitting Beltoise’s Matra (being pushed across the track) in Buenos Aires over 30 years ago? Or Fabrizio Barbazza’s life being threatened as he was ploughed into by Jeremy Dale’s car at Road Atlanta in 1995?

Stationary bits of anything are extremely dangerous, and absolute caution should be applied in such circumstances – and every effort should be made to warn drivers of the danger (was every effort made at Interlagos? – why wasn’t the race stopped immediately after Webber’s accident?). It’s a little worrying then to read of a driver who admits he was “pushing too hard” with yellow flags waving lap after lap, who described the marshals as “dicking about” while trying to move the Konrad Saleen, and the same driver stating that they “pissed me off” by fining him and sending him to the back of the grid. Did the driver concerned wish to be associated with such words, in public, on a well-used website, we wonder?

Bizarrely, at the time of the incident, no one was even attempting to set a grid time: they’d almost all been set in the morning session.

2004 In Europe
The subject was raised in Autosport today (April 10) regarding the future of prototype racing in Europe. Just when it seemed that Stephane Ratel had made the decision to go for fewer, longer races in Europe next year, the ACO announced their plan for something similar. The ACO version involves four or five four-hour races in Europe in 2004, with prototypes mixed up with GTs and GTSs, of course (the full Le Mans variety). The Ratel version was for prototypes only (SR1 and SR2).

Stephane Ratel states in Autosport today “There is no reason why we can’t do an FIA-Le Mans Championship. We have to do something together or prototypes will disappear.”

He expressed the view in the French press some weeks ago that talks with the ACO need to take place, but admits today that he has not spoken to the ACO yet.

The solution is so blindingly simple: leave the FIA GT Championship alone, but let everyone get behind the ACO idea, so that there are four major events – in which European prototypes do compete against (with) GT and GTS entrants who don’t want to enter a full nine or ten race FIA GT Championship. The Le Mans entry proves that such entries exist.

European GT racing actually provides too many series, only some of which are well supported. ‘Four races isn’t enough to keep a team going,’ state some. Then go and enter Sebring, Le Mans (if you can), Petit Le Mans and Spa. That’s a season, isn’t it? ‘Sebring is too expensive.’ It’s not if you’ve got a competitive car that drivers actually want to drive.

The precedent has already been set for 2004 in Europe anyway. The Spa 1000 KM in August will be run with a combined grid of FIA SCC prototypes and British GT…..GTs. Simple, isn’t it?

dailysportscar
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Malcolm Cracknell

 

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