JACK BENYON

“UK can learn from tragic Monte death”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

What a way to start the World Rally Cham­pi­onship. Sit­ting down to watch what was un­doubt­edly the most ex­cit­ing pe­riod in mine – and most rally fans’ – life time turned into a night­mare. The cold and dark­ness of Monte was a fit­ting metaphor for the mood.

I’ll leave my col­league David Evans to dis­cuss his thoughts on the in­ci­dent, be­ing on the scene in Gap and, as al­ways, pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent in­sight and proper journalism.

From the ac­ci­dent, there’s les­sons to be learned here on home soil.

Ral­ly­ing has been at war for the past cou­ple of years. A tug of war, if you like, be­tween rally me­dia, fans and spec­ta­tors, over the re­sult­ing re­stric­tions brought in by the Mo­tor Sports As­so­ci­a­tion, fol­low­ing rec­om­men­da­tions from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

If you aren’t aware of the changes that were made – in re­sponse to deaths on the Jim Clark and Snow­man ral­lies in 2013 and 2014 – you can view them on­line. But the main ones in­clude no move­ment from me­dia or spec­ta­tors in a live stage. No free­dom of move­ment. Spec­ta­tor pens are set up for view­ing, and that’s that.

Those changes – pre­dictably – were met with up­roar by the ‘old guard’ in ral­ly­ing. ‘We used to be able to walk up and down and go to where we wanted. We know what’s safe’. Etc etc.

But the re­al­ity is that the sport in the UK can’t af­ford an­other death. It would al­most cer­tainly end the sport as we know it at a na­tional level.

I ap­pre­ci­ate how fun and the thrill it must have been to touch Wal­ter Rohrl’s Audi at a junc­tion in Mid Antrim, but the re­al­ity is, that’s not ac­cept­able. Do you want less move­ment on a stage and a sport, or for the sport to per­ish out­right? When you put it like that, it’s an easy de­ci­sion. Yes, clubs can do a bet­ter job of pick­ing spec­ta­tor spots, and mar­shals need more help and train­ing to po­lice stages prop­erly. But for me, I’d rather have a sport to watch, even if the view­ing is a bit re­stricted. And es­pe­cially as I’m not pay­ing £80 to get in like I would be at the Emi­rates Sta­dium to watch Arse­nal.

I haven’t got enough fin­gers and toes to count how many times the Mo­tor­sport Event Safety Re­view changes have made my life more dif­fi­cult this year. Al­most im­pos­si­ble at times. But, I’d rather dif­fi­cult, than not at all. Please have a bit of per­spec­tive. Be­cause if the events of last Thurs­day were in the UK, I’d be out of a job and you would be with­out a sport.

Spec­ta­tor safety is key for ral­ly­ing to con­tinue in UK

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