Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Thrilling and dangerous: The view of a motorsport fan

The event is named after Scottish Formula One driver Jim Clark, who was killed in a motor racing accident in Germany in 1968. Photo: PA

The deaths of three spectators at the 2014 Jim Clark Rally will, inevitably, raise questions about the safety of such events.

It's too early to know what caused the accidents and hopefully formal investigations will provide us with answers about the factors that contributed to the tragedy.

ITV Border reporter Lori Carnochan has been involved in rallying for seven years. She has spectated on hundreds events across the UK and Ireland.

Here, she shares her thoughts and experience of the sport.

Tragic

When a life is lost in any accident it is tragic. But it can be even more tragic if we know we could have potentially done something to avoid it. After three people were killed in the Jim Clark Rally, the debate over the safety of the sport will once again rear its head. The south of Scotland has always had a strong connection with motorsport - producing drivers like David Coulthard, Allan McNish, David Bogie and of course, Jim Clark himself.

The rally which is held in his name every year in the Scottish Borders is always a highlight on the motorsport calendar. It's the only closed road tarmac rally on the mainland and pulls in thousands of spectators. Due to the nature of the rally being held on public roads, people can get really close to the action. This is one of the main attractions - you can stand a few feet away from the cars as they power past at full speed.

The event is named after Scottish Formula One driver Jim Clark, who was killed in a motor racing accident in Germany in 1968. Credit: PA

Danger

Having spectated at the Jim Clark Rally for the past seven years I can honestly say it's thrilling- but it is also dangerous. When a driver and his co-driver are reaching speeds of more than 100mph on narrow country roads, there's very little margin for error. Add to that tricky driving conditions like wet Tarmac, loose stones on the surface and uneven roads, and you have a lethal combination. In this instance, the roads were dry but this meant that drivers could reach even higher speeds as there was more grip.

Two other injured men, both 61, were in hospital last night - one in a stable condition and one in a critical but stable condition Credit: PA

Spectator safety

When the thousands of spectators arrive at the stages, they're met with marshals wearing fluorescent tabards who are there to guide you to a safe place. It's their job to try to make sure spectators are standing a safe distance from the road. They try to keep the crowd in line and often put up with arguments from spectators who want to get just that little bit closer to the action. However, when a rally car steps out of line and hits the grass, a tree stump, a rock, there is no way of telling what will happen next. It could spin down the road in any direction, it could flip and roll or the driver could be lucky enough to save it before an accident happens.

Spectators are reminded when they reach a stage that they should 'expect the unexpected' and that they are watching at their own risk. The red and white tape is there as a guide but it won't stop a car when it is flat out. Neither will a few bushes or bankings. There are also safety cars and spectator cars which run through the stage before the competitors. If there are spectators in dangerous places, the drivers will then stop and tell them to move. If it becomes too much of a problem then they have the power to cancel a stage. But once these safety cars pass through the stage and the competition begins, it's up to the individuals to decide where they stand.

Watch: Footage shows spectators 'close to the roadside'

Read: A spectator describes the accident as 'traumatic' a his family witness the crash.

Three people killed at the Jim Clark Rally were all from the Greater Glasgow area. Credit: PA

Driver safety

Both the drivers and their cars are subjected to very strict safety checks before each rally. The scruitineering process is held the day before the event and the cars are inspected to ensure they comply with stringent safety guidelines. From roll cages and harnesses to safety seats and fire extinguishers. The drivers also have to have fireproof clothing, safety helmets, gloves, and neck supports. If you or your car fails any of the checks then you won't be allowed to compete.

Watch: Rally organiser says the race is as 'safe as possible'.

Should the sport be banned?

Everyone involved in rallying, whether you are a driver, co-driver, preparation crew or spectator, knows the risks of the sport. The speed and danger is one of the main attractions for those taking part. Fatalities are thankfully a rare occurrence, but when they do happen it is a shocking reminder of how dangerous the sport can be. The events at the Jim Clark Rally have sent shock waves through the rallying community. Drivers and motoring enthusiasts from all across the world joined together to offer their condolences. It has happened before and it will probably happen again - but does this mean that rallying should be banned? The majority of those involved in the sport would say no, because it is their passion and although it is dangerous it is something that they feel is worth the risk, because of the reward. There's no prize money for winning a rally - but there's the thrill of having proved you're the quickest driver out there.

The rally was cancelled after the incident Credit: PA

Solution

What options are there to improve safety if such rallies are not to be banned?Could more be done to help spectators stay safe? Probably. But finding the best answer isn't easy. You could bring in more marshals, but they are all voluntary and it's already a struggle for organisers to find enough as it is. Would more marshals help crowd control? Possibly.

At the moment, it is up to the spectators to stand in a 'safe place'. Could areas be set aside for spectators while others are marked 'no spectators'? This debate will roll on, with heated discussions for both sides of the argument. Nothing however can change the tragic accident and it is a sombre reminder of what can happen when you are involved in this sport.

Read more on the story here.

More on this story