Thursday, 24 February 2011

Tony Harvey MCUI-UC DCAL Briefing - Part Two

Motorcycle Real Road Racing Blog by Barbiegirl Northern Ireland
In Part Two of Tony Harvey allegedly briefing the MCUI-UC after his discussions with the Senior Coroner, Mr John Leckey and representatives from DCAL, including Colin Watson and Ciaran Mee regarding the video and photographic evidence from the 2007 Tandragee 100, we now move on to what could possibly be referred to as the proposed response debate. And do please read most carefully and digest, for despite the risk of stomach ulcers, probing questions will be asked.

1. The footage shown on the two DVDs illustrates that many non-competitors, including race officials and spectators, were at a very serious risk of injury or death.

This situation has been acknowledged for several years now and the implementation of improvement measures has been under continuous review.

Particular attention has been paid to two important elements:
(i) Track dimensions, run-off and the design of chicanes; and (ii) The position of officials and members of the public in the immediate vicinity of the track.

The first of these is dealt with under Point 4 below:
As to the second, a policy of wider and deeper “no-go” zones has been implemented at all circuits in 2008 & 2009 and will be pursued further. The basic principle of “no track-side personnel” has been adopted and written into Official Track Certificates.

This applies basically to Marshals, first aiders and other officials who enter these areas only in emergency to perform their duties, and always under the protection of a waved yellow flag.

In addition, considerable work has been carried out on the analysis of distances traveled by machines which have been “downed” at various speeds, and “line of fire” prohibited areas identified and enforced according to machine speeds at the particular points.

The public especially can only be present in areas at an acceptable distance from the racing surface and where additionally protected (as appropriate) by walls, fences or other barriers. The crucial point here is that they be kept at a safe distance from the action.

2. Is it sufficient for spectators to be warned that attending motor cycle road races can be dangerous? What about children who attend?

The standard system of warning of danger is by boards carrying an appropriate wording with others equally clearly positioned to identify prohibited areas.

It is acknowledged by the MCUI(UC) that whilst motorcycle racing is a very popular sport with competitors and the general public alike, it carries an element of risk which must be managed.

“Reducing Risk, Protecting People”
2008 & 2009 has seen a return to the original chicane design, with detailed plans noting layout and dimensions, and a through-speed of approximately 65mph, together with a type of construction which does not lend itself to the detachment of components even when struck by a machine.

Certainly no free-standing straw bales are used, and it is the intention that this current type of construction will be standardised in future.

5. The question must be asked whether it is acceptable in the 21st century to have motor cycle races on public roads bearing in mind: (a) the speed potential of modern racing motor cycles-, (b) the nature of public roads; (c) the unpredictable consequences of mechanical failure or a competitor losing control of his machine or a crash involving a number of competitors; and (d) the difficulty of ensuring spectator safety particularly where spectators are allowed to be positioned close to the racing.

This larger question needs to be broken down into several parts:

5(a) Speed Potential:
Undeniably, the speed of all motor sport tends to creep upward year on year and this is a concern for all racing officials. It is perhaps appropriate here to quote from the Roads Inspection Committee’s Annual Report to the MCUI (Ulster Centre) AGM in November 2009:

“Speaking on behalf of the three Committee Members who have declined to let their names go forward for re-election for 2010, I have to say that we are all agreed that unless drastic steps are taken to (1) Reduce the speeds of machines in road races especially and (2) Remove all Personnel and Spectators from within range of circuit accidents, the time will very soon come when road racing will be a thing of the past.” At the same time a lot of practical work has been carried out on all course setups to improve the safety for Competitors, Officials and Spectators, particularly since 2007, but clearly there are limits to the extent this can reach."

Much evidence of the use of safety chicanes, removable fences, and permanent removal of obstacles such as telegraph poles, trees, etc in addition to improved runoff areas on the outside of corners etc. However, to date, no speed inhibiting mechanisms have been deployed on racing motorcycles. This is a subject which needs further consideration – while it may not be achievable in practice, then the alternative of not running the higher-powered “Superbikes” might be a consideration.

5(b) The nature of public roads:
In conjunction with the Risk Assessment, the Roads Inspection Committee (in cooperation with all governing bodies) ensures that the road condition is in a suitable condition for racing. Account is taken of the width and length of the track as well as the class speed for that particular race. An approved formula is then used to determine the number of permitted starters. The risk assessments also take account of the trackside and spectator areas and appropriate mitigation stems from this.

5(c) Unpredictable consequences of mechanical failure:
Flag Marshals are positioned appropriately to provide warning of any hazard emanating from mechanical failure.

A simple reply at this point could be – if both speed of machines (5a) and the number of simultaneous starters in a group (5b) were to be reduced then the consequences of high risk from mechanical failure would arguably be less and this is what we want to achieve.

We have in place a set of simulations of the trajectories of machined becoming airborne, bouncing or sliding as a result of an accident. This is now available to the Roads Inspection Committee so that it can instruct Organising Clubs to place

Officials and Spectators at safe distances.
5(d) Spectator safety particularly where spectators are allowed to be positioned close to the racing: The Track Certificates, which are essential to the running of Road Races, clearly specify the location and dimensions of all areas, entry to which is Prohibited to the Public. Each circuit is re-assessed on an annual basis. For each Circuit, these must be reconsidered with Prohibited Areas greatly increased and enlarged – the days of watching “from behind the hedge” or, worse, “from below and through the hedge” are clearly gone.

This requires a robust policy – from the governing body and delivered by the Organising Club. Failure to meet the minimum requirements should result in stiff penalties - a bit like a football club having to pay a large fine if its supporters behave badly on the way to the match.

As mentioned recently, a renewed effort needs to go into achieving all these points otherwise we are quite certain that our days of enjoying road racing will come to an end.

So endeth 'Tony Harvey MCUI-UC DCAL Briefing - Part One & Part Two' Next will be the questions.

Save Our Sport From Evil

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