The results of the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the deaths on the 2013 Snowman Rally and 2014 Jim Clark Rally can have a positive impact of the sport, according to Robert Reid.
The results of the inquiry, conducted by Sheriff Maciver, are contained in a document of more than 100 pages, which has resulted in the rallies in question and those affected requesting time to digest the content before commenting at length.
Most of the Sheriff’s findings and proposals have, or are, in the process of being addressed by the governing body, the Motor Sports Association, after it agreed to implement the 28 recommendations of the Scottish Government’s Motorsport Event Safety Review in 2015.
The Sheriff’s calls from the FAI include educating and preparing spectators better pre-event to understand the dangers of spectating on rallies, the need for prohibited area set-up plans, better recording of incidents on rallies and that spectator and event safety officers should receive training from the MSA, among others (see below).
Reid, who co-drove Richard Burns to the 2001 World Rally Championship, was on the MESR panel and attended the FAI hearings as a member of the public.
“Something that I think people forgot during the FAI is that it wasn’t there to apportion blame, it’s there to understand what happened and help to put things in place so it doesn’t happen again,” said Reid.
“From a rallying point of view, it has been picked to bits by lots of experts and I think it’s come out of it well.
“The MSA has done pretty well with the work they’ve been doing on Rally Future [a safety campaign], and that’s been well received. Generally I think it’s very positive. The interesting thing now is to see how the sport deals with it and moves on.”
The MSA has yet to issue a full response to the FAI but is expected to do so soon.
“We acknowledge the Sheriff’s analysis of the circumstances leading up to each accident, in both cases arising in the context of events that were organised by what were stated to be experienced volunteers demonstrating the highest levels of dedication and responsibility,” said an MSA spokesperson.
“At this stage, we require more time to fully consider the Sheriff’s recommendations and we will offer our response as soon as we are able to do so. In the meantime, we wish to reiterate our sincere sympathies to the victims’ families.”
Jim Clark hopes to run again
A major question arising from the inquiry concerns the future of the Jim Clark and the Mull rallies.
While Mull wasn’t investigated, it has been affected by the FAI, which took place during the same period that legislation in England was approved to transfer the power to grant a closed-road event a permit from the government to the MSA and local council.
That has yet to happen in Scotland but, if it does, then the Mull and Jim Clark rallies should be able to run again providing they meet the MSA’s criteria, and have the approval of local authorities.
Two acts of parliament already exist in Scotland for the Jim Clark Rally and Mull Rally to run on closed public roads. However, that wasn’t sufficient for Mull to take place this year as the event was unable to obtain the requisite level of insurance cover.
The Jim Clark Rally organisers haven’t given up hope of running an event on closed roads in 2018.
“We’re looking forward,” said Jim Clark Rally clerk of the course Russel Blood. “We’re going to try and find a way to resolve the [current] insurance issue. The reason for wanting to run an event next year is because it’s 50 years since Jim’s death, so we’d like to do something.
“There’s not time for the new act to be put through, we will be discussing it with the MSA and the Scottish Government. It’s all up in the air.”
The FAI’s conclusions
Spectators should be directed to safe areas via pre-event publicity
Properly prepared plans for stage set-up should be made and given to marshals responsible for prohibited areas and safety car drivers
At least one safety car should be assigned to check the prohibited areas are properly laid-out
Yellow flag system should be reviewed
Marshals should be clearly identifiable from the public
The MSA considers training marshals for what to do when spectators end up on a rally stage
The MSA safety delegate is an important role and the MSA should train these people accordingly
Rally organisers must appoint spectator and event safety officers, who should be trained by the MSA