The Safety of Rally Spectators
Another very exciting and interesting RAC Rally has, with luck, safely concluded, watched by astonishingly large numbers of spectators — we sometimes wonder which attracts the greater number, the Veteran Car Run or the RAC Rally, but we know who are the more knowledgeable onlookers! It would be a National tragedy if this great event, giving so much enjoyment to so many people, had ever to be stopped.
Yet the danger is very apparent, with spectators separated from rally cars that now develop over 400 bhp and exceed 100 mph over the most slippery of surfaces by mere ropes, and warned of approaching cars only by the marshals’ whistles. Those who attend in their hundreds of thousands are out for a good time, at some considerable expense, probably having taken time off work to watch their favourite sport. It would be a million pities if any of them were roger injured or killed. Yet the writing seems to be writ large on the safety-first wall. Le Mans survived the unexpected horrific accident of 1955 only because a closed race-circuit can be given Armco and catch-fencing to keep the cars away from the public, and danger’ areas can be reconstituted. Not so with open-road events A car going into the crowd stopped the Ulster TT after 1936, and the Mille Miglia was abandoned after 1957, for the same reason. Long before that public-road speed events in this country had been banned by the RAC because crowds could not be controlled on what was public land, even by uniformed policemen, the trouble coming to a head after a non-fatal accident to a spectator at Kop Hill in 1925.
We do not know how Forestry Commission areas are regarded in Law, when rallies are passing through them, and spectators have access, especially at stages where people are allowed in free and few warnings are displayed. But a fatal accident might well kill rallies as they have done road-racing. We feel for the Stage Commander who had to close one stage of the RAC Rally because the spectators could not be controlled. What a responsibility! But how right he was… We know from personal experience that marshals have little or no real authority over spectators who fail to see they are in dangerous places. Requesting them to move can result in verbal abuse or worse, and officials may find themselves tempted to respond in like fashion. None of which is good for the Sport, or can provide a solution. We do not know what the remedy may be. But we do see that the present situation is potentially a very alarming one, that needs solving. NOW.
We wish a Happy and Prosperous New Year to All our Readers
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