The problem with safety and security is that it is not merely a mindset, yet it must start as one. People always remind others to ‘be vigilant’ right after something happens or a crime is published in the news but if you do not progress the mindset into something tangible then you might as well blame yourself when something does happen. Unfortunately, something always do. A safety record of zero incidents is impressive, but when it does happen you are right back to square one, aren’t you? That is, if you are allowed that chance.
A few days ago a group of spectators were mowed down by a vehicle which was participating in a drag car race. Unfortunately, the motor sports event was one of many activities arranged as part of a youth-themed weekend arranged by the government. Naturally, with a total of 17 people needing treatment – a few children involved, from what was reported – some of which were for serious injury, the authorities were blamed. I don’t wholly agree. It was a big event and many parties were assigned to handle different responsibilities. It was these organisers that should be held responsible. Remember those words; ‘held responsible’, I’ll get back to that later.
The organizer for the drag race was, in fact, experienced. But experience alone does not account for nor establish credibility. If you have not seen youtube videos of the incident, you should (but I opt not to include the link here. Long story). I’ve been covering various motor sports events professionally since 2005 and let me tell you, safety is always in the mind of the organisers. But the problem is, it almost never gets translated into action. If the spectators brush off instructions to move back to a safer distance, the organisers often times give up. They sigh, shake their head and release the cars anyway. Things are a bit better these days as the approval by sanctioning bodies (AAM or MAM) also means that you have a shot at securing bigger sponsors and able to apply for insurance.
The incident was never a political issue to me. It is what it is, and the fact that a government ministry was the ultimate ring leader is an issue, but not the real problem during the actual race. Back in the 70s, it was not abnormal for races to be boycotted by racers due to unsatisfactory safety measures at the venue. The core F1 community was particularly vocal and high-profile GPs at, for instance, Spa and Nurburgring were just some of the races that were deemed to be dangerous. Teams and their drivers would show up before first practise and if they see that the problem is not yet rectified, will seriously withdraw from competing. It was not only their concern, but their actions that rapidly made the sharp edge of professional racing incrementally safer not only for participants but also spectators.
In that sense, if the organisers and drivers had seen how dangerous the situation was that night, they really should have switched off their engines and told the spectators that for their own safety, everyone should stand at a safer distance. I have been made to understand that the people who are on the organiser’s side are quick to say that “accidents happen” and “motor sports is dangerous”. But that’s exactly the point – motor sports is dangerous so why didn’t anyone on site effectively respond to that? There’s been talk that the car went off due to oil leaked from other competing cars; which raises the question why was the drag strip not inspected after every run or so and check for these things?
And this is what I mean by ‘held responsible’. Why are they (officially) keeping quiet? Why have there not been any official statements from them? How do we know that they’ve learned anything? The AAM have officially made a statement that the race was in fact not sanctioned. So why did the drivers compete anyway considering that if anything happened (and things did), everyone (organisers and competitors) could be left high and dry with nothing but insults, passive aggressive response and name calling to protect them?