Friday, January 20, 2017

Thoughts on the Monte Carlo tragedy

Joaquim Santos’ Ford RS200 enters the crowd at Rally de Portugal in 1986. Photographer unknown.

By its very nature, rally is the most pure form of motorsport. Real, production based cars being driven at their limits on real roads.

Road racing enthusiasts may argue that there is no door to door competition, but there is a rawness and honesty to rally that just can’t be found in other forms of the sport.

With that rawness comes an inherent aspect of risk. Risk that applies to pretty much every aspect of the sport, from competitors to support workers to spectators.

The pinnacle of the sport, the World Rally Championship, takes place for the most part, in Europe, where the fans are rabid for the sport. So much so that they often put themselves in insanely dangerous positions. Perhaps the most infamous incident occurred during the first stage of the 1986 Rally de Portugal, when Portugese driver Joaquim Santos got loose in his factory backed Ford RS200. The apex of the turn was crowded with fans, thirty one of whom were injured, while three died. This incident was one of several that, when combined, led to the death of Group B.

By now, you have likely read that a spectator was killed yesterday on the first stage of the Rallye Monte Carlo, when Hyundai factory driver Hayden Paddon’s factory Hyundai entry went wide on a turn and hit the rock face on driver’s right. At some point during the impact, the spectator was also hit and thrown up the hillside, and then rolled down beside the point where the car came to rest.

There has been some debate in this house over my use of the word stupid to describe the person, while still not knowing the fate of the individual. I believe I was called insensitive. “What the guy did was stupid, you can’t call the guy stupid.” Meanwhile, stories around the web continue to say that the person was a photographer. I’ll tell ya, as a photographer, if the guy was a photographer, I would be even more critical.

Every time some guy who somehow scams his way into getting photo credentials for a motorsport event and then gets caught (or worse) doing something stupid because he didn’t really understand the requirements of the gig, it makes my life as a motorsport photographer that much more difficult. Every time one of those guys gets hurt, it hurts everyone else involved. It hurts the sport.

Stupid hurts the sport.

This guy was not a photographer. He was not wearing a photo vest. He was a guy with a GoPro. I have been told firsthand by a trusted source that he was not part of the video crews working the corner. No, the 50 year old Spaniard was an overzealous fan who repeatedly ignored requests from corner workers and urging from other spectators to move away from the area. He had positioned himself at the exit of a fast, slippery corner, with a rock wall behind him. A spot with no place to go if things went pear shaped.

The guy made a choice to put himself in harms’ way. His foolish choice cost him his life. Worse than that, Haydon Paddon now has to live with knowing that he killed a man during a competition. A firefighter has to live with the memory of giving CPR to a dead man for 20 minutes while waiting for an ambulance, because it was not his place to “call the time”.

Worse, the sport will suffer because there are already those who feel the cars are too fast, just like they did thirty years ago.

The real photographers and videographers will likely have to jump through even more hoops in the future, because of one guy.

One guy who was stupid.

from The Garage
from Tumblr

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