Tag Archives: motor racing

Racing case did not crash out of court

July 24, 2009

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Sources: Full case report – http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/scot/cases/ScotCS/2009/2009CSOH39.html

Opinion of Lady Clark of Calton in the cause of Pearce v. Ferguson & Another [2009] CSOH 39

This case is an ex tempore oral opinion given by Lady Clark of Calton in the Scottish Court of Session (Outer House) in order to advise the parties. The issue relates to a negligence action for personal injuries during a test session ahead of a motor race at Knockhill Racing Circuit.

Although the defendant tried to argue that the claimant was a voluntary participant and motor racing carried an inherent risk [4], this was rejected by the court. In particular, at [5] it was noted that ‘it is not a matter within judicial knowledge as to what risks or dangers might be common or expected or exist by participating in test sessions at Knockhill Racing Circuit. I certainly cannot conclude that it is within judicial knowledge that the pursuer had voluntarily agreed to the risks of an accident of the type averred or that such accidents were part of the common risks of the sport at that particular racing circuit. I am of the opinion that evidence would be required about this.” (I’m guessing then that Lady Clark will not be watching the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend!)

The opinion concluded at [7] with the rejection of the defence’s plea for a summary dismissal, and the note that it will only be possible to establish whether the defendant was in breach of his duty once the full facts have been established. We now wait for the full trial….

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F.O.F.A. (Formula One Fans Association)

June 23, 2009

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Source: http://timesonline.typepad.com/formula_one/2009/03/who-is-formula.html

Here’s an interesting idea, from GaryM on the Times Online Blog, which I haven’t seen repeated elsewhere. He argues that with all the furor about governance issues and how Formula One actually belongs to the fans, not the FIA, FOTA or the teams, why is there not a Formula One Fans Association (FOFA)?

Indeed, following Gary’s suggestion, if motor-racing truly wishes to take the views of fans into account, then there needs to be a mechanism where this can occur. This already occurs at a media level, and fans can post threads and discuss the latest news on broadcasters websites or on blogs like this, however will these really be taken in account when policy is being made? The cynic in me says that F1 is viewed at times by the governing body more as merchandise consumed by spectators and any surveys or view-finding by officials smacks of tokenism. Instead, what is needed is a partnership model where fans can actively engage in dialogue and have an impact on the running of the sport. I am not by any means suggesting that fans should be signatories to the Concorde Agreement, however there should be a mechanism that their views can be represented to the decision-makers at all levels of the sport. See for example the findings of the recent Global Audience Survey from FOTA: http://www.teamsassociation.org/sites/default/files/press_release/FOTA%20Press%20Release%20-%205%20Mar%202009.pdf

Football has official, and unofficial, fan associations and every major club has forums available for fans to engage with, challenge and help form opinions, where are these for F1 or motor racing?

As a number of posts have shown over the last couple of days, following F1 in person in both an expensive and dangerous pursuit! Isn’t it time that fans were received recognition for this (and I don’t mean simply with a branded credit card!)

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K.E.R.S.

June 23, 2009

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Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/motorSportsNews/idUKSYD49346020090327?feedType=RSS&feedName=motorSportsNews&sp=true; http://www.crash.net/f1/news/148788/1/bmw_drops_kers_as_domenicali_brands_it_an_expensive_mistake.html

Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) was a new innovation this season in Formula One and were heralded as a way of making cars more environmentally friendly (by recycling energy normally lost under braking into kinetic energy) and also providing additional opportunities for overtaking (KERS gives a potential power boost of 6.7s per lap).

Teams were given the opportunity of storing this energy through Flywheel technology, batteries, supercapacitors, or hydraulic based systems (see a good description and pictures of each system here: http://max-rpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/kers-in-f1-basically-explained.html ) KERS has a number of significant problems though. The first is that its weight is at least 35kg (thereby penalising heavier / taller drivers) and the position where that weight is sited on the car (higher on the rear, thereby raising the centre of gravity) can have an effect on the balance of the car. As such a number of teams, like BMW, have confirmed that they have now dropped KERS and will concentrate on improving the aerodynamics of their car instead, viewing the two technologies as mutually exclusive. Indeed, BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen has suggested that if KERS isn’t made mandatory next season, then it will disappear from F1. The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) has also confirmed that they are pressing the FIA to drop the technology for the 2010 season. Given this, it therefore seems crazy to focus on cost-reduction strategies and budget restrictions, while at the same time asking teams to spend a considerable amount of money, research and development on trying to make KERS technology, safe reliable and effective.

In particular, concerns were also raised at the start of the season by drivers as to a possible safety risk caused by the potential for electric shocks from the high-voltage system. This is because the circuit used in the battery systems remains live for around a second after the car has stopped. Reuters reports that the matter came to light when a BMW mechanic suffered an electric shock when he touched a car during testing last year. Marshals and medical teams at the Australian Grand Prix were therefore advised to wear special gloves to protect against the risk of any electric shock. The disadvantage of this precaution though, is that in the event that emergency treatment was necessary, there is a fear that these thicker gloves may prevent trackside medical staff from carrying out life-saving procedures.

Although Mark Webber said the matter had already been discussed by the Grand Prix Drivers Association but there was still some level of uncertainty about how it would work in a real-life crisis: “As usual you do gain knowledge and experience on the front line so we’ll see how it goes”

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Blacked up fan seen at Spanish Grand Prix (again)

June 22, 2009

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Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/motor-racing/hamilton-race-row-is-revived-by-blackedup-spectator-1682714.html; http://www.everyrace.net/; http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8042572.stm 

Newspapers have reported that a spectator who had blacked-up his arms, face and hands whilst wearing a McLaren shirt was spotted amongst the 92,430 attendance on the Sunday 10th May race of the Spanish Grand Prix, at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

A spokeswoman for the International Automobile Federation (FIA) confirmed that: “We are aware of it and looking into it,” however there was no suggestion that Lewis Hamilton had experienced any abuse.

The FIA had previously warned the Spanish authorities that they could face sanctions if there was any repeat of the incidents experienced by Hamilton, Formula One’s first black champion, at a test in February 2008. During that incident, a group of people painted their faces black and wore curly wigs and Tshirts proclaiming they were ‘Hamilton’s family’. The outrage at this incident led to the FIAs anti-racism initiative – EveryRace.

Watch the Full video clip of the fan here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8042572.stm

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Three spectators injured in English Rally Accident

June 22, 2009

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Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/8099654.stm; http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/latest/2009/06/14/three-injured-after-rally-car-crash-115875-21440973/

Seems like it’s the season for rally cars leaving circuits! BBC news reports another crash, this time during the Abingdon Motor Sports Carnival held at the Abingdon race track in Oxfordshire on 14th June 2009. The report states that 0930 BST, the rally car left the circuit and ended up on the grass verge where it collided with two marshalls and a photographer injuring them. An 18yr old man was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries, while two other men aged 22 and 60yrs were taken to hospital with minor injuries. None of the injuries were thought to be life-threatening. The driver and co-driver were also treated for shock at the scene, but were otherwise unhurt.

Police officers are investigating the incident along with the Health & Safety Executive and the Motor Sport Association.

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Three spectators killed in Czech rally accident

June 22, 2009

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Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/motorSportsNews/idUKLS37545920090328?feedType=RSS&feedName=motorSportsNews&rpc=401; http://sport.scotsman.com/top-stories/Rallying-Rally-suspended-after-tragedy.5119355.jp

Three spectators have died after a rally car drove into the crowd during a domestic championship race near the eastern town of Stramberk in the Czeck republic, on Saturday 28th March, 2009.

Czech Television also reports that a Slovak Driver (Lukas Lapdavsky) and an injured spectator were taken to hospital. The Valasska Rally (a race on the International Championship of the Czech Republic circuit) was suspended after the accident.

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NASCAR Mexico Race Driver Dies

June 22, 2009

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Sources: http://uk.reuters.com/article/motorSportsNews/idUKN1415039120090615?feedType=RSS&feedName=motorSportsNews; http://sports.yahoo.com/nascar/blog/from_the_marbles/post/Remembering-Carlos-Pardo-NASCAR-Mexico-driver-k?urn=nascar,171140; http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1849293/nascar_mexico_series_driver_killed.html?cat=14; http://www.totalprosports.com/blog/index.php/2009/06/carlos-pardo-wins-nascar-race-dies-in-crash/

On Sunday June 14th, an accident in the Mexican NASCAR series (Autodromo Miguel E. Abed, State of Puebla) resulted in the death of Carlos Pardo.

The 33yr old driver was leading the race after 97 laps into a 100-lap race around the circuit, he was then bumped by the car behind (Jorge Goeters) as it attempted to accelerate past, and this spun Pardo’s car into the concrete retaining walls around the pit exit at 120mph. Essentially Pardo’s car disintegrated on impact (you can see clips of this on youtube, but out of respect, they have not been reproduced on this blog). Although Pardo was quickly extracted from the wreckage and medevaced to a nearby hospital, he died about 45 minutes after the impact. NASCAR Mexico later awarded him the win posthumously, as the race was stopped following the accident.

The Mexican version of the NASCAR League is operated by entertainment giant CIE (CIEB.MX) and privately-held firm Selca, and does not compete with American drivers. Given the mechanics of the accident and the amount of disintegration of the car though, some commentators have suggested that the safety measures seen in American and International motor racing were not in place. Others commentators have suggested that the fault lay with the race drivers themselves and particularly in how the nudge occurred. This story may therefore develop further…

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World Rally Crash (Portugal, April 2009)

June 21, 2009

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Source: http://wrc.com/jsp/index.jsp?lnk=101&id=4500&desc=Latvala thanks his team for building a life-saver; http://www.rallybuzz.com/mosley-latvala-crash/

Although Latvala has gone on to compete in several more races since this accident, for those that haven’t see the crash in the Portugal World Rally Championship in April, below are the you-tube videos of the crash (from interior and exterior views). Both the driver (Jari-Matti Latvala) and co-driver (Miikka Anttila) were very lucky boys to walk away unharmed as their car rolled 20 times down a 150m hill before finally coming to rest against a tree.

 Max Mosley (President of the FIA – which governs rally driving) summed up the importance of the safety features installed on rally cars in his comments to WRC.com that:   “The problem with rallying is that unlike racing circuits we have almost no control over the environment, so we’ve got to try and make the cars as safe as possible. That’s also very useful for road cars, because exactly the same things happen on ordinary roads. We’re learning all the time. We’ve got to the stage now where we can’t point to something and say, ‘that’s an obvious gap in our safety that needs to be filled.’ We’re now in the detailed research. But we’re spending a lot of money and have some talented people working on it, constantly improving safety…..We’ve pretty much left behind the days of the spectacular leap forward – things like the Hans system – but we probably will discover other things. The thing about research is you don’t know what you’re going to discover. But it’s a constant ongoing effort. And that’s what we should be doing.”

On-Board Car Camera:

Exterior Camera:

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The Diffuser Three

June 19, 2009

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Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/motorsport/formulaone/brawngp/5050676/Jenson-Buttons-Brawn-GP-car-cleared-to-race-after-FIA-reject-diffuser-row.html

FIA Court of Appeal Decision ICA 5-7 (2009), (Full Text): http://www.fia.com/en-GB/the-fia/court_appeal/judgments/Documents/ICA-14-04-2009-a.pdf

Before we progress onto the loftier and indeed more controversial matter of the FOTA 8, it is worth spending a few minutes to discuss the somewhat inauspicious start to the F1 season and the Diffuser 3 row.

So what is a diffuser and why did this row erupt?

Put simply, the diffuser is the rear part of the floor of the car between the rear wheels and under the rear wing. It gathers all the high speed air rushing under the car and redirects this pressure to maximise downforce and grip. It is therefore crucial to the car’s aerodynamics, and small changes can have a big impact on the performance of the car. (Some good pics of diffusers can be found at: http://www.gizmag.com/formula-one-double-deck-diffuser/11260/)

Under Article 3 of the 2009 Formula One Technical Regulations, the main part of the diffuser was limited to a width of 1000mm, a length of 350mm and a height of 175mm, with no difference in height between the main central section and the side channels. This was designed to force teams into installing much smaller diffusers which would then reduce downforce by as much as 50%, and thereby increase overtaking.

While McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, Red Bull Racing and BMW-Sauber made literal interpretations of these rules, Brawn, Williams and Toyota (the Diffuser 3) all exploited a loophole in the regulations by shaping the rear crash structure in the rear bodywork of the car to act as an additional channel(s) to lengthen and heighten the diffuser’s central section (thereby replicating the small winglets allowed in previous seasons). By creating holes between this section and the diffuser, it was possible to create double or triple diffusers, substantially lengthening the diffuser exit area and increasing the car’s downforce. This resulted in as much as a 5/10 second decrease in lap times!

The issue was further complicated by the revelation that Ross Brawn (principal of Brawn GP) was also the technical delegate to the Formula One Team’s Association (FOTA) and therefore potentially had a conflict of interest relating to the discovery of these loopholes relating to diffuser design (although this issue was later dropped and did not form part of the official protests).

Unsuprisingly, the teams without the new diffuser design complained, and with no time to refer the matter to the FIA Court of Appeal, the decision was left to the three stewards at the Melbourne Grand Prix (Radovan Novak, Steve Chopping & Olafur Gudmundsson). After a six-hour hearing, the stewards upheld the diffuser design as being legal.

An appeal was inevitable whichever side lost, and after the stewards revisited their decision at the second race of the season in Kuala Lumpur, the stage as set for a final appeal to the FIA Court of Appeal in Paris on April 14th.

The main findings of the Court of Appeal were:

  • [24] – While it was preferable for stewards to state the reasons for their decisions, these could be inferred from the appeal literature. (This plea was effectively dealt with on a technicality as none of the parties had actually submitted the ‘Guidelines for Stewards’ document for the court to refer to)
  • [31] – There was no obligation under article 2.4 that any of the ‘Diffuser 3’ had to seek clarification from the FIA before implementing their diffuser design, even where the design was new. However, even where the teams had previously communicated with the FIA technical department, this did not constitute a binding precedent on design interpretation [85]
  • The third plea by the teams was not so much a specific breach of the letter of the law but rather referred to the ‘Diffuser 3’ breaking the spirit of the rules. In particular, the court heard how the stated aim of the 2009 Technical Regs was to reduce downforce and minimise the wake of the car on following vehicles. By circumventing the diffuser rules, the new diffuser design breached the guidelines set by the Overtaking Working Group (OWG). The court rejected this plea at [39] by holding that the OWG was only an advisory rather than rule-making body and that the preamble being relied upon did not form part of the technical regs but rather could be used by the FIA for justifying making a change to them if the required downforce reduction was not produced by the 2009 rules.
  • At paragraphs [52]-[78], the court held (taking a legalistic approach to the vocabulary) that the new diffusers did not breach any of the specific technical requirements
  • Finally, the Court rejected as irrelevant the view that teams without the new diffuser design would have to expend large amounts of money and resources in direct contravention of the FIA’s stated policy to cut costs [89].
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New Article: A dead cert… or a nuisance?

March 18, 2009

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An article entitled: “A dead cert… or a nuisance?” written by Gordon Wignall (a barrister specialising in environmental cases) has just been published in this week’s edition of the Solicitors Journal (Solicitors Journal S.J. (2009) Vol.153 No.10 Page 10).

The article deals with the case of Watson v Croft Promo-Sport Ltd, which has previously been written about on the blog. Wignall’s article is very clear and easy to read and discusses the impact of planning permission on private nuisance cases.

The full article can be read online here: http://www.solicitorsjournal.com/story.asp?sectioncode=3&storycode=13840&c=3 

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