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Apathy at heart of tragedy

A stitch in time saves nine. The proverb won't be lost on the Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC) or the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI). Not now!

other Updated: May 11, 2013 02:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

A stitch in time saves nine. The proverb won't be lost on the Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC) or the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI). Not now!

The tragedy is it took the death of a 20-year-old racing enthusiast for them to warm up to a pearl of childhood wisdom.

FMSCI president Vicky Chandhok made reassuring claims to HT over phone, but it really seemed a case of too little, too late. This official apathy is what has peeved fellow riders who believe it was an "avoidable death".

Clear and present danger
Motorsport has had its share of fatalities and carries an inherent danger.

Religiously following security norms, from helmets to gravel traps to marshals, over the years has helped the international governing bodies drastically cut down fatalities.

Since their inception following WWII, right up to the late 1970s, the predecessor to MotoGP averaged about three deaths a season and F1 two.

Since the twin losses of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994 and the fatal crash of Japanese rider Nobuyuki Wakai in first practice session of the 250cc class at the 1993 Spanish Grand Prix, F1 has recorded zero casualties while MotoGP has seen three over the past twenty years.

"From now, we will ensure that all 'pay and ride' practice sessions are held with medics on-site," Chandhok said. Which begs the question why the measures weren't in place already?

Lackadaisical attitude
The MMSC charges `1,135 to let riders test on the MMRT track in Sriperumbudur. Chandhok argued that if medical costs were included they would have to hike the single-day fee, which was `400 till a few years back, even further. He even said that during the test in which S Dinesh Edwin met an untimely death, the riders were given the option of hiring medics with the caveat that it would cost extra. The 37 drivers who tested on the day opted against it, but shouldn't the FMSCI take a strong stance and make it mandatory?

According to Saravanan, the tuner of YAM Boys Racing Club, who was also at the track on Sunday, the absence of medics wasn't the only negligible act. There were no marshals, either. "He spun off on corner 7 which is a sweeping right-hander and fell into a drainage ditch which was about 20 meters into the run-off area. For twenty minutes nobody spotted him. When we finally found him, we couldn't get him to the pits because there other riders were still on the track, unaware. There were no marshals to wave black flags and halt the session," he told HT.

"The ambulance took another 40 minutes to arrive, and he was then referred to Government Hospital (Chennai), which was 40 kms from the track.”

“The doctor said had we reached earlier, Dinesh's chance of survival would have been higher," a distraught Saravanan added.

Chandhok questioned the riders' safety gear, including Dinesh's helmet, which will be sent for a forensic analysis at the International Motorcycle Federation Institute in Geneva. But this again points back to the officials.

How were these riders allowed to ride without any check on their safety gear and whether it fit safety standards?

First Published: May 10, 2013 23:56 IST