IT is with sadness that we read of the loss of another life in the so-called sport of motor racing. The French driver Anthoine Hubert, aged 22, died at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday. This is a reminder of Jim Clark who, 51 years ago, lost his life in the accident at Hockenheim while racing at 170mph. There have been other driver and spectator fatalities since then.

At the Jim Clark commemoration rally in the Scottish Borders five years ago, three spectators were killed. Two hours before the fatal crash another car in the rally left the road and hit five people, one of whom was transferred to an intensive care unit in Edinburgh. At the Snowman Rally in 2013 a woman was killed.

Sheriff Kenneth Maciver QC, in his judgment and recommendations at the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI), put his finger on matters which were or should have been obvious to those responsible for authorising and organising the event.

It is a human right to risk losing one’s life in a dangerous pursuit but it is not right to put others in danger of being killed, either as spectators or rescuers. The drivers risking their lives no doubt get the thrills and acclaim and, for all we know, a share of the riches.

The Jim Clark Trust is planning the 2019 rally for a date in November, again on the public highway. The reassurance given is that safety will now be up to the standards obtaining in England: this still does not necessarily make it completely safe.

The Scottish Government has passed regulations which mean local authorities can authorise the closure of roads and suspension of traffic regulations. Holding the rally shows a remarkable lack of sensitivity towards those affected by the disaster in 2014, especially

those who were killed and the bereaved. This so-called sport is promoted and funded by rich individuals and companies (see the Trust’s web page for photographs and details).

FAIs are a valuable means of investigating the circumstances and finding truths which may help to avoid future accidents and disasters. There is still the elephant in the room regarding criminal prosecution of those who appear prima facie to have had responsibility for an event and its safety. We have edged closer in law to prosecuting those at the top of organisations where something has gone badly wrong. However, the possibility exists that, for an FAI, immunity to prosecution has to be granted to get all the evidence which can lead to the better understanding of the risks and safety requirements, to a sheriff’s recommendations and to changes in laws and regulations.

At its museum, according to its website, the Jim Clark Trust aims, through its exhibits and particularly a simulator, to provide “inspiration” and “thrills” to visitors. These will include impressionable young people and children. “Education” features, but the question arises as to what is being taught. It does not appear to include training for safe driving for these young and impressionable visitors, either by the simulator or other means.

It is probably significant that there is no mention of the lethal rally of five years ago. The information has to be found in newspaper reports of the time.

We need to be having a national conversation similar to those we regularly have on other serious matters involving differences of opinion and it is time to add “inspiration” and “thrills” of racing to our conversation. Scottish Borders Council (listed among the supporters), and Police Scotland have a great responsibility in authorising the resumption of this rally on the public highway.

Meanwhile we think of those who have already lost their lives at such an early age.

Robert Mac Lachlan and Brian Patton
Foulden, Berwickshire