Rally report - no surprises

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Jim Clark Rally organisers say they are not surprised at the recommendations made to improve safety after three deaths at the 2014 event.

Russell Blood, clerk of the course for the world-famous event, normally staged each May on closed public roads, was commenting after the review group set up to look at safety published its final recommendations.

The Review Group on Motor Sport Event Safety was set up by the Scottish Government after the three people were killed near Coldstream last May and another accident at the Highland Snowman Rally in 2013, in which a spectator died and a child was injured.

Key recommendations include tighter controls over volunteer marshals, which would see the introduction of a mandatory marshal licensing scheme.

This would require marshals to obtain a licence after undergoing mandatory training and gaining experience.

There is also a call for input from Police Scotland, including, where appropriate, police support for the implementation of safety plans, a liaison officer attending rallies and training support at a national level.

Improving safety for the media through better management of press attendance was highlighted and the review also recommends rules for spectators, marshals and competitors on assisting cars back onto the road – a common practice at rallies – as well as improved communication with spectators and adoption of international standards for identifying high-risk spectator areas.

Mr Blood, who is stepping down as clerk of the course to concentrate on bringing the recommendations into force for a return to road racing in 2016, said: “Ninety per cent of these are things that we are doing already, so nothing in there took us by surprise.”

And following news the rally is listed as a round of the 2015 Scottish Rally Championship, with the Reivers Rally scheduled for Sunday, May 31, Mr Blood added: “The rally will take place using forest stages this year – we’re not panicking at all.”

Scottish Borders Council has already said publication of the recommendations will not affect its earlier decision that the rally could not take place on closed public roads in May/June of this year until the ongoing Police Scotland and Health and Safety Executive investigations were complete.

Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart, a member of the review group, said that in recent years motorsport had been safer than ever, but that risks still remained, as was demonstrated all too tragically at last year’s Jim Clark Rally.

And he added that he was proud to have been part of the review.

He said: “I believe it is a great step forward in making the sport safer than ever.”