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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 13:22 GMT
Rally stars given driving bans
Colin McRae in a Citroen on the Rally GB
Scot Colin McRae escaped a ban but was fined
Four of the world's top rally drivers have been banned from driving after being caught in speed traps in south Wales during the British leg of the world championships last year.

German Armin Schwarz, Belgian Freddy Loix, Swede Daniel Carlsson and Briton Kris Meeke were all handed suspensions by magistrates in Neath on Monday.

Britain's Colin McRae and Richard Burns and multiple world champions Carlos Sainz of Spain and Tommi Makinen of Finland were also among a total of 17 drivers caught by roadside cameras.

They escaped bans but were given fines.

Those banned will still be able to drive in rallies but not on public roads.

The court heard most of the drivers were caught by one trap set up between rally headquarters and a testing area known as the "shakedown section".

Paul Trotman, defending, said: "The shakedown section is a six-mile long stretch used to calibrate the cars.

"Their brakes, steering and suspension need to be adjusted.

The degree of danger from these men is likely to be far less than with other drivers
Paul Trotman, defending

"The shakedown section has two miles along a public road and then four miles inside a forest not subject to speed limits.

"But the two miles between there and the base camp is open to the public."

Loix, 32, was fined 1,750 and given a six-month ban after being caught seven times in the same stretch on the same morning.

He was clocked at speeds of up to 54mph in the 30mph zone.

McRae was caught doing 51mph and fined 150 and given three penalty points.

Mr Trotman said: "People are prosecuted for speeding because of the risk to other road-users, but the degree of danger from these men is likely to be far less than with other drivers."

He said the cars were very sophisticated with and the drivers "are used to doing far in excess of these speeds".

"The danger to the general public is extremely minimal," he added.

The area were these offences happened is particularly dangerous for people to exceed the speed limit under any circumstances
Magistrates chairman Cliff Jones

Former European champion Schwarz, 40, based in Monte Carlo, admitted five counts of speeding. He was fined 1,000 and banned for six months.

Carlsson, 28, from Safle, Sweden, was fined 800 and banned for six months for four offences.

Meeke, 24, of Cockermouth, Cumbria, was fined 300 and given a 12-month ban for one offence - but he had previous points on his licence.

Richard Burns, who was reigning world champion when the 2002 rally was staged, was caught doing 83mph on a 70mph dual carriageway.

Burns, 32, now based in Andorra, was fined 150 and given three points.

Other drivers who were fined and given penalty points included were twice-world champion Carlos Sainz from Spain, Estonian Markko Martin, Briton Martin Rowe, from the Isle of Mann, and Finnish duo Mikko Hirvonen and Tommi Makinen.

Magistrates chairman Cliff Jones said: "The area were these offences happened is particularly dangerous for people to exceed the speed limit under any circumstances."

The roadside cameras picked up a total of 2,312 speeding offences, with a number of fans driving between different stages of the rally among the offenders.

A spokesman for the Rally GB Ltd said it could not comment on individual cases but said it was very disappointed by the incidents of speeding.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Gareth Jones
"Police speed cameras recorded more than 2,000 offences"



SEE ALSO:
Rally fans warned of speed traps
07 Nov 03  |  South West Wales
Rally fan drove at 135mph
18 Aug 03  |  Wales
Rally coup to bring 50m boost
17 Nov 02  |  Wales
Rally drivers stung by cameras
29 Jul 03  |  Wales


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