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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Subaru boss wants radical reforms
Michael Park
Subaru team boss David Lapworth says the whole ethos of rallying must change to make the sport safer after the death of Peugeot co-driver Michael Park.

The 39-year-old Park was killed on Sunday when the car he was travelling in crashed during Wales Rally GB.

Lapworth says major modifications to the car are the only answer.

But this would dilute the traditional link between production cars and their rally equivalents - a key tenet of the sport's popularity.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Lapworth said: "The biggest steps we could do might take time because they involve quite big changes to the technical regulations.

"The whole philosophy of rallying is that the cars should be as close as possible to production cars - it's part of the appeal for most people that the cars they see are similar to those you can buy and drive on the road.

If you travel at such high speeds there's a limit to what we can do
David Lapworth
Subaru

"To make huge steps forward we have to challenge that whole philosophy and say for safety reasons we are prepared to see the cars less close to the production cars on which they are based.

"Because the safety structures need to be built into the doors and the actual structure of the car, we need to create more space for the occupants.

"Maybe the driver and co-driver should be staggered rather than alongside each other. There are lots of things that could be done but that would need a wholesale review."

Lapworth also believes changes must be made to the courses.

"If you hit a tree at 160kph it is very difficult, if not impossible, to design a car which can protect you properly," he said.

"We have to look at the environment and the nature of rallies."

World rally drivers and co-drivers observe a one-minute silence

Park was co-driving for Estonian Markko Martin when their Peugeot slid wide on a fast left-hand corner and hit a tree at about 100kph. The passenger side of the vehicle took the force of the impact.

He was pronounced dead at the scene and the two remaining stages of the event were cancelled.

Lapworth added: "Motorsport is dangerous and you're never going to make it totally safe.

"If you travel at such high speeds there's a limit to what we can do.

"The survivability of big accidents can only be improved by a small percentage by technical solutions. We have to look at how we can change the stages.

"With less severe accidents, the more common accidents at lower speeds, then there are things we can do technically.

We're trying to make it safer all the time, but motorsport is dangerous
Dave Richards
ISC president

"We can improve the protection for side impact crashes. That's where people get hurt because there's so little distance between the occupants and the scenery.

"We can improve the seats, maybe move them nearer to the centre of the car, we can put more strength into the roll cages."

The last world rally fatality involving a co-driver was New Zealander Rodger Freeth in Australia 12 years ago, while the last driver to be killed was Henri Toivonen, who died with co-driver Sergio Cresto, in Corsica in 1986.

In 2002 Daniel Grataloup, co-driver for Francois Delecour, fractured his pelvis, leg, shoulder blade, skull and spine when their Mitsubishi crashed into a tree in Australia.

Just last year, Martin and Park were airlifted to hospital in Argentina after losing control at high speed, although neither suffered serious injuries.

Weeks later, Petter Solberg destroyed his Subaru against a concrete tank trap in Germany, miraculously avoiding injury.

David Richards, president of world rally commercial rights-holder International Sportsworld Communicators, says the sport cannot rest on its laurels.

"We're trying to make it safer all the time, but motorsport is dangerous," he told The Daily Telegraph. "We set out 10 years ago to improve safety for competitors and spectators. We've not seen a driver killed for almost 20 years.

Sebastien Loeb
You will never avoid deaths in motorsport but we must still do more
Sebastien Loeb
Citroen driver
"Remember seeing the fans peeling off the roads as the cars came past in Monte Carlo and Spain?

"You don't see that any more - if they do that, we cancel stages. You cannot afford to take risks."

Safety improvements clearly have been made in the last decade. Following Toivonen's accident, group B cars were banned, while F1-style HANS head and neck restraints were introduced this season.

Citroen's world champion Sebastien Loeb, who deliberately took time penalties on Sunday to avoid winning the driver's title, said more must be done.

"The cars are well designed, solid, but one can see that this is not sufficient," he said. "There is always a compromise between safety and weight.

"One can ask whether the cars haven't become too powerful and too sophisticated. For us, they are very easy to take to the limit and the speeds have perhaps become too high.

"You will never avoid deaths in motorsport but we must still do more. If we have to add 30 kilos to the roof because it makes it safer, then we should do it and impose it on everyone."




WORLD RALLY 2005


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SEE ALSO
Grieving Martin to miss next race
20 Sep 05 |  Rallying
Co-driver Park dies in accident
18 Sep 05 |  Rallying
Rally world pays tribute to Park
18 Sep 05 |  Rallying


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