New safety device to be made compulsory

SAFETY is paramount in any sport, but particularly in motorsport. From the start of next season, the HANS device will be compulsory in Irish rallying.

Already, the HANS — Head And Neck Support — is compulsory in the World Rally Championship, Formula 1 and GP2.

The governing body of Irish Motorsport are to be commended on their latest safety initiative. Just last week, MI convened the final information meeting on the device that can reduce head and neck injuries in the event of an accident.

The series of countrywide meetings were well received, albeit for a few dissenting voices, which is surprising, given the nature of the sport. The latest initiative is one of a number of safety measures introduced by Motorsport Ireland over the last few years. The placing of bales at potentially dangerous locations such as gate pillars or other such hazards is now being encouraged at World Rally level. In addition, Irish rally organisers seek the input of a seasoned competitor in terms of identifying potential danger spots, at WR level, at least one factory team is urging event organisers to follow suit.

Already, a number of Irish competitors are wearing the HANS including new national champion, Patrick Elliott and new Irish Forest champion, Ray Breen, both of whom started wearing the device on the 2007 Galway International Rally. For the few that are against wearing the device, Breen said, “I would argue the point and I know I would win on every occasion. There is no argument when it comes to safety.”

Elliott remarked, “In many ways, it is similar to safety belts when they became mandatory in road cars. I had two particularly bad accidents, one in the Rally of the Lakes and the other on the Raven’s Rock and without doubt, the HANS prevented serious injury on both occasions.”

While the cost factor involved in the HANS is approximately €1,000, nobody can put a price on safety. In a sport where entry fees can be close to the cost of a HANS, it is money well spent, whether mandatory or not.

Irish driver, Alastair Fisher (20) and Welshman, Elfyn Evans (19) have been awarded a test by M-Sport in the Ford Focus WRC as the joint VK Fiesta SportingTrophy UK and Maxol E85 Ford Fiesta SportingTrophy Ireland scholarship prize winners.

Evans secured both the UK and Irish titles over one weekend, meanwhile, Fisher who lost the Maxol E85 Ford FST Ireland championship on a tie-break, said, “To say that I am excited would be an understatement. A test session with Matthew Wilson in a works Ford Focus WRC is a dream end-of-season prize. Having no LHD experience, I wasn’t expecting this at all. It’s fantastic that M-Sport have recognised our commitment to FST and this is the best possible way we could have been rewarded.”

Another Northern Ireland driver, Darren Gass, the 2007 Pirelli Star driver winner, will contest next week’s Wales Rally GB, the final round of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship and the final event of his six-event prize at the wheel of the Pirelli liveried Mitsubishi, estimated to be worth in the region of £250,000 (€298,000). Gass has secured a place within the Production World Rally Championship nominations, under the Orion World Rally Team banner.

Just eight points separate the top four in the Hewison Autotest Championship ahead of a weekend double header in Carlow. With five rounds completed, Steven Ferguson (Mini Special) with 119 points leads the way from Eddie Peterson (Mini Special) 116 points; Eamonn Byrne (Mini) 114 points and Robin Lyons (Mini) 111 points. Tomorrow’s, event is at Mondello Park, on Sunday, the tests are in Tullow, both with a 10.30am star.

The Midland Motor Club host a round of the National Navigation Trial Championship that starts from Kilbride Community Centre, Four Mile House, County Roscommon at 9pm tomorrow.

Next season’s Safety Direct Galway International Rally (January 17/18) will have centralised servicing at the Deerpark Industrial Estate, Oranmore for both legs of the event, the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Championship. The rally will feature 17 stages, nine in the Abbeyknockmoy area of North Galway on the opening leg, Sunday’s stages will be around Gort.

Former Tarmac champion, Derek McGarrity will compete in a Subaru S12C. Other entries are set to include Tim McNulty, Eamonn Boland, Gareth and Aaron MacHale. Entries close on December 10, meanwhile, discussions with M-Sport on a possible works Ford entry are ongoing.

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