WHAT NEXT FOR TARGA?
MOTOR Magazine Australia|November 2021
Reduced speed and wet tyres advises tarmac rally tribunal
FOLLOWING THE TRAGIC trio of deaths at the 2021 running of Targa Tasmania, Motorsport Australia formed a tribunal to investigate the circumstances of the accidents and provide recommendations to improve competitor safety in subsequent events. After extensive consultation with Targa competitors and officials, as well as motorsport experts both local and international, the tribunal has handed down its findings including 23 recommendations for future Targa competitions.

The tribunal was chaired by Garry Connelly AM, Motorsport Australia’s FIA delegate and the Chair of the Australian Institute of Motor Sport Safety, as well as being the man who brought the WRC to Australia in the late 1980s. Joining him were four-time Australian Rally Champion and team principal of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia rally team, Neal Bates, and lawyer Matthew Selley, an FIA International Gold Steward, member of the stewards’ panel for Formula 1 and Formula E. He’s also a long-time rally competitor, including a two-time outright winner of the Classic Adelaide and three-time South Australian Rally Champion.

Submissions were heard over six hearings from a wide range of witnesses, including rally organisers and officials, current and past competitors, Targa and Motorsport Australia representatives and international safety experts. In addition to written and video submissions, evidence included competitor and vehicle data, official paperwork (service crew information, reconnaissance notes, scrutineer reports) as well as footage and photography from the accidents in question.

In both fatal incidents, the tribunal found that the accidents were essentially down to driver error, however the seriousness of the accidents was exacerbated by a number of factors, including driver ability, vehicle setup, failure to follow emergency protocols and lack of understanding of said protocols. For example, the Mazda RX-7 crash on day five occurred at a slow speed, but evidence showed that the vehicle’s suspension setup and R-compound tyres were illsuited to the wet conditions, and the driver’s response to a loss of control was poor but it was the circumstances around the crash, namely the vehicle rolling into a body of water, that led to its tragic outcome. The position of the car and stress of the situation meant the co-driver was unable to follow the appropriate emergency procedures, subsequent competitors misinterpreting his requests for assistance as instruction to drive on.

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