The politics of safety

THE death of Jeff Krosnoff and a track worker in the Indycar race at Toronto may have far-reaching results for the American racing fraternity, not because American racing is dangerous, but rather because safety can help the FIA achieve its long-term aims.

It is no secret that important players at the FIA do not want Indycar racing to expand abroad any more than is currently the case. In October 1992, FIA president Max Mosley agreed a deal with Indycar bosses which allowed Indycars to race anywhere in the world - but only if the races take place on oval circuits.

The ultimate aim for the FIA - one which Mosley's predecessor Jean-Marie Balestre outlined - is for there to be a World Oval Championship running alongside the FIA's top single-seater championship - Formula 1. The FIA does not want Indycars racing on the streets.

The arrival of Tony George's Indy Racing League has made life rather more difficult for CART Indycars. The Indianapolis 500 - the world's most important single-seater oval race - belongs to the IRL. It is only logical, therefore, that the FIA will ally with IRL rather than with CART.

Any weakening of the CART position on the road tracks would also help F1 as it seeks to break into North America. At the FIA the ultimate weapon in any political dispute is safety. If it is invoked there is no argument against it.

Long before Krosnoff's accident Mosley hinted that things needed to be done in America to bring the road courses up to the same levels of safety as at other major circuits around the world.

There is no question that after the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994 the FIA instituted a major campaign to make all racing circuits safer - but this has made little or no impact in the United States. The death of Krosnoff may do that - but it may also do a great deal more in motor racing politics.

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