FEBRUARY 17, 1997
FIA advocates Europe-wide dangerous sport legislation
IT may be some time in coming but the international automobile federation is working quietly towards European legislation to avoid the legal problems currently facing the sport as a result of the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994. The intention appears to be to push through a European law to avoid the threat of criminal charges in the event of an accident not just in motor racing but in skiing, motorcycle racing, mountain climbing and such sports.
This will standardize procedures across Europe in the event of an accident. Although worried about the charges against the Williams team, the FIA is more concerned about the charges against Roland Bruynseraede, an FIA official. The governing body says that it is difficult to expect officials to expose themselves to such legal action in the event of an accident.
At the same time the governing body does not want to be seen to be trying to circumnavigate Italian justice by threatening to stop all international motor sport events in Italy - which it could do. It thus appears to have adopted the policy of letting the Senna trial run its course and then making sure that such a thing cannot happen again.
In a further effort to reduce publicity about the Senna case Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Adrian Newey have decided not to attend the opening day of the trial to avoid it becoming a media circus. It is likely that much of the early part of the trial will be procedural and it could be many months before the first witnesses are heard. Both Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher are expected to be called as witnesses.
The Sunday Times in London suggested last weekend that debris on the track may have contributed to the crash, revealing photographs taken by Frenchman Paul-Henri Cahier which show wreckage in the path of Senna's car just before the crash. A second picture shows the debris in mid-air after the Brazilian's car has hit it. The newspaper goes on to suggest that low tire pressures - caused because Senna had to run behind the safety car for several laps - also played an important role in the accident.
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