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DECEMBER 20, 2001

Melbourne inquest ends, Australian GP given green light

THE coroner who investigated the death of course marshal Graham Beveridge said Thursday that his findings would not affect the race's future, and that he would not interfere with the 2002 event taking place, as provisionally planned, on March 3.

Beveridge was killed at the 2001 event when a wheel from Jacques Villeneuve's BAR flew from his car and traveled through an access gap in the safety fence after an accident with Ralf Schumacher. The wheel, estimated to be traveling at 100mph, struck Beveridge in the chest, killing him instantly.

The inquest into the death began on December 3 in Melbourne and ended on Thursday, with Victoria state coroner Graeme Johnstone telling the court, "I don't think any recommendations I would make would overburden (race organizers)".

The court heard from track officials and others during the three week hearing who expressed the opinion that the incident was a "freak accident", and a marshal at the scene of Beveridge's death told the court that he "would still stand somebody in the same area that Graham had been placed".

Despite these opinions, race organizers, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, announced earlier in the week that they would be increasing the height of the safety fence around Albert Park and redesigning the marshal escape gaps before the 2002 event.

The inquest's findings will be made public sometime in mid-January.