Last Sunday (16th October) was a day that changed many lives in the motorsport world and further afield. It was the day that Dan Wheldon suffered a dramatic fatal crash during the IndyCar finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The motorsport world is a small world and it is also still far from being a mainstream sport like football, so to see an incident like this make headline news makes you ask “why this incident?”
It has captured the media and the public’s attention for sadly all the wrong reasons. Why? Because it was dramatic, because it was going out live on TV, because it involved a charismatic British driver and it involved a lot of cash too, with five million American dollars going to the race winner.
Since the crash the cash incentive has come into question, could the money have put lives at risk? This is something that Indycar will have to look at, as it will now come under intense scrutiny to improve safety. This scrutiny will come from all angles as the crash has been so widely publicised.
The Isle of Man TT has had criticism leveled at it in the past over prize money. Yes there is a good prize fund however no one will walk away from the TT as a millionaire. The money in many cases makes it a viable option for privateer riders who couldn’t afford to attend otherwise.
The TT has also had to come back from many sad incidents. I was reporting on the Centenary TT in 2007 when on the last lap of the last race a rider was killed and two spectators. The Isle of Man TT faced a certain amount of backlash and media attention. As usual “Will the TT run next year after this?” was bandied about the paddock. By the time the TT came round again the spectator areas had all been re-assessed and new safety measures put in place. Valentino Rossi, multiple World Champion, has since attended and a safer TT moved on to greater things.
It’s now up to Indycar to see what it can learn from this very tragic incident. How it responds will be watched world wide just like the crash. IndyCar kept a dignified silence up until Wednesday when CEO Randy Bernard stated: “The first thing we have to do is take care of the Wheldon family and make sure we are there to help them anyway we can.” He declined to discuss safety issues however he did say ensuring a crash like this never happens again is the best way to honour Wheldon. Most people will agree with both sentiments of family and prevention. The media is still focused on the story so how it is handled from this point on will have a significant impact on the reputation and public opinion of IndyCar.
However they choose to progress let’s hope this crash will be the one to save others. Our thoughts are with Dan Wheldon and his family at this time.
Photo: Honour laps for Dan Wheldon by macahanC6R http://www.flickr.com/photos/macahanc6r/6253106974/ CC by 2.0