Hayden Paddon's Monte Carlo Accident: A dent into the start of a promising future

The 2017 World Rally Championship, all the excitement over the new rules, new cars, the return of Toyota. With so much to look forward to, all of it now seems to have faded away with a crash right at the first stage of Rally Monte Carlo that claimed the life of a fan.

This was the first death in the WRC for more than a decade since the death of Jorg Bastuck, co-driver to Aaron Burkart that was struck by another vehicle while changing a tire during the 2006 Rally of Catalunya.

In recent years, safety has been improved not only for the drivers participating in the events but for hundreds and thousands of fans cheering for the drivers, sending their beast into the wild. Although much safer than what we saw in the 80’s with Group B cars out in all force with fans on the edge of the road just to see the spectacle, rally until this day still holds many unknowns that can put drivers and fans in jeopardy.

End of the Group B days, rally is still a dangerous thing for everyone attending it.

End of the Group B days, rally is still a dangerous thing for everyone attending it.

What scares me is that this accident occured only two weeks after a near fatal accident at this years' Dakar Rally. Former WRC Champion Carlos Sainz driving the Peugeot 3008DKR was within 3 miles of the finish of the Jujuy-Tupiza stage when he entered a right hander with too much speed, causing his car to roll down the hill and narrowly missing two spectators who were directly on the path of the crash. The two spectators managed to film their close escape and we can just see how close it was.

 

Not only that, this was the second time in two years the Rally Monte Carlo involved incidents with fans. Last year Jari-Matti Latvala who was still driving for Volkswagen (now for Toyota) hit a fan after he overshot a corner and his window’s view was blocked by dirt on the windscreen, causing the Finn who was trying desperately to come back on the road to hit the spectators, received a fine by the rally organizers.

These are but two incidents. However there were countless other rally crashes that involved fans. With rally events nowadays, there are safe zones for rally fans to watch from. But then, some fanatics who are just going off the limits, ignoring rules and signs just to get a better view of the rally cars in action.

In the accident involving Paddon and the fan late last night, a lot of factors contributed to the accident with some that we will hope to see changed in the future.

The accident occurred near the end of the stage. Hayden was approaching a Left-1 corner usually taken in 2nd or 3rd gear. In the video of the crash, we can see Hayden approaching the corner with a bit too much speed and hit ice on the inside causing him to lose control of the car and hit the banking, rolling the Hyundai onto its side.

Paddon's onboard view seconds before the crash (the fan is in black shirt right near the center of the photo)

Paddon's onboard view seconds before the crash (the fan is in black shirt right near the center of the photo)

Based on the picture above, we can see the involved fan was near the banking. In the on-board video, there is a blue light which early reports indicated that the fan was setting up a GoPro to catch the action. With reports said that other viewers who were up the banking and near the corner urged the victim to move away.

The victim had a perfect spot to catch the rally action, capturing the beautiful moments of rallying. Unfortunately, his ideas sent him into danger, where he had nowhere to escape. Basically, he just set a trap for himself. There is no other place that it as dangerous as that. The car will always shoot to the outside of the turn. In the blink of an eye, the car hit him and he was shot up the banking. The fan was injured and passed out, he was later rushed into the hospital but passed away due to his injuries.

With the Hyundai’s fast velocity and a dangerous banking meant there was literally little chance that the fan would survive. Yes, like all other rally fans who want to capture the best moments, getting closer to the action means they have to take much more risk, risking their own safety and their own lives.

In this case, I’m hoping in the future that signs and alerts would be put in areas to inform more and more fans of the dangerous aspect of rallying. Let’s hope that this incident will better the safety of the sport and more fans should be more careful when choosing their viewing spots.

Standard rally safety signs will be more prominent in the future

Standard rally safety signs will be more prominent in the future

No one would have ever thought of this tragedy even happening. Like me, many other fans were really looking forward to this years' championship, bringing back the fun and excitement of rallying. A brand new era, a new year of exciting motorsport and we left off with a dent that will overshadow the entire season. A promising start being ruined by an accident that could have been prevented.

I would like to send my condolences to the family of the fan who just passed away but also sending my best wishes to Hayden Paddon and his co-driver Jonathan Kennard and hoping they will return for the next round.

Although it is dangerous, let’s not forget that rally is about the spirit of motorsport. Accidents happen, but we must always learn from it and make rallying more safer in the future to all fans and drivers participating.

(NOTE: I HAVE NOT INCLUDED ANY VIDEO RELATED TO THE ACCIDENT IN RESPECT OF EVERYONE PARTICIPATING IN THE EVENT)