Targa organisers identify speeds, route as ‘key’ recommendations

Three people died in this year’s Targa Tasmania

Targa Australia CEO Mark Perry has identified recommendations related to speed and the route as those which are “key” in the report released following this year’s fatalities at Targa Tasmania.

Motorsport Australia formed an Investigatory Tribunal after two drivers and a co-driver died in separate, single-vehicle crashes in the April event.

The Tribunal’s 61-page report, released today, contains analysis of those incidents and 23 recommendations concerning Targa Tasmania and tarmac rallying more broadly.

Motorsport Australia has committed to implementing all of those recommendations by March 1, 2022, and Targa Australia the 13 which it says require its response.

Of the two incidents, that which took the life of Shane Navin, whose car rolled into a gully and became partially submerged in water on the Mt Arrowsmith stage, was found by the Tribunal to be “a unique and rare occurrence of contributing factors that combined to result in a tragic and unfortunate fatality.”

However, that which resulted in the death of Leigh Mundy and his co-driver Dennis Neagle on the Cygnet stage, known as the Car #902 incident, occurred when the former lost control over a crest on an almost straight section of road.

According to the report, the 383kW Porsche GT3 RS was travelling at around 170 to 175km/h on approach to the crest, and still at 153km/h at the point of impact with trees on the right-hand side of the road.

The Tribunal concluded that not only did the crest contribute to the crash, but also the vehicle’s unsuitable suspension set-up for such an event/road and the actions of the driver.

Those actions include, but are not limited to, his approach speed, which was described as “a major contributing factor to the crash and the resulting fatalities.”

Recommendations 1, 2, and 3 of the report pertain to “Identified Risk: High terminal speeds achieved in Stages”.

Specifically, it is recommended that the route be designed such that speeds in excess of 200km/h are not achievable and, where that is not possible, speed limiting systems/devices should be implemented.

Furthermore, no stage should have an average speed of more than 132km/h, and that speed reduction methods such as real and ‘virtual’ chicanes, the latter being a distance whereby a prescribed speed limit must be observed, should not be the sole means of reducing average speeds.

The Tribunal noted that “iconic” stages might need to be broken up in order to meet those recommendations but also warned that further deaths are only a “matter of time” if they are not heeded, given the ongoing improvements in car performance.

Perry also acknowledged that stages would have to be modified in future.

“I think that there’s a couple of key ones [recommendations] in there,” he told media in Hobart this afternoon.

“Speed is obviously always a factor considered in our world.

“Now, that will change the nature of our courses a little bit. You know, we have a lot of iconic and historically long stages at Targa Tasmania which even [compared to] our other Targa events are quite unique.

“We’ll need to review some of those longer stages on how we manage different terminal speeds on those longer stages.

“So, there’ll be more speed zones and more safety built into those stages to make sure that we adhere to that recommendation.”

Perry went on to point out that terminal speed was “not a factor” in either of the two fatal incidents, consistent with the Tribunal’s findings.

While the Tribunal also noted that “most serious rally accidents” occur at less than 200km/h, it reasoned that it is difficult for non-professional drivers to judge how much they have slowed from a very high speed, and thus could still be travelling too fast for a corner.

Additionally, the recommendations are to apply to tarmac rallies sanctioned by Motorsport Australia broadly, rather than Targa Australia events specifically.

Speed itself was not the only factor in the Car #902 crash.

The tribunal made multiple observations regarding the behaviour/attitude of the driver in question.

Specifically, “The Tribunal also heard that the crew of 902 had been posting videos which indicated that the driver had possibly been driving the car beyond his limits or beyond the car’s limits bearing in mind its design, purpose and the Targa Tasmania stage environment.”

Furthermore, a submission claimed the driver had likened the car’s suspension to a “pogo stick”, with the Tribunal declaring it “highly unlikely” that the suspension was replaced before the accident.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Variation of routes from year to year to reduce the chance of complacency
  • Pre-event education campaigns to make competitors aware of vehicles/vehicle set-ups which are not fit for the purpose of tarmac rally competition
  • Sporting regulations which allow for change to/from wet tyres without penalty
  • A tiered driver licencing system
  • That crews in unrestricted categories be made to conduct reconnaissance, or be transferred to a speed limited category

Targa Australia has already begun implementing the recommendations, including at the recently completed Targa Great Barrier Reef event.

The Tribunal report has been provided to Tasmania’s Coroner and Police.

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