AUS SBK: Wakefield Park investigator's report

Investigator's report from Wakefield Park round of Shell Advance Australian Superbike Championship, which was held at Wakefield Park (NSW) from April 16-18. Following a number of incidents at round two, the Motorcycling Australia board...

Investigator's report from Wakefield Park round of Shell Advance Australian Superbike Championship, which was held at Wakefield Park (NSW) from April 16-18.

Following a number of incidents at round two, the Motorcycling Australia board appointed an inspector, in accordance with General Competition Rule 3.4.4, to investigate certain aspects of the meeting.

The inspector, retired barrister David Boag, has addressed those issues in his report, before concluding with a set of recommendations.

INVESTIGATOR'S REPORT
WAKEFIELD PARK 16-18 APRIL, 2004

A round of the Australian Superbike Championship was conducted at Wakefield Park in New South Wales on the 16-18 April, 2004.

A number of incidents occurred during the course of the race meeting which culminated in some riders boycotting the meeting on the Sunday afternoon.

The Board of Motorcycling Australia, on the 20 April, 2004 resolved to appoint an inspector in accordance with General Competition Rule 3.4.4 to investigate aspects of the race meeting which could have attributed to the boycott.

Pursuant to the resolution I have been requested to investigate and report on the following items:

1. Establish the reasons for the boycott.

2. Investigate claims that the Goulburn Hospital was unable to treat the number of competitors admitted and on Sunday allegedly reported it could not admit and treat any more accident cases.

3. How the above claim was reported and by whom.

4. Establish the number of competitors admitted to hospital and the extent of their injuries.

5. If possible, establish the cause of the accidents which resulted in the competitors being admitted to hospital.

6. Establish, as accurately as possible, the time it took medical personnel to reach injured competitors.

7. If there were unreasonable delays in medical personnel attending injured competitors, what were the reasons for the delays?

8. Before the boycott took place a deputation on behalf of riders met with race officials:
a. What requests did the deputation put to race officials?
b. Did the officials acknowledge and respond to the requests of the deputation?
c. What was the final outcome of the deputation approach to the race officials?

I have also been requested to report on any other relevant findings together with any recommendations.

I will deal with items 1 and 8 first.

Reasons for the boycott and the deputation made on behalf of the riders

The stated primary reason for the boycott was the issue of safety and the concerns by the riders for their personal safety and physical welfare.

As to whether these beliefs and concerns were genuinely held is difficult to assess.

There were several factors contributing to this issue which culminated in the events of Sunday afternoon.

a. The high number of incidents or accidents during the course of the weekend involving riders in the Superbike and Supersport classes.
b. A perception of what was considered unreasonable delays in injured riders receiving medical attention.
c. A pre-existing and continuing undercurrent of a view of certain participants that Wakefield Park may have been an unsuitable circuit to conduct a round of the Championship.

The chronology of events leading to the boycott was as follows:

On Sunday afternoon, a deputation comprising the Team Managers of the four major factory teams sought a meeting with race officials. The stated reason for requesting the meeting was as a result of concerns expressed by their riders.

The initial approach sought to abandon and cancel the meeting due to the concerns of their riders for their personal safety. This was rejected by the officials and the Team Managers were requested to reconsider their position and to put a proposal that would address the concerns of their riders and also allow the meeting to continue. A proposal was then put reducing the field of riders in each class to 25 riders and that remaining format of the meeting be reduced to one race of reduced laps.

This proposal was considered and accepted by officials save for the field to be extended to 28 riders to allow for non starters due to earlier incidents.

Agreement was reached with the deputation and officials and the change in format was then sanctioned by the Steward of the meeting.

The Clerk of Course then called a riders' briefing for the two classes to announce the change in format for the continuation of the meeting. At the completion of the briefing the Clerk of Course returned to his previous position.

Although agreement had been reached between the deputation and officials there was still a groundswell of agitation and discontent among certain riders and accordingly were unhappy to accept the terms of the agreement. There was a view expressed that the riders were still further dissatisfied as they had not been involved in the discussions which resulted in the amended format agreement which had been reached with the officials. One particular team rider took the position to continue to vocally urge other riders not to continue to compete and to withdraw from the meeting. Although the following events may well have fallen short of mob hysteria it was clear that the agreement reached between the deputation and officials had not appeased the views and concerns of the riders which may have been further fueled by some inaccurate and emotional statements made by some riders.

As to the sequence of events following the riders' briefing of the persons interviewed their recollections varied and no absolute finding can be made save that these events occurred in the absence of officials with the result being that the officials were advised shortly thereafter by the Team Managers that the four major teams would be withdrawing from the meeting.

The remaining races for the Superbike and Supersport classes were run to the amended format comprising privateer riders. Although the final outcome may have been unsatisfactory, I find that the officials did acknowledge and respond to the requests made by the deputation in a timely and appropriate manner and were not a contributing factor to the ultimate boycott.

The only observation I make with respect to the original deputation was that in hindsight the officials may have sought to involve a representative acting on behalf of the remaining privateer competitors in their initial discussions with the deputation in order to avoid any criticism of only dealing with the factory teams in arriving at decisions which may have affected the involvement of all competitors.

Claims regarding the Goulburn Hospital

My investigations reveal that statements were made by certain parties during the sequence of events leading to the boycott to the effect that the Goulburn Hospital was unable to treat injured riders and further that it may not be able to admit and treat accident cases.

There was a further rumour that one competitor had left the hospital after being unable to receive treatment.

I find that these statements had no factual basis and were clearly incorrect. Information obtained from the hospital reveals as follows

1. The Hospital was unusually busy during the weekend of 16-18 April 2004 with a total of 157 patients attending the Emergency Department on the three days.

2. Within this group there were 10 cases presented to the Emergency Department from the Wakefield Park meeting. Four cases required surgical operative procedures and one case was transferred to the intensive care unit.

3. At no stage was the Hospital not admitting patients for treatment and at no stage was it on bypass and only treating selective emergencies.

4. The Director of Clinical Services has checked the computer log of patient attendances and spoken with two members of staff who were on duty that weekend. There was no record of nor any recollection of any patient attending and leaving without being seen by the duty doctor.

Hospital records reveal the following cases being treated as a result of injuries occurring at the Wakefield Park meeting. <pre> 1. Cases requiring x-ray for injuries. 6

2. Cases requiring operating theatre management 4

3. Cases transferred to hospital specialist centre By air travel 1

4. Cases remaining in ICU 1

5. Total cases presented to Emergency Department 10

</pre> Cause of Accidents

As to the issue of the cause of the accidents which resulted in specific competitors being admitted to hospital I was not able to investigate each incident individually.

However, I was able to ascertain the views of a number of persons as to the factors that contributed to the number of accidents over the course of the weekend in so far as the Superbike and Supersport classes were concerned.

The primary and consistent observation was what I concluded to be the fierce level of competition of both classes this year which may not have been as forceful in previous years.

With respect to the meeting at Wakefield this was exacerbated by a number of further factors.

1. The tight and narrow configuration and the bumpy/rough surface of the track.
2. The size of the fields.
3. That some teams and competitors had not practiced nor competed at the circuit previously.

The combination of these factors and the riders not adjusting to the conditions within which they found themselves in a racing situation as opposed to a practice situation made the potential for a high number of accidents inevitable.

Delays in medical personnel attending injured competitors

From information obtained from the Clerk of Course red flags were used on 16 occasions during the weekend of which 10 of these was for the purpose when medical intervention was required.

As to the time it took medical personnel to reach injured competitors race records were not recorded to the second and accordingly may not be precisely accurate but reveal that response times ranged from

a. one minute on four occasions
b. two minutes on one occasion
c. three minutes on one occasion
d. an unknown time on one occasion

As to the reasons for the time delays and in particular the longer delays all persons spoken to agreed that the sole cause was the failure of some remaining competitors to comply with the red flags.

As to why the competitors failed to comply with the red flags reasons varied from that they were not displayed at all flag points or that riders were unable to see them despite them being displayed.

However, despite whatever the reason or reasons for failing to comply with the red flags the net effect was that it caused delays in officials being prevented from deploying medical personnel at the earliest opportunity due to having wait until the track was clear of all riders.

I understand officials are very concerned as to this situation continuing to occur in the future and intend to enforce penalties with respect to future transgressions.

There is no evidence of any unreasonable delay being caused by acts of officials.

I find the primary cause of any delay being the acts of remaining competitors who failed to comply with red flags at the earliest possible opportunity.

I note that one of the issues of complaint of the riders who chose to withdraw from the meeting was the allegation of delays in injured riders receiving medical treatment however the reason for the delays was in fact due to the failure of either themselves or fellow competitors to immediately comply with the red flags.

The issue of the delays was further acerbated by the configuration of the Wakefield circuit in that all areas and injured riders were at all times in clear view and that the actual time taken for medical personnel to attend may have been perceived to have been a longer time than in fact it was. This is no doubt contributed to an emotional response by some parties with respect to the issue of safety and fueled the argument and contributed to the events which occurred during Sunday afternoon.

Recommendations

A. Clearly the main issue that has resulted from my investigation is the concern by some parties as to the suitability of Wakefield Park to hold a championship round.

Although the track holds the appropriate accreditation, the issue is whether it is a suitable venue for the current standard and level of competition with respect to these two main classes.

This was no doubt an underlying contributing factor to the discontent that led to the withdrawal of competitors on the Sunday afternoon, as the issue had been raised both in writing and verbally by certain factory teams and riders prior to the meeting. In response to the issues that were raised, Motorcycling Australia caused the circuit to be re-inspected with certain recommendations being received and works undertaken prior to the meeting. However, the issue of the suitability of Wakefield still remains of concern to the main competing parties and, accordingly, if not resolved will continue to raise its head in the future with the potential for possible disruptive behaviour being repeated again.

B. The second matter is one of procedure but it does have potential legal ramifications if not addressed.

A comment had been made by one of the officials of the Goulburn Hospital that although they were aware that the meeting was taking place they had not received any official written notification.

If in fact no formal notification had been given, it should be mandatory that this should be done in future cases. It may be that the track owner is required to give the notification but a procedure should also be set in place for the promoter to also give their own separate notification.

The reason being to avoid the following possible situation.

Should the hospital find itself involved in litigation by a rider for not having enough staff or appropriate staff on duty to attend to a particular serious injury, the hospital may seek to join the promoter as a party to the litigation for failing to notify them as to holding the meeting and the likelihood of persons requiring specialist treatment on the ground that it was highly foreseeable that riders will be injured at the meeting and would require specialist medical treatment.

It may be that you already follow this procedure but if you do not you should now adopt this course on every occasion in order to avoid the possibility of being joined as a party to litigation for failing to do so.

C. During the course of my investigation, I received anecdotal evidence of incidents involving abusive and threatening behaviour directed towards remaining competitors who took part in the championship races following the boycott. I was unable to fully investigate these claims and will leave it to the Board to decide whether this behaviour warrants further investigation.

D. Save for the above notation in paragraph C I find that no action be taken against any particular individual or official resulting from the events occurring at Wakefield Park.

DAVID BOAG

-www.aus-superbikes.com.au

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