The Australian Grand Prix has been given the go ahead for 2002, according to our Australia sources, after the conclusion of the inquest into the death of marshal Graham Beveridge. The results are to be released in January.
Yesterday Jim Kennan - the QC who is legal council to the coroner - summed up their side of the case by describing the passing of responsibility for safety at the race track as a "perfect circle." Kennan said that the ultimate responsibility should rest with Australian Grand Prix Corporation, who are the race organisers, but they relied on the Confederation of Australian Motorsport ( CAMS, the national sports body ) for safety directions. CAMS in turn relied on directions from the FIA, of which it is a member, but the FIA sees safety as the responsibility of the local organisers; the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.
Kennan pointed out that local officials had shown scant knowledge of safety issues that they should have been familiar with before the incident on March 4th this year, especially as that part of the track is known for accidents. In 1996 when Martin Brundle crashed, the organisers said the incident showed the fencing was adequate rather than have it raise questions about racing safety.
Kennan noted that the organisers had agreed to double the height of fences in large areas of the track so that the 2002 race could take place. He also called for additional steps to be taken, including moving spectators further away from the track.
Today the inquest examined the events surrounding Beveridge's death. After a collision with Ralf Schumacher a loose wheel from Jacques Villeneuve's car went through a gap in the safety fence and struck the marshal on the chest. The Australian Grand Prix Corporation requested clarification from the coroner who said he did not expect his recommendations to cause extra problems for the organisers as they prepared for next year's race, scheduled for March 3rd.
In summing up the legal counsel for the Australian Grand Prix Corporation said the organisers would consider independent advice on issues such as the height of fences and whether spectators should be moved further away from the track at the corner where the accident occurred. The organisers avoided accepting complete responsibility for track safety, saying they will continue to ask for advice from the FIA.
Despite the GP being given the green light, the FIA has not seen the report from the coroner's office. The FIA has yet to give the event the official clearance it needs to take place.