Race driver raises safety concerns
An angry and sore Johnny McIntyre says MotorSport New Zealand has a cavalier attitude towards drivers' safety, after the Nelson driver dislocated a shoulder and damaged ribs at Ruapuna at the weekend.
McIntyre was involved in a high-speed crash when he struck the outside barrier between turns one and two at the Christchurch venue during the final V8 SuperTourer practice session because his brakes failed.
Yesterday his mood soured when told MotorSport NZ general manager Brian Budd was happy with the Ruapuna setup and would not have recommended changes even if it were inspected before the meeting.
"That's a typical comment of some people - this sort of thing has been going on for years around circuits in New Zealand," McIntyre said.
"They get a safety-rating and think it's good enough. To tell me that [crash corner] doesn't need something done is illogical."
McIntyre wants the Ruapuna gravel trap improved and more tyres installed on the barrier.
Had he struck the wall with the front of the car, he believed the consequences would have been worse. "If I had gone in front-on, instead of on the side, you may not be talking to me now.
"I think their [MotorSport NZ] attitude is one of having the ambulance waiting at the bottom of the cliff. That's what annoys me. They are reactive, not proactive."
MotorSport NZ, which is required to inspect the track annually, checked Ruapuna in "March or April", Budd said. The FIA, which ranks Ruapuna as a category three circuit, checks it every three years.
"Even if we inspected it before the weekend we wouldn't have changed anything," Budd said.
Although McIntyre had not lodged an official complaint, Budd said MotorSport NZ would have a "discussion" with the Canterbury Car Club (CCC), which owns Ruapuna, to see if a review is necessary.
"Changes are not needed under the current licence but we are always looking for safer circuits. We are in constant dialogue with everyone about compliance."
Chief executive Lloyd Proctor defended Ruapuna, insisting there were no issues with the corner and noted that sometimes accidents were unavoidable.
Proctor also noted the gravel trap had recently been extended.
"We are very conscious about this sort of thing. It is disappointing John has not spoken to us. This is one of the safest tracks in New Zealand, for goodness sakes."
Adding tyre-bunches, usually in packs of six, around the barrier would reduce an impact during accidents. In isolated pockets they would be inexpensive.
But if the CCC was to line 100 metres of the track with tyre-bunches, it could cost up to $10,000.
V8 SuperTourers managing director Mark Petch said there was no risk of Ruapuna losing future races because of McIntyre's complaints.
But he urged the CCC to consider bolstering the wall where he crashed. MotorSport NZ would also be urged to inspect the track again.
"In no way are we saying we will not be back to Ruapuna," Petch said.
"The consequences of this is that the club needs to urgently look at putting in tethered tyre-bunches. We have every confidence they will take heed of that incident."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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