Saturday 25 November 2017

Safety came last

I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like Grand Prix: The Killer Years.

The documentary, shown on BBC2 last weekend, told the astounding story of the sport in the 1960s and early '70s when driver safety seemed to be of absolutely no concern. Drivers competed on tracks with no barriers and no medical facilities, wore lightweight helmets, inadequate safety harnesses and flammable clothes, and died in their droves.

Villain of the piece was Colin Chapman, the brilliant designer who made Lotus the best team in the sport with innovations which radically improved the performance of Formula 1 cars. The only problem was that Chapman's genius was allied with a cavalier attitude towards safety.

The most telling story came from 1970 when Chapman forced Jochen Rindt to drive a car the great German driver regarded as unsafe in the Italian Grand Prix. Rindt crashed during the race, was killed and became the first, and only, posthumous world champion. Chapman was subsequently prosecuted for manslaughter.

Sunday Indo Sport

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