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Rescue – The Story of How the Safety Car Came to Motor Sport

Motor racing has always involved risk for the drivers, and sometimes for spectators too, as was seen to horrific effect

The chaotic scene just after the #88 car of Huhn/Schwarz crashed at the Nürburgring in 1970. Photo: Porsche Werk

in the disaster that occurred at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours. Any safety equipment or facilities, at that time, were the responsibility of the circuit owners—circuit improvements, and spectator safety remained a low priority as recently as the 1980s. Safety consisted of keeping the cars racing on the black stuff, and in the 1950s the spectators had to be taught to stand back! Safety was something that no one wanted to talk about, although it was a fact that too many lives had been lost due to slow response times and the limited facilities available. No cars had on-board fire extinguishers, the drivers’ suits were inadequate and it took too long for a fire extinguishing vehicle to arrive. Readers may be familiar with the ambassadorial work done by Jackie Stewart in the mid 1970s regarding safety, which continues to this day. Sir Jackie and the late Prof. Sid Watkins, who started to get track medical facilities developed in 1978, are to be applauded, and their work had an enormous impact. And let’s not forget the huge involvement of the man who made things happen, Bernie Ecclestone.

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