The Brisbane driver who died last night in the Targa Tasmania car rally has been identified, as race officials maintain there is still a future for the event despite a second year with a fatal crash.
- Brisbane man Tony Seymour died and his wife Sandra, who was his navigator, suffered minor injuries in a crash on the second day of the event
- It is the fourth death in two years and follows speed and race route changes recommended after last year’s crash
- The event takes place over six days on public roads and is popular with car enthusiasts
In a statement, police named Anthony Graeme Seymour, 59, of Brisbane, as the competitor killed in yesterday’s crash.
Seymour, who raced as Tony Seymour, died after his car left the road near Mount Roland in Tasmania’s north-west on day two of the event.
His car came to a stop against a tree down an embankment, with his wife Sandra — who was co-driver and navigator — sustaining minor injuries.
Targa Tasmania boss Mark Perry said the loss was being deeply felt by the event.
“Tony was a much-loved member of our TARGA family and we are just crushed by what has happened,” he said.
A post on Targa’s Instagram page said Seymour had “compete in many of TARGA’s suite of rallies over recent years”.
“The Seymours have been regular visitors to the podium in previous events, highlighted by a third-place finish in GT Sports Trophy at TARGA Tasmania in 2019.”
Seymour had posted of his team’s excitement on social media ahead of the race, saying: “Targa Tassie 30th Anniversary starts tomorrow and we are ready!”
Fellow racers and friends have left comments in tribute on his Facebook page.
“I spoke to Tony the night before at a public event. Lovely bloke. At the end of our conversation, I wished him luck and said ‘stay safe’,” one said.
“Tony, I just wanted to thank you for all your help when I did my first competitive Targa many years ago and for all the great chats we had along the way since,” said another.
Fellow contestant Casey Price said it was an “incredibly sad” morning.
“It was really difficult leaving the Silverdome this morning with the knowledge that obviously we’ve lost one of our family members,” she said.
“But there was a huge amount of camaraderie from the event competitors and the officials.”
Some drivers were not pleased that the competition element of Targa had been canceled and that anyone “touring” would have to keep to signposted speed limits.
Price, who drives as “Mini Girl Racer”, said her team was still deciding what to do.
“It is a large toll on the vehicles, especially the competition vehicles. Some of them just don’t like to be sitting at low RPMs,” she said.
But Price was confidant the death would not spell the end of Targa.
“I certainly hope, as do many of the competitors, that it will continue,” she said.
“We have these fantastic machines that we’ve made and built from scratch.”
‘Still a future for Targa Tasmania’
At a press conference this morning, Motorsport Australia director Michael Smith said he thinks “there’s a future for Targa Tasmania” but what that future would look like was still to be decided.
Asked if the rally race might become a non-competitive event in future, he said: “That’s certainly part of the thinking … it’s probably too early to comment with any certainty on that at the moment.”
Mr Perry said officials considered scrapping the remainder of this year’s event entirely after yesterday’s fatal crash.
But the rally race was instead downgraded to a touring event because Mr Perry believed many non-competitive drivers here for “a driving holiday” would have gone out regardless.
“The tour groups would’ve continued whether we closed the roads or not to be honest,” he said.
“You can’t get on and off this island very easily when you’re as big as us. We’re heavily relying on the Spirit of Tasmania and a whole range of things.
“There’s no question that even at the speed limit, a closed road is much safer than an open one — there’s no trucks or anything coming the other way.
“So it still would’ve been much safer to close the roads.”
Mr Perry said it was a “crushing” and “devastating blow” for himself and Targa officials for there to be another death after extensive safety changes were made since last year.
“Especially for the family and friends. We’re devastated for them.”
Organizers hopeful event will continue in some way
Mr Perry says he believes it is “not necessarily the end” of Targa Tasmania but acknowledged there were clouds over how the event continues.
“There’s no doubt it [the crash] brings [the race] into doubt,” he said.
“We won’t shy away from that but we need to work through it because what we don’t know is what happened.
“And I would say if it was unrelated to the car, or the safety, or his training, or any of that stuff, then that will change the conversation dramatically.”
Three competitors died within two days in last year’s event.
Mr Perry said competitors supported the decision to cancel the main Targa event.
“They totally understand at the moment when we’ve got not enough data to make a clear call on what happened yesterday, that in the interim, at the very least, we needed to cancel, and a lot of them have gone out on the turn,” he said.
“People who would never go in a tour, they’re racing car people, but they’ve got in their cars to support the event and even Grant Denyer [TV personality and race driver] has gone out today.
“We were very concerned about what their support was but we are quite heartened by the level of support.”
RallySafe device could hold answers
Police returned to the scene today to continue the investigation into the cause.
Mr Perry said he would not speculate on what happened.
“It’s very remote and very different to the accidents last year, no spectators or no external vision like we had access to last year,” he said.
Mr Smith said organizers would need to examine the car’s RallySafe tracking and safety device, which records and transmits a range of data, to help work out what happened.
“My understanding is the RallySafe device is still in the car. It’s currently being impounded by the police and we’ll work with them over the coming days to sort through all of those, that data and try and get an understanding of what’s happened, “he said.
Mr Perry added that organizers could not have cars racing until they understood “all that data”.
Event a boon for tourism operators
Mr Perry said “a lot” of competitors had opted to continue as non-competitive participants and around 320 cars were on the road today, spending money at tourism and hospitality businesses.
“It just shows that so many people love Targa and we can’t lose sight of that,” he said.
“The event has changed dramatically anyway and people will actually see that firsthand today without any competition cars out there.”
The event will focus on the north-east coast today, before moving to the north-west tomorrow and finishing at Hobart via the West Coast.
Destination West Coast president Anthony Brown said the crash would be unlikely to cause mass cancellations at local hotels as many drivers were still out enjoying Tasmania’s unique landscapes and roads.
Mr Brown said the future of Targa was up to the organizers but he would not like to see the event disappear.
“The only way you can stop anything happening is to not have it,” he said.
“We’ll make the most of whatever decision will be made in the future and we hope Targa will be around for many years.”
The Road Safety Advisory Council declined to comment on the incident.