Two drivers in the Targa Tasmania car rally say they want the race to continue despite yet another fatality, arguing it is the danger of the sport that attracts many to compete.
- Brisbane man Tony Seymour died in a crash earlier this week, bringing the Targa death toll to four over the past two years
- An experienced Targa driver said while his sympathy went out to Seymour’s family, canceling the event was not the solution
- Targa chief Mark Perry said Targa Tasmania would still have a future next year, “but it might be different”
On the second day of the competition on Wednesday, 59-year-old Brisbane man Anthony Graeme Seymour died when his car careered off the course near Mount Roland.
His wife Sandra was the team’s navigator and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The latest fatality brings the event’s death toll to four in the past two years and has rallied those who say the race should be scrapped.
But Luke Anear, an experienced Targa racer who won last year’s rallies in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, said while his sympathy went out to Seymour’s family, canceling the event or downgrading it to be non-competitive, was not the solution.
“So I think it’s important that we maintain that perspective that we all choose to do this.
“If a jockey or someone passed away, you’re never going to cancel the Melbourne cup, and Targa Tasmania is an iconic event — it’s the world’s longest tarmac rally, it’s known all around the world.”
In last year’s event, the fatalities of three competitors in two separate events prompted an investigation by Motorsport Australia.
Twenty-three recommendations were implemented by organizers in time for this year’s event, including changes to race routes and speed limits in sections of the race.
“Motorsport Australia and Targa have done an incredible job over the last three decades to continue to improve safety, both for the drivers and the navigators and also for the vehicles.
“That’s ongoing, that is always something that can be improved, and that’s something that everyone takes a part in that responsibility.”
Anear said the event had a rich history which could not be ignored.
“This is an event that’s been running for 30 years this year, and the Targa history stems all the way back to 1906 in Italy.
“So this is one of the purest forms of motorsport and something that thousands of people have participated in here in Targa Tasmania over the years.”
‘We can’t go around banning any sport with danger’
Tasmania Driver Eddy McGuire was last year’s Targa Tasmania winner and was leading this year’s competition before the event was downgraded to a non-competitive tour in light of Seymour’s crash.
“We decided not to continue in the tour,” he said.
“The competitive side of the event was canceled and the tour is a completely different event and it just doesn’t suit us or our car.”
While McGuire respected the organiser’s decision, he did not think the change should be permanent.
“All challenges come with risks, and if you remove all the risks, you wouldn’t have the challenge and therefore you wouldn’t have the sport,” he said.
He admitted that there may be concerns with letting inexperienced drivers compete in the event.
“We can’t just go around banning any sport with any danger.”
McGuire said he would not enter the event next year if it was non-competitive.
“I think it’d still be great for the economy of Tasmania. We personally wouldn’t continue to do that because that’s not how we’re wired,” he said.
“It’d still be great for the state, and still get a lot of [participants] down here.”
Anear said he believed experienced racers would pull out of the event if it was made non-competitive.
“People know this event the world over. It’s put Tasmania on the map, and it’s something everyone who takes part in it would want to see continue.”
Targa will still have a future: Perry
Targa chief Mark Perry said Targa Tasmania would still have a future next year, despite the deaths.
Perry said it had been a few emotional days, with Ms Seymour now released from hospital.
“Her immediate family has flown in from Brisbane yesterday to be with her so she is physically okay, but obviously she’s dealing with a lot mentally and emotionally.”
As to what caused the crash, Perry said it would still be some time before the investigation is complete.
“The police really only got the RallySafe device out of the car yesterday, that’s with them now and the crash investigation team.”
He said the future of the event would hinge on the investigation into the crash.