Recently I read a number of news articles about a man who came off his mountain bike, hit his head and is now paralysed as a result. However this man fell off during an instructed skills course and is now suing the instructor for £4m because of ‘Woefully inadequate’ supervision.
I feel for the victim, as it’s a tragic accident that I wouldn’t wish on anyone and it will have a massive impact on his life. However I really hope the Judge will throw this case out of court or rule in favour of the instructor.
According to the victim’s lawyer, he was a mountain biker with 12 years experience, but was a novice on rough terrain and descents. Also claiming he was encouraged to descend the section they were riding at speed and without braking which the victim felt was unsafe. Now I take issue with this. The victim is a grown man who works as a solicitor, so we can assume he is of more than fair intelligence. He also is old enough to identify risks and if he felt it wasn’t safe or didn’t feel confident enough to do the task, then he didn’t have to. No one was forcing him. However, he fell off on the second descent of the same section of trail so he had already done it once and felt confident enough to do it again.
This also raises the question that how can you be an experienced mountain biker but a novice on rough terrain and descents. As a mountain biker myself, I know that these aspects are integral to mountain biking and essentially what makes mountain biking exactly that and not just riding a bike. Is it being claimed that merely by owning a mountain bike for a number of years then you are and experienced mountain biker? No, it doesn’t. If a mountain bike is your bicycle of choice and you just ride it on the road, to the shops or on a gentle ride with your family round Centre Parks then you are not a mountain biker. Just the same as the school run mums in big four wheel drives aren’t off roaders and participate in greenlaning at the weekend with the other mums. I could go and buy a racing car if I had the money but that wouldn’t make me a racing driver.
Ultimately, anyone with any sense will know there is an element of risk in this kind of activity. Whether you ride a mountain bike or a road bike, there will always be risks. Most sporting events carry risks of accidents and injuries. By participating you accept responsibility of these risks. Lewis Hamilton will accept that driving his Mercedes at 200mph involves a high amount of risk, but he still chooses to do so. Rachel Atherton knows there is high risk of injury when racing her mountain bike at high speed downhill over extreme terrain and doesn’t blame others if she comes off and injures herself.
We now live in a blame society and I hate it. I’ve come off my mountain bike myself during an Enduro event leaving me injured. I was off work for 4 weeks on just statutory sick pay leaving me out of pocket, I had to buy new wheels for my bike as mine had buckled in the accident and buy a new helmet as I cracked mine after hitting my head on a rock which all cost quite a lot of money. Did I look to blame someone? Did I sue the event organisers? No, I didn’t. It was an accident. I knew the risks of the sport I love before I took part. I’m old enough to know what I am capable of and I wasn’t forced by anyone to do it. I know my accident is nothing compared to this victim in question but the principles are still the same. It was an accident. There was no one to blame. Just as if you had a sneezing fit whilst driving and crashed your car into a tree and injured yourself. Sometimes, unlucky things just happen and the sooner people accept that without looking for someone else to blame, the better.
What really concerns me though is the ramifications if this case falls in favour of the victim. Worms would be spilling from the can all over the place. The knock on effects could be huge and possibly devastating for the sport of Mountain Biking and cycling in general. Would instructors stop instructing in case they are sued if someone falls off? Would guided rides be stopped in case the guide is sued because someone fell off because they failed to point out that some rocks might be slippery after a recent rain fall? Would trail centres close in case someone ignored the warning signs and hit a tree after taking on a section that was too difficult for their ability? And would bike shops be sued for not warning cyclists their new brake pads would need to be bedded in? It would open the floodgates for so many people looking to make money from their own inability to accept responsibility.
If you chose to participate in something risky, accept that risk or don’t do it and spoil it for everyone else. Its a simple choice. Accidents happen. Sometimes, and some people might find this hard to believe, there is no one to blame. It’s just bad luck.
It’s now become quite obvious that if you are an organiser of a mainstream motorsport championship or event and you want some coverage in the national media, then all you need to do is get someone to have a big crash. If the driver involved in that crash is a popular ex Formula One driver, then all the better. You’re guaranteed a few column inches somewhere in the back pages and even an article on the BBC’s ‘Formula One is the only form of Motorsport’ website.
Sadly, this seems to be the only way the FIA World Endurance Championship can get any coverage in the British Media. Mark Webber’s huge accident in Sao Paulo on Sunday make it on to the BBC website, thanks to the loose Formula One connection, and also into a few national newspapers. I even heard it mentioned in the sport on Absolute Radio’s breakfast show. Those of you who saw it will have winced and be extremely relieved that Mark is OK. It’s a testament to safety in sports car racing that people can walk away from such impacts.
But what really annoys me is that despite the media coverage, I have not seen a single report from these national news outlets that has mentioned the winner of the race. Porsche’s name is all over reports as the car Webber was driving, but no one mentioned that the second Porsche car in the race took victory. Not only that but after a titanic battle with the number 8 Toyota which saw the two cars split by just 0.170 of a second after six hours of racing.
On the subject of the number 8 Toyota, where were these journalists desperate to grab attention with pictures and news of a devastating crash that could have claimed the life of a racing driver, when just two weeks ago, the drivers of said Toyota, the Swiss Sebastien Buemi and British racer Anthony Davidson claimed the World Championship? A British driver winning a World Championship and no one was interested in reporting it.
Sadly it’s the same for that great motoring institution, Rallying. You don’t get any media coverage of it unless a spectator is sadly injured or killed. As was the case with reports from the Jim Clarke rally, and this tiny piece on the BBC sport website about the Grizedale rally which thanks to really poor reporting suggests an incident far worse than that that actually took place.
I’ve been at touring car races where crowds cheer when someone crashes. I’ve spoken to people who have stated they only like motorsport when there are crashes. How would these people like it if they were involved in an accident on the M25 and witnesses stopped, got out of their cars and started cheering? Is this really the mentality of people these days? Is it what people want? Is that why the media love a good crash story because it gets more attention? I really hope not. We all know the situation with Jules Bianchi so must realise that accidents and crashes are a serious matter.
Surely as motorsport fans we all want to see close and exciting racing. Crashes don’t really add to the excitement. Having been at LeMans when there have been two particularly nasty accidents, the silence of a quarter of a million spectators is chilling. The only cheering was when news that in both cases, the drivers were ok. Sadly that isn’t always the outcome.
We all know motorsport is dangerous. Competition is close and drivers push themselves to the limit and sometimes beyond, so accidents will inevitably happen and thankfully, those baying for crashes are in the small minority of fans. But the mentality of these people needs to change and the media needs to do its bit in helping that and not encouraging it. So please stop with the ‘Crashes make good stories’ attitude. Oh, and BBC, Formula One isn’t the be all and end all of motorsport, there is so much more out there. You can’t even get the rights to show a full season of F1 live so how about investing a bit of money in showing other live motorsport?
I guess the only positive to come from the Mark Webber accident is Rubens Barrichello’s instagram photo. I’m pretty sure if Rubens was to visit you in hospital he’d do a pretty good job of cheering you up. But is it just me, or does he look like an excited expectant father about to witness the birth of his and Mark Webber’s bizarre but superhuman love child?
6 Hours of Silverstone – the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship – was dramatically clinched by Toyota, who skilfully kept their cool despite the torrential rain.
Although the race was ended early due to torrential rain, Team Toyota, which consists of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre, not only left Mark Webber’s Porsche and both of the stunning Audi R18 e-trons in their wake, but they also clinched the win from their sister team too, Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima.
Considering the difficulty of the weather and track conditions, the legendary Mark Webber seemed content with a podium place on his debut WEC race, sharing the glory with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. In comparison, this year’s Silverstone was Audi’s worst performance in 3 years.
Straight from the green, Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi set off at a record pace, immediately attacking Alex Wurz of Toyota in his TS 040 Hybrid. This excitement was short-lived for Di Grassi however, as he took the Club Corner too wide towards the end of the first lap, allowing Sebastien Buemi of Toyota to claim second place. Porsche were also disappointing towards the end of the first lap, with Neel Jani dropping from third to sixth position.
Running into traffic on lap 14, Toyota’s Alexander Wurz lost first place to Andre Lotterer, and Audi has their first lead in the race. However Audi decided to gamble while other cars were being called into the pits for wet tyres, and soon after Di Grassi crashed heavily into the barriers, sliding off the track at Woodcote. The Audi driver managed to get the R 18 e-tron back to the pits for some quick cover , however with a damaged monocoque the car was too badly damaged to continue the race, with Di Grassi looking understandably devastated.
It wasn’t just Audi that experienced car damage at Silverstone either; Porsche’s Neel Jani suffered severe tyre failure and subsequently lost his left wheel, but after 15 minutes in the pit Porsche successfully retuned to the track. Audi’s day continued to go from bad to worse however, as Andre Lotterer lost 25 seconds to Sebastien Buemi after sliding off the track at Stowe. Finishing sixth overall after a lengthy stint in the pits, Lotterer and Audi certainly had 6 hours to forget at Silverstone.
Timo Brenhard was replaced by team mate Brendon Hartley after Porsche’s 52nd lap pit, with the New Zealander showing his talent behind the wheel by hauling the R 18 e-tron back to fourth. With three hours to go, WEC Silverstone then settled into the traditional endurance test, and it really was anyone’s race. However Audi’s bad luck wasn’t quite over, with Treluyer hitting the barriers at Copse and bending both front wheels.
After 21 minutes of the safety car, Porsche’s Hartley pitted and gave up the seat to the fan favourite Mark Webber, allowing the Australian his first taste of WEC racing in 15 years. As the final two hours of Silverstone positioning remained the same, the rain made conditions unsafe to say the least, with the safety car came out once again, followed by red flags stopping the race.
With the second Bahrain test now completed, F1 fans have now seen enough of the new 2014 challengers to still hold a strong opinion that they are the ugliest car the grid has ever seen.
Many of us believe that Formula 1 cars need to be a thing of beauty which stand out from the crowd and resembles a work of art. Williams were the first to shock the F1 community with their FW36 challenger which featured a peculiar anteater nose. McLaren followed suit with a weird looking tripod-effect nose and Lotus with its twin tusks diffidently caught the eye within the paddock, but the worst in my opinion was the Torro Rosso and the Caterham, it just looked wrong and it definitely didn’t look like an anteater. Even the great designer Adrian Newey who ensured his cars where aesthetically pleasing conceded that ‘this year’s Red Bull is unfortunately ugly’.
So why have the new cars become so unbelievably ugly? Well, it’s all down to the new aerodynamic regulations for the 2014 season with the aim to increase safety. The regulation stipulates that the nose tip has to be 365mm lower than its predecessors. The rule was introduced to prevent ‘T-bone’ crashes as well as cars launching over the top of others. The regulations instructs designers that ONLY the nose has to be a certain height and not the suspension or the front end of the monocoque, thus resulting in the radical designs of the nose we are seeing.
A lower nose will greatly reduce/block the aerodynamic flow under the car, therefore in order to maximise the airflow designers have retained the maximum permitted front monocoque then adding the minimum and amount of carbon fibre to comply with the nose height regulation whilst being strong enough to pass the crash test.
However, not all the cars have the weird anteater, finger whatever you want to call it nose. Both Mercedes and Ferrari have gone conservative with their design, by sloping the whole front section into a flat nose to create more down force enabling the car to have more front end grip through corners.
The odd one out from this is Lotus with its twin tusk design which attempt to presents slightly more total cross sectional area to the airflow, which I believe is a very clever design. The design as you will see has one of the two tusks slightly longer than the other; this is to comply with the minimum height regulation, a brilliant example of F1 designers pushing the design to the limit.
The thing with Formula 1 cars is that we all grow into the design and by the mid-season we end up loving them. In 2009 when the cars changed to taller slimmer rear wings and wider front wings we all hated, we all said (including myself) it didn’t look like F1 cars anymore and I personally ended up loving the new look. In 2012, the stepped noses where slaughtered by the F1 community especially with Ferrari’s Lego nose, but I ended up loving it and to this day I think it’s one of the most beautiful F1 cars I have ever seen. That’s why this year although initial reaction is negative, fans will accept the design and love it.
Guest Post by Hiten Solanki
Last Sunday saw the conclusion of a fantastic British GT championship which, again went down to the wire in a trilling battle at Donington Park. With six teams in contention for the Championship title and a further 4 more in the GT4 class, the action didn’t disappoint with the top 3 at the end of the season separated by just three and a half points.
You can read all about the thrilling finale on the Checkered Flag website, here. But as the curtain draws on a fantastic season full of highs and lows, close battles and stunning performances thoughts are starting to turn towards next year’s season with great anticipation.
However, it is with great pleasure that I can announce that this year I am once again producing another limited edition A3 sized wall calendar. But this year’s edition will feature images from this season’s British GT championship. All the top teams such as Beechdean Aston Martin, AF Corse, United Autosports, Ecurie Ecosse & Motorbase are represented in this high quality calendar as well as drivers such as Nick Tandy, Ollie Bryant, Jonny Adam, Duncan Tappy, Aaron Scott, Joe Osborne and the late great Allan Simonsen. Every round of the championship is featured and the calendar is printed in such a way that you can cut out and keep the images for future use.
Orders of the 2014 British GT calendar are now being taken and not only is this year’s calendar cheaper than last years, the price again includes free postage and packaging and Orders made in the next few weeks will also receive a free A4 sized British GT Print.
So what are you waiting for? This would make the ideal Christmas gift or Birthday present for motorsport fans and petrol heads alike who, during the whole of next year can reflect on what a superb season the 2013 British GT Championship was.
You can order your copy of the 2014 British GT Wall Calendar here and whilst on the Chris Gurton Photography Website, why not also check out my motorsport galleries from this season where prints can also be purchased that would also make an ideal gift.
After a summer break away from the circuits of the UK, giving me some time to indulge in another passion of mine, it was soon back to being trackside and behind the camera to shoot two great motorsport events in the space of three weekends.
First up was the Silverstone Classic. An event I have covered for a few years now and one I really enjoy. There is always so much to see and do, even before you consider the 24 races taking place on track. The highlights for me are always the Classic GT cars and the Group C Endurance cars. But the races include all genre’s including F1 cars from the 60’s to the 80’s, Formula Juniors, F2 and Touring cars, with much more in between to satisfy all tastes in class motorsport.
It always pleases me to see multi-million pound race cars doing what they were designed to do, race. Rather than seeing them sat in a museum and not being used. The racing is still close and exciting, despite the huge costs involved in running such beautiful pieces of motorsport history and the crowd really appreciate the spectacle. Sadly, the adverse weather conditions on the Saturday evening meant the Group C ‘Dusk’ race was cancelled, much to my disappointment, but the rain was torrential and racing such powerful and expensive cars in the conditions would have been a risk too far. Thankfully, there was an extended Group C race on the Sunday to make up for it.
A highlight of the Silverstone Classic weekend, along with the track action is the car clubs who arrive in their droves and display their cars for all to see, from classic Aston Martins, to modern Lamborghini’s and so much more, including some incredibly rare makes and models of car all looking in immaculate condition. A track parade took place on the Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911. The aim was to have nine hundred and eleven Porsche 911’s on track, but the actual figure was over 1200!
It was a great weekend and I, along with the many thousands of fans and spectators will be looking forward to next year’s event.
Two weeks after the Silverstone Classic was another exciting weekend for me and another I really look forward too. After their summer break, it was the British GT championship race at Brands Hatch. My favourite British race series at my favourite British Circuit. It was also great to have two good friends and fellow photographers stay over for the weekend to make it even more enjoyable.
The gorgeous GT machines were bathed in sun all weekend and the action on track was just as hot as the weather. Another large grid of competitive cars and drivers was enough to whet the appetite of any motorsport fan. We also saw the new liveried Audi R8 of Warren Hughes and Rembert Bert which is now run by WRT and I must say, I liked it a lot. It was also nice to see each car sporting a number with a tribute to Allan Simonsen.
I really enjoy photographing the Grand Prix Circuit at Brands Hatch. It provides you with a number of great angles, backdrops and elevations. The two hour GT race also meant I could walk much of the track to get many different angles and viewpoints to photograph from.
An action packed two hour race seemed to fly by and a win for Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in their Beechdean Aston Martin saw them climb to the top of the championship standings, but it is still close and with the next two races in Zandvoort next month before the season finale at Donington Park, it is still all to play for. As it is with the GT4 category where there is much battling for places in this hotly contested championship. You can read the race report from the British GT at Brand Hatch on The Checkered Flag website here.
The next race for me will be the British GT again at Zandvoort in a couple of week’s time. It’s a new circuit for me so I’m really looking forward to visiting it. In the mean time, I will be with my camera trackside, but a track of a very different nature. All will be revealed soon.