Spectator Killed In Race Car Crash At Dato’ Sagor Circuit In Perak

Better safety measures could have prevented the tragedy

Saturday was the last day of 2022 but a tragedy would mark the end of the year at the CCT Battle of Champions race. A spectator was killed when a car went off the track and hit him at the Dato’ Sagor Circuit in Kampung Gajah, Pasir Salak, Perak.

Footage of the incident which circulated on social media showed two cars racing closely with each other and coming into contact. One car got diverted off the track and headed towards a group of people who were standing in an open area just next to the track, and one was injured fatally.

It was reported that the spectator had moved closer to the track to record the action and was not actually authorised to be in that area but was not stopped by marshals in time. The absence of any protective barriers along the edge of the track meant that no one should have been allowed in the area but it appeared that there were others standing around too. As is often the case, there is the assumption that ‘nothing will happen’ so it is not dangerous.

The tragedy could have been prevented had there been the proper safety measures that should be installed at a racing circuit. With the high speeds of the cars, loss of control can occur at any time or in this case, a collision, and the cars can go off the track. Barriers would stop them from travelling far off the track but at the same time, spectator control also needs to be strict.

Those who participate in motor racing – drivers and riders – understand that they are taking a risk as an accident can occur and they could be seriously injured or even lose their life. Even then, the FIA – the world motorsport governing body – has comprehensive regulations to protect them that require approved safety equipment to be installed on the cars and participants must also wear proper safety clothing to minimise the risks.

In Malaysia, we have had accidents at circuits which have lacked safety measures. In some cases, ‘ignorance’ may be claimed or there’s a ‘tidak apa’ attitude because the seriousness of motor racing and its risks is not understood enough. Economic reasons may also be the reason why safety measures are inadequate because proper safety measures cost a lot of money, and organisers don’t have that much.

To make a circuit safe requires more than just piling tyres around the course. A good example of just what is required can be seen in the Vios Challenge series run by UMW Toyota Motor for the past 5 years. Other than the Sepang International Circuit, the other circuits in the series have been specially set up and have been constructed to international safety standards.

This means hundreds of thousands of ringgit for thick concrete barriers and high fencing. It’s the sort of expenditure which many Malaysian organisers cannot afford as their events cater for the grassroots crowd in most cases. So they are run with limited budgets that don’t really allow for proper safety measures.

While motorsports need to be promoted at grassroots level and newcomers need to have a chance to compete, organisers also have a responsibility to ensure that safety is not compromised. Bodies like the Motorsports Association of Malaysia (MAM) need to be more strict about minimum safety measures and if they cannot be met 100%, then the event should not be sanctioned.