The Targa Review Panel Report which was commissioned following a fourth death in two years of Targa Tasmania has made 94 recommendations to address the ‘unacceptably high' risk in tarmac rallying.
The recommendations span vehicle safety, course design, and competitor culture, with the Motorsport Australia Board accepting all of them and committing to beginning their implementation immediately.
The death of Anthony Graeme Seymour, AKA Tony Seymour, in a Lotus Exige on the second day of the 2022 event followed three fatalities in the 2021 Targa Tasmania.
“Firstly, we again offer our condolences to Anthony Seymour's family, friends and the wider Targa community who all suffered a terrible loss at last year's Targa Tasmania event,” said Motorsport Australia CEO, Eugene Arocca.
A report commissioned by Motorsport Australia following the 2021 event saw all 23 recommendations adopted by Motorsport Australia prior to the 2022 Targa Tasmania's running, which began on April 26 – yet saw the incident on the second day result in further investigation into how the event and its competitors' approach were conducted.
The latest tragedy prompted Motorsport Australia to suspend Targa-style tarmac rally events and for the second time in just over 12 months, commission a body to investigate a fatality, this time known as the Targa Review Panel. It was chaired by Garry Connelly and included Matthew Selley and Neal Bates (all of whom also sat on the 2021 tribunal).
The recommendations include dividing stages into Categories A and B, only the former of which would be competitive; enhanced course notes and roadside signage denoting hazards; fitment of judicial cameras; and a ban on vehicles exceeding FIA R5 capability.
“I'd like to thank the members of the Targa Review Panel – Garry Connelly, Matt Selley and Neal Bates – for their hard work and dedication in researching, preparing and ultimately delivering this report,” Arocca added.
“Today's release of the Targa Review Panel's report is the first step in the return of Targa style tarmac rallies in Australia. Motorsport Australia is committed to seeing these events return later this year, with 1 July 2023 being the initial date set to allow for the recommendations to be implemented.
“The 94 recommendations cover many facets of the discipline and will aim to improve the overall safety of Targa style tarmac rallies.
“Ultimately, it is now time for a hard reset of tarmac rallying in Australia to improve safety standards across various parts of the discipline.
The Report's ‘hard reset', which recommends the banning of Targa-style rallies until July 2023, has concluded that higher safety standards in relation to both the course and vehicle-type eligibility would make such incidents less likely to end in a fatality.
While the cause of the incident was put down to driver error, the report found that such an event should be survivable.
“There is … the likelihood that with an appropriate seat, correct FIA approved seat mounting and correctly installed door foam, an impact speed such as that which occurred should have been survivable, all other factors above (especially in relation to the roll-cage and the space around the driver's helmet) considered,” it reads.
The review found that a culture of risk had propagated among competitors and the organisers, and that the appropriate steps would have negated the severity of the crash.
“The Panel finds further that there are major shortcomings in the conduct of tarmac rallies and that, without significant changes, the level of risk to competitors is unacceptably high and the likelihood of further serious incidents is unacceptably high.”