It’s easy to forget that rallying is one of the most dangerous sports going around.
The introduction of comprehensive roll cages, six-point safety harnesses, helmets and, more recently, frontal head restraints, have all ensured that drivers and co-drivers are securely cocooned in their forest racers.
Those safety improvements are regularly put to the test, and several accidents in last weekend’s South Canterbury Rally proved the point.
Cars were catapulted down hillsides and into farmer’s paddocks, requiring industrial cranes to winch them back on to the road.
But fortunately, the crews were pretty much uninjured. Shaken, but not stirred, as James Bond would say.
Yet on the over side of the world, in the Donegal Rally in Ireland, the event’s number one seed had a similar accident in to a farmer’s paddock on the second day of the tarmac event.
Tragically for three-time event winner, Manus Kelly, he was fatally injured in the crash, and leaves a wife and children behind.
Kelly was driving a Hyundai i20 R5 – the latest and greatest, and a car built to the most stringent safety standards. In the end, none of that counted for much.
The car was badly damaged, but it didn’t look like the kind of damage that would claim a life. Certainly not with all the safety equipment installed.
It brought back fond memories of three of rallying’s greatest, Possum Bourne, Colin McRae and Richard Burns.
As good as they were, and despite some massive accidents on the stages, all three were taken from us in tragic circumstances, and not when competing in the sport they loved so much.
It just goes to prove that freak accidents still happen, and when your time is up, there’s nothing any of us can do about it.
However, it’s a reminder that we can’t remain complacent. Safety is continually improving, but so are the speeds of the cars we are driving.
Pushing hard and holding it flat over that blind crest will always provide the thrill that no other sport can, but the unknown of what’s on the other side should always ensure that “what if” is at the forefront of our minds.
Picture: Above picture is of #18 Sean Haggarty and Sean Sands from Canterbury (Subaru WRX) competing in the South Canterbury Rally in the weekend. The pair went on to crash out of the event, totally writing off the car (below)