Motor racing is a risky sport, no one needs to be told about that. Its dangerous not just for those who participate in it, but also for the hundreds of officials and staff on support duties at such events. Last Sunday, at the 2013 Canadian GP, we were faced with a rude and brutal reminder of this very fact.
Mark Robinson (38), who volunteered as a marshal for Sunday’s race, slipped under the wheel of a crane as it was carrying Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber from the track, which had crashed in the final laps of the race.
Robinson, reportedly, dropped his radio while walking with the crane and reached down to pick it up. The crane/tractor operator could not see him and as a result, ran over him. Robinson was airlifted to Sacre-Coeur Hospital by helicopter after being stabilized by race-track trauma nurses. He was declared dead in hospital. An absolute tragedy that could only be described as a freak accident.
The previously posted image of the incident has now been removed as it was seen as an insensitive gesture towards the incident. It was included in the article solely for purposes of bringing attention to the dangers of marshaling but many people didn’t see it that way. I respect those opinions and have taken the image down.
Marshals volunteer for this work out of their love and passion for motorsport. Their work is absolutely critical for the running of any motorsport event. They routinely put their lives at risk to ensure smooth and safe running of racing events. They’ve saved numerous lives over the years and many have lost their own lives in the process.
F1 went through a major overhaul of safety regulations in the 90s after the horrendous weekend at Imola ’94. Everybody knows what happened there. As a result, deaths have been rare in F1. The last time a marshal was killed was in 2001 and this is only the third fatality since 2000. An absurd, but very unfortunate, incident. According to his friends and colleagues, Robinson was a highly knowledgeable F1 fan who absolutely adored and almost worshipped the sport. He’d been attending the Canadian GP since the early 80s. As expected, almost all the teams and drivers have expressed their grief and shock over the incident.
An official enquiry is underway:
The Commission de la sante et de la securite de travail (CSST) said Monday that six months—give or take—would be needed to complete the report. “Our inspectors were on the site last night and looked at the overall situation and what they will try to figure out over the next couple of days is what exactly occurred,” CSST spokesperson Jacques Nadeau said on Monday, adding that interviews with fellow volunteers would be forthcoming. “They probably know exactly how he went under the tractor that was carrying the car,” Nadeau said. “But we need to let them cool off and let them find their senses. Our main concern is that the workers are in good health.”
FIA president Jean Todt issued a personal statement on behalf of the governing body:
“I would like to share my profound sadness, and that of the whole FIA community, following the tragic death of the circuit worker, who was working as a volunteer marshal at the Canadian Grand Prix,” Todt wrote. “My thoughts, and those of the FIA members, are with the worker’s family and friends and we all wish to extend our sincerest condolences, as well as our support, in these most tragic of circumstances. This tragedy has affected us deeply, and the whole of motor sport is profoundly touched by it.“In volunteering to be a marshal, he had made the choice to give his time, his knowledge and passion in the service of motor sport. All over the world, it is men and women like him who make possible the organisation of motor sport events. Without these thousands of volunteers who give their all selflessly, motor sport would simply not get off the starting line. I and the FIA want to share with each and every one of the pain resulting from this death, a hurt that unites us all today.”
Silverstone marshals have planned to pay tributes to Robinson when the F1 fraternity reconvenes at Silverstone later this month.
In the event of this tragedy, all I can say is – marshals deserve a lot more credit and recognition for the work they do for free. Putting your life at risk for something that you love is not something all of us could do. My thoughts and condolences remain with Mark’s family, friends and colleagues.