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It’s time to ban swimming at the beach. It’s time to ban fishing. Particularly men who rock fish. It’s certainly time to ban motorcycles and bicycles.

Surf Life Saving Australia’s general manager coastal safety, Shane Daw, says “the tragic loss of lives from rock fishing makes it Australia’s most dangerous sport”.

On average, 13 people drown (men make up 95 per cent of the deaths) from rock fishing every year. But between December 2022 and February 2023, swimming (rather than fishing) at the beach caused 54 drowning deaths and more than 6000 rescues along Australia’s coastline.

Quadbikes kill about 16 people a year – about 15 per cent of those are children. Motorbikes generally kill 200 a year. If you are thinking about working for a living, do you go into our most dangerous industries, agriculture, forestry, fishing(!), transport, postal work, warehousing or construction? Or do you go into mining, which is now as safe as the arts caper?

How did the big resource companies transform from being the most dangerous employers to being safer than industries where they hang blue poles and walk around all day on tippy toes in satin shoes? (Positive note for ALP members and other communists: the first big safety step for ballet came 100 years after the Sun King founded the sport, when the workers had a revolution and ordered that in future, ballet shoes were not to have heels.)

My guess is the mining bosses didn’t make it so hard to work in the industry that they closed it down. But that is what’s happening in tarmac rallying right now. Like Targa Tasmania, the largest and one of the most ­famous tarmac rallies in the world. And a big economic booster for our south island. Targa Tasmania has just been cancelled.

Announcing the decision, Targa boss Mark Perry said: “Targa Australia will suspend all future motorsport-based events until the full ramifications of Motorsport Australia’s review into tarmac rallying can be quantified and assessed. This means the 2023 editions of Targa Tasmania and Targa Great Barrier Reef have today been cancelled.

“The safety review process has been going for 15 months and, with many more months ahead before all the details are released and implemented, there is still too much uncertainty for all stakeholders.

“Due to these unprecedented challenges, Targa Australia has advised Motorsport Australia that they can no longer align their business with the governing body and will not seek a contract renewal on future events run by Targa Australia.”

Motorsport Australia’s decisions come after three competitors died in the 2021 rally and another died last year. Motorsport Australia is the governing and sanctioning body for four-wheeled motorsport in Australia. It is affiliated with the FIA. And, critically, it provides insurance for event organisers such as Targa, which up until now is part of the control Motorsport Australia has over organisers.

A 2021 study by Lauren Fortington and her colleagues from Edith Cowan University shows that the most fatal sports in Australia are to do with motorbikes, bicycles, skydiving, horse riding and bushwalking. Drowning deaths were excluded, so fishing didn’t rank highly.

And in general, the younger you are the more likely you are to die. The older you are, the less likely.

And the higher profile the event, the more media attention a fatality or injury will get and the more the sport will look dangerous, and the more the clamour (if just from the insurance brokers) to so something.

No doubt about it. Wheeled sports are risky. Six competitors have died in the 30 years of Targa. In the 20 years from 2000 to 2020, 230 persons not in Targa died on motorbikes, 118 on bicycles and 116 in aero sports.

As Mike Sinclair, carsales editor-in-chief and Targa competitor, wrote this week: “Here comes the cliche: motor racing is dangerous.

“It says so on the ticket and on the disclaimer. Targa has mourned the passing of six competitors in its 30-year history. Each of them was heartfelt by a constituency that is more family than hardened competitors. Each of the six deaths was tragic to all involved.

“But equally each of the individuals were competing in Targa of their own volition. Each of them had acknowledged the risk and each of them had done so understanding that tarmac rallying has its own unique set of challenges.”

The bottom line is to manage risk, look at what happened, the mechanisms that caused it and change things.

When 26-year-old Gino Mader died after crashing at high speed on a descent at the Tour de Suisse, Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme announced new safety measures, including “over 5000 ‘dangerous spots’ marked for the riders, noise-producing road signs, re-tarmacked roads and 30m-long safety mattresses”. In other words, the TdF officials have the least amount of expectations of individuals. They don’t put all the blame on the drivers and make the environment around them as safe as possible.

In 2016, the Australian Institute for Motor Sport Safety undertook a wide-ranging review of the sport of rallying in Australia, with a focus on safety. The ­review panel made 34 recommendations – many have not been followed.

I emailed Motorsport Australia to ask “why the recommendations, particularly around jumps/bumps were not adopted”.

As the reports says: “The review would attribute no fewer than three ­fatalities to loss of traction from result of bump/undulation, and subsequent loss of control of the car”. At the time of writing, there was no reply.

Hungary on Sunday, when it should be Mad Max, Bottas and the Hamster. In the only race that really counted this month, the MX-5 Cup, Jet, Tim and Richard Herring (only three last Saturday?) killed it overall with the best racing between the Val Bottas of Mazdas (me) and the second-oldest driver on the track, MX-5 committee person Paul Nudd.

Finally, our car of the week is among the finest, most original Porsche Spyders with a serious period competition history, well-documented provenance and uncommon originality.

One of only six customer RS60s delivered new to the US, it was ordered for its first owner, William Wuesthoff, who campaigned the RS60 in 17 races achieving 12 class wins in the process. All your for $8m.



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