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26th June 2000

'Two dead at car festival'

Horrified spectators told today of the crash at the Goodwood Festival of Speed which left two people dead. Driver John Dawson-Damer, 59, was killed when his Lotus 63 collided with the finishing post during a hill climb near Goodwood House. Marshal Andrew Carpenter, 40, from Polegate, was seriously injured in the accident and later died at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester. A second marshal, Steve Tarrant, from Poole, was also badly hurt and last night was in a critical but stable condition. Both men were working for the British Automobile Racing Club, responsible for the organisation of the festival.

Festival officials have vowed to carry out a full investigation into the cause of the crash, which happened at about 2.30pm on Saturday. Horrified onlookers saw Mr Dawson-Damer's car crash into the finishing post, hitting the two marshals, and flip over into a hedge.

The three-day festival continued as planned yesterday with 110,000 motorsport enthusiasts attending the final day. Michael Pearson, 48, of Sackville Gardens, Hove, went to all three days and saw the Lotus crash. He said: "I suddenly heard an almighty bang and when I looked up I saw the car flying in the air and crashing into the hedge. "It was horrible. There were some people screaming but a lot of others were just in shock. Everyone was pretty quiet for the rest of the afternoon." Peter Barnes, 61, from Storrington Road, Horsham, said: "You always know there is a lot of risk when you take part in events like these, but it is only when something like this happens that it brings it home how dangerous it is." Mike Havers, 38, from Portsmouth, said: "I was here yesterday and I heard there had been an accident but I didn't know it was that serious. I'm surprised they decided to go ahead with the last day."

A Goodwood spokesman said: "We did think about calling off the third day but it was felt that it was better to carry on because of the thousands of people planning to attend the event. "This has been a great tragedy. We make every effort we can to ensure safety standards but unfortunately sometimes no matter how hard you try an accident happens. "Police are investigating the accident and we will be carrying out an internal investigation."

Mr Dawson-Damer was born in Britain but moved to Sydney, Australia, where he ran a company called Austral Engineering. He and his wife Ashley had two adopted children. Mrs Dawson-Damer was at Goodwood when the accident happened. Mr Dawson-Damer's brother, the Earl of Portarlington, paid tribute from the family home in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders. He said: "Obviously his family is devastated by what happened. We all are. I was very close to him and will miss him. It was a terrible thing to happen. "Collecting and racing Lotus cars was his biggest passion." The Earl of March, founder of the festival which is now in its eighth year, said: "I am extremely upset by the accident and I offer my deepest sympathy to the families involved."

Despite Saturday's tragedy, thousands of people flocked to Goodwood for the annual Festival of Speed. The three-day event, now in its eighth year, attracted a host of top names from Formula One as well as pop star Jay Kay from Jamiroquai and comedian Rowan Atkinson. Big names including former world champion Damon Hill, driver Martin Brundle, rising star Jenson Button and the legendary Stirling Moss were also out in force. Other attractions included the chance to see classic Wacky Races cartoon characters Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley, who launched the new soapbox races on the last day. Bitter rivalries and classic old racing battles were brought back to centre stage as the festival reunited many cars and their original drivers to once again battle it out.

The starting field was divided into 24 categories, starting from turn of the century classics to modern day Formula 1 challengers. Jonny Herbert was also at the event in his latest F1 Jaguar and Sir Stirling Moss drove a Jaguar MK VII while former motorbike racer Barry Sheene took a ride on on a Suzuki 500. The thousands of visitors were also treated to a flying display by an RAF Tornado fighter bomber and a performance by the Red Arrows. There were also a wide range of stalls and displays showing hundreds of old and modern racing cars. A funfair, helicopter flights and the chance to ride in a tank, take a motorbike for a spin or try out a Chrysler 4x4 round a precision course were also available.

Four top Formula One teams, Jaguar, Williams-BMW, Jordan and McLaren, attended. Thousands of pounds are expected to have been raised the NSPCC Full Stop Campaign which is this year's key charity at the festival. The charity entered a soapbox in the Goodwood Gravity Racing Challenge which was built by Aerosuperbatics and driven by Alain de Cadenet, brother of Amanda. Jenson Button and former EastEnders star Troy Titus-Adams, who played Nina, were also on hand to carry out a prize draw at the charity's stand yesterday.

This year saw children have their own brand-new event with the launch of the Junior Festival of Speed. They were able to choose from traditional fun such as Punch and Judy, face-painting and a funfair with pint-size Austin cars or try DVD players and a PlayStation in a specially-equipped Renault Scenic. They were also given the chance to learn off-road motorcycling techniques with Motor Cycle Industry inspectors.

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