Saturday 08 February 2003
'Race track deaths were an accident'
The widow of a racing driver killed in a horrific finishing-post smash told how her husband had been euphoric in the run-up to his final race. Ashley Dawson-Damer, 58, fought back tears as she told how her husband had been full of pride and excitement as he prepared for the Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 24, 2000.
Dawson-Damer's Lotus 63 spun out of control as he rounded the last corner
of the famous hill climb at the Goodwood circuit at about 4pm. The vintage
Formula One car careered off the track and smashed into the steel finishing
post, which broke into pieces. Mr Dawson-Damer and marshal Andrew Carpenter,
of Polegate, who had been standing behind the post, were both killed.
A second marshal, Steve Tarrant, of Poole, who was holding the chequered
flag beside Mr Carpenter, suffered horrific injuries when he was flung
into the air in the crash and later lost half his right leg as a result.
However, after a three-day inquest into the tragedy, a jury found that
despite a number of errors and breaches of duty in the run-up to the smash,
there was little to suggest it was anything more than an accident.
Mrs Dawson-Damer, 58, of Sydney, Australia, told the jury of her husband's passion for motor racing. She told the jury: "He has been racing historic motor cars for about 15 years." Mrs Dawson-Damer, who had been married for 18 years, said it was the third time he had taken part in the festival. She told the jury he was not driven by a thrill of speed as much as showing off his classic cars. She said: "He was euphoric before the race. He didn't like feeling his cars had to go fast to be appreciated."
Police have spent more than two years investigating the tragic accident,
which was over in less than two seconds, but it is still impossible to
say what went wrong. The only clues are those given by racing driver Marshal
Christopher Andrews, who was standing near the finish line at the time,
who said: "There was fine rain and the track was damp. I saw the car appear
on the brow of the hill. "It came on to the grass verge on the right and
looked like the driver tried to get control. The car then crossed on to
the other verge. "At that point I didn't wait to see what happened, I
ran into the woods."
Andrew Carpenter, 40, a buyer from Polegate, also lived for cars and had been marshaling races for more than 20 years. Mr Tarrant, who survived the crash but does not remember anything from two days before the race, is still devoted to the sport and marshals, along with his wife Jackie, when he can.
jury heard there were flaws in the safety procedures at the festival but
that police felt they did not amount to gross negligence. John Symes,
safety officer for the Motoring Sports Association (MSA), admitted the
finishing post, or gantry, which Mr Dawson-Damer smashed into had not
been approved before the race.