The rule changes made in Grand Prix racing over the past decade have failed to reduce drivers' risk of serious injuries or death, a new Italian study suggests.
Motor racing is inherently risky, but in recent years the sport's upper echelon laid down new restrictions intended to make drivers safer. In Formula One racing, this has mainly meant changes in engine size and tire design. Top-class motorcycle racing has also been revamping its engine limitations.
However, these moves have not had the intended effect of slowing drivers down, researchers report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In fact, from 1995 to 2006, the best qualifying lap time in each year's Grand Prix has steadily improved, according to the study authors, led by Dr Giuseppe Lippi of the University of Verona. This is true of both Formula One and MotoGP, the top international motorcycling championship.
More drivers dying
"Several drivers are injured seriously every year," the researchers write. In addition, they point out, the number of deaths across all forms of motor racing has been higher in the past few years compared with past decades. In 1979, there were 28 fatalities, versus 44 in 2004, 45 in 2005 and 37 in 2006.
"Since driver safety comes ahead of spectacle and business," Lippi and his colleagues write, "it is not acceptable that drivers continue to die or be seriously injured."
The researchers suggest that additional safety measures be taken - such as safer protection barriers on the tracks and changes in vehicle design that lessen the impact of crashes. In addition, "innovative clothing," such as so-called airbag jackets, might offer an added buffer against injury.
"Drivers' injuries are an unsustainable price to pay for the show," Lippi and his colleagues conclude.
SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, September 27, 2007. – (Reuters Health)
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