By OSCAR PERRI
The shocking death of a spectator at Tatts Finke Desert race last weekend has seen heartfelt sorrow from the off-road racing fraternity for the deceased, as well as those in the car involved in the accident.
Finke veteran Bruce Muir says the tragedy will be haunting the South Australian farmer behind the wheel, whom he knows through competing against in the Finke and other races.
“Every time he closes his eyes at the moment, he probably sees the whole incident over again.
“For the family of the person and him as well, I think they’re all to some degree in the same basket of feeling pretty bad about it. It’s a horrific thing for everyone.”
He says that there is a tight and friendly community among people involved in off road racing and motorsports generally. If there is someone in need of a spare part or help in any way, by all reports from those who compete in these races, someone will be there to lend a hand.
“I think everyone will want to get to him and talk to him and try and help them out as much as they can, it must be a horrible thing to be going through.”
The driver and navigator, his wife, are long time members of Onkaparinga Ramblers Car Club in South Australia. Vice-president Dave Stimson says that the club is doing all it can to support them through a difficult time.
“We were as concerned as much as everybody else, if not more. We’re staying in touch with them and offering any assistance that we can.”
There are no suggestions that the drivers were at fault, as investigations by Motorsports Australia, Worksafe NT and Police continue to look into the incident.
Mr Muir drove through the last checkpoint nine minutes behind the car involved, and was slowed down by spectators before hitting the dune where the crash happened.
He saw nothing that indicated what had just happened, the car was not on the track and nothing was out of the ordinary apart from being slowed down.
A few kilometres closer to the finish line they saw an ambulance heading down the service road, but Muir says this is a common sight along the Finke track. He didn’t find out what happened until he had finished the race, and got back into Alice.
There are a significant number of similar dunes along the 230km track, which are favourite spots for those wanting to capture a photo of cars and bikes in mid air.
But Mr Muir says these parts of the track are not the ones that had concerned him in regards to spectator safety.
“The more dangerous seeming ones – as a driver – is when it’s a quite a long straight, and then there’s a bit of a corner with people on the outside.
“They’re more of a concern than the ones on the dunes because normally [spectators] are back far enough.
“It’s always in the back of your mind, especially when it’s really dusty, that’s probably the worst, because you’re struggling to see what’s down the track, and you can’t really see what’s off to the side at all.”
The News has chosen not to name the driver and navigator out of respect for their privacy.
PHOTO at top: Dust in the Finke is a major hazard. A car in the 2016 event.