Craig Murto: Tracks need more security

If there’s anything to be learned from last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, it is that tracks obviously need more security.

The race should have been most noteworthy for Ferrari’s pole, the first time since 2013 that a Mercedes didn’t occupy the top spot. It also marked Sebastian Vettel’s first Formula One win for Ferrari.

Instead, most of the conversations after the race centered around a fan who casually slipped through an opening in the fence surrounding the track. He found himself in the racing groove, and after nearly getting struck he crossed the track and walked casually until he found another opening and slipped through. It appeared he may have had a camera or used a cell phone camera during the episode.

Within 12 hours Singapore police stated they had a 27 year old in custody for the incident, which surely will be investigated by the FIA.

This isn’t the first time this year that a fan has wandered onto an active racetrack. In Shanghai, China, a fan ran across the track during a practice session and ran into the Ferrari garage, exclaiming that he wanted an F1 car.

A fan wandered onto the track at Hockenheim, Germany, in 2000. And in 2003 perhaps the most famous incident occurred at Silverstone during the British Grand Prix, when Irish priest Neil Horan ran onto the circuit toward oncoming racecars carrying a sign with a biblical message of warning until marshals tackled him.

You would think spectators at a motorsports event would know enough to keep from harm’s way, and certainly off the racing surface. But we hear of tragedies at World Rally competitions when fans standing right along the circuit are struck by out-of-control race cars. Organizers try to keep spectators at a safe distance, and sometimes actually close sections of the course when spectators become a problem.

But it takes something really special (like a special kind of stupidity) to walk onto a closed circuit course while cars are at racing speeds. There’s a rumor (I’m starting right now) that the spectator at Singapore has 1,500 more Facebook friends now that he’s posted his on-track video from the race. In all seriousness, this man needs to go to jail.

The FIA is going to want answers. It is unacceptable that spectators can walk onto a racetrack and risk their lives, as well as the lives of the racers. This is worst than the clown who got drunk at Richmond International Raceway and climbed on top of the catch fence, or the two women who walked up from a motor home lot, climbed under the catch fence at Daytona and sat on the wall between Turns 1 and 2 with their feet resting on the SAFER barrier a few years ago.

But people are people, and people often do strange things. How many of you remember the 1986 NASCAR race at Talladega, before which a 20-year-old fan stole the pace car and went for a joy ride? Police were not very casual about removing him from the vehicle once they got to him.

Do yourself a favor and don’t walk onto a racetrack when racing vehicles are at speed. I don’t want to have to write about you in this column unless you actually win a race.

The NASCAR Chase has gotten off to an interesting start. First Denny Hamlin spins and loses a lap on the first lap of the race, then he somehow manages to come back and win.

And what of “Happy” Kevin Harvick? He wasn’t very happy with Jimmie Johnson after he cut down a tire and crashed at Chicago. He now has dug a hole so deep he may have to win one of the next two races just to progress to the next round.

The contact between Harvick and Johnson that cut Harvick’s tire was just good racing. But it was the decision by Harvick and his team to try to ride out the tire rub that cost him. He could have pit, lost a lap, and made the lap up later. Instead he stayed out until his tire went down and backed it into the wall.

But racers have to blame someone, and Harvick blames Johnson, who may need some extra security of his own as the series heads to New Hampshire.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.