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Motor sport safety has been placed under the spotlight with the launch of the Australian Institute for Motor Sport Safety (AIMSS).

Founded by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), the Institute aims to encourage excellence across all levels of motor sport safety in Australia through research, education, and industry liaison. Motor racing great, Sir Jackie Stewart urged government and the private sector to support the improvement of motor sport safety in Australia.

“Australia has a very big history in motor sport and it should be well proud. The establishment of a national institute dedicated to motor sport safety has not happened anywhere else in the world, so the Australian Institute for Motor Sport Safety could well be pioneering the way. I really take my hat off to all involved in the Institute for what they are doing,” Sir Jackie said.

AIMSS will oversee non-regulatory activities affecting motor sport safety in Australia, including the protection of participants, officials and the public. The Institute will also act as the representative body - in conjunction with CAMS and the FIA - to advise Federal and State Governments on best practice in motor sport safety. This will include promoting improvements in motor sport safety, coordinating safety related research and education programs, and developing the relationship between motor sport and road safety.

“The government should help fund motor sport safety, because if it is going to be interested in the sport for promoting tourism and the things that go with it, so it should invest in the saving of lives and serious injury – often unnecessary injury - by having good preventative medicine,” stressed Sir Jackie.

“Australian government organisations and the private sector should be looking to contribute in a positive fashion to safety in motor sport to create preventative medicine rather than waiting for corrective medicine.”

More than any other racing car driver, Sir Jackie revolutionised safety standards with a remorseless crusade for circuit and car improvements, and was the first driver to pioneer the use of safety belts, full-face helmets and fire resistant suits. In an emotional address, Sir Jackie highlighted the tragic death of Peter Brock as a key example of the need for greater research and development into safety in all levels of motor sport.

“We think that today, risk management in motor sport is as good as it has ever been, but then something happens, Peter Brock gets killed. Here in Australia, it was like an earthquake that such a hero could lose his life. Why did he lose his life? The sad thing about every part of life is that big trees blow over, it only depends on the strength of the wind. We are still very vulnerable.”

The AIMSS is modelled on the highly successful FIA Institute, which in its first two years has already commissioned more than 50 safety-related projects. Like the FIA Institute, the AIMSS is an independent non-regulatory body and is a separate entity from the FIA. AIMSS will be independently funded through professional and corporate membership.

Funding for special projects will be raised from relevant industry members who may expect to benefit from the results of the projects.

Chairman of the Australian Institute for Motor Sport Safety, Dr Michael Henderson stated: “Motor racing is a sport that carries an element of risk. There will always be accidents in motor sport but striving to minimise the consequences of a crash is fundamental to the AIMSS approach.

“There is always room for improvement, and the development of the AIMSS is critical to the advancement of safety for all motor sport participants in Australia. Road safety is also a major issue in the community, and the Institute’s work in motor sport safety can contribute to road safety. The Institute aims to liaise very closely with the government and motor sport and motoring industries, because research or data means little unless it’s translated into products or use.”

Also in attendance at the launch was FIA Institute president, Professor Sid Watkins OBE, who stated: “We are delighted that Australia has decided to take a leadership role in the ongoing development of motor sport safety through the formation of the AIMSS, which will ensure the highest possible levels of safety are provided to drivers, race personnel and, of course, the fans.

“It is no accident that safety in motor racing has improved hugely in the last decade. The FIA, and more recently the FIA Institute, have put a vast amount of research into improving motor sport safety and we look forward to working with the AIMSS to continue this significant work.”

It is expected that all special projects undertaken by the Australian Institute for Motor Sport Safety will be self funded, although in some cases, the FIA Institute may be asked to contribute to funding, as will government organisations and corporate working on safety in roads and sport.  

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