Colin McRae and Richard Burns are among the drivers
Some of the world's top rally drivers were caught by speed cameras around the site of the British leg of the world championship, a court has been told.
Port Talbot Magistrates Court was told on Tuesday that among 20 names compiled by South Wales Police were Britain's Colin McRae and Richard Burns.
It is alleged the men were driving in their high-powered cars between stages where they starred in front of thousands of spectators in the 2002 rally in the forests and hills of Wales.
They were among 138 drivers who took part in the British leg of the World Rally Championship which was based in Cardiff.
Reigning world champion at the time, Richard Burns was accused of breaking the speed limit five times - going over 30mph, 40mph, 50mph, 60mph and 70mph.
The others were accused of breaking the 30mph speed limit as they drove to the next stage of the rally on November 14 last year.
Drivers included in the group of 20 are:
Former world champion Scot Colin McRae, 34, living in Switzerland.
Four times world champion Finnish Tommi Makinen, 39, living in Monaco.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz, 42, of Madrid, who is twice world champion.
German Armin Schwarz, 40, based in Monte Carlo, a former European champion.
Estonian Markko Martin, 26, living in Tartu, Estonia, who finished second in last year's GB rally.
Only Schwarz pleaded guilty to speeding - admitting five charges of breaking the limit, all at 30mph along country roads.
Solicitor Paul Trotman, representing the other 19 rally drivers, said most intended to plead guilty.
Schwarz's lawyer Glenda Owen said he faced disqualification from driving on the points "totting up" procedure.
"Disqualification would lead to exceptional hardship for himself and the Hyundai team he drives for," she told the court.
Their cases have been adjourned until 10 November.
As in racing, as in life - if this action proceeds against the drivers (and I have no reason to doubt that it will!), the ones with multiple offences will will be disqualified from driving on UK roads and will not be able to take part in next years Rally Of Great Britain (which is traditionally known as the "RAC Rally").
Further to that item, I recall a few years ago that a well known female British rally driver lost her licence after a drink driving offence.
As a valid national driving licence is required to compete in rallying, I think I am correct in saying
that she was unable to compete in any events at home or abroad for the duration of the ban.
Well, ok, that's most certainly fair enough - drink-driving is a serious offence. She should have borne the risk in mind - especially when as her livelihood depended on it.
However, does this raise the possibility that other British drivers such as Colin McRae could loose their licence for multiple speeding offences and effectively be banned from the World Rally Championships for a year?
I know that it doesn't make it any more important an issue just because Colin McRae happens to be famous but I think it underlines the problem with speed cameras - the lack of discretion and human judgement in the system.
Hmm, no sympathy for those caught but I can see some good from this:
Schwarz may lose his licence, and the UK govt/police probably don't want that - it'll just add more fuel to the debate that speed cameras are wrong/evil/the work of the "liberal elite"/asylum seekers/single mums.
So I can see Schwarz getting the Schumacher treatment - a big fine but no ban, and being obliged to do road safety adverts for a while, whether that be in the UK or abroard. If his influence can lead to just one baseball-cap wearing arrogant 17-year old not gunning his suped-up Nova at 55 past a school, that's got to be a good thing.
"Hmm, no sympathy for those caught but I can see some good from this"
Why is that? Before they shoved it into South Wales, the RAC Rally used to pass right by my house en route to a special stage. The drivers are well aware of the difference between actually driving on special stages and driving between them - the latter being subject to the highway code AT ALL TIMES.
What I witnessed was a brisk and noisy but very orderly convoy of rally cars. All the fast and dangerous stuff happens on the timed special stages - not in between them.
"So I can see Schwarz getting the Schumacher treatment - a big fine but no ban, and being obliged to do road safety adverts for a while"
That is the sort of punishment that gets meted out by the FIA for an on-track misdemeanour e.g ignoring a black flag or over-taking under a waved yellow.
I sincerely doubt if Cardiff magistrates have such discretionary powers for offences commited on Her Maj's highway!
You are quite correct in saying that the power-that-be will not want Schwarz or Burns to lose their licences
but they are going to have to come up with something rather special if it is not to make a complete mockery of the whole speed camera scam.
Four of the world's top rally drivers have been banned from driving after being caught in speed traps in south Wales during the British leg of the world championships last year.
German Armin Schwarz, Belgian Freddy Loix, Swede Daniel Carlsson and Briton Kris Meeke were all handed suspensions by magistrates in Neath on Monday.
Britain's Colin McRae and Richard Burns were also among a total of 17 drivers caught by roadside cameras.
They escaped bans but were given fines.
Those banned will still be able to drive in rallies but not on public roads.
The court heard most of the drivers were caught by one trap set up between rally headquarters and a testing area known as the "shakedown section".
Paul Trotman, defending, said: "The shakedown section is a six-mile long stretch used to calibrate the cars.
"Their brakes, steering and suspension need to be adjusted.
"The shakedown section has two miles along a public road and then four miles inside a forest not subject to speed limits.
"But the two miles between there and the base camp is open to the public."
Loix, 32, was fined £1,750 and given a six-month ban after being caught seven times in the same stretch on the same morning.
He was clocked at speeds of up to 54mph in the 30mph zone.
McRae was caught doing 51mph and fined £150 and given three penalty points.
Mr Trotman said: "People are prosecuted for speeding because of the risk to other road-users, but the degree of danger from these men is likely to be far less than with other drivers."
He said the cars were very sophisticated with and the drivers "are used to doing far in excess of these speeds".
"The danger to the general public is extremely minimal," he added.
Former European champion Schwarz, 40, based in Monte Carlo, admitted five counts of speeding. He was fined £1,000 and banned for six months.
Carlsson, 28, from Safle, Sweden, was fined £800 and banned for six months for four offences.
Meeke, 24, of Cockermouth, Cumbria, was fined £300 and given a 12-month ban for one offence - but he had previous points on his licence.
Richard Burns, who was reigning world champion when the 2002 rally was staged, was caught doing 83mph on a 70mph dual carriageway.
Burns, 32, now based in Andorra, was fined £150 and given three points.
Other drivers who were fined and given penalty points included were twice-world champion Carlos Sainz from Spain, Estonian Markko Martin, Briton Martin Rowe, from the Isle of Mann, and Finnish duo Mikko Hirvonen and Tommi Makinen.
Magistrates chairman Cliff Jones said: "The area were these offences happened is particularly dangerous for people to exceed the speed limit under any circumstances."
The roadside cameras picked up a total of 2,312 speeding offences, with a number of fans driving between different stages of the rally among the offenders.
A spokesman for the Rally GB Ltd said it could not comment on individual cases but said it was very disappointed by the incidents of speeding.
Some of the biggest names in world rallying have received fines and road licence bans after being caught speeding during last year's Rally GB. British aces Colin McRae and Richard Burns were among those fined in a Welsh court this morning (Monday).
Daniel Carlsson, Freddy Loix, Kris Meeke and Armin Schwarz all received licence bans after most were caught offending by a speed camera set-up on a two-mile stretch of public road between the rally's service area and the 'shakedown' stage. Those banned will still be able to drive in rallies in the UK but not drive on public roads between special stages, where their co-drivers will have to take over.
McRae and Burns were also given fines for similar speeding offences. In total, 17 competitors were caught during last year's event, based in Cardiff in South Wales.
Loix was fined £1,750 and given a six month ban after being caught seven times at speeds of up to 54mph in the 30mph zone in just one morning.
McRae was caught at 51mph, and fined £150 plus three penalty points. Burns was recorded at 83mph on a dual carriageway. He given three points and fined £150. Those hit the most were…
Daniel Carlsson – banned for six months, fined £800
Freddy Loix – banned for six months, fined £1,750
Kris Meeke – banned for 12 months (had previous points), fined £300
Armin Schwarz – banned for six month, fined £1,000
Others to be fined and given penalty points were Carlos Sainz, Markko Martin, Tommi Makinen, Martin Rowe and Mikko Hirvonen. The roadside cameras picked up over 2,000 offences in all, most of which were spectators who were following the rally.
Magistrates chairman Cliff Jones said: "The area where these offences happened is particularly dangerous for people to exceed the speed limit under any circumstances."
Ironically, the man who invented the road-side speed camera, Maurice Gatsonides, was a former rally driver himself.
Governing body commissions report following speeding fines
Motorsport's governing body, the FIA, says that the spate of prosecutions for speeding on Rally GB could force it to re-examine south Wales' suitability as a venue for the event.
Several British daily newspapers have carried sizeable stories this morning, outlining how a host of world rally stars received fines and even driving bans yesterday on the basis of offences committed during last year's running of the event.
But at last weekend's championship showdown, the South Wales police again used a number of mobile speed cameras to catch speeding fans and competitors. Despite the fact that the event is now backed by the Welsh Development Agency, the FIA has indicated that it intends to re-assess whether the region's roads have become too dangerous to host the large amount of traffic and rally machinery over three days.
An FIA spokesman said: "Road safety is a matter of the utmost importance to the FIA. The actions of the police and magistrates seem to indicate that this is an exceptionally dangerous location for a rally. The FIA has therefore asked its safety delegate for a report on the suitability of the local public roads for a World Championship event."
Many WRC insiders now believe that Rally GB is run under the harshest police regime in the entire series – beyond that of Australia, which has traditionally seen the most police activity.
Safety Camera Partnership on the offensive in Wales
The Association of British Drivers has condemned an announcement by the Mid & South Wales Safety Camera Partnership that they intend to target drivers attending the Wales Rally GB over the weekend of 6th-9th November.
Last year over 2300 drivers were caught by cameras deliberately set up between rally stages, and on bridges over the M4 motorway. Those caught included rally drivers Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Tommi Makinen, Carlos Sainz and Markko Martin.
ABD Road Safety spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie said: "Speed Cameras are supposed to be deployed at accident blackspots, yet during last year's rally there were no serious accidents. There is absolutely no justification for targeting people attending a sporting event. The only possible motive behind this victimisation is financial. Most of those attending the rally will be from outside the area, or even from abroad, and won't know where the speed camera vans hide out ."
Ironically, the rally is sponsored by the Welsh Development Agency, and backed by the Welsh Assembly, in a clear attempt to encourage people to visit Wales, and generate up to £50million for the local economy. There won't be many people returning though if this is how they're treated!
ABD Chairman Brian Gregory said: "We would urge people attending the rally to exercise great caution on the roads. They should be in no doubt whatsoever that the Talivans will know all the best spots in which to lurk to catch drivers out, and intend to rake in as much money as possible ."
BRITAIN could be pulled out of the World Rally Championship (WRC) today after unrest over heavy-handed policing of the Wales Rally GB and worries over safety. The FIA, the governing body of the sport, will consider withdrawing the event from the World Championship, so that it would not count for points towards either the drivers’ or constructors’ titles.
Although the Wales Rally GB could still go ahead on its new September date next year, it would be a huge setback if the event was not part of the championship for the first time. FIA officials will consider holding the rally as an “observer only” event; in other words, they would monitor safety on the roads of South Wales before agreeing to restore the rally to the full championship.
There would then be no onus on top drivers, such as Petter Solberg, who became champion in Wales ten days ago, to attend, nor for teams such as Subaru, Citroën and Peugeot to go to the expense of turning up to a rally that would do nothing for their championship aspirations.
The threat was inspired by speeding fines totalling more than £7,000 handed out last week to 17 rally drivers for offences committed during the 2002 event. Although there are liable to be fewer prosecutions from the event two weekends ago, the police presence was judged by rally crews to be oppressive, with mobile speed cameras at regular intervals on the way to and from special stages and drivers constantly monitored by dozens of officers from the South Wales force.
Magistrates gave warning in court that the rural roads of South Wales could be rendered unsafe by an influx of high-powered rally cars, that put the FIA on alert and forced officials to consider sending in observers next year to assess the risks. The FIA has elevated safety to the top of its agenda for all motor racing and rallying events and will not risk the reputation of the sport if there is the remotest risk of accidents.
Senior officials at the World Rally Council, meeting at the FIA’s headquarters in Paris, will be given an extensive report on the number of fines levied and the policing methods, as well as an early analysis of the South Wales road system. But the fact that Britain’s pre-eminent place in world rallying is under serious threat will dismay local government executives in South Wales, who lobbied hard for the rally to have a permanent home in the Principality. The Wales Rally GB is estimated to be worth up to £20 million for hotels and restaurants as 70 rally crews and their teams and thousands of spectators descend on the area for as long as a week........
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