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Marshal’s Brands Hatch death ruled an accident

The 67-year-old had been positioned at marshal post two on the approach to Paddock Hill Bend on 31 July, 2021 during a British Automobile Racing Club meeting at the Kent venue.

Simon Beament’s Ford Escort RS2000 made contact with another car down the start-finish straight in the Pre-93 and Pre-03 Touring Car race, and was sent into the barrier on the outside of the circuit before flipping over into the marshal’s post.

In a statement at the inquest held on Wednesday at Maidstone’s County Hall, Beament said: “As I caught up with a black BMW car on the track, I remember feeling a tap on the right side of my car. I then felt a second tap and a third tap.

“My car did not change line, but it then went into the barrier and rolled two or three times.

“As I took my hands off the wheel after the crash I felt a bone coming through my left leg.”

The race was immediately stopped and Beament was taken to hospital following the incident after sustaining a broken leg, while emergency services worked on Foote before he was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:48pm.

A pathology report determined that the cause of death was due to “head injuries” and that this was “consistent with severe forceful impact to the head”.

Paul Burlison, environmental health officer for Sevenoaks District Council, revealed that Motorsport UK carried out a routine inspection on the track in February 2021 and reported no issues.

However, it was noted that the way the car came down onto post marshal post two “should not have happened”.

Burlison detailed how the Armco barrier should “give” when a car comes into contact with it at speed, but in this case the car rode on the top of the barrier.

Marshals tribute

Marshals tribute

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Daniel Carter, safety executive for Motorsport UK, carried out an inspection of the track days after the incident and found that the barriers were fixed by timber oak posts at the MotorSport Vision venue.

New circuit guidelines were introduced in 2019 for all new circuits stipulating that Armco should be mounted to steel posts. Brands Hatch has installed metal posts for the last 10 years under a rolling programme, where timber posts needed to be replaced.

However, steel posts and additional barriers such as tyres are also required in areas presenting a “higher risk” such as head-on positions at corners.

It was said to have been “unusual” for this type of crash to occur at marshal post two, and steel posts were not required under the applicable guidelines on straights although were present in the Armco sections adjacent to the marshal post.

Jamie Champkin, Motorsport UK’s regulatory counsel, revealed that since the incident occurred, approximately £500,000 is being invested in a programme with venues and others in rolling out LED signage at major circuits across the country in order to “enhance the safety of marshals”.

Having considered the evidence, senior coroner Roger Hatch stated: “In motorsport there is always danger likely to occur when racing at high speed. Those dangers are recognised and accepted by those taking part; whether drivers, or marshals or anyone else involved.

Flowers at crash site

Flowers at crash site

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

“Dangers are carefully considered by those organising and minimised wherever possible but sadly, this fatal accident occurred.”

He concluded that Mr Foote’s death was “caused by an accident”.

Foote had been the Mayor of Epsom and Ewell, in Surrey, between 2014 and 2015, as well as an aircraft engineer, qualified pilot, skilled mechanic and coach driver.

Brian Angus, chair of the Surrey Mayors’ Association, said: “It was just amazing what he did do. I remember when he drove us on a coach trip to Bruges.

“The fact that he was the mayor and a coach driver was just hard to compute. He had a scuba kit, loved sailing, he really was just like a James Bond character.”

Thousands of tributes were made by the motorsport community following Foote’s death, including from Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, while a JustGiving page raised more than £59,000.

Jonathan Palmer, chief executive of MSV, said: “I was deeply saddened by Robert Foote’s death at Brands Hatch last July and his family have my condolences.

“Motor racing is hugely dependent on the army of volunteer marshals who give their time and experience week after week to allow racing to take place safely, so Robert’s loss was felt very deeply across the motorsport world.

“In conjunction with Motorsport UK and the ACU, MSV constantly reviews track safety and implements enhancements where appropriate, and as part of that process we learn from incidents like this tragic accident.”

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