Well, the 2012 Hovercraft World Championships have come to an end in Saalburg, Germany with a fantastic awards ceremony but it’s fair to say that on Friday, it looked questionable as to whether the event would even continue.
Following a horrific racing accident in Friday’s Formula Two race, German driver Michael Feulner was pronounced dead. The shock waves it sent around the world were enormous and I have no doubt, will reverberate for a long time yet. Despite its high speeds and spectacular viewing, hovercraft racing is very safe in motorsport terms. Events are well run, well marshaled and there are well practiced procedures in place which are all geared to making participation as safe as possible. Michael, a 52 year old, very experienced driver from a family that has raced for many years was unbelievably unlucky and is the first driver to have lost their life as a result of a racing incident in the 40 year history of the sport. It wouldn’t be overstating the case to say that the reaction from the hovercrafting community to Michael’s passing reminds me of the tragic loss of Ayrton Senna in 1994, albeit in a much smaller sport. The German authourites immediately and thoroughly investigated the incident, response and procedures and found everything to be in order, for which the WHF and local organisers should be commended. Racing was of course cancelled for the rest of the day.
Following discussions between Michaels family, organisers and drivers, it was decided to continue racing the following day and it was a subdued paddock that prepared to race on Saturday. Thankfully, there were no more accidents and some safe but exciting racing decided the World Champions for the next two years.
Overall then, a very sad but significant World Championship, which showed what a close community spirit exists within the sport. Thanks to Keith Oakley and the brothers Sweetman for providing live coverage of both the racing and the awards ceremony – it was fantastic to be able to watch the racing as it happened. Congratulations to the drivers who took away well earned trophies, and to everyone who kept going despite the awful events of Friday. Our thoughts of course, are with Michaels Friends and Family.
Final results and new World Champions.
Formula One : Michael Metzner – Germany.
Formula Two : Denis Ragot – France
Formula 50 : Fabien Santoulange – France
Formula S : Chris Barlow – England
Formula Junior : Lucas Hall – Sweden
Formula 35 : Janke Cooper – England.
Next stop for the racers is Claydon House, Buckinghamshire on the 29th/30th of September f or the last round of the UK National Championship.