KEY POINTSKiwi driver Hayden Paddon must be an emotional mess after being involved in an accident that led to the death of someone, writes Dale Budge.
The start to the 2017 World Rally Championship yesterday was heralded as the first glimpse at a bright future for the sport but the tragic accident involving Kiwi Hayden Paddon has changed all of that.
Instead of talking about the new, more powerful and spectacular cars or the return of Citroen and Toyota to the world championship the news is all about the sad death of a spectator.
Towards the end of the opening stage Paddon lost control of his new-spec Hyundai i20 in icy conditions and slid off the road, hitting and killing a roadside spectator in the process.
It was a small error by the Kiwi in conditions where mistakes were inevitable but the consequences will be unfairly harsh.
The Monte Carlo event is staged in the middle of winter and traditionally regarded as the toughest event on the calendar. The conditions change from corner to corner on the mountain roads in near-freezing temperatures.
In some places the road was dry and free of ice or snow. In others it was extremely slippery, making it nearly impossible for drivers to accurately determine grip levels.
Cars are never at full speed at this event and instead tip-toe their way through the frosty stages trying to keep on the road.
He won't be the last leading driver to be involved in a mistake of this nature. In fact, had the spectator not been involved, there was every chance Paddon would have been able to continue with the damaged car through the final kilometre or two of the stage.
Paddon must be an emotional mess. Not only is his rally over - or at least any chance of securing championship points - he will now have to cope with repercussions of being involved in an accident that led to the death of someone.
Yes, he is competing in a dangerous sport and everyone involved knows of those dangers but that will be of little comfort to him right now.
While now is not the time for finger-pointing, you wonder how someone was able to be standing on the outside of a frosty corner in front of a bank where there is no protection or way of avoiding a wayward car. It would be bad enough on a dry road but in those conditions it was an accident waiting to happen.
Motorsport, despite all of the obvious dangers, usually leads the way in terms of safety innovations for those inside and outside the car. Technology is often passed on to road cars for the rest of us to benefit from.
The impact of this incident has cast a pall over the event and the championship as a whole.
We can only hope that reviews improve safety standards and that Paddon can put the horrible accident behind him quickly.