Age Limit, Safety Gear Under Scanner after 13-year-old's Fatal Accident

CHENNAI: The tragic death of 13-year-old Bengaluru boy Shreyas Hareesh during a national championship race has sent shockwaves through the sporting community, prompting a critical examination of safety measures and age limits in two-wheeler racing.

Akbar Ebrahim, president of the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of India, on Sunday assured that an investigation will be conducted and any necessary improvements will be implemented. "We will form a committee and conduct our investigation within 10 days. The organisers will be summoned to submit all documents, including crash footage and evidence supporting the pre-event scrutiny of the rider's safety equipment such as helmet and racing suit," said Akbar.

FMSCI's sporting regulations mandate a standard operating procedure for safety equipment. A rider must use a helmet with a specific certification. "We have various certifications, such as ECE (Economic Commission of Europe), SNELL, and DOT (Department of Transportation in the USA). The minimum certification required to compete in our national championships is ECE. The onus is on the competitor to submit safety equipment with the relevant certification at the pre-event scrutiny. We have seized the helmet that Shreyas was using. During the investigation, if we find that the competitor manipulated the certification, the responsibility falls on the racer. If the scrutineer responsible for inspection did not carry out the process properly, appropriate action will be taken against the official," added Akbar.

According to the preliminary report submitted by the national championship organisers (Madras Motor Sports Club), Shreyas’ helmet had the required certification.

Preliminary report based on the track footage suggests that the helmet of Shreyas came off only after the bike behind ran over him. Shreyas started on pole and built a decent lead going into the first corner. However, when he exited Turn 1, he suffered a fall, without any contact with other bikers. Based on the visuals, as he fell on the left side of the bike, the rider behind him had no space and no time to react as he ran over him. In the impact, the under chassis of the bike made contact with Shreayas' helmet and its strap ripped off.

Akbar said the reason for the fall can be determined only after a detailed investigation. "He fell on the track and did not crash into a barrier, so there is no question about the safety standard of the circuit (Madras International Circuit)," he said.

Talking about the age limits in two-wheeler racing, Akbar said it had already been increased from 11 to 13 for the year 2023, following the FIM's (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) decision to raise the age limit. "For the next year, it will be further increased to 14. For 2025, it will be 15. The FIM had raised its age limit to 14 from 11 two years ago, specifically for its own championships. During that period, many 11 and 12-year-olds were already participating in national and international racing competitions. To facilitate a gradual transition, the decision was made to set the age limit at 13," explained Akbar.

In the case of Shreyas, he had already been participating in accordance with regulations and even competed in international events. "This is an unfortunate incident involving a boy who achieved a lot within a span of three years. He was not inexperienced. If FIM has an age limit of 18 and we have 14, then it’s something to discuss," said Akbar.

The age limit in national championships used to be 16 until the FIM's allowance for kids as young as 11 to compete in international events led to pressure on FMSCI from local manufacturers and parents to reconsider its age limit. FMSCI then reduced the age limit to align with FIM's standards and also to accommodate the aspirations of young racers to compete at international level.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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