Stock car driver’s life was ended by ‘freak accident’

A stock car passes  mourners at Gosberton church for the funeral of Steve Newman.
A stock car passes mourners at Gosberton church for the funeral of Steve Newman.
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Expert witnesses this week told an inquest that a “freak accident” claimed the life of stock car driver Steve Newman in a race at Mildenhall Stadium.

Steve (37), of Town Drove, Quadring, was competing in the British Stock Car Championship Final on June 16 2012 when he was involved in a multi-car collision in the race’s sixth lap at around 10.35pm.

Despite efforts by medics to try and revive him, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fourteen witnesses including drivers, medical professionals and track staff gave evidence at the inquest.

The jury adjourned for less than an hour to reach a unanimous conclusion of accidental death.

Steve’s father Mick Newman (67) said afterwards: “I am a racer myself and we all know the rules. We all know what is involved with racing and we all take the risk.

“You don’t think it is going to happen to your son, but now everything is being put to rest, we are pleased with the conclusion.”

Assistant Suffolk Coroner Yvonne Blake said: “Two experts have described this crash as a ‘freak accident’, and others have seen similar crashes where people walked out relatively uninjured. Nobody expected him to die.

“Apart from a faint pulse at the beginning, no signs of life were felt from Mr Newman.”

A report published in January 2013 by Forest Heath District Council environmental health officer Stephanie Grayling said Mr Newman’s car made contact with the track’s perimeter fence, causing its passenger side wheel to leave the ground.

The car flipped on to its roof and was then hit by another car, driven by 19-year-old George Bolt Jr, which started the ‘bundle’ of cars that became involved in the accident.

George’s father George Bolt Sr, a seasoned stock car racer, told the inquest he had seen drivers walk away from crashes ‘20 times worse’ than that in which Mr Newman was killed.

“It is luck of the draw how it happens,” he said.

Mr Bolt Sr said accidents were not uncommon in stock car racing, but the corner on which Mr Newman crashed was not especially prone to accidents.

Fellow racer Lee Sampson said he rolled his car twice that night on the same corner on which Mr Newman’s car was flipped.

“The angle of the bend tightens as you come around the corner, bringing you closer to the fence,” he said.

A summary report by David Rudland, of the Health and Safety Executive, said Mr Newman’s car met specifications set out by industry regulator Oval Racing Council International and the roll cage in the car was made of the right material.

The stadium fence, owned by RDC Promotions, also met required height and construction standards.

There was a delay in getting Mr Newman out of the car, and he was unable to receive medical attention in the car due to the roof buckling, making it impossible to remove his helmet, and his seat being thrown forward against the dashboard and making it difficult to access his chest.

However, this was concluded not to have been a factor in his death.

Ms Blake said: “There are no grounds to consider that the roof could be cut off any quicker and medical assistance could not be given to Mr Newman until the roof was cut off.”

James Purnell, representing RDC Promotions, and barrister for Forest Heath District Council’s health and safety department Matthew Gowen both agreed the only conclusion to reach was that of accidental death.

Mr Rudland recommended the Saloon Stock Cars Association should consider carrying out a review of the way roll cages are constructed to determine if improvements can be made, and consider carrying out a review of the position of the driver’s seat in relation to the cage.

• Steve’s death sent shock waves through the racing world and drivers staged a stock car procession in tribute to the father of two at his funeral in Gosberton.