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Demonstrator creates havoc at Brit GP

8/29/2004

SILVERSTONE, England, -- An Irishman in a
kilt and brandishing placards risked death by running down the
track during the British Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday.

Police arrested the 56-year-old man, from County Kerry in
southern Ireland but based in London, and charged him with
"aggravated trespass."

The man was due to be questioned later by police in
Northampton, central England.

The man, whose placards appeared to carry a religious
message, wandered down the middle of the track on lap 12 as cars
roared past at about 200 kph on the entrance to Hangar Straight,
the fastest part of the circuit.

Wearing green socks and a green shirt, he was tackled and dragged off
the circuit by a marshal as the safety car came out to slow the drivers.

The incident wreaked havoc with the field as most of the grid decided to pit, allowing Toyota rookie Cristiano da Matta, who had made a pit stop under a previous caution, to take the lead. Da Matta maintained his lead over Kimi Raikkonen until making his second pit stop of the day at the race's midpoint. Pole-sitter Rubens Barrichello eventually found his way back to the front of the field en route to winning Sunday's race.

The first safety car period of the day occurred after debris from David Coulthard's McLaren hit the track. Coulthard pitted to repair his car under that first caution and moved up to third place during the second caution. Coulthard ultimately finished fifth while da Matta ended up seventh.

Track officials said they had launched an investigation regarding the man on the track.

"The safety people will have a look at it. It means that the
security wasn't good," said Formula One chief Bernie
Ecclestone.

"I don't know how he actually got on, that's what we need to
look at. When somebody does those sorts of things, I don't know
what you can do about it."

Silverstone, seen by many as the track with the poorest
facilities in Europe, suffered an infamous track invasion in
1992 when thousands of fans swarmed on to the circuit after
Briton Nigel Mansell won his home grand prix.

In 1977 British driver Tom Pryce was killed at the South
African Grand Prix when he collided with a marshal who was
running across the track with a fire extinguisher. The marshal
also died.

At the 2000 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim a spectator
wandered around the course and crossed the track in front of
oncoming cars.

The man, an unidentified 47-year-old Frenchman, told police
he was protesting his dismissal for health reasons by
Mercedes-Benz after 20 years of service. The track filed
trespassing charges against the Frenchman.

"Anyone who does something like that has to be really
severely punished," said Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug
on Sunday, recalling the 2000 German Grand Prix incident.

"Something has to be done. This simply can't happen again."

In May 2001, a marshal was killed at the Lausitzring in
Germany after he crossed the track to remove debris and was hit
by a car during testing.