Demonstrator creates havoc at Brit GP

Updated: August 29, 2004, 2:26 PM ET
Reuters

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.

British Grand Prix demonstrator
The 56-year-old Irishman has been charged with aggravated trespass.

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.

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