British co-driver Gareth Roberts has been killed in an accident on the Targa Florio Rally, round five of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Roberts was sharing a Peugeot 207 S2000 with Irishman Craig Breen.
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Roberts died when their car impacted with a guardrail on the eighth stage of the tarmac event, near Palermo in Sicily.
Breen was unhurt in the accident. The accident took place just after the eighth kilometre of the Cefalu stage on a left-hand bend, striking the guardrail on the right hand side.
The accident has drawn parallels with that of Polish Formula One driver Robert Kubica’s crash in Italy last year. The organisers of the event described the similarities of the crashes when discussing the tragic accident. In both crashes the guardrail penetrated the cockpit of the rally car. This has been confirmed by the organisers.
A spokesman for the event said: “The accident occurred just in front of a safety post. A marshal saw the car go off the road and hit a safety rail, which unfortunately penetrated the cockpit. The ambulance was called immediately. It reached the accident scene from its post, which was before where the accident happened. Some of the other crews on the road stopped and assisted in putting out a small fire on the car. Unfortunately all the assistance provided to Gareth was of no use and he passed away at the scene of the accident. It is very, very sad that a 24-year-old co-driver has come to race here and lost his life.”
At the time of the crash, Breen and Roberts were in sixth position overall. The two were onboard a Peugeot 207 run by the Italian HRT squad in what was meant to be a one-off outing before rejoining their regular team (Sainteloc) for the Ypres Rally next weekend.
The event was immediately abandoned, with Skoda’s Jan Kopecky expected to be declared the winner. IRC manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas said: “It’s a very sad accident that reminds us that motorsport is dangerous.
Accidents can affect both driver and co-driver in rallying, and sadly, more often than not it is the co-driver who suffers; as we saw in 2005 on Rally Great Britain when Michael Park was killed. The death of a 24-year-old young man at the start of a fantastic career is always a tragedy. At this terrible time, I’m thinking very much of Gareth’s family.”
Roberts, who was 24 and from Wales, trained as an electrician, he began competing in 2004 and achieved success in the one-make Fiesta Sport Trophy series. He formed his partnership with Breen for the start of the 2009 season.
Since then the pair have won the inaugural FIA World Rally Championship Academy Cup in 2011. This year, they were embarking on a partial IRC campaign, having finished fifth on the Circuit of Ireland and sixth on the Tour of Corsica. They were also chasing the Super 2000 WRC title.