Racing Bristol Docks
The hierarchy in Bristol Council has deemed racing in Bristol docks is too dangerous despite the efforts of potential promoters to resurrect the sport at this famous venue, despite the Bristol GP being staged for almost two decades. If only this hierarchy would say, sorry we can’t afford it instead of using the dangerous label. Almost every year, a racer loses his life during the TT races on the Isle of Man but no-one would dream of cancelling this famous event ‘because ‘it’s too dangerous’
A top councillor has warned against bringing back powerboat racing to Bristol’s docks because he believes it is just too dangerous.Peter Abraham says he remembers when powerboat racing took place in the docks for nearly two decades from 1972 until 1990. During that time, there were seven deaths because the powerboats were reaching speeds of more than 100mph on a tight course which was surrounded by high concrete dock walls.Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees referred to the prospect of a return of the sport in his speech last week which set out his four-year vision for the city.
Mr Abraham said: “The racing created a great deal of excitement and it was marvellous for the spectators but it was very, very dangerous.”I remember attending a reception before one of the races one year and I was talking to one of the drivers and he was killed the following day.”The tragedy really brought it home to you just how dangerous this sport is in such a confined circuit.
“It’s a difficult issue because the drivers themselves feel compelled to race although many of them were very nervous about racing in the docks.”When there is so much at stake, it’s not easy for them to pull out. Crowds turned up in their thousands every year to watch the powerboat racing because it was such a spectacle.The fastest average speed was set by Steve Kerton, a racer from Peterborough at 100.06mph.
The circuit ran from the Prince Street Bridge at the east end of the dock, passing within inches of the solid granite walls to the west end of the dock and the very fast Cumberland Basin hairpin turn. The course was so dangerous that the racers nicknamed it the ‘widowmaker’ because the stiff breezes could whip up waves that could flip the powerboats against the docks walls.
Mr Abraham said: “It is not just the drivers who are risk – I also worry about the spectators. If one of those boats smashes into a dock wall and goes over the top, I cannot imagine what a tragedy there could be.”Even the corners – and they were very tight – would be taken at 90mph.
Safety precautions were taken in those days but after French ace Francois Salabert died when his boat hit a dock wall in 1990, it turned out to be the last race in the docks.
The following year, sponsorship failed to materialise. The council blamed the recession, but in 1992 the £130,000 needed to run the event was still not forth coming.