Thursday, 5 November 2015

F1 race track intruder jailed six weeks

By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2015

A Briton who walked along the Formula One race track and crossed it while the race was in progress was sentenced to six weeks' jail yesterday.

Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia, 27, pleaded guilty to committing a rash act to endanger the safety of F1 drivers in the Marina Bay Street Circuit at about 9pm on Sept 20.

A second charge of trespassing on the track was taken into consideration during sentencing.

A court heard that when the race was on its 36th lap, Dhokia decided to enter the track to take a video of the race cars as they sped past.

Describing his act as not only rash but also both selfish and foolhardy, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt agreed with the prosecution that a deterrent jail sentence was justified.

He said Dhokia's purpose for entering the track - to film the race - was selfish to say the least.

"It is also clear from the manner in which he intruded onto the track that he was quite determined to get onto the track to carry out that purpose," he said.

When he was spotted by marshals, who shouted at him, he carried on filming.

The district judge said: "It is also clear that the breach was neither momentary nor impulsive, but was rather sustained in that he continued to walk along the track even after crossing the track so as to record the race. I cannot agree that it was simply a lapse of judgment.

"It cannot be overemphasised that, by breaching the perimeter fence and then crossing and remaining on the track, the accused had placed a tremendous risk, not only to him, but to the race-car drivers ."

The racers, he added, were driving at extraordinary speeds, trying to outmanoeuvre one another and, at the same time, communicating with their technical teams.

The district judge said: "Such intense racing conditions demand a very high level of concentration from the drivers which cannot be compromised... Given the very high speeds of the cars, the drivers would have had very little time to react to unforeseen and unpredictable interruptions."

Deputy Public Prosecutor Marshall Lim said the section of the track, between Turn 13 and Turn 14 where the intrusion took place, was designed for cars to accelerate and maintain a high speed to overtake when they enter Turn 14.

Dhokia had climbed over a barrier, walked into a structure known as the escape cage, and then climbed out of an opening onto the track.

He crossed the track and was spotted by Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who exclaimed "There's a man on the track!'' over the team radio.

The court heard the cars had raced past him at speeds approaching 270kmh.

A lead observer blew his whistle and signalled to Dhokia to get off the track, but he ignored the warnings and filmed the oncoming cars with his mobile phone.

DPP Lim sought an eight- to 12-week jail sentence, taking into account the potential effects of mefloquine, an anti-malaria drug, which might have contributed to Dhokia's decision to enter the track.

In their written mitigation plea, Dhokia's lawyers Shashi Nathan, Tania Chin and Jeremy Pereira said several types of medication that Dhokia had taken might have affected his lapse in judgment to enter the tracks.

Mr Nathan said his client, an avid F1 fan, had entered the opening of the fence impulsively without realising the gravity and consequences of his actions.

Dhokia, whose sentence was backdated to Oct 16, could have been jailed for up to six months and fined up to $2,500. He had spent 11 days in remand before he was freed on a personal bond on Oct 2.

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