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U.K. court upholds ruling that could threaten EU motorsports

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1979 Ford Escort RS1900 at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Photo by AtomicJam.

In ruling for a charity that benefits crash victims earlier this month, the High Court of England and Wales supported a European Union court ruling on compulsory insurance that racers and racing fans believe will decimate motorsports across Europe.

The High Court, in its ruling for the plaintiff in RoadPeace v Secretary of State for Transport and MIB, held that any use of a motor vehicle, whether on or off public roads, requires motor vehicle insurance, a ruling consistent with the European Court of Justice’s September 2014 verdict in the case of Vnuk v. Triglav, which found that the EU’s 2009 Motor Insurance Directive did not clearly distinguish between on-road and off-road use and, therefore, any motor vehicle – regardless of its use on public or private property – must be insured.

The U.K.-based Motorsport Industry Association (which has yet to issue a statement on the RoadPeace ruling) earlier this year argued that the Vnuk ruling poses a significant threat to all European motorsports not only because on-track crashes will be subject to the same police investigations as on-road crashes, but also because insurance covering competition cars either doesn’t exist throughout the European Union or exists at rates of up to 20 times that of typical on-road insurance coverage.

Other motorsports organizations have pointed out that the economic impact just from the loss of motorsports activity in the U.K. would amount to £11 billion per year.

Shortly before the High Court ruling, an insurance trade group, the International Underwriting Association, warned the European Commission that the Vnuk ruling also creates the potential for wider uninsured driving and increased insurance fraud.

In the High Court ruling, RoadPeace, the crash victim charity, argued in part that the U.K.’s Road Traffic Act of 1988 only requires insurance for vehicles used on public roads, and that limited requirement does not comply with the EU Motor Insurance Directive, as interpreted by the Vnuk case.

Both the European Commission and the U.K.’s Department for Transport have issued consultations on the Vnuk case, requesting comment on the case’s implications and proposing a number of alternatives, including revisions to the Motor Insurance Directive that would either specifically exempt non-road vehicle usage from mandatory insurance or specifically apply the Motor Insurance Directive to in-traffic vehicle usage.

Until the U.K. finalizes its split from the European Union, it remains bound by EU laws, including the Motor Insurance Directive.

The public comment period for both consultations has passed, but neither consultation has resulted in any actions.

Despite its final ruling, the High Court did concede that the expanded scope that resulted from the Vnuk ruling was “unexpected” and recommended that the European Commission should add language to the Motor Insurance Directive stipulating that its scope applies only to on-road vehicle usage.