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European Parliament calls for motorsports exemption from insurance requirements

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Photo by Craig Howell.

It’s not quite a green flag, but the European Parliament has, for the first time, acknowledged the threat to European motorsports posed by the expanded scope of the Motor Insurance Directive by proposing an exemption from the directive for all race cars. At the same time, however, the legislative body’s report casts doubt over the future of track days for street-registered cars.

Issued late last month, the European Parliament’s drafted response to the European Commission’s proposed reforms of the 2009 Motor Insurance Directive (in turn issued in response to the European Court of Justice’s 2014 ruling in the Vnuk case, in which the court decided that all forms of motorized transport, on both public and private property, were subject to compulsory insurance) made a number of recommendations counter to Vnuk and other rulings. Among those recommendations were a definition of “use of a vehicle” as taking place in traffic and consistent with the vehicle’s function.

As if that weren’t implicit enough to the fate of European motorsports post-Vnuk — a topic no governing body in Europe seemed willing to address until now — the legislative body also explicitly gave its blessing to motorsports activities.

It is also appropriate to exclude from the scope of Directive 2009/103/EC vehicles intended exclusively for motorsports, as these vehicles are generally covered by other forms of liability insurance and not subject to compulsory motor insurance when they are solely used for a competition. Being limited to a controlled track or space, the chance of an accident with unrelated vehicles or persons is also limited.

The Motorsport Industry Association has reported that European insurers would not cover any sort of motorsport activity without such an exemption.

The report’s recommendation of an exemption specifically for race cars, however, brings up the question of the status of road-going cars that participate in off-road motorsports activities, a topic the European Parliament does little to clarify in its report. On the one hand, the report calls for insurance for road-going cars to apply beyond their normal use in traffic. “The validity of the insurance policy should not depend on its use,” according to the report.

However, the report doesn’t advocate for free reign for road-going cars.

Nonetheless, when a vehicle is used in traffic at any point and therefore subject to compulsory insurance, Member States should ensure that the vehicle is covered by an insurance policy that covers potential injured parties, during the contracted period, regardless of whether the vehicle is in traffic or not at the time of the accident, except where the vehicle is used in a motorsports event… The use of a vehicle in a closed area, where no access is possible by the general public, should not be seen as the use of a vehicle in traffic and therefore should not lead to an obligation to hold compulsory insurance.

Nowhere in the report does the European Parliament specifically mention dual-use vehicles.

(The legal status of dual-use cars ostensibly remains a gray area in the United States as well, one the SEMA-backed RPM Act aims to put to bed.)

Without an exemption for motorsports activity added to the MID, the Motorsports Industry Association has warned that all racing activities will essentially become illegal, threatening a €25-billion industry spread across tens of thousands of businesses.

The European Parliament is slated to vote on a new MID as early as late November or early December.