Prosecutor Asks to Shelve Senna Case

An Italian state prosecutor asked on Wednesday for the manslaughter trial over the death of Ayrton Senna to be halted because of a statute of limitations which meant time had run out to press charges, Ansa news agency said

Brazilian Senna, a three times Formula One World Champion, died in May 1994 after his Williams crashed during the San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola circuit in Italy.

The Williams team's technical director Patrick Head and former chief designer Adrian Newey, now with McLaren, were acquitted of manslaughter charges in a 1997 trial and that verdict was upheld by an appeals court in 1999.

However, Italy's highest court in 2003 ordered the case to be re-heard because of "material errors" in the appeals process involving legal technicalities.

The new trial opened on Wednesday in the northern Italian city of Bologna and state prosecutor Rinaldo Rosini immediately asked for the case to be closed because of the statute of limitations, Ansa reported.

Lawyers for Head and Newey had previously indicated they would reject such a move, saying it would leave a shadow over their clients' reputation. They are instead expected to seek a fresh acquittal.

Italian prosecutors believe Head and Newey authorised dangerous changes to Senna's car, which led to the fatal accident, making them partly responsible for his death.

The Williams team have always denied the accusations.

The fact that Italian authorities took the Senna case to court dismayed racing authorities, who warned that teams might not come to Italy if they risked conviction in the event of accidents.

Leading figures in Formula One argued that motor racing was a dangerous sport and that organisers should be exempt from any liability of serious injuries or deaths.

Four other cases over the last 40 years involving fatal crashes at Italian motor events have all ended in acquittals.

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