The Motorsport Industry Association presented Professor Sid Watkins with a personal award this week at its annual summer reception to recognise his huge contribution to safety in motorsport.

The award for the 'Most Outstanding Contribution to the Motorsport Industry' was presented by F1 TV commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle at the House of Lords in London.

The MIA's summer reception, which is regarded as one of the most prestigious social gatherings on the international motorsport business calendar, was attended by over 300 guests, including peers of the realm, Ministers of State and Ambassadors, MPs, VIPs and MIA members from the motorsport industry across the globe.

"The powerful and positive image which motorsport now portrays to the outside world is far safer than the one Sid first witnessed in 1961," said the MIA's CEO Chris Aylett. "Motorsport is now seen as setting the highest safety standards.

"This reputation greatly benefits our industry and has created substantial business in safety systems and products, such as seat belts, helmets, neck safety harnesses, fire safety and such like. Much of the credit belongs to 'Prof' as he is known to many."

The 'Prof', who is currently the president of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety, served as the FIA's F1 safety and medical delegate for almost 30 years, stepping down back in January 2005.

He first became involved with motorsport, in a medical capacity, in 1961 at Brands Hatch and Silverstone and joined the RAC medical panel in 1970. Eight years later, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone asked him to become the F1 race doctor where he immediately demanded better safety equipment including an anesthetist, a medical car and a medical helicopter. All were provided, as was a medical car so Watkins could follow the cars for the first lap and provide help in the event of a first lap incident.

The FIA has recognised Watkins as being largely responsible for the modernisation of medical standards in F1, and for saving many lives including Didier Pironi in 1982, Rubens Barrichello in 1994 and Mika Hakkinen at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix, by restarting his heart twice and performing a tracheotomy at the side of the track.

Following the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in 1994, the FIA Expert Advisory Safety Committee was set up with Watkins as chairman. He set up a rally and karting research group in 2003 and the three were brought together in 2004 as the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety, with Watkins as president.

"No grand prix driver has died on the track in fourteen years, despite cars lapping faster than ever. Sid's contribution to improving the standards of safety and medical intervention throughout motor sport is simply unprecedented," added Peter Digby of Xtrac and MIA chairman.

The 'Prof' joins a highly impressive list of previous winners, including Lord March, Sir Frank Williams CBE, Sir Stirling Moss OBE and Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, as well as Tom Wheatcroft, David Richards CBE and Bernie Ecclestone amongst others.

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