F1 race track intruder gets six weeks' jail for rash act

British national Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia arrives at the state court in Singapore on Oct 16, 2015.
British national Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia arrives at the state court in Singapore on Oct 16, 2015.PHOTO: AFP
British national Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia made an unauthorised entry during the Singapore Grand Prix on Aug 20, 2015.
British national Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia made an unauthorised entry during the Singapore Grand Prix on Aug 20, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A Briton who crossed the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix race track while the race was on was sentenced to six weeks' jail on Tuesday (Nov 3).

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

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt backdated his sentence to Oct 16.

A second charge of criminal trespass by entering the race track along Esplanade Drive with the intent to cause annoyance was considered during his sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Marshall Lim said one hour into the race, Dhokia decided to breach the perimeter fence and gain access to the race track. He did this to take a video of the race cars as they sped past.

The section of the track on Esplanade Drive between Turn 13 and Turn 14 is a relatively long and straight stretch which is designed for race cars to accelerate and maintain a high speed to facilitate overtaking when they enter Turn 14.

Dhokia knew that it was dangerous to cross the track when the race was in progress because the cars were travelling at a high speed, said DPP Lim.

He first climbed over a barrier, walked into a structure known as the escape cage and then climbed out of an egress outlet onto the track when the race was in full swing.

While Dhokia was crossing the track and reached the middle, Sebastian Vettel, a driver for the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, rounded Turn 13.

When Dhokia noticed that the race cars were fast approaching him, he picked up his pace and jogged across the road just as the cars raced past him at speeds approaching 270kmh.

Vettel saw him and exclaimed: "There's a man on the track!''

The court heard that three marshals blew their whistles and called out to him to get off the track but he ignored them.

After he crossed to the other side of the road, Dhokia used his iPhone to take a video of the oncoming cars. He recorded a car speeding by using the slow motion recording function on his cellphone.

Dhokia finally exited the track via the escape cage and was pulled to safety by two of the marshals.

A blood sample taken from him was found to contain an anti-malaria medication. Various medicines were also seized from him.

DPP Lim had sought eight to 12 weeks' jail to send a strong deterrent signal to forewarn any like-minded individuals against trying another intrusion in further editions of the race.

Lawyer Shashi Nathan countered that six weeks would suffice. He said that this was his client's first overseas trip. The former customer service duty manager, who had intended to travel to Vietnam, had packed numerous types of medication. He suffers from several ailments such as eczema, asthma and hay fever.

Mr Nathan said the avid F1 fan impulsively walked through the opening to get a better view of the race cars due to a lapse of judgment and the combined effects of the medicines.

Dhokia, who looked contrite, spent 11 days in remand after he was charged. He later came out on a personal bond after his parents arrived here from Britain. He voluntarily went back to remand on Oct 16.

He could have been jailed for up to six months and fined up to $2,000 for committing a rash act.