The tragic death of Brazilian stock car racer Gustavo Sondermann at Sunday’s Copa Chevrolet Montana championship round at the Sao Paulo circuit is a stark reminder of the inherent dangers of the sport, and the accident itself will need to be looked at by the circuit’s authorities.
Sondermann lost control of his car on the approach to the high-speed left-hander that feeds into the pit straight, hitting the wall on the outside of the circuit. He then ricocheted back onto the racing line and was struck broadside by a following competitor. He suffered critical injuries which would later result in his death.
Alarmingly, his accident was almost identical to that which claimed the life of Ricardo Sperafico in 2007, which itself followed similar accidents for Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso in the rain-soaked Grand Prix in 2003, and to Stéphane Sarrazin at the 1999 race (watch the video clip).
The sequence of high-speed left-handers that make up the final section of the Interlagos lap have been dubbed the ‘Tamburello de Interlagos’, as a reference to the left-hander at the Imola circuit which so tragically claimed the life of Brazilian star, Ayrton Senna, in 1994.
And those most familiar with the circuit are calling for all avenues to be explored to improve the safety at this particular point of the track.
World Touring Car Championship driver Carlos ‘Cacá’ Bueno told TV Globo: “We have a serious problem there. We need to make a change and the ideal one would be an escape area.”
Former F1 driver and fellow Paulista Luciano Burti is of a similar opinion.
“We need to find the room for that, like bringing down the bleachers for some run-off. Safety must come first,” he told SporTV. “The solution exists and we need unity to make the changes before the next thing happens there.”
The problem that circuit officials will face is that there is little in the way of available real estate on the outside of the corner where Sondermann’s accident occurred. The land on which the track is built runs right alongside a major road thoroughfare. On the inside of the corner, the land falls away sharply, with the Bico de Pato hairpin at the bottom of the hill.
[Image via Smart Traveller]