Let’s face it, we’ll all love a spectacular accident in motorsport, and we never want to see drivers, marshals or spectators get hurt. But there have occasionally been incidents were that line has come oh-so-close to being crossed.
So what happens where safety cars, medical cars, tow trucks and other course vehicles become unwitting stars in the greater spectacle? Well, the results vary from the sublime to the ridiculous, and it is with tongue firmly planted in cheek that we offer our latest Top-10 Countdown to you…
10. When the lights go green, that means… 2011 LMS 6 Hours of Castellet
We kick off this little countdown with a trip to France and the opening race of the 2011 Le Mans Series championship, the 6 Hours of Castellet at Paul Ricard.
Given the wealth of different cars – and the wealth of different power:weight ratios – on display at the one venue, the traditional rolling start can often be fraught with danger, particularly if the faster LMP-class cars are starting behind the comparatively slower GT-class racers.
But what happens when the entire field is bunched up behind an even slower and less powerful course car which misses its cue to peel off into the pits so the race can get underway?
This, ladies and gents, is what happens…
Chaos at Paul Ricard – this safety car fail wiped out almost the entire GT field
9. School zone, or safety car? 2011 V8 Supercars Yas Marina 400
An early race incident during the 2011 V8 Supercars’ visit to Yas Marina saw the Safety Car called into action, while several drivers played tactics with an early pit stop for a quick top-up of fuel.
But the unique feature of the Abu Dhabi circuit is its underpass pit exit. When this is combined with a Safety Car that is travelling hopelessly slowly on the circuit, this creates all sorts of grief, as you’ll see below…
We know the Safety Car is meant to go slowly and bunch up the pack, but I could honestly walk quicker (hop to 5 minutes into the clip)
8. Taki run over once, 1995 Monaco Grand Prix
Taki Inoue, one of Formula 1’s more forgettable drivers, is remembered by F1 anoraks for his hopelessly slow performances in the Footwork during the 1995 season, but also for not one, but two separate accidents with cars being driven by course officials.
His first contact with a course car came at the Monaco Grand Prix during Saturday’s free practice session. Attempting to let Heinz-Harald Frentzen by at the Mirabeau Hairpin, Inoue slid up the escape road when his brake pedal went soft.
With little time between the end of practice and the start of qualifying, Inoue insisted that his car be towed back to the pits.
Rather embarrassed, he donned his helmet as he steered his stricken car behind the tow truck, only to suddenly find himself having to clamber out of an upside-down car that had been completely destroyed by the circuit’s course car, which had run into the back of his FA15 at the Swimming Pool section. The impact was so severe that Inoue’s helmet was damaged and he suffered mild concussion!
7. Taki run over again, 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix
Taki Inoue’s second contact with a course car came later that year at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
After pulling his Footwork off the track when its Hart engine went pop during the race, Taki was searching for a fire extinguisher to douse his engine when he was run over by a nearby medical car that had raced to the scene to help put out the blaze!
Watch the clip below…
Taki Inoue at his best, 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix
6. The craziest race of the 20th century? 1973 Canadian Grand Prix
The 1973 Canadian Grand Prix would have to go down as one of the craziest races of last century, as it is the only Grand Prix where the declared winner is still in doubt.
Emerson Fittipaldi claims to this day that he is the rightful winner of the event, a torrentially rain-hit affair that saw the very first use of the Safety Car in Formula 1. But teething troubles abounded, organisers had no idea what they were doing and no one yet had the advent of electronic timing and positioning – lap charts were done by hand in those days.
On Lap 33 of the race at Mosport Park, the safety car made its maiden appearance after a crash between Jody Scheckter and Francois Cevert.
As luck would have it, the safety car emerged in front of the wrong car: Howden Ganley’s Iso-Marlboro.
Where the trouble start? Safety car driver Eppie Wietzes (a former Grand Prix driver) and his passenger, FOCA representative Peter Macintosh, had been focusing on Stewart’s Tyrrell, who was leading at the time but went into the pits just as Wietzes and Macintosh took to the track.
They waited, and waited some more, waving several cars by, while Stewart was stuck in the pits, hit crew cocking up his stop beyond description. Then the Porsche 914 picked up Ganley, who had come out of the pits just in front of JYS, but Wietzes and Macintosh had overlooked the fact that several of the drivers they had waved through – including Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jackie Oliver and Peter Revson – had effectively gained a lap while Fittipaldi (now stuck behind Stewart), had almost come up to lap the new champion but instead was being held up.
All this meant that Oliver ended up in the lead with Revson second and Beltoise third. Revson had the most competitive car and so eventually moved into the lead and led all the way to the flag, while Fittipaldi charged to try to make up for lost ground and overtook Oliver and Beltoise in the closing laps to claim second. For hours after the race confusion reigned but eventually it was confirmed that Revson was the winner.
But nobody is completely sure…
5. Is there a medic for the medical car? 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix
Sunday morning warm-up for the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix saw Nick Heidfeld cause one of the most bizarre and dangerous accidents.
Arrows driver Enrique Bernoldi had crashed his Arrows rather heavily exiting the Senna ‘S’, and as he was clambering out of his battered car, the nearby medical car swung into action and raced to the scene.
While other drivers slowed to avoid causing any further drama, Heidfeld arrived at the scene a full speed. Trying to avoid Bernoldi’s stricken car, he steered left and head for a narrow gap between the medical car and the fence.
The problem was, the driver of the medical car was opening his door…
Nick Heidfeld clobbers the medical car, 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix
4. How not to get a tow, 2004 Monterrey ChampCar Grand Prix
Former Grand Prix driver Tarso Marques was never rated as much of a prospect during his stint in Formula 1, and sadly this was repeated in a rather unsuccessful stop-start campaign in the American open-wheeler scene.
After spinning out of the 2004 race at Monterrey, the Brazilian was kindly offered a tow out of the grass banks by the safety crew.
All Tarso had to do was hold tightly onto the tow rope…
Tarso Marques forgets to hold onto the rope…
3. Wurz brake tests a safety truck, 1995 German Formula 3
Former F1 driver Alexander Wurz earned a reputation as a safe and dependable driver, and he was actually rarely guilty of triggering accidents during his Grand Prix career.
That being said, perhaps this behaviour stemmed from one of the most idiotic pieces of driving we’ve ever seen. Competing in the German Formula 3 championship at AVUS in 1995, Wurz inexplicably overtook a safety truck on the circuit.
Watch what happens next…
Complete brain fade from Alexander Wurz, 1993 German F3
2. Montoya madness, 2012 Daytona 500
The 2012 Daytona 500 will go down as one of the most bizarre in the event’s history.
The landmark event – a feature on NASCAR’s calendar – had been delayed extensively due to heavy rain, and it eventually got going at 7:00pm local time, making it the first prime-time running in the event’s history.
Three laps into one of the race’s many safety car periods, Juan Pablo Montoya emerged from a pit stop at far too great a speed, and to his surprise he came across a pair of course cars, one of which had a jet-fuel-powered track dryer attached to the back of it.
At the same time, the Colombian suffered a failure in one of the trailing arms in his car, and, out of control, he slammed into the back of the jet-dryer truck, which was brimful of 200 gallons of kerosene. The fuel ignited and triggered a huge fire that melted a section of the track, causing the race to be red-flagged for four hours while the track surface was patched up.
Frankly, it was a miracle that no one was hurt, but the incident was also incredibly stupid.
The race, eventually won by Matt Kenseth, finished at 1:00am!
1. Pau’s sheriff ruins the race, 2009 WTCC Race of France
Followers of the World Touring Car Championship would know that Franz Engstler made history at Oschersleben last year when he became the oldest winner in the championship and just the second Independent Trophy driver in the series’ history to claim an outright race win.
But the German should have actually claimed his first win two years earlier during the series’ final visit to the historic Pau street circuit in France.
The tight and twisty track was a favourite for the BMWs, and with overtaking next to impossible, Franz looked a dead cert to claim the win, starting from pole position for Race 2.
But all hell broke loose on an incident-filled opening lap that saw a multitude of cars hit the barriers, and without any authority to do so, the Safety Car – driven by the city’s police chief – peeled out of the pit lane and right into Engstler’s path as he hurtled down the start/finish straight to start Lap 2…
Pau’s sheriff takes centre stage, 2009 WTCC Race of France
CHECK OUT OUR OTHER TOP-10 COUNTDOWNS – CLICK HERE!
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