The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT - RE­BECCA WIL­LIAMS AT SANDOWN

TODD Hazel­wood feared he was in a “world of trou­ble to try and sur­vive” as he spun un­con­trol­lably through the air be­fore walk­ing away from a fright­en­ing high-speed crash at Sandown yes­ter­day.

In a ter­ri­fy­ing ac­ci­dent that forced an early end to the first qual­i­fy­ing race for the Sandown 500, Hazel­wood’s car ca­reered side­ways be­fore slam­ming into a tyre bar­rier at more than 250km/h af­ter be­ing nudged off one of the fastest sec­tions of the track.

The im­pact sent his Holden spin­ning into the air sev­eral times be­fore slam­ming back to the ground up­side down.

Emer­gency crews rushed to the twisted wreck­age be­fore Hazel­wood, who is team­ing up with Tim Blan­chard at Brad Jones Rac­ing for the en­durance sea­son, even­tu­ally emerged from the car un­hurt.

Re­mark­ably, Hazel­wood was back rac­ing an hour later to com­pete in the se­cond-tier Su­per2 se­ries, in which he had been lead­ing the cham­pi­onship, and fin­ished third.

While Hazel­wood was lucky to es­cape un­hurt, the same could not be said for the BJR Holden, which will not be re­paired for to­day’s 500km race.

Reign­ing Bathurst champion and Te­kno co-driver Jonathon Webb ap­peared to clip Hazel­wood, with the con­tact send­ing him from the track on the penul­ti­mate lap of the co­driver-only ses­sion.

Hazel­wood, 21, said the ac­ci­dent was by far the big­gest of his ca­reer.

“As a kid grow­ing up you watch these races and ev­ery time a car goes off at turn six you know it’s a big one,’’ he said.

“So go­ing side-by-side, you’ve got to have com­mit­ment and I gave the guy on the in­side enough room to go side-by-side through there. As soon as I got the hit in the rear I knew I was in a world of trou­ble to try and sur­vive.

“It was a pretty wild ride go­ing back­wards at 260-odd km/h and know­ing there was a fence there some­where was pretty sick­en­ing. Prob­a­bly once I knew I was in the air, I knew this could be quite bad. Just land­ing you hear about the driv­ers with leg and back in­juries and that sort of stuff.

“When I landed the first thing was mak­ing sure I was OK. The land­ing was pretty bru­tal, you never like land­ing on your head. I was pretty for­tu­nate to walk away from an in­ci­dent like that.”

Hazel­wood was winded but “fired up” to race again af­ter get­ting the all-clear.

“I was prob­a­bly a bit fired up more than any­thing, know­ing that the in­ci­dent that hap­pened puts us out for the whole week­end. I was pretty de­jected,’’ Hazel­wood said.

“Once I got back down to earth and got the heartrate back down, I was fully fo­cused on do­ing a good job in Su­per2.’’

Adding to the anx­i­ety, there was a brief pe­riod af­ter the crash when Hazel­wood didn’t re­spond on the ra­dio.

Blan­chard said it was tense in the garage.

“While it was a ner­vous time wait­ing to see if he was all right, we had ev­ery faith that the car was strong enough to pro­tect the driver in an in­ci­dent like that,’’ he said.

Team boss Brad Jones said the ac­ci­dent was “not an easy thing to watch” but knew where to point the fin­ger.

“I don’t think you need to be some­one that races cars to watch that vi­sion and see what hap­pened,’’ Jones said.

“That’s a very fast part of the race track and a 20-lap co­driver race ... it was a bit op­por­tunis­tic to be driv­ing into a hole that clearly wasn’t there.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate, a lot of dam­age, thank­fully Todd’s fine, but I don’t think the car will be very good.’’

Blan­chard praised Hazel­wood’s brav­ery to get back be­hind the wheel to race in the Dun­lop se­ries.

“He was fairly shaken ... he is a brave young kid back­ing up and jump­ing straight back in his other car to try and make sure he doesn’t let go of that cham­pi­onship,’’ he said.


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