SUPER CARNAGE 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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