NER­VOUS WRECK

Once I was in the air, I knew it was trou­ble: Hazel­wood

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - RE­BECCA WIL­LIAMS 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 an in­cred­i­ble high-speed crash yes­ter­day.

In a ter­ri­fy­ing ac­ci­dent that forced an early end to the first qual­i­fy­ing race at 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 wreck 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 — af­ter get­ting the med­i­cal all-clear — was back in a car an hour later to race in the se­cond tier Su­per2 se­ries, in which he had been lead­ing the cham­pi­onship — and fin­ished third.

While Hazel­wood was lucky to es­cape un­harmed, the same could not be said for the BJR Holden, which was left to­talled and won’t be able to 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 co-driver-only ses­sion.

Hazel­wood, 21, said the ac­ci­dent was by far the “big­gest in­ci­dent 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,’’ Hazel­wood 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 kilo­me­tres per hour know­ing that 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. Thank God the safety of the cars of to­day they looked af­ter me re­ally well and I was able to get out of the car.’’

Hazel­wood said he had been winded ini­tially af­ter the ac­ci­dent but was “fired up” to get back be­hind the wheel again af­ter get­ting the all-clear.

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

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

Blan­chard said it was a tense time for ev­ery­one in the garage.

“There was a while there when the car was up­side down where Todd wasn’t responding on the ra­dio,’’ Blan­chard said. “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.’’

Todd Hazel­wood’s car flies through the air yet, amaz­ingly, he walked away un­scathed. Pic­tures: Getty Images, Mark Hors­burgh/Edge Pho­to­graph­ics

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