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