Johnny Herbert almost fatal crash at Brands Hatch (21 August 1988) F3000 ALL ANGLES + PICS
It was approximately 3.45pm on 21st August 1988, the handful of spectators at Pilgrims Drop were not entirely sure what they had just heard. Out of sight, before the cars came in to view below the bridge, a thunderclap of shocking energy resonated through the concrete parapet and out in to the woods. A split-second earlier Johnny Herbert had braced himself as much as he could, but it was too late even for that final indignity. The ear-splitting impact rang out, resonating obscenely through the trees. “As the car turned left I went to say, ‘Oh Shit,’ recalls Herbert, 25 years on from the accident that almost claimed his left foot and his career. “But I only got to the ‘Oh,’ part!” After the noise came the violent conclusion to what was one of the largest chain-reaction accidents ever to occur on British racing asphalt. In seconds, the undulating stretch of track resembled the scene of an aircraft crash. Amid the dense woodland of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix loop, a motorsport ‘heart of darkness’ had played out in a shower of wheels, carbon fibre and fervent ambition that had burned far too intensely that afternoon. “I clearly remember Paolo Barilla crying when we got back to the grid after the accident,” recalls Mark Blundell, who along with the Italian was one of only nine cars to make it through the destruction. “He was convinced someone had been killed because he had driven through the wreckage and, like me, had glanced in his mirrors. That had been a mistake because it really looked like a bomb site. It was a strange weekend all-round; you could just feel it in the air.” Whirlpools of dark eddying energy do indeed build up and hang forbiddingly over certain weekends. Spa 1960, Indianapolis 1973 and Imola 1994 are obvious examples. At Brands Hatch that weekend, the accidents had begun during Friday free practice with a hefty shunt for Enrico Bertaggia at Paddock Hill Bend, when his Dallara 3087 turned sharp left in to the tyrewall. Spectators looked on aghast, first concerned but then astonished as the Italian walked out of the monocque which had opened like a tin can. The incredulous Italian sidestepped from the wreck, eyes widened at his miraculous deliverance. A day later, Michel Trolle was not so fortunate. The debate about the safety of F3000 cars had already started at the very first race of the year at Jerez, where the promising Steve Kempton broke his ankles in the morning warm up. It continued at Monza in June, when Fabien Giroix suffered severe leg injuries and Massimo Monti cartwheeled his Ralt through an advertising hoarding and in to the trees beyond the first Lesmo corner. The accidents in 1988 were horrendous and that no-one was killed during the season was nothing short of a miracle. It all came to a head at Brands. Herbert had been heading out of Surtees Corner, and at the forefront of his thinking was making up for the poor start in part two of an already-controversial race. In his F1-destined mind was winning the race and preparing for the Birmingham Superprix the following weekend before confirming his place on the F1 grid with Benetton via his mentor, Peter Collins, for 1989. But alongside him as he approached the Pilgrims Drop bridge was Gregor Foitek. In a white Lola T88/50 and in plain white helmet, Foitek’s simple exterior profile belied a more complex vision beneath. Wild-haired and wild, too, of reflex, the Swiss carved a twitchy, cavalier figure in the paddocks of Europe that summer. There was no doubting his pace. But his somewhat desperate crave to impress cast doubts aplenty.
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I DID NOT MAKE THIS VIDEO. THIS VIDEO WAS MADE BY InZaneRacingTV. This compilation features multiple Safety Car fails, from racing drivers crashing into the safety car to marshalls crashing their car themselves.
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