Accident in 1999

Accident in 1999

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Mercedes is flying.

It’s live on the circuit screens. The race is sumptuous. BMW, Toyota and Mercedes have been holding each other in a pocket handkerchief for the position of leader for over 4 hours now…

Return to the Thursday before departure. While 3 Mercedes CLR are involved in this edition, it is during the second test session that the sky starts to darken for the brand. On the n°4, Mark Webber, then between Mulsanne and Indianapolis, takes off, falls on the roof, slides on several tens of meters, hits the rail and gets back on his wheels! Pilot’s clear.

It’s a car that the engineers say has a lot of teeth. However, the Germans beat up the bumps a lot, and already a semblance of polemic is born from this accident. Too much support? Poor aerodynamic calculation? The n ° 4 will nevertheless be credited with the 10th time, in 3 ‘ 35 ” 501.

Saturday morning, the light is green for the 45 minutes of the warm-up. The Mercedes come out of the stands and start their first lap. The n°4 has been rebuilt by mechanics always also affutés, and is following in his sisters barn: chicane of the Hunaudières, the passage from the kicker and…a single CLR, with the same Webber at the wheel, decidedly as unhappy as very lucky (no bobo), takes off, and turns again!

This time, number four will stay on the roof. The n ° 5 and 6 Enter immediately in their box, which we close. The excitement is great, the atmosphere more than heavy, the safety conditions of the Mercedes drivers are apparently not, or more, assured.

As a result, the Mercedes stands remain closed for long hours, not to repair a much-damaged car, but to decide whether or not to participate in the two remaining CLR’s, 4th and 7th time of tests. Cars that have nothing to envy their opponents Toyota or BMW in terms of performance, and whose outsider status allows one to imagine a fierce race.

Two successive flights, on the same runway, will not affect the morale of the pilots. In agreement with the Mercedes managers and engineers, they will take the start. Only two aerodynamic elements designed to increase the front support are added to the wings. The cars come out of the boxes, and they go to the starting grid.

The race is on. Well launched, since 2 Toyota, the No. 17 BMW, and the two Mercedes compete for first place.

As Lagorce starts his first stint on the n ° 6, Christophe Bouchut gives the wheel to Peter Dumbreck. It’s about 8: 30, and number 5 is second.

8: 47, all the heads that can turn to the giant screens. The speaker is horrified. The audience is amazed, and the atmosphere is no longer at the party. We’re mortified. Strangely enough, the sound of the race is almost no longer heard.

In the Mulsanne-Indianapolis section, again, the No. 5 chases one of the Toyota GT-One, the nose a few meters from the Japanese aileron, when the German leaves in the sky. One Tower, two towers, three towers in the air, this one goes well above the safety rails and crashes into the shrubs. At very high speed in this part of the circuit, take off, make 3 loops, stroke the top of the young trees present then fall down in the middle of them makes fear the worst for the pilot. The pace car neutralized the race to allow rescue vehicles to reach the area. Lagorce immediately returned to its stand, the metal curtains closed permanently. Bouchut is appalled by the media. It has been more than 10 minutes since the accident occurred, and we learn that Dumbreck exited the cockpit alone, unharmed!!