Interlagos sees second fatal accident in two weeks

2011 F1 season

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Start, Interlagos, 2010

Interlagos, the home of the Brazilian Grand Prix, has seen its second fatal crash in as many weeks.

Paulo Kunze died this morning from injuries sustained in a crash at the circuit on Sunday. The 67-year-old’s Stock Paulista car hit the barriers at Curva do Sol and rolled several times.

It comes two weeks after Gustavo Sondermann lost his life following a crash on the start/finish straight.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Sepang, 2011

In the wake of Sondermann’s crash the race organisers announced changes to the run-off at the circuit in time for this year’s F1 race.

Felipe Massa paid tribute to Sondermann during the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, carrying the driver’s name on his crash helmet.

Thanks to Aldo Gamboa for the tip.

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Images © Red Bull/Getty images, Ferrari

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Interlagos sees second fatal accident in two weeks”

  1. These Brazilian stock cars sound like they need a massive safety overhaul. RIP Kunze and Sondermann.

    1. Wasn’t Sondermann a truck racing incident?

      I hope those changes they announced will work and I agree, that these racing series should do a safety precaution review to see if there is anything they can do soon.

      1. Guilherme (@the_philosopher)
        20th April 2011, 21:44

        Yes, but Sondermann was racing in Copa Montana, which uses a modified version of a small pick-up truck called Chevrolet Montana. It’s a acess category to Stock Car Brasil, so we call them stock cars too.

        But we also have a Truck Formula here!

        1. Ah thanks, for us Europeans its often a bit of a nack to get what are the “trucks” and the trucks!

          By the way, its interesting that VW builds the trucks under their own badge in Brazil, here they are still of the MAN brand.

  2. How did he manage to hit the barriers at that corner? Did he go straight on or just lose it out of the Senna S? And even then how fast was he going? I wonder if someone not in their later years would’ve probably survived that.

    Unfortunately though death is just a part of motorsport, sad to hear for Kunze.

    Aren’t the Brazilian stock cars practically DTM cars?

    1. Well yes and no. They are tube-chasis cars with V8 engines and bolt-on bodies, but just how alike they are to DTM I’m not sure of.

    2. highdownforce
      20th April 2011, 20:19

      For cost reduction reasons, old spec cars are raced on lower categories.

      Since 2009, the national Stock Car Brasil runs on a new ‘safer’ design. But those pre-2009 cars are the ones raced on Stock Car Paulista (Paulista means from the State of São Paulo). Kunze’s category was Stock Car Paulista LIGHT, they use a pre-1999 Stock Car Brasil chassis, made out of reinforced version of Chevrolet Omega.

      1. Guilherme (@the_philosopher)
        20th April 2011, 21:34

        I know that the Brazilian Confederation of Motorsport (CBA) is a complete joke, but if it is true that they do let 12 years old cars race, then they reached a whole new level of stupidity. I mean, it’s not like it is “Historical Stock Car Brasil” or something like it, they are just obsolete chassis running around a dangerous track!

        I think it would do the CBA well to lose the Brazilian GP. It’s my favourite track and my favourite Grand Prix, but I think that only then they will wake up and realize that Interlagos isn’t as safe as most tracks out there, and surely the least safe on the F1 calendar. And I’ll stop talking about tracks safety here in Brazil, because Interlagos is our “prime”… you guys can’t even imagine how pathetic some tracks here are.

        And finally, let’s not forget that a bike rider was killed at Interlagos at February – 3 deaths in 2 months… what a sad statistic.

        1. There are tracks which are less safe than Interlagos on the F1 calendar. I’d say Melbourne, Monaco, Monza, Spa are all more dangerous. The problem is not Interlagos – rather, it is Brazilian motorsport which is too unsafe.

        2. You would imagine it’d be better after the tragedy of Senna.

          I know that economics are vital and updating a track is not easy, but if they’ve learnt anything, it’s that safety is paramount.

    3. Death should`nt be a part of motorsport though, should it ? Its high time the lower formulae followed F1 and improved safety.

      1. They can’t afford it, that’s why it’s called “lower formula”. That’s the way it should be, otherwise if it was demanded they followed the same safety standards as F1, they would go bankrupt.

        1. There are various Formulae that are cheaper than F1 in this world, that are probably a lot safer than the series that these two recent deaths have happened.

          1. I don’t get some of the thought line going on here. Yes, the cars were outdated, yes, that could very well be why they were killed.

            So who is going to put together the funding to fix this?
            As sad as it is, people will still want to race.

      2. Unfortunatley, death is part of life. One day there will be an accident in Formula 1 that someone wont walk away from.

        Accidents happen, and as grim as it sounds – Death cant be completely eliminated. Webber was extremely lucky in two ways with his Valencia accident – 1) The roll hoop stood up to the initial impact, and 2) he just bounced off the tyre wall (Unlike Heikki in Barcelona).

      3. No matter how much they try to improve safety of the cars there will always be a chance of death. Hitting a barrier at 150mph always carries the risk of death.

        I think safety has reached its peak in most classes of racing, like CNSZU said it’s not feasible to introduce F1’s level of safety standards as the other series would just waste too many precious resources.

    4. I was thinking the same about the age thing to be honest :/

      Nevertheless it’s distressing news :(

  3. Pretty bad place for an accident, I cant remember any F1 cars going off there but it’s a fast corner with not much runoff. It’s a pity but Interlagos is starting to show it’s age, and with the lack of space, there isn’t a lot they can do about it.

  4. The 67-year-old’s Stock Paulista…

    Well, at that age you can get killed in an accident that a 20-year-old would survive untouched.

    1. But he obviously loved his racing.

      1. Everyone who races loves doing so. That’s the only positive thing you can see in reading someone has died in a race: he lost his life doing what he loved to do, signifying he was not wasting his time and that he was still pursuing his dream.

      2. But he obviously loved his racing.

        Oh, yeah, this makes his death less sad.

  5. Sad news!!

  6. Those stock cars on Brazil must be modified in order to improve safety. If at every accident taht happens a driver dies and then the circuit is changed, and the cars aren’t, soon we will have the Interlagos track with 100 meter run-off areas!

    1. There isn’t really space for that, look around the track on Google Earth and Streetview, you’ve got houses right next to it. Must be a hell of a wake up call with those early practice sessions.

  7. Curva do Sol is the uphill left hander just before the start-finish straight isn’t it? I can’t imagine a car going off over there unless something went wrong with the car.

    Also I don’t agree about lower formulae having to be inherently unsafe. It’s about context. An F3 car can’t accelerate or corner as fast as an F1 car. So make the F3 chassis and circuit safe enough for the kind of speed you expect from F3 races. Not absolute, bulletproof, 100% safe (because that’s impossible in motorsport) but safe enough.

    1. nope:

      Here’s a track map to get your bearings – it’s the other side of the start finish straight.

      but yeah, the corner you’re thinking of is the one has been the site of the other fatal crashes in the past couple of years, typically caused by poor visibility.

  8. Subaru_600BHP
    21st April 2011, 1:47

    The 2011 racing season has barely begun and the bodies are piling up already, everyone knows it’s dangerous but safety standards can always be reviewed and improved (before an accident happens) although i don’t like the track to lose its pureness and excitment with excessive safety, there needs to be a balance.

    The start/finish straight in Interlagos scares the hell out of me, if a car is stranded on the start/finish straight, it’s totally blind so another car could easily broad side another unsighted at top speed.

    1. The pitlane entry at Interlagos scares me the most, if a car had an issue coming out of the final corner (kink for an F1 care) and hit the divider between the pit lane and the straight, it would be horrendous!

      Anyone else noticed this? Commentator calls it ‘dodgy’…

  9. I don’t get it, none of the two past deaths had anything to do with the circuit. If you put crappy cars in Abu Dahbi, they’ll still kill their occupants when they roll over, hit each other or hit the barriers. Plus male life expectancy in Brazil is about 68 yrs, so this is more or less in line. This whole thing about modifying the circuit is just what some humans do so that the other more panic prone humans feel ‘something was done’ and can go on with their lives feeling good.
    Seriously, did anyone see an analysis done about the previous death? i didn’t think so, so how are they expecting the ‘improvements’ will fix anything?

    1. alelanza, I think that the last two accidents do rise some questions. Sondermann’s accident was a disaster waiting to happen, as for several seasons drivers were saying that the lack of scape area and the guardrail angle in that corner bounces a car back to track. THAT killed both Sperafico en 2007 and Sondermann. That angle bounced Webber’s car back to the track during F1 GP in 2003 and Alonso was unable to avoid the crash, ending at a hospital.
      In Kunze’s case, I sent Keith a picture that shows his car destroyed but the tubular structure more or less intact. What is worrysome in this case is that the car, after flipping already at the beginning on the oposite stright, went OVER the guardrail and ended on the grass. Luckyly, there are no stands or public over there, but could have been a disaster.
      Regarding the questions, the main issue here is that several brazilian drivers say that all the complains to modify the scape area at Curva do Café (where Sondermann and Sperafico died) weren’t taken seriously by FIA.
      Just my $0,02.

      1. This is a follow up to my comment below:

        I never realised that complaints and suggestions had been made to the FIA and they had been not taken seriously.

        That’s slack on their behalf.

      2. There were yellow flags waving and Alonso never slowed down, that’w hy he crashed into Webber. Alonso’s crash is his own fault.

      3. Aldo, thanks for the insight. I guess what i don’t get is, what kind of stock cars are these? maybe i’m just struggling with the definitions here, but when the stock car term is used, i think of cars that by definition run not close to, but actually scraping paint off walls. Because of this a car bouncing back into the track and being hit by another car should be on of the more common scenarios list, and because of that safety should be built into the cars so they can within reason safely disperse whatever energy they receive. The other point to note is that i’m not sure whether stock cars should race in the rain like in the previous accident, especially seeing that they aren’t top notch safety wise, I know NASCAR doesn’t do that. Onto the ‘solution’, this run off area, how many meter/yards are we talking about here, will they actually make a difference or are we saying that they’ll still bounce back and be hit by someone that was further behind instead? to confuse me even more, my understanding is that the problem is the lack of visibility on the left hander curve, so would it not be best to push the left hand side barrier back in order to obtain said visibility?
        Back to the cars, it’s interesting that in both previous deaths people are saying roll cages were intact, yet both occupants died from head injuries. Are these cages way too stiff? transferring all loads to the drivers? are there any secondary impact absorbing structures? is there an issue with the HANS devices? helmets? seats? there’s so many elements that SHOULD be taken into account that i cringe at the fact that they’re going for the knee jerk ‘increase run off’ solution.

    2. I agree with you exactly.

      One of the first signs you see entering into a race circuit is stating that motorsport is a dangerous sport.

      If you go to a racing track to race or watch and expect it to be as safe as a toddlers play pen then you’re very very naive.

      I agree that the safety in some parts of the world of motorsport may not be as modern or stringent as other parts or formulas, but still there’s only soo much safety you can do and some ‘accidents’ are just accidents. It may be unfortunate that the driver died and I have huge condolences to their families, but if you try and make the sport safer every time an accident happens cars would be wrapped up in bubble wrap.

      I suppose what I’m trying to say is accidents happen, in particularly in motorsport. Yes safety can always be reviewed and improved but there does get to a limit where it takes the enjoyment out and may just be uneconomical to achieve.

      I think both cases were accidents (yes maybe the stock car regs need to be reviewed) and the fact that both of them happened so close to each other is coincidence.

      Look at Goodwoord Revival meeting for example, they’re running vintage cars on a circuit with relatively little safety and their hasn’t been a fatality there yet (and hopefully there will never be one either).

      Unfortunately it’s just a hazard of the sport…

  10. Very sad news but I want to know how safe are the cars that they race there? & should people of that age should be allowed do to racing in this generation?

    1. “should people of that age should be allowed”
      Hehe, a 67-year-old man is an adult person more than a 20yo is. We can’t disallow him doing anything, that’be absurd. So let us not go that far.

      1. What I meant is that his physical fitness & his reaction time. I am not comparing a 67 years old with a 20 years old.

  11. Weren’t the Brasilians cutting over to the Australian V8 spec? The holden road cars were going there as chevs.

  12. One mild complaint I had with Brundle and Coulthard’s commentary last weekend was that they didn’t acknowledge Sondermann’s death when the world feed at the time was very obviously focussing on Massa’s helmet-borne tribute to him. (No complaints otherwise).

    It is very sad but, as they say, motor racing is dangerous

  13. There’ll always need to be a route to the top. Go safety mad on the lower formulas and put them out of business and that won’t exist, but people will always want to race somwhere/somehow, and inevitably put themselves at risk. It’s awfully sad of course, but the best we can take from this is that hopefully lessons will be learned.

  14. jraybay-HamiltonMclarenfan
    26th April 2011, 4:26

    I always thought that those Brazilian stock cars looked a little unsafe after I seen Rafael Sperafico accident

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