Some wrecks are easy to see coming, like when two NASCAR drivers get into an old-fashioned shoving match for the win on the last lap of the race. Others are hard to believe even after they’ve occurred, like this spec Mazda Miata colliding with a tow truck on track in the middle of a race.
Bill Agha was racing in a Sports Car Club of America event at Sonoma Raceway in California when this went down, rearranging the entire front end of a poor 1999 Miata. It looks to have happened during the San Francisco Region SCCA event at Sonoma recently, where Agha finished 57th of 75 cars on June 30.
Here’s the video from the Spec Miata Man Drama Facebook page (hell yeah, somebody get me in on that), which shows a corner worker with a yellow flag before Agha’s white Miata comes into the wrecker’s path:
The standing yellow flag in this video tells SCCA drivers to slow down because of a hazard that’s near but not on the racing surface. That’s opposed to a waving yellow, which means drivers need to be prepared to stop for a hazard on the racing surface, or a double yellow, which means the full course is under caution. All yellow flags mean drivers have to slow down and can’t pass.
But the wrecker did come onto the racing surface despite the standing yellow, right as Agha was taking the corner it was driving toward. A Facebook profile seeming to belong to Agha commented on the video, saying:
I have on record that the EV driver was released at the wrong time. He was told he had a 10 sec window to make it clear of traffic to the incident in turn 8 and presumably they never saw my car entering corner seven even though the official video showing me waving and acknowledging the yellow. I will be leaving my comments at this point as this will be escalating from today on.
Another comment about the wreck came from a profile seeming to belong to Clark Cambern, who was listed as finishing 20th in that same race:
I was in the light blue car just in front of the camera car. I could have sworn I saw a white flag and I definitely saw the wrecker roll and was tracking it the whole time. The wrecker could have left a little more room, but #7 should have seen him coming, IMO.
Jalopnik reached out to Agha, San Francisco SCCA, the SCCA national branch and Sonoma for more information on what might have led to the wreck, and heard back from Agha, SCCA’s national office and the race track. We’ll update this story if we hear back from the San Francisco branch after publishing.
Agha responded to Jalopnik in a series of Facebook messages, saying his car was totaled and that the safety team did not recognize “the window they thought they had was not there” for the vehicle. He also said he saw the yellow flag and slowed down, and was looking to see where the wreck was so that he could alter his line around it. He did not see a white flag with the corner worker, which would have signaled that a slow-moving car like an emergency vehicle was on the racing surface.
“I did see the trucks staged, but as soon I started turning my focus was on the yellow wreck,” Agha told Jalopnik. Then, bam, it happened “so fast,” he said.
Agha said the wreck is being ruled as a racing incident, so he’s currently being held responsible for the damages to the front of his car. He’s appealing the ruling to the national office to try to get the damage costs covered, he said.
A representative from the track told Jalopnik that from what they’d been able to gather from staff, the event was hosted and staffed by SCCA. That meant there were no raceway staff or on-track crews working the races.
“However, we take on-track safety very seriously and will be reviewing this incident with the SCCA and our own staff in the coming days,” the spokesperson said in an email, directing Jalopnik to SCCA for more detailed information.
A spokesperson from SCCA’s national division said the general feeling is that “no one, single action was entirely responsible for the whole incident” and that several factors combined to result in the contact.
“The SCCA Stewards of the Meet reviewed the incident with all parties involved and no further action was deemed necessary,” the SCCA spokesperson said in an email to Jalopnik. “Generally, it was agreed that a couple things could’ve been done differently by various parties, so it was decided to treat this as a learning experience so everyone can grow and keep striving to improve on-track safety.”
When asked for more detail on what actions in particular might have led to the wreck to keep opinions from running wild, the SCCA spokesperson simply said, “Different people will have different views and opinions on the matter.”
“But differences of opinion are certainly not uncommon in motorsports—or any other sport, for that matter,” the spokesperson said.
That sounds about right.
Update, July 6 at 4:15 p.m. Here’s more footage.