Not one, but four cars at ate the wall outside the Belle Isle Grand Prix circuit’s Turn 1, and the second-place car spun at the last moment as well, throwing away his close battle for the win. Here’s how the last-lap insanity unfolded and why this was a pile-up that probably never should have happened in the first place.
The two Action Express teammates were duking it out for the win. Dane Cameron was in the lead, but João Barbosa was right on his tail, both in Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototypes. As rain started to fall on sections of the track, everyone knew it would get slipperier, and there’s always the chance of shenanigans as everyone pushes hard on the last few laps. Sure enough, Barbosa spun out at Turn 3, losing second place to Ozz Negri’s HPD Ligier JS P2 as he struggled to restart his car and get back in the race.
Meanwhile, back at Turn 1, the Brumos-liveried number 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche driven by Jan Heylen ate the wall. A decision was made to keep Turn 1 as a local yellow at the end of the race to keep the rest of the track green until the checkered flag was thrown. Safety vehicles and recovery personnel were out on track at Turn 1 to check up on Heylen and ensure the mess got cleaned up. Rain started to fall harder as the race ended, making the rescue effort at Turn 1 even more of a hairy situation for oncoming race traffic to navigate.
It was after the race ended when things got messy. Turn 1 was buzzing with activity, and many responders were out of their vehicles to tend to the Wright Motorsports car.
The 007 Aston Martin of James Davison was chasing after the leading number 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche as he approached the finish line, but he was pushing just a bit too hard. The left front corner of Davison’s car wedged under a safety truck attending to Heylen’s accident at Turn 1. After the race, Davison told Sportscar365 that he believed he hydroplaned on the slick track.
Next up were the number 73 and number 22 Porsche 911 GT Americas of Park Place Racing and Alex Job Racing, respectively. Spencer Pumpelly in the Park Place Porsche was chasing Leh Keen in the Alex Job Racing Porsche, haulin’ it through the finish line. Neither car could slow down enough to avoid running into the pile-up at Turn 1, so they both plowed right into the ongoing recovery effort.
Fortunately, everyone passed the carnage and headed back into the pits shortly after the three other GTD cars came in, and more safety personnel were sent out to respond to the accident.
Pirelli World Challenge racer Ryan Eversley as watching from the stands and noted that Keen, Pumpelly and Davison were able to walk back to the pits.
Davison, while sore, was able to rejoin teammate Christina Nielsen for the podium ceremony.
Pumpelly, too, indicated that he was fine after the accident:
Per IMSA, Jan Heylen was treated and released from the infield care center at the track. Heylen confirmed he was fine in a tweet afterwards:
Sportscar365 reports that two safety workers were injured in the pile-up as well. One is currently being evaluated in the infield care center, and the other has been transported to a local hospital for evalutation.
Why could this have been avoided? Several at the race (including both Eversley as well as the IMSA Radio commentary team) reported that the yellow flag at the finish line was removed after the checkered flag was thrown. Racers rely on yellow flags to know when to slow down for hazards on track. Even though the track technically wasn’t hot after the checkered flag was thrown, this was a severe enough hazard (particularly with safety personnel out of their cars on a hot track) that the yellow should have stayed put.
Even if there had been a yellow flag out at the finish line with the checker, many fans argue that the series should have erred even further on the side of caution and ended the race under a full-course caution instead of a local yellow for the turn 1 incident.
Moreover, the there was no reason not to wait until all traffic had cleared from the track to send any recovery vehicles out for the Wright Motorsports Porsche. Laps of Belle Isle are well under two minutes each, so it would have been easier and safer to wait until all race traffic was off the track to attend to Heylen’s car.
Our thoughts are with anyone injured in this pileup, and no further status update has been given on the injured recovery personnel at this time.
Update: IMSA released more information on the status of the injured crewman who was taken to the hospital yesterday.
Update (6/7): The more critically injured safety worker has finally been released from the hospital:
Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery from here on out.
Screenshot was taken from the IMSA broadcast of this race, which is currently being replayed on Fox Sports 1 and will be replayed again on Sunday at 5:00 PM on Fox Sports 1.
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