A car in an earlier race at this weekend’s SCCA US Majors Tour at Virginia International Raceway blew its engine, spewing assorted fluids all along this section of track. Oil dry should soak that right up, right? Sure, but when a tight pack of Spec Miatas hit the oil dry afterwards, it just added to the carnage.
Oil dry is a useful tool in returning a track surface back to normal, however, it’s a powdery, sandlike substance that needs to be swept up afterwards, lest it become a loose surface hazard in its own right. You see, there is a magical invention called a broom that track officials didn’t see the point in whipping out for this race. Other tools such as a blower or a sweeper truck would have also done the job, but no dice. The oil dry was on a straight, not around a turn, and it was bright piles of white on a dark track surface. Just leave the piles to save time and it should be easy enough for racers to avoid right?
Oh, how they underestimated the close packs that form in Spec Miata, particularly right at the start as everyone fights for position. If it’s paved, there’s going to be a car on it. If it’s not paved, you might also get a car on it, too. If it’s a surface near the race track, someone at some point in time is probably going to plow through it with a Miata.
Drivers were given a surface flag on the formation lap as a heads-up, but some cars ran into the mess anyway, blinding everyone behind them.
Once one car runs through the oil dry, a dust storm of pure chaos got unleashed on the full width of the race track. Cars went spinning out everywhere.
Here’s what the cloud looked like from inside Josh Bilicki’s car:
Visibility? Who needs THAT?
Bilicki started thirty-second after having some trouble in qualifying, but eventually worked his way up to a sixteenth-place finish. (Nice!) He caught the tail end of the oil dry carnage at the start with the giant dust cloud to his right.
According to Bilicki, SCCA officials realized that they misjudged the potential consequences of leaving oil dry on any part of the track for the Spec Miata group and apologized to the racers. Needless to say, the ones who were involved in the mess weren’t happy at all, particularly if they walked away from a damaged car.
Again, brooms are good. Brooms are your friend. Had they sent a handful of people with brooms out to clean up the mess, it probably wouldn’t have even been an issue.
[H/T Josh Bilicki]
Update: You can see a black car slow down, a yellow car swerve over and the chain reaction of Miata-pile start before the cloud, and then get worse when drivers couldn’t see spun-out cars in the cloud. The headline was updated a couple times on this article, and the second version mentioned made it sound too much like we thought the cloud started the crashapalooza. So, we’ve edited it again to be more clear that the cloud was but one of several factors contributing to the pile-up.
Update #2: Here’s another view of the cloud from Preston Pardus and teammate Jason Connole. Connole (the second camera view shown) drives right through the mess and ends up off-track, but still somehow manages to avoid all the other cars. Crazy!
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