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Analysis of the VLN crash: why did the GT3 Nissan take off?

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Analysis of the VLN crash
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V or such a scenario many people at the Nürburgring were afraid for a long time . Now it has become a reality. An accident at the first VLN race cost a person his life. A spectator succumbed to his injuries on Saturday (March 28, 2015) in the Medical Center.

Previously, Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 had lifted into the air at the top of the Quiddelbacher Höhe and crashed the rear into the tire wall, then catapulted himself over the FIA ​​security fence and remained on the roof between this and another lower spectator fence.

The race was stopped immediately. In the paddock, dismay was written on the faces of the participants. The fact that something could happen to a driver was present in most of the minds. Very few expected spectators to be injured in an accident.

Provisional ban on GT3 cars on the Nordschleife

The German Motorsport Association (DMSB) reacted around 24 hours later with a temporary ban on the GT3 class and similarly fast cars (SP7, SP8, SP9, SP10, SP-Pro and SP-X) at DMSB-approved events on the Nordschleife. A GT3 test planned for Monday by Audi and BMW was canceled immediately.

The Koblenz public prosecutor has started an official investigation. The accident car was confiscated and is to be examined by an expert. Nobody can say how long that will take. It is to be feared that the 24-hour race (May 16, 2015) will be run without these classes this year.

Not only the official investigators are wondering how the accident came about. There is also a heated discussion among fans, drivers, team bosses and organizers as to why the Nissan GT-3 GT3 took off. However, this is a difficult undertaking without evaluating the data logger. The black box could, for example, provide information on a possible technical defect.

Spectator videos show the accident situation

The The experts' discussion currently revolves around four key points: the aerodynamics of the GT3 cars, the Nissan GT-R, the driver Jann Mardenborough and the Nordschleife. Anyone analyzing the accident on the two viewer videos that have since emerged must first pay attention to an important detail based on the pictures: The Nissan took off through under-air, but did not fly directly over the fence in one sentencecrashed with the rear in an almost vertical position at first on the pile of tires.

Only then did he catapult himself over the fence and stay on the roof. In other words: The lower air triggered the accident - for whatever reason - but the impact in the tire wall seemed to release additional energy and only then made it possible for the car to fly over the fence.

The GT3- Cars have generally been criticized for a long time for being too fast for the Nordschleife. With the 8-minute mark cracked last year, the discussion flared up again. Hence the question of whether all GT3 cars pose a danger and could take off completely at this point or another.

Nissan -Problem or GT3 problem?

It has often been talked about behind closed doors, but it has always been denied that something like this could happen. It is not uncommon for the GT3 racers to be in the air at around 220 km /h with their front wheels on this hilltop. However, nobody has climbed up yet. In principle, however, a GT3 car can fly. This was shown in the past by the Slovakiaring. The jumping hill was then defused.

So the risk of such an accident is a general GT3 problem. But there are apparently also parameters that could have particularly favored the under-air phenomenon on the Nissan GT-R GT3. Experts note that the Nissan shoots up into the air unusually early and steeply. The completely closed underbody helps to lift off. Because the Nissan GT-R is one of the particularly large cars in the field, its underbody also offers more attack surface. If the front is at a certain angle upwards, the air lifts the car out like a wedge.

Incidentally, the Nissan GT-R was the first time in the evolution that was revised for this season at the VLN opener Stage on the Nordschleife. The update package also includes aerodynamic changes.

Mardenborough drives first VLN race

Also to consider: When the accident happened, Mardenborough was already in the seventh lap, shortly before his first refueling stop. The car was correspondingly light compared to the previous laps. Nevertheless, the car is still homologated with a weight of 1,335 kilograms. And the engine is in the front, so compared to a Porsche there is a lot of weight on the front axle.

But you shouldn't ignore the external factors either. On this day there was a strong wind at the Nürburgring. It was quite cool, which further improves the performance of the turbo engine. And three to four km /h can make a decisive difference in case of doubt.

From the driver's perspective, you can hear that experienced Nordschleife connoisseurs deliberately lift their noses just before the Quiddelbacher Höheto push a load change down. Whether Mardenborough did that or not will only be revealed by the data analysis. He is an experienced racing driver and has an international A license.

Because it was his first race on the Nordschleife, he completed the Nordschleife course prescribed by the DMSB. The investigations must clarify whether the lack of experience on the Nordschleife played a role.

Discussion about tire stacks and crash barriers

There is also the issue of route safety. The tire stacks at this point are being questioned by critics. 'In the last few decades in motorsport it has been recognized that tire packages often have negative effects because the energy is released again in an uncontrolled manner,' says Marc Hennerici, an experienced Nordschleife driver. 'Here the car was only catapulted up over the fence after it had hit the tire packs. That could have happened just as well without the previous backflip.'

The guardrail guidance is also in focus. 'The obtuse angle of the guardrail at the rear of the airfield is dangerous,' says Hennerici. 'Here, too, the experience over the past few years has been that a guardrail that runs close to the route does not leave much room for maneuver, but that the cars guide them better in the event of an impact. A few years ago at the Schwedenkreuz the guidance of the guard rails adapted to prevent obtuse angles. '

There is also controversial debate as to whether spectators should have been allowed to stand in this area. There were apparently no fundamental doubts about the safety of the track, because in the week before the event, the Nordschleife received its annual approval from the FIA.

At this point in time, there would be a certain factor as the cause of the tragedy not correct. Rather, there are currently some arguments in favor of a concatenation of several circumstances.

Editor's note: Out of respect for the victim and the relatives, auto motor und sport deliberately refrains from taking pictures of the scene of the accident to show or to link the corresponding videos.

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