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Endurance Championship - Safety Nordschleife: A risk remains

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Endurance Championship - Safety Nordschleife
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T desolate accidents in motorsport almost lead to the German public always a ritualized reflex action. The result is usually outrage that deliberately ignores factual arguments and is backed up with allusions to the gray past of motorsport. If such accidents happen on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring, one can safely assume that references to Niki Lauda's infamous fire accident in 1976 will not be missing. In this respect, one could foresee what would happen after the tragic accident of Carl Friedrich Prinz zu Löwenstein in the third round of the endurance championship on April 24th, especially since the accident occurred at the same place as that of Niki Lauda.

The online service of the daily newspaper 'Die Welt' ventured four hours after the accident with the thesis that the Nordschleife had expired: 'After the terrible fire accident (...) they could The days of the legendary Nordschleife are numbered. ' The conclusion follows later: 'The mountain and valley railway opened in 1927 (...) is getting on in years and is no longer up to date.' One looks in vain for reasons for such statements. Was it just an unsuspecting online yogi pounding on the drum? Or does the course of the accident actually allow conclusions to be drawn about a safety deficiency?

The Aston Martin driver Löwenstein had only completed one and a half laps since the last refueling stop when the following happened: Löwenstein passed the Breidscheid section behind a Lexus IS-F and a BMW. On the steep ascent of the Ex-Mühle on the way to the so-called Lauda left bend, Löwenstein wanted to overtake the other two cars by accelerating these two slower vehicles in the middle of the lane. Considering the width of the route, it sounds a bit presumptuous at first glance. In practice, however, this is a very common procedure, provided that the slowest driver in a three-pack swiftly changes to the right and another car keeps strictly to the left. On the acceleration stretch in the direction of the Laudakurve there is definitely the possibility of accelerating two cars in the middle. The eye of the needle, however, is the correct threading into the left curve of the Laudaknick.

Marshals were on the spot immediately and tried to delete

If you follow the accident reports from the local criminal police, they saidThe marshals and those involved in the accident agreed that the BMW on the right and the Aston Martin Vantage touched each other in the course of the overtaking maneuver shortly before reaching the Lauda curve. The cause of the contact was a bump in the far right lane that caused the BMW to move. As a result of the contact, the Aston Martin Vantage rose, overturned in the direction of the right side of the lane and crashed first onto the guardrail and finally into the protective fence for the marshal with the number 124, who is stationed behind the Lauda curve. From there the Aston was thrown onto the left side of the road and came to rest there. The car caught fire when it hit the four-meter-wide security fence because a steel girder from the security fence drilled the bumper beam into the gas tank, which led to a smoke explosion. The escaping fuel ignited explosively, with great heat and a lot of smoke. Only the rear of the Aston Martin was on fire, not the entire car. According to the medical report, the pilot passed out from the violent impact. If he is unconscious, inhaling the poisonous gases will very quickly lead to death because the body's defensive reactions, such as coughing, fail. According to doctors, a few breaths are enough to cause poisoning in such a situation.

According to witness statements, the marshals were immediately on the spot and tried to extinguish, but the explosive ignition of the fuel did not immediately suffocate the fire. Immediately after receiving the report, the race management ordered the route safety vehicle to the scene of the accident, as well as the fire brigade team, which is stationed just a few hundred meters from the accident point in the parking bay on the Breidscheider Bridge. The marshals tried everything possible to extinguish the fire quickly and also took risks, as the fact that six helpers had to be admitted to the local hospital in Adenau because of smoke inhalation. The investigation reports from the national motorsport authority DMSB and the local criminal police do not reveal any misconduct on the part of the track security staff involved or the coordinating race management.

Such an accident is also possible on other tracks

'The accident was a tragic combination of extremely unfortunate circumstances ', explains VLN board member Hans Jürgen Hilgeland. 'We could not find any technical defects in the vehicle or errors in the handling of the accident situation by the marshals.' When asked, Herrmann Tilke, who designs and builds race tracks around the world, said: 'Such an accident sequence can also happen on a modern track, for example on a street circuit. The decisive factor in the accident was the impact on theFIA security fence for the marshals, which on the Nordschleife is very close to the asphalt strip of the racetrack due to the natural conditions. On modern GP racetracks, the marshals are a little further away from the track. But the distance on the Nordschleife is quite comparable to that on modern street circuits. 'The tragic course of the accident on April 24, 2010 could have happened in a similar form on other racetracks and has no Nürburgring-specific peculiarities. Therefore, the argumentation is several Media, the racing on the Nordschleife has to be stopped because the track and its infrastructure are out of date, incomprehensible. In truth, massive investments totaling around 3.5 million euros have been made in the last three years to improve the safety equipment optimize so that the Nordschleife can meet the requirements of the FIA ​​for a race track homologation.

Those responsible do everything for the safety of the Nordschleife

According to information from the organizing community of the endurance championship and the Nürburgring Operating company are all tests for the FIA-Zulas sung - in this case a so-called FIA Grade 3 homologation - has already been successfully completed. The FIA ​​Grade 3 homologation is sufficient to host motorsport events with vehicles up to and including vehicle category GT2 in the specific case of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. Formula cars and the class of GT1 vehicles, which are also provided for in Grade 3 homologation, are still not allowed to start on the Nordschleife. The basic acceptance of the racetrack has already taken place, as has the final follow-up examination, where marginal improvements from the basic acceptance were subjected to another test.

The fact that the Nordschleife was able to meet the very strict and extremely detailed requirements of the FIA, which are specified in a 79-page dossier, is only thanks to the fact that all parties involved at the Nürburgring concerted in one Aktion co-financed the complex and expensive renovation work. The FIA ​​race track dossier is the top guideline that defines the goals of maximum spectator safety and the safety of marshals and pilots. To do this, the racetracks must have at least three protective lines between the racetrack and the spectator: The first protective line is the triple guardrail that is continuous on both sides of the Nordschleife - over a total length of almost 42 kilometers. The second line of protection is the FIA ​​security fence, which is primarily intended to prevent flying vehicle parts or debris from entering the spectator area in the event of an accident. The third protective line consists of a distance zone between the spectator and the safety fence defined by railings. Besides, everyone had toMarshals stand areas on the Nordschleife - over 200 in number - are also secured with an FIA security fence. Wherever possible, double stacks of tires had to be set up in the run-off zones. It is by no means the case that time has simply stood still at the Nürburgring. Those in charge do everything to improve security. A residual risk still remains. Even FIA fences cannot stop death.


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