THE GRATE ESCAPE In 1980 it was the Bathurst rock that halted Dick Johnson in his tracks. On the eighth lap of yesterday's opening V8 Supercar race at the Shanghai International Circuit in China it was a steel drain grate that stopped Larkham...
THE GRATE ESCAPE
In 1980 it was the Bathurst rock that halted Dick Johnson in his tracks.
On the eighth lap of yesterday's opening V8 Supercar race at the Shanghai International Circuit in China it was a steel drain grate that stopped Larkham -- Orrcon Racing's Mark Winterbottom in his tracks and has the 24-year-old thanking his lucky stars.
The grate measuring 240mm X 480mm and weighing 20 kg's was extruding from the ground by over 200mm after it had been moved by another car exiting turn five on the circuit.
As Winterbottom exited the turn he hit the grate at 130km/h slicing through the front Kevlar splitter and impacting on the radiator and the engine sump.
The most frightening part for Winterbottom and the Larkham -- Orrcon team is the fact that as the car traveled across the upturned grate it sliced through the floor tray impacting with the bottom and rear of the driver's seat before gauging a hole immediately behind the seat.
This gouge measures a massive 200 x 800mm and almost sliced through Winterbottom's carbon fibre seat.
Such was the ferocity of the great that is has also sliced the roll bar cross member in half like a carbon tipped saw.
"Exiting turn five I took the normal racing line that runs right to the edge of the track and hit a drain grate that was sticking up. It made a huge thud inside the car but I didn't feel the brunt of the impact as it lifted my car of the ground," said Winterbottom.
"I knew it had done a fair bit of damage but it wasn't we got the car back to the garage that I had a look in the back of the car and seen how much damage was done inside the car.
"The grate impacted on my seat, but only just, it wasn't until I woke up this morning that it hit me and I realized how lucky I really was to escape uninjured."
The damage repair bill is expected to reach in excess of $75,000 with the components that are required to either be replaced or repaired as follows:
* Front spoiler
* Intake duct
* Front cross member
* Heat exchanger
* Steering rack
* Front roll bar and mounts
* Right and side exhaust
* Driver's seat
* Seat belts
* Oil cooler
* Differential housing
* Watts Linkage arm assembly
* Floor from driver's seat to rear fire wall
* Front & Rear roll bar cables
* Fuel cell box
* Internal roll cage
* Engine sump
"I have never seen anything like this in my life, the bizarre irony this being a potentially being the world's most impressive racing facility and having something as insignificant as a piece of drainage caused so much carnage to a race car. Mark is a very lucky man," said team owner Mark Larkham.
As a result of the damage Winterbottom didn't start in today's final two races at the Shanghai International circuit.
Event organisers increased the safety overnight on the area of the circuit where the incident took place by covering the drain grates with a row of tyre barriers on the edge of the circuit and have also indicated that the drains may be filled with concrete for future events.
After enduring an engine problem that forced the team to change engines in 90 minutes between today's pair of 30@*lap races Jason Bargwanna was on the charge during the final journey to make up 17 positions and finish 14th.
"The guys done a great job to get the car onto the grid for that final race to salvage some points, to change an engine in 90 minutes is a superb effort. It was pleasing to be able to reward them for this effort with a positive result," said Bargwanna.
The round was won by Todd Kelly ahead of Steven Richards and Paul Radisich.
The next round of the V8 Supercar Championship will be held at the Hidden Valley circuit in Darwin on July 1 - 3.