SMP Racing LMP1 driver Matevos Isaakyan admits he “still has flashbacks” of his airborne crash in the Spa FIA World Endurance Championship opener.
Isaakyan was lucky to emerge unhurt after his #17 BR Engineering BR1-AER launched into the air and flipped backwards at the top of Eau Rouge during the latter stages of the Spa 6 Hours last month.
BR Engineering and Dallara subsequently made changes to its BR1 for the Le Mans 24 Hours test day, including larger front wheelarch openings and an overall increase in downforce compared to its original specification.
The two SMP BR1s finished fifth and sixth in the test, with Vitaly Petrov setting the best time for the Russian outfit in the #11 car, 2.5 seconds off the pace.
Isaakyan says he’s completely convinced that the changes have made the BR1 safe, and says the increased aero levels have also aided the car’s performance.
“I’ve seen the accident with Dallara, with the team,” the Russian told Motorsport.com. “I’ve seen the video from multiple angles.
“It’s just such an incredible coincidence that it happened. It will never happen again, I’m very sure.
“I’ve been testing these changes for the safety, after what happened in Spa. It felt very nice because with the low drag we improved a lot overall downforce level.”
Asked how he dealt with the incident mentally, he replied: “After the crash, three days [later] I was already driving in ELMS at Monza in LMP2, quite a quick recovery.
“I just took two days off, just to chill, and I was with friends. Egor [Orudzhev, teammate] came with me. I still have some flashbacks, but it’s fine now.”
DragonSpeed’s customer Gibson-powered BR1 has also been affected by the aero changes, although its car didn’t race at Spa after Pietro Fittipaldi’s qualifying crash wrote off the chassis.
The car was rebuilt around a fresh tub in time for the Le Mans test day, and Renger van der Zande said he is likewise totally satisfied with the changes that have been made.
“I feel completely safe,” van der Zande, who shares the DragonSpeed machine with Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley, told Motorsport.com. “They showed me it’s solved.
“My personal opinion is that [Isaakyan’s crash] was [caused by] a combination of factors: slipstream, low front downforce, Eau Rouge with lots of altitude [change] and maybe a bump in the road.
"I don’t think it will happen again any time soon.”
Additional reporting by Casper Bekking