INDIANAPOLIS: US racing legend Mario Andretti made a frightening return to the cockpit of an Indy car on Wednesday when he was involved in a spectacular crash, just a minute before a test session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was to end.
After Kenny Brack developed a mechanical problem, Andretti ran through a debris field and went airborne, nearly clearing the 22-foot catch fence that separates the track from the grandstand.
The 63-year-old driver's car flipped several times and hit the fence, which sent it back toward the track. The rear axle tore away from the chassis and more than one tire was missing as the car landed on its right side.
“I'm very lucky indeed,” said Andretti, who walked away from the crash. “I didn't hit anything hard, except for the debris on the track ... It happened so fast, there wasn't time for anyone to warn me.
“What I hit wasn't big, but it was solid and it was able to launch me. And then all I saw was sky. It is just one of those things.”
Andretti, who won the Indy 500 in 1969 and the Formula One world title in 1978, said the crash hasn't changed his plans to be on the track on May 4 when it opens for Indianapolis 500 practice.
He reached a top speed exceeding 226 miles per hour. The top speeds of the day in the private test session were over 229mph.
“I don't have any second thoughts about being out here,” Andretti said. “It was just a freakish situation that I'm sure won't happen again. Up until the accident, the day was awesome.”
Andretti drove the Dallara-Honda-Firestone car normally piloted by IRL IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan of Brazil, who is recovering from a broken wrist.
The car is co-owned by Mario's son Michael, 40, who will make the final start of his career in the 87th Indianapolis 500 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
Returning to Indy's asphalt for the first time at top speed since his 1994 retirement brought Andretti some concerns. “It brings some anxiety because I'm taking it very seriously, and I want to be productive for the team and for myself.” – AFP