F2: Henry Surtees killed in freak racing accident
By Andy Darley
Sunday, July 19th, 2009
Formula 2 driver Henry Surtees has been killed in a chance racing accident in which he was hit in the head by a flying wheel as he took part in the second race of the weekend at Brands Hatch.
The 18-year-old was airlifted to the Royal London hospital, the regional trauma centre serving Brands Hatch, after medics at the circuit worked to stabilise him. Autosport is reporting that a hospital spokesperson confirmed he had died from his injuries earlier this evening.
Surtees, the son of Formula One and motorcycling world champion John, had finished third in the previous race and qualified eighth for the second. He was running line astern with other cars when Jack Clarke spun off ahead of him exiting Westfield Bend.
Clarke’s fast but relatively innocuous accident was transformed into a dangerous one when he hit a barrier that was positioned curving towards the track as it avoided a tree. His car was sent back towards the circuit and his rear wing and one wheel broke free, tumbling back onto the racing line.
The wheel gathered pace and hit Surtees on the head as he passed and the blue and yellow number seven car went straight on at the next corner, hitting the barrier on the approach to Sheene Curve and sliding to a halt.
Marshals arrived at the scene immediately, and he was taken to the track’s medical centre. After treatment there he was flown to hospital, a safety car interrupting the WTCC race that was in progress to allow the helicopter a safe take-off.
After the accident, the race was restarted and eventually won by Andy Soucek, ahead of Robert Wickens and Mikhail Aleshin. Soucek dedicated the victory to Surtees: “I saw the accident with Henry. Whatever happens with that, this victory is for him.”
Soucek had finished second in the previous race, ahead of Surtees and behind Philipp Eng, and now has a clear lead in the championship over Wickens.
Speaking after the incident, Formula Two chief executive Jonathan Palmer said: “I would like to express my great sadness that Henry has been injured today. An accident like this would obviously raise high levels of concern and we await further news on Henry’s condition from the hospital.
“This is clearly a very worrying time for John and Jane Surtees. Our thoughts are with them and we will be providing all the support we can.”
This is not the first time a wheel has been torn off in a Formula 2 crash this season.
In the second round of the championship, held in Brno in the Czech Republic, the start of the first race was disrupted by a flying wheel after an incident that also involved Surtees and Clarke.
It goes without saying that we at Brits on Pole send our sincere condolences to the Surtees family. There may well be questions to answer about the F2 cars and about the particular barrier that Clarke hit – but they can wait.