Playstation GT Academy Winner's GT-R NISMO Flips Into Nurburgring Crowd, Killing Spectator

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

Warning: Video includes fatal crash

GT Academy is a Sony sponsored competition where contestants can compete, racing on the Playstation sim, for actual rides with factory Nissan teams. Jann Mardenborough won in 2011 and he’s had a successful motorsports career since, winning in both the British GT championship and in the GP3 series. Today, Mardenborough was driving a Nissan GT-R NISMO at a VLN endurance race on the Nürburgring in Germany when the car got airborne at the Flugplatz, flipped and went over the catch fencing into an area where spectators were sitting, killing one and injuring others. Mardenborough was unharmed.

It’s not clear if the spectators were sitting in an approved area or had climbed over one of the fences into a restricted area. While it’s not unusual for cars to get air at the Flugplatz, that’s not why the section of the track is called the “flying place”. That part of the Ring is adjacent to an old airfield.

The accident has already sparked comparisons with the terrible tragedy at LeMans in 1955, when a Mercedes 300SLR didn’t slow on the main straight and got launched over an Austin Healey into the grandstand, spewing parts as it tumbled through the crowd, killing 83 people. In terms of what possibly caused the flip, though, Mardenborough’s accident is more reminiscent of the Mercedes Benz CLR endurance racer that flew and flipped multiple times while airborne at LeMans in 1999. Here’s an explanation of the aerodynamics involved in the CLR’s flip.

More recently, in NASCAR, Carl Edwards’ and Kyle Larson’s cars have gotten airborne and into the catch fencing, and while it wasn’t due to aero issues, at the 2011 LeMans race, driver Alan McNish’s Audi R18 slid through a gravel runoff area and into some tire barriers, flipping the car up and almost into a trackside photographers’ area. While there were no spectators involved, Indycar’s most recent fatality took the life of racer Dan Wheldon when his open wheel car got airborne and flipped him headfirst into the catch fence.

Auto racing has changed for the better since it was a true blood sport in the 1960s. The drivers are so much safer today due to great advancements in racing safety technology, like the SAFER barriers and the HANS device. Less attention, however, has been paid to spectator safety. All of us who have ever attended a sporting event and read the fine print on the back of the ticket know what implied risk means. Still, there’s always room for improvement and keeping the cars on the track should be one of the highest priorities for racetrack operators.

VLN’s statement:

In the opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship Nürburgring an accident happened on Saturday, in which several spectators were injured. One of them died despite immediately initiated rescue operations in the Medical Center of the circuit. The other injured spectators were taken for further medical care to the hospital. The race was stopped to allow quick access to the scene of the rescue services and not restarted. In the stretch airfield a participant vehicle drove off yet unknown reason from the track and came out from behind the safety features of the circuit to a halt. The VLN and the organizer of the race are deeply saddened and her thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.
Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the deceased.

NISMO’s statement.

The driver, Jann Mardenborough got out of the car and, after initial checks in the circuit Medical Centre, has been taken to hospital for further routine checks.

Today’s events have been a tragedy. We are all deeply shocked and saddened by these events and our immediate thoughts go to the deceased, those injured and their families and friends.

The team is fully co-operating with the race organisers to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into this incident.

TTAC joins those organizations in offering our prayers and thoughts with the injured and the family and friends of the as yet unidentified spectator who was killed.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

Join the conversation
2 of 17 comments
  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Mar 30, 2015

    I have no comment, other than those CLR's were brilliant looking.

  • Vaujot Vaujot on Mar 30, 2015

    I know somebody who participated in that race. He commented on our club's board that drivers familiar with the Ring will lift or even lightly brake before and on that crest to move weight forward. In other words, lack of driver experience may have played a role in the accident. As regards the two fences and the victim's location: German news reports have been saying that he was in a spectator area and I am pretty sure, it would have been reported if the spectator had been in a place he was not supposed to be. Apparently the second smaller fence is to keep people out of the forest (nature preservation measure).

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.