By on March 29, 2015


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

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17 Comments on “Playstation GT Academy Winner’s GT-R NISMO Flips Into Nurburgring Crowd, Killing Spectator...”


  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Ouch! Physically game over…

  • avatar
    Zekele Ibo

    I’m not sure what the driver’s history of winning a Playstation competition has got to do with anything. This was not some 350lb kid scooped off a basement couch, disconnected from his console, brought blinking into the sunlight and poured into a racing seat. Mardenborough is a professional young racing driver with an impressive track record. This tragic incident should not be allowed to affect his career.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Ronnie does point out that Mardenborough has had a successful racing career in the second sentence. You’re right though, the headline had me wondering/afraid that they did exactly what you hilariously described.

      I think where the driver got his start is interesting, if unrelated to why he crashed. Readers can follow up on the Playstation GT Academy, if interested. The information doesn’t hurt anything, and having it in the headline likely gets more interest than the story otherwise would.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        I think you see what you want to see. There doesnt seem to be any ill intent by the author. If he was to omit the Playstation bit he would be misreporting.

        Let me remind you all, the Sony team beat professionals around the Bathurst 12hr in an r35.

        That section of the track is infamous for the front wheels lifting off. I mean that even catches out Formula 1 drivers so at a particular point Jann would have been a passenger, much like Mark Webber was… mulitple times.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      Jeez, winning the Playstation GT academy is what this driver is known for. Naturally it will be mentioned in an incident like this.

      There’s no suggestion that had any relationship to this particular incident, it’s just background info identifying who was involved.

      The reality of the Nurburgring is that it is still a quite dangerous track. Most high speed race tracks have removed any terrain where cars become partially airborne while cresting hills like that. These cases where air gets under a car at high speed are extremely dangerous, and not just for the drivers. Track officials and spectators are also at some risk.

    • 0 avatar

      His background as a GT Academy winner is an important part of his racing CV. I meant no disrespect to the drivers who have earned rides through the program. Alex Lloyd, a previous GT Academy finalist who got a chance to compete in a real car for one of the rides, has contributed to my site, Cars In Depth, at my personal invitation. I think GTA is a cool idea.

      I will say, per my colleague Mr. Baruth’s view of the value of racing sims to real racing, that simulations are never the real thing. Still, the graduates of GT Academy have shown genuine racing skill.

      One reason why I included the other videos is that I wanted to show that aero induced flips are not unheard of. I should, however, have been more explicit that such events are almost completely out of control of the driver.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    click bait title.

    The driver being a winner of the PS GT academy is worthy of being noted. It has zero bearing on this incident. None. To include it in the title is far from “the TRUTH about cars”.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If you want some real “clickbait” head over to Jalopnik.

      • 0 avatar
        michal1980

        its clickbait for ttac. I hold this site to a higher standard then jalopink, but if thats what you want this place to become. Then this title is a step in the right direction.

        • 0 avatar

          “Clickbait”? You mean there’s something wrong with coming up with a headline that includes things that interest people so they might read a post?

          There was nothing untruthful about the headline, nor was it sensational. If it was worthy of noting in the article, it’s worthy of the headline.

          I suppose the headline could have been “Some racer goes off some racetrack, spectator killed”, but people have an interest in the Nurburgring track and they also have an interest in the GT Academy program.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Jalopink? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that car site!

          • 0 avatar
            michal1980

            Including the Playstation GT Academy Winner in the title IMHO is sensational.

            Outside of it being factual it has nothing to do with the story.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Agreed that the driver’s history is irrelevant. And while I’m generally no booster of such competitions, GT Academy seems to have done a good job of producing drivers with the right mix of talent, commitment, and seriousness. I’ve personally known one of the other winners for 15 years, and he’s a professional in every possible sense of the word. The regular racing seed ‘system’ has yielded loose cannons like PT, Farfus, Maldonado, and everyone who’s ever raced in BTCC. Coming from GT Academy is no black mark.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    It’s pretty clear it was an aero accident that had very little to do with driver error expect not letting up…but again, it’s hard to tell cresting a hill your car is going to become unglued from the road.

    Honestly I did get caught thinking it was a tragic accident due to driver error but clearly he has some serious driver credentials to his name. The few shows and actual research done on the comparisons say that the car is genuinely easier to drive on the real course than GT because you can feel the car around you, given time you’ll get better. But sad that a person had to die due to a tragic accident. :(

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

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

  • avatar
    vaujot

    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).

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