By on December 7, 2015

In my life, I’ve officiated exactly two LeMons races thanks to the good graces of Murilee Martin. At those races, I’ve watched tech inspectors go over seats, belts and harnesses with more scrutiny than border guards in Israel. To be sure, it’s astounding to me how much safety needs to be welded, worked and crammed into a “junker” from the outside — most people never see that. But even I wondered sometimes why tech was so hard to pass.

There are myriad things that can go wrong on a racetrack. However, there are only a few things that can save lives when those things go wrong. For those lifesaving devices, there’s no substitute or corner-cutting, and there are reasons why good teams spend more on a cage and brakes than they ever spend on an engine.

Case in point: Coming up on a blind crest and running face-first into the rear of a stalled car and everyone is OK after.

The above video comes from the Ferkel the Nein-11 — which was featured in this unbelievable video from “The Atlantic” magazine.

According to other drivers, the Miata was limping around the track when the Porsche hit it. It’s unfair to blame spotters and corner workers for something like this because it clearly happened so fast that reaction times don’t matter.

The only thing that mattered at the point of impact was the worthiness of the safety gear.

In this instance, it appeared everything went to plan. All the drivers were OK and the Nein-11 even made it out to race later that weekend, winning a well-deserved Heroic Fix award for that race and possibly the year.


Terkel the Nein-11


Today’s PSA: Safety doesn’t have a price.


Nein-11 Heroic Fix


[Photo credit: Caryn Kealey]

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43 Comments on “LeMons Crash Proves Why Safety Should Never Be Cheap...”

  • avatar

    Glad everyone’s alright.

    Tell me more about the 200 Quattro!

    • 0 avatar

      No, no, not C3 Audis again. Must. Resist.

      • 0 avatar

        20 valves, Avant variant, factory lace alloys, vastly improved interior over the 5000, and very rare to boot. How are we NOT going to talk about it?

        Furthermore, make my lace alloys color-keyed. Boom.

        • 0 avatar

          If drooling at this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree with that potential buyer: the sedan profile is more attractive.

          For the big sedan, I’d also take mine with a V8 rather than a turbo five. Put the turbo five in a coupe.

          • 0 avatar

            I like the profile of the sedan, but the big lifty hatch and glass area of the wagon. Overall, I’d probably have the wagon if I’m buying.

            Though the V8 Quattro looked incredibly similar, it’s actually an entirely different platform (big stretched C3)! (Probably why it cost so much.)

          • 0 avatar

            You don’t want the Audi C3 V8.

          • 0 avatar

            Also, that. It’s like the problems of the 5000/100 plus three times more for those three additional cylinders.

            And 79.995% more parts rarity.

          • 0 avatar

            My dad had a 1992 V8, which he kept for 15 years and about 100,000 hard miles. It had chronic climate control issues but was otherwise stone reliable. That may have affected my perceptions.

    • 0 avatar

      How is it any 911 can qualify for a Lemon’s race without significant penalties? I’ve never seen one that could make inspection for sale for anything close to $500.

  • avatar

    Oof, that made me cringe to watch. Blind hill crests scare me a lot more than blind corners ever do. You have to slow for a corner anyways, so chances are pretty good you’re not going to hit anything at full speed. Coming up over a hill top like that though gives almost no possibility for the driver to mitigate the collision.

    Glad everyone was okay, I’m going to be paranoid driving over hills all week now.

  • avatar

    The video very accurately depicts being a passenger in my wife’s car. I always wear an inflatable airbag and a helmet when I have to ride with her.

  • avatar

    I’ll just add a comment that this highlights why it’s so important to try really hard to stay off the racing line until you can pit if your vehicle is under-performing and certainly if you’re mid-stall you gotta go off-track. Awesome to hear that everyone was ok and that safety gear held up, but I hope there are good takeaways to avoid potential crashes in the future. It’s great to have the pervasive in-car video nowadays to review and learn from.

    So no one takes offense, without being there I’m not being critical as we’re only seeing one perspective, I’m just highlighting why that particular point is extremely important.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    Mazda driver should have been in the grass.

    Porsche driver had at least 2 seconds after seeing Mazda to react before colliding. He could have twitched the wheel and gone into grass. But he froze and locked up the brakes. Risking getting rear-ended himself.

    He didn’t even react when the 2 cars ahead of him started weaving around and got on the brakes. Even more advance warning he didn’t recognize and react to.

    Glad everyone is OK, though.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe a touch of target fixation. A buddy of mine spun in a turn at Sebring, and someone piled into him because he couldn’t decide which way to turn, either way would have worked.

      How is it that a 911 can’t outdrag a Focus?

      • 0 avatar

        The Jalopnik article advises that the 911 is running a 4 cyl VW TDI engine. Note the radiator in the post-crash photo.

        • 0 avatar
          Firestorm 500

          I’m sure it was cheating on emissions standards.

        • 0 avatar

          That just proves how far-ranging the damage is from improper control of CO2 emissions…it even extends to the racetrack.

          I sure hope they are including a plan for this in the Paris Accords conference.

          It could easily have ended up being another death due to allowing vehicles with improper emissions to operate.

          And I’ll bet the car didn’t even have its carbon credits up to date. Plus, all that carbon probably contributed to reduced visibility for the driver of the 911.

          The carbon thing just never stops…the HuffPost should be all over this by now.

          Where is Ralph Nader when we need him? HE’D never put up with this kind of lax design, I’m sure.

    • 0 avatar


      Driver gets his first view of the gimpy Miata at about 17-1/2 seconds in the video and wouldn’t think anything is wrong until the car in front of him goes to the grass. His reaction to “crap” was probably by a fraction of a second delayed as the car that avoided the Miata was also yellow.

      Impact from the moment that the Miata is visible is less than 2 seconds. Reaction time for gas to brake is about 3/4 of a second. The 911 doesn’t like sharp inputs that then has the rear with lots of traction on pavement and the front with no traction on grass. Its desire to rotate 180 degrees is well known.

      We can only ASS-U-ME there was a car to the immediate right blocking a potential escape in that direction.

      Driver was basically hosed. Flag warning of a slow vehicle in turn didn’t come up until about 16-1/2 seconds.

      Given the wall and no run out outside of the line, the Miata didn’t have a lot of good choices on where to be.

      Meh – easy to analyze after the fact – everyone always thinks they would do better.

      • 0 avatar

        “We can only ASS-U-ME there was a car to the immediate right blocking a potential escape in that direction. ”

        But post-crash, and AFTER all contact has ended between the two vehicles, no-one passes the 911 on the right for a full+ second, and clearly the two vehicles that do are slowing down from a much higher speed. So, his right was clear for evasive action. You cannot trust the youtube vids for precise timing though. In one slow-mo I got nearly two seconds between end of contact and the green car speeding past his right.

        I know I wouldn’t do better, for sure. But I still think he is not a very experienced driver. This accident is part of the evolution towards a more skilled racer. He gets to learn to keep outs as part of his mental map as he paces through the track, along with everything else you mentioned (the car’s handling weaknesses, etc). None of this is easy or trivial. The better racers have the wisdom of a 40+ year old, and the reaction times of a 16 year old.

      • 0 avatar
        Firestorm 500

        I’d rather spin into the grass than rear-end a stopped car.

  • avatar

    Interesting that the 911 driver basically froze, crammed on the brakes, and didn’t even try to steer around the yellow Miata. The two preceding cars dodged it, one left and one right. Would I have done any better? I’d like to think yes, but probably not. And it’s an early 911, so no ABS and with the very opposite of stability control built into every car.

    It appears to me that the Miata was at a standstill on the track. Whatever it was that happened to his car, he should have coasted it off the track and on to the grass. He got punishment enough for it though: hit hard from the rear, spun around, then hit hard again on the front. Ouch. That’s the kind of thing that leaves big bruises from the harness.

    There appeared to be a flag station at track right maybe 50 feet before the accident zone, but no yellow flag – WTF? On the other hand it’s a fast part of the track and there was lots of traffic, so I’m not sure the drivers would have seen a flag in time to react.

    Edit: I see Firestorm 500 and I have very much the same thoughts on this.

    • 0 avatar

      There was a white flag raised just as the 911 came onto the scene, which is generally shown for a slow moving vehicle or emergency vehicle on track. As slowly as the Miata was going, I would have expected a (vigorously) waving yellow as well, at least in SCCA. I don’t know what LeMons’s flagging standards are, it may be that the white flag is all that is shown for a slow moving vehicle. Edit: Also, a lot of being able to avoid something that suddenly appears in your windscreen has much to do with instinct, some people reflexively know to steer, others don’t, and until you’re in that situation for the first time, you don’t know which group you’re in.

      Cage/harness/seat/neck restraints all good things to have at a speed event.

  • avatar

    i agree that miata should have been FAR FAR off the line, likely on the right. though they were probably limping from the last corner so were on the left side… the experience of racers if WILDLY variable, so not surprising a couple people could get around but the 911 didn’t, upon review it looks like they saw it really late so looks like it would have taken a really experienced driver to react in time… my thinking would have been going to the grass at speed would have meant i blow the corner and slide across the track a bit down the hill, and going right i’m basically almost beside the blue car and have committed to passing them so mentally they are beside me… my guess is i would have hammered the miata just like the video, but who knows…

    when i started i didn’t have a HANS device, and i don’t think they’re currently mandated, but my guess is made a difference in this case… we have one that we share across the whole team and that and the window net are simultaneously annoying to deal with but make me feel MUCH safer… any team that doesn’t have at least one should strong arm the richest person on their team to buy one they can share…

  • avatar

    Yeah, the injection moulded Hans version is now only about $550, which is about half what a Hans used to cost. Cheap protection.

  • avatar

    WHEW ! glad everyone’s O.K. .

    It’s time to re run the toes chopped off article again , some folks don’t like it but I’d rather see that than lose my toes….



    • 0 avatar

      What is the toes chopped off article, Nate? I missed that one.

      And a side question…I have a good friend en route from SF to Baja California, where he winters every year. His 90’s era Accord wagon got sideswiped by a drunk driver a couple of weeks before he left, and he is currently stopped in SoCal, trying to find someone he can trust to either check out the Accord for the rest of the trip, or to replace a motor for him at a reasonable price.

      I know you are both into keeping older iron running, and also motor pool type procurement and repairs, so the thought occurred to me that you might be able to shoot me a recommendation.

      He may have things under control by now, or perhaps not…but he is a lifelong good friend, and I respect your knowledge and experience, and think it might be able to come in handy, if you have any names you think might be good.

      Thanks in advance.


      • 0 avatar

        There was an article about the stupidity of riding with your feet on the dashboard a while back , it featured a photograph of the toes chopped off when the crash occurred .

        Someone will hopefully link to it , most here cried like babies when forced to think about what happens all too often in real life .

        As my life has been spent in the Motor Trade , near the bottom end , I have seen the ugly results many times , it never fails to upset me but I also feel folks need to be shown so the message ‘ SAFETY KNOWS NO SEASON ‘ gets out there , I still see too many idiots putting their Children or drunken Passengers at risk , daily .

        Anyway .

        To have the car looked at , please go to Advance Muffler in Pasadena on Walnut , ask for Kirk and tell him I sentcha , only want to be sure the crashed car is safe to continue .

        Ping me OffLine for his ‘phone # , I’ve given you my E-Mail before .

        I’ll never again suggest a good used Motor Vehicle to anyone as folks have a way of thrashing them then trying to blame the one person who tried to help out .


        • 0 avatar

          “Someone will hopefully link to it . . .”


          Jack mentioned it again a few months ago:

  • avatar

    I have to explain to my customers all the time that extra safety and having the proper equipment isn’t cheap. I own a car shipping company called Auto Transport Quote Services. If I was in that car and I got hit like that I would be scared out of my mind. Hope everyone was alright. It pays to have the proper safety!

  • avatar

    No excuse for this. Decidedly going that slow, might as well be going in reverse. He should’ve been completely off the track if all he could do is crawl.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    He would have ceased to be a factor with the timely application of a well-aimed RPG.

  • avatar

    Points all well taken, Jack.

    And I certainly don’t have the experience you have with situations like this. But I do have experience with reliability engineering, failure analysis, root cause analysis, etc., and a couple of other things seem to come to mind.

    Given the behavior of the flagger, if that is the best they can muster, besides getting them off the “grassy knoll”, why doesn’t the flagger know better what to do?

    Inadequate training? Inadequate testing and certification of flaggers?

    Was there a training program at all for flaggers? If so, how was it validated, or was it, given that we can see an outcome like the one on the video.

    Ditto for driver training, and testing of absorption of that training.

    Were drivers adequately trained to get the hell out of Dodge when they were limping? Do they even know what constitutes Dodge in that situation?

    If they received training, was there any testing of drivers pre- and post-training, to see if training was properly absorbed? It is not enough that the right information be in the training materials. It must be confirmed that such information has successfully been imparted, and that it is retained with time.

    Yes, these are not things that can be done overnight. But they are not things that need to cost a lot of money. More than money, it takes foresight, vision, a few dedicated developers of adequate driver and flagger training, plus some design and administration of feedback results from such training.

    Intensive perhaps in terms of manpower consumed, but it is also a distributed workload, not falling entirely on a single group, necessarily. And as much as this is true for the development of training materials, it is even more so for the administration of training, post-training testing, and evaluation and remediation of drivers and flaggers.

    And I am not that familiar with either the fine points of racing technique, or that particular course. But couldn’t a lot of the forward cars’ motion be interpreted as just setting up for subsequent maneuvers, rather than clearly evasive action?

    And while the reaction time might seem long, remember it encompasses both a sudden awareness calling for a situational analysis, followed by a stomp on the brakes, and perhaps not enough time to consider if he can avoid being hit if he swerves right. Or if he will end up going end over end or rolling sideways if he pulls left suddenly.

    And even if he gets on the brakes in well under the time interval, you have forgetten to include computation of the time and distance required to stop after the brakes are hit, given the speed differential.

    It seems as if he might have solidly applied the brakes within the interval of visibility, but that doesn’t mean that the vehicle will immediately come to rest.

    Perhaps you can give a more granular analysis of the times and distances involved, though I don’t fault your initial reaction and focus, given what you have been through, and especially the famous “clay pigeon” video of you desperately trying to get clear of oncoming traffic while virtually trapped in your vehicle, just a few months back. And that compounded by the still fresh memory of another drubbing you are still recovering from.

    But I would like to know your thoughts about such things as training and testing of the participants, the realistic options available within the available time interval, and whether or not a person with even the fastest reactions would have been able to pull the 911 to a stop before the point of impact, given the setup shown.

    I have mixed feelings about such amateur circuits and races…on the one hand, they give people a chance to get real experience, on the other hand, they seem to need a bit more of a safety first, training and testing before racing philosophy implemented, to prevent these events from turning into motorized Russian roulette.

    And until the whole show gets tightened up, I do not think I will be encouraging my son to consider trying to get behind the wheel in these events even if he gets a chance.

    A flat out drag race, sure. Drifting comps? Maybe. But a cross between high speed bumper cars and an old-fashioned Friday night demolition derby? I don’t THINK so…

  • avatar

    Here’s video with an in-car view that shows the driver trying to swerve, but the wheels are already locked up. You also get to see the Miata’s video.

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