Flashback: The unforgettable Tassie tangle

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 18/02/2021
  • By James Pavey

Jaw-dropping. Extraordinary. Mind-blowing.

However, you want to describe it, what occurred at Symmons Plains Raceway four years ago was unprecedented, and also testament to the safety of current-era Supercars racing.

They were scenes unseen for many a year, with 12 cars left as steaming wrecks in the afternoon sun following heavy showers.

The short Tasmanian circuit has hosted several incredible moments in championship history, and hosted the season-opener for 11 years straight back in the 1970s. Tickets are now on sale for the upcoming Tasmania SuperSprint.

However, one of its most remarkable days came in 2017 following 15 seconds of chaos, with a dozen cars smacked around in a high-speed pile-up after rain kicked up blinding spray.

On the second lap, contact between Fabian Coulthard and Rick Kelly caused a chain reaction that saw Garth Tander spin in the middle of the field.

Tander was turned by Cameron Waters, with the 2007 champion reflecting on the incident afterwards.

"I could see something was happening with Coulthard and Rick and then I've been hit in the rear and I was sideways with the whole field coming over me," he explained.

"Talking to [Tim Slade] in the medical centre there were probably two or three separate things going on.

"Unfortunately there were a lot of big hits, including James [Moffat] into mine.

"We'll have to see how bad the damage is when we get the cars back."

Waters, whose Monster Energy Falcon escaped damage, added that everything happened too quickly for others to react.

"I saw Fabian and Kelly get into each other and everyone braked in front of me trying to avoid the crash," Waters said.

"It all happened so quick, no one really knew what to do.

"It's just a shame that there's so much damage."

At high speed racing into the blinding spray, those behind were helpless.

As the spray settled, a dozen cars were strewn across the circuit on the run to the Turn 4 hairpin.

It could have gone several different ways. Racing is about opportunity; some opted to slow down and avoid the chaos, but it didn't work out.

Others, like Will Davison, kept their foot on the throttle, hoping to come out the other side.

The two-time Bathurst winner's plan didn't pay off; Davison was hospitalised with back injuries, with his impact into Kelly's car registered at 35G.

In a matter of seconds, shocked fans on the back straight had witnessed the biggest multi-car accident in the sport since seven cars were wiped out on the first lap at Hidden Valley in 2013.

The race was suspended, and a 50-minute delay followed. It was eventually restarted, albeit behind the Safety Car.

In dying light, one lap was completed before the chequered flag flew, with Shane van Gisbergen crossing the line first.

No championship points were awarded, but a Triple Eight one-two-three counts in the record books.

However, reigning series champion van Gisbergen had other things on his mind: "We're not here celebrating... first and foremost we're glad everyone is okay.

"That's the priority for me, I don't really care that I won the race at the moment."

Regardless, the drivers caught up in the accident counted their lucky stars that no points were handed out.

Brad Jones Racing was hardest hit, with the cars of Nick Percat, Tim Slade and Tim Blanchard all damaged.

Both cars from the Mobil 1 HSV Racing, Garry Rogers Motorsport and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport garages were also damaged, as were the cars of Davison and Simona De Silvestro.

The drama wasn't just in the accident; at the time of the red flag, pole sitter and leader Scott McLaughlin headed into pit lane.

Everyone else, in line with he rules, lined up in order on the pit straight.

When the race was called, McLaughlin was recorded 14th.

Through the chaos, several teams rallied and were working on their cars until the early hours.

Some teams resolved to lick their wounds, with Davison's damaged Tekno car already on its way back to Queensland base by midday the next day.

Other teams got down to business, with LDM repairing Alex Rullo's car in time for Sunday's race, despite the team being forced to bench the Taz Douglas entry.

Walkinshaw mechanics bravely worked through to 5:00am repairing Scott Pye's car, but James Courtney's entry was also withdrawn.

All up, four cars were withdrawn ahead of Sunday's race, which was won by Shell V-Power Racing's Fabian Coulthard.

While all drivers managed to escape and resume their 2017 campaigns at the next round, the incident proved that anything can, and usually does, happen at the pint-sized Tasmanian bullring. Take van Gisbergen's dramatic race-losing off in 2016.

Just ask Kelly, with the 2006 champion admitting it the T-bone from Davison was the biggest hit of his career.

"I got next to Fabian and got run straight into the fence," explained the two-time Bathurst winner, who suffered two minor muscle tears in his left leg.

"I'm not sure what happened, he could have got hit or had someone on his right-hand side.

"But it destroyed the left side of my car so I was in limp-home mode on the left-hand side of the track.

"Then we got hit again (by Tander) and ended up being hit again by Will who came barrelling down on the left.

"It's definitely the biggest hit I've had in the 15 years I've been out there."

The 2021 Repco Supercars Championship will commence at the Repco Mt Panorama 500. Tickets are on sale now.

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