33. HANS HEYER ILLEGALLY STARTS (1977, F1, HOCKENHEIM)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 35TH
Failure to qualify is one of the most frustrating occurrances in racing. The idea of showing up and not getting anything for your trouble is pretty disheartening, which is why sometimes drivers don’t take it very well.
Hans Heyer, a driver known for his antics and entertaining driving style, was unwilling to remain on standby as a substitute driver when Formula One stopped by Hockenheim in 1977. He had qualified 27th in a year old Penske chassis, and as such was third on the substitute driver list, so three drivers had to be unable to race for him to get his chance on the track.
A first lap crash involving Alan Jones and Clay Reggazoni led to a fair bit of confusion amongst the competitors, during which Heyer’s team fired up the car’s engine and he took to the circuit. It took the officials nine laps for them to notice Heyer was on the circuit, and by the time a black flag was flown to get him off the track, Heyer was already ‘out’ of the race with a blown gearbox. This would be Heyer’s only start, if you could call it that, though the winner of the 1974 European Touring Car Championship would find further success elsewhere.
32. MAYLANDER HITS A POTHOLE (2004, DTM, SHANGHAI)
NEW TO LIST
DTM has wanted to race elsewhere for years. It hasn’t always gone too well.
For whatever reason, DTM and China just go hand in hand, and DTM has attempted several races in the country. In 2004, DTM made its first trip to China for a non-championship round through Shanghai’s streets, which according to Silhouet was supposed to act as a prelude to the inaugural Grand Prix of China that year. On the first lap of the first of two 30 minute races, Bernd Maylander, who is currently the safety car driver in Formula One, found himself coming to a sudden stop right out of the gate. According to motorsport.com, Maylander had no idea what had sent his Mercedes airborne at first, but found it to be a manhole when he stepped out of his car.
The race went no further, and most of the afternoon was dedicated to welding down the remaining manhole covers. Maylander’s car was too badly damaged to take the start of the second race a few hours later. Oddly enough, manhole covers would be an issue at the new permanent circuit the next year, with both Formula One’s Juan Pablo Montoya and V8 Supercar’s Mark Winterbottom colliding with covers during weekends. DTM seemingly found an audience in China, and returned to another temporary street circuit in Shanghai in 2010. They were planning on returning to the country for a street race through Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, in 2014, but it was cancelled and they have not been back since.
31. FIRE LORRY ROLLS (2011, TRUCK RACING, BRANDS HATCH)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 31ST
Tractor trailer racing is spectacular.
These big beasts need to have their speeds limited simply due to their weight, but are nonetheless pretty incredible to watch. Due to matching top speeds, passes have to be done in the corners. All trucks have water tanks for water to be sprayed on their brakes, and if those tanks run out, the brakes usually shatter within the next two minutes. But sometimes these trucks aren’t the big highlight.
During a tractor trailer race at Brands Hatch circuit in 2011, a Ford Ranger was the one putting on the show. During the event, a tractor trailer ended up on its door in Graham Hill Bend. With the driver still in the cab, several safety vehicles began rushing to the scene. One of the lorries rushing to the scene was a white Ford Ranger, with two occupants. Several fans were filming the rescue effort, only for all of them to jar their cameras towards Paddock Hill.
Seemingly slipping in diesel oil, the Ranger spun out and hooked over itself, sending the two men inside the truck for a ride and destroying the equipment in the back. The truck slid on its roof down Paddock Hill Bend before eventually flipping back onto its wheels. According to a post made to TenTenths, the occupants of the Ranger were injured, but walked away under their own power.
The Battle Of Trenton was an indoor midget race held in February and December of both 2014 and 2016 in the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton. The 2016 runnings were two of the very few races I have ever actually been in the audience for, as few tracks are in my area. The entry list for the December 2016 running was poor and attendance was low, so organizers decided to change things up and switched from pavement to dirt for 2017. This meant few major names, but many more entries.
Being as the track is a tenth of a mile, there’s little room to move, and as such the safety crews use UTVs. However, it seemed one marshal zoned out, and as such, about halfway through the 40-lap main, a UTV hauling a flatbed crossed the track, from the pit area on the outside of turn three to the infield, during green flag conditions, almost being obliterated by leader Alex Bright. This moment made the list mostly due to the ridiculousness of a UTV being used as a transport vehicle at a race track instead of a pickup. It makes perfect sense, but it’s still a sight to behold.
The announcer, I suppose trying to save face, never mentioned the cause of the ensuing caution. I have no idea what happened with the marshal, but Alex Bright ended up losing the race at night’s end to Long Island’s Whitey Kidd III.
29. GLENN KINNERSLEY ROLLS ON A TOW ROPE (2003, FORMULA PALMER AUDI, SNETTERTON)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 28TH
Besides its pretty amazing to say name, Formula Palmer Audi was for the most part a fairly basic and moderately successful league for rising stars that ran for about fifteen years. It produced names like Justin Wilson, Andy Priaulx, and James Jakes. Glenn Kinnersley is remembered, though, for a different reason.
All right, onto the moment. Glenn Kinnersley found his car in the runoff during a round at Snetterton in 2003. With the car stalled, Kinnersley was forced to wait while the towing crew got ready to take his car off the circuit, during which he stayed in the car.
With a tow rope attached to the open wheeler, officials began to give the towing crew instructions. During this time, Kinnersley’s car began to be dragged sideways, something the marshals didn’t notice, being preoccupied in coaching the tow truck driver on where to go. Eventually, Kinnersley’s car was dragged so much to the side that it started to dig in, and when the marshals did eventually notice, it was too late.
Kinnersley’s car flipped in the runoff, overturning onto its lid and striking the marshal walking in front of his car, who was seemingly uninjured. Kinnersley himself was not injured, but the crash sure left him with a much larger repair bill than he had before.
28. FULLER AND VÉLEZ COLLIDE (1994, IMSA, PORTLAND)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 14TH
Portland International Raceway is an interesting circuit. Built upon the site of what was once a town before it was destroyed by a flood in the 1940s, this track, situated on an island in the city’s north end, is a flat and quick layout with some very fast sectors. It’s seen major events every now and again, and will be seeing another one in the Indycar Series in 2018.
In 1994, one of the series stopping by was IMSA, where WSC-class competitors Fermin Vélez and Hugh Fuller were the ones on the highlight reel. With eventual winner Jeremy Dale off in the distance, the duel between Fuller’s Spice SC89 Olds and Vélez’s Ferrari 333 SP for second was fierce. Unfortunately, it came to an end on lap 54 of what would eventually be a 75 lap race, when, according to motorsportmagazine, Vélez suffered a misfire entering the Festival Chicane. The late Spaniard’s car slowed up much more than Fuller anticipated, and Fuller, a brave driver with a basis in powerboats, shoved the Ferrari into a spin. When Fuller attempted to get by his rival, the Spice climbed over the top of the Ferrari and turned onto its side.
Fuller wasn’t hurt, and when he climbed out, his first priority was to flip the car back onto its wheels. With the lightweight prototype just barely balancing on its side, rolling it back was a one man job, and within a few seconds, Fuller was headed back to the pits, with Vélez’s damaged Ferrari not far behind. Vélez’s car was too badly damaged to continue, but Fuller continued on in the event, saved by a rainstorm that came shortly after the safety car period for the crash ended. He eventually finished fifth.
Ruben Garcia of South El Monte, California is one such journeyman. According to the LA Times, Garcia started out in 1970 after getting back from Vietnam making $2.50 an hour building motorhomes. In 1985, he was president of R&R Custom Coachworks, Inc., a motorhome distributor that raked in $32 million in 1984. Garcia raced every now and again throughout the 1970s, but when he finally returned to racing in 1984 after a few years off, he immediately found success, finishing third in the 1985 Winston West points with two wins. Garcia was even able to qualify for a few NASCAR Cup races at Riverside.
In 1988, during the very last NASCAR race at Riverside, Garcia drove his #32 Pick-Your-Part Chevrolet Monte Carlo car into the top 20, but on lap 29 of 95, it all came to an end. Something broke and the car veered hard left off of turn nine. The car entered an opening in the barrier and struck an angled steel guardrail protected by a tire wall, which was easily folded by the car. It went through a chainlink fence from there, then collapsed a brick wall with a set of barrels behind it. The car came to a halt against one final barrier protecting the crowd, and Ruben got out of the car unhurt, but he did not start any further Cup or West races after that.
41. MASS DQ AT THE ITALIAN F3 FINALE (2012, ITALIAN F3, MONZA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 21ST
As national and regional Formula Three leagues start to fall by the wayside and Formula Four begins to take over as the go-to for national leagues, the amount of national F3 leagues thin to a point where as of 2017 there are only five: Japan, Brazil, Austria, Australia, and Switzerland, a ‘Formula Three’ league in Britain that actually just runs souped-up F4 cars, and two European leagues, one of which, European Formula Three, will be merging with GP3 in 2019.
Italian F3 concluded a run which had begun in 1964 in 2012, and its last race was rather controversial. Ten cars, two Mygales and eight Dallaras, entered the Monza finale, with Romain Agostini’s Mygale leading with 240 points over a pair of Dallaras, Brandon Maisano, who had 229 and Eddie Cheever III, who had 227. Cheever won race one and was able to gain a few points on Agostini, but then it all went downhill.
For reasons I could never find described beyond ‘technical infractions’, Cheever and Maisano were both disqualified from race two, handing Agostini the championship. It then proceeded to worsen when all eight Dallaras were disqualified from race three. Once again I never found a specific reason, but every Dallara in the field was disqualified, leaving only two cars classified: Romain Agostini and fellow Mygale Nicholas Latifi. What a way to wrap up forty eight years of racing…
40. ARCA FINISHES A RAIN RACE (2010, ARCA, PALM BEACH)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 18TH
As mentioned earlier, ARCA can be a bit of a fail series from time to time. However, it’s actually done something that NASCAR’s top series has never done: run a rain race.
Rain racing is part of motorsports. Every now and again, drivers throw on some rain tires and inch their way around the circuit. Stock cars very, very rarely rain race, however, mostly because it’s almost always only a road course thing. Races like the Daytona 500 can’t be held in the rain, of course. NASCAR has rain raced on an oval once before with its European division at the Tours Speedway, a literal parking lot oval with drainage systems which permit racing in a light shower, and has run a few rain races in the Xfinity Series. The Cup Series has never used rain tires in a race, however. Not including the Elkhart Lake race in 1956, which came in a day where drivers could use almost any kind of tire they wanted as long as the tires were a certain width and height, the most the Cup Series has ever done in the rain is a practice session. Yet ARCA, usually seen as the joke series, ran a rain race at Palm Beach in 2010, and it went over just fine, with Justin Marks bringing home the trophy. Pretty ironic that the lower series accomplishes one of the toughest jobs in motorsports, something the top series has never even tried, isn’t it?
39. A DRIVER GETS TASED (2017, FIGURE EIGHT, ANDERSON)
NEW TO LIST
Racing is heated, but sometimes fights can get out of hand. There was, of course, the fight between Michael Simko and Don St. Denis at the 2006 Glass City 200 at Toledo where Simko dropkicked St. Denis’ windshield, but at a figure eight race at Anderson Speedway in Indiana in 2017, things got even worse.
During a race in mid October, Jeff Swinford and Shawn Cullen were unable to stay off one another, apparently colliding three times during a duel for the top spot. After one last bit of contact, Swinford drove his #3 car straight for Cullen’s stalled #33 vehicle. Swinford drove his car atop Cullen’s nearly crushing Cullen, and Cullen, infuriated, rushed out of his car and began punching Swinford repeatedly for a good thirty seconds, requiring an officer’s interventions.
Cullen was tased by the responding officer, and both drivers were arrested. According to the Associated Press, Cullen was charged with disorderly conduct, and Swinford was charged with misdemeanor criminal recklessness. Despite Cullen being tased, Swinford was the one being hung out to dry, as due to what was seen as a calculated maneuver to both attack Cullen and damage his car further, Swinford will likely never be allowed back to the Anderson Speedway, and was also fined all of the money he earned during all races he ran at the Anderson Speedway in 2017. Cullen was suspended for at least two events for leaving his car before the red flag could be flown. Both were DQ’d from the event as well.
38. REPEATEDLY HITTING THE SAFETY TRUCK (1998, RENAULT MEGANE, ZANDVOORT)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 17TH
Masters of Formula Three’s relevance and necessity has decreased with F3 itself. The race, which is held at Zandvoort, saw 47 entries in 1998 and only 16 in 2016, and wasn’t even held in 2017. However, Zandvoort is a good track choice for the race, with its undulating turns and many sand pits, the track is far from easy.
During a Renault Megane support race during the Masters of Formula Three weekend in 1998, a driver by the surname of Van Der Waals crashed on the end of the second lap after hitting some debris, sending his car airborne, but not injuring him. A local yellow was waved, and a safety truck arrived to assist Van Der Waals, who was standing near the barrier for whatever reason.
Two cars dueling for position entered the last bend, and they both spun out. Van Der Waals hopped over the barrier just in time, and was forced to watch as the pair slammed into the back of the safety truck, knocking it into Van Der Waals’ car and sending the Renault to the inside of the circuit. Another safety truck arrived on scene, only to get rear ended by another spinning car. The first safety truck was then hit hard by a car that just didn’t turn. According to Ritzsite, no injuries were reported, and the race was red flagged and run to completion later that day.
Zandvoort’s social media said that the cause of this crash was a mix of the drivers not respecting the yellow flags and the day’s Meganes being bulkier and much easier to lose control of if the throttle is suddenly lifted.
37. JOHN PRIOR FLIPS AFTER THE RACE (1985, ARCA, DUQUOIN)
NEW TO LIST
Crashes after the race ends are rare, but they do occur, as drivers often still have a rush of adrenaline coarsing through their veins even after the checkered flag falls. Technically, Austin Dillon’s terrible crash at Daytona in 2015 was after the flag, though drivers were still at speed, as Daytona is not somewhere where you can slow down after the race. The one mile dirt oval at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois is not a superspeedway, yet John Prior proved that these accidents can happen anywhere and still be spectacular.
Lee Raymond was class of the field at the 1985 ARCA race at DuQuoin, passing Gary Bettenhausen early and, for the most part, hanging on to the lead for the rest of the 200 mile race. After Bettenhausen fell back, Dean Roper was the one chasing Raymond, though with the exception of a pit stop cycle he never passed him.
John Prior’s #00 and Bob Brevak’s #34, however, were the ones putting on a real show. The pair apparently traded the third spot several times in the last few laps, with Prior prevailing. Prior, a local driver, beat Brevak in a side by side duel, then proceeded to slide right into the turn one guardrail and flip his car after the checkered flag had already flown. Prior was okay.
36. RON FELLOWS’ STRANGE MANEUVER (2011, NASCAR N’WIDE, ELKHART LAKE)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 11TH
When NASCAR takes to Elkhart Lake, everyone wins. They always put on a wonderful show, and unexpected winners are frequently seen, with Nelson Piquet, Brendan Gaughan, the luckless Michael McDowell, and even independent veteran Jeremy Clements possessing victories at the circuit. In 2011, when the race was still a 200 miler rather than its current 180, road racing expert Ron Fellows was hoping to be that surprise winner. So when Justin Allgaier ran out of fuel under the race-ending yellow and Reed Sorenson was slowing down even further, he zoomed on by and was picked up by the pace car. However, when NASCAR reviewed the footage, they eventually gave the win to Sorenson. Why?
You cannot pass under yellow, of course. However, if due to driver neglect, a dry fuel can or mechanical issues, you are free to. There is no need to stay behind a driver who has stalled on the track. Sorenson did slow down, but not by very much, and he quickly got back going. After all, he’d just seen his teammate run out of fuel. Fellows appeared to read the rules too literally, seeing Sorenson slightly slow down and assuming he was out of fuel when he wasn’t. Sorenson was given the win at the end with Fellows second, and Fellows was not penalized further.
Sports cars are interesting to see race. They’re beautiful, sleek, and powerful, but on the other hand, one mistake and a million dollar racer can be lost, a massive hit to the pockets of teams and especially privateers…usually.
Extreme Supercars is a standard sports car series from South Africa in which Ferraris, Lambos, BMWs, and Porsches duel one another, with occasional appearances by Ford GTs, Alfa Romeos and McLarens. One common racer in this series is Craig Jarvis, who according to his own Facebook is a CEO at a company which assists in streamlining the medical billing process.
During a qualifying session at Kyalami in early November 2017, Craig wrapped up his lap and shifted to the inside, where he collided with Johann Engelbrecht’s Porsche GT2 RS. Johann spun his Porsche into the wall, and Craig, who according to Engelbrecht’s team was unaware of Johann’s presence, backed his Ferrari 458 GT3 into the steel guardrail, sending the sleek sports car rolling end over end. Both drivers were okay, but Johann’s Porsche was badly damaged, and Craig’s Ferrari was a write off.
Despite this all, Craig posted to his Facebook within a few days of the crash that he’d acquired a new Ferrari, apparently having received an insurance payout. Insurance? On a Ferrari you use in racing? That’s news to me…
34. TAXBRAIN STEALS JUSTIN PHILPOTT’S CAR (2006, SUPER LATE MODEL, ALTAMONT)
NEW TO LIST
Forgiveness is a privilege to some.
In the mid 2000s, Justin Philpott was one of the up and coming super late model racers in California, running at Altamont and Stockton 99. He eventually caught the eye of tax sorting company Taxbrain. Taxbrain got its wanted publicity on the sixteen-year-old’s super late model, but apparently they wanted more, and they decided to steal Justin’s car straight out of victory circle the next time he won and film a commercial out of it. They told a few officials at Altamont Speedway, but no one else, and on August 13, 2006, they executed their plan. According to the East Bay Times, an unnamed actor hopped the fence, got in the car while the Philpotts were celebrating a win, and took off. He did about two or three laps before being stopped by a combination of Justin’s brother and a wrecker backed onto the circuit by track officials.
After a lengthy investigation, undisclosed sanctions were laid against Taxbrain, and no charges were filed. Bizarrely, however, Justin Philpott chose to keep Taxbrain for his moving up to the All American Series in 2007. In fact, Philpott, who is still racing in southern California and is still very successful, made one of the strangest moves I have ever seen a racer make. Instead of leaving a sponsor who conducted a stunt that could have easily killed him and his family behind him…
…Justin stayed with Taxbrain for about another five years. So uh…are you sure that’s a good idea, Justin?
Well, we’re back. I decided to redo this list and see what new incidents and bouts of stupidity I could add. Fifty strange, bizarre and wild moments across the racing spectrum. I will not be including drag racing, motorcycles, or rallies simply to ease up on my selections. Maybe I’ll do separate lists for those another day, but for now…let’s get started.
50. JIMMY WATTS TIRE INCIDENT (2009, NASCAR CUP, ATLANTA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 43RD
On lap 69 of the 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a tire was spotted rolling out into the quadoval grass by several crewmen during the pit stop cycle. NASCAR’s policy is for crewmen to stay put if this happens, but evidently someone was not listening.
By trade a fireman in his late thirties, Jimmy Watts, the gasman for the #47 JTG-Daugherty car of Marcos Ambrose and a NASCAR crewman since at least 1998 according to the LA Times, rushed out to gather the tire and rolled it back to waiting officials. The pit stop cycle was under way, so had he not done this, NASCAR likely would have waited until the tire rolled further towards the track surface to throw the caution. However, with a crew member in the infield, NASCAR was forced to put the race under yellow during the pit stop cycle, trapping several cars a lap down. Watts would be banned for four races, with last updates noting the possibility of further penalties. He was also put on probation for the rest of the year. Watts publicly apologized, and even Marcos Ambrose himself noted that Watts’ decision to fetch the tire was not very smart.
Interestingly, according to motorsport.com, Watts was a fire captain in the city of Charlotte in 2002, and was mourning the loss of a fireman under his watch at the time of the interview. Watts knew tragedy, making this decision to cross the track even less understandable. Watts still works as a firefighter in the Charlotte area, and he still works as a gasman for Front Row Motorsports according to NASCAR’s website.
49. ARCA BRAKES DURING PRACTICE (1995, ARCA, DAYTONA)
NEW TO LIST
During practice for the 1995 ARCA Daytona 200, 1990 ARCA Series champion Bob Brevak, a grizzled veteran making one of his last couple starts in the series, spun his car and backed it into the wall in turn four. The veteran was uninjured, and the red flag was waved on the session as a safety truck arrived on scene.
ARCA is famous for the term ‘ARCA Brakes’, meaning drivers refuse to slow down in a crash. Though mostly falsely attributed to the ARCA Series, there have indeed been many instances of them in the series itself, with the following being a fairly unknown one.
Ron Burchette, an owner driver from North Carolina who mostly ran the big tracks, refused to slow down as he entered the accident scene and shot in between the stalled #34 and the safety truck. Burchette eventually slowed to a stop on the trioval apron, where he was promptly yelled at by the usually level-headed track workers. Brevak would fail to finish the 200, while Burchette, who retired from ARCA after a spectacular crash in the infamous Atlanta race the next year, finished tenth.
48. CRASH UNDER RED (2013, WTCC, MACAU)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 30TH
The World Touring Car Championship fell during its last couple years, but it made a few attempts to get the crowd back before its merger with TCR in 2018 such as the reintroduction of the famous Guia Race of Macau and some new gimmicks such as rallycross-style Joker Laps. But back to Macau, it’s a twisty hillside circuit with a few full speed highway sectors. Over the top of one of these hills was where the field would epic fail in 2013.
During the race, Tom Chilton suffered an exhaust failure on his Chevrolet Cruze and stalled the car at Maternity. Local driver Eurico de Jesus, in a Honda Accord, rounded the blind turn and, unsighted, plowed into the back of Chilton. Franz Engstler stopped his BMW 320 on the track’s outside, and so did Yvan Muller in his Cruze. Macanese driver Felipe de Souza in a Cruze, Hong Konger Charles Ng in a BMW, and Macanese Henry Ho in another BMW all piled in to Muller and Engstler, and the red flag was waved.
Even with the red flag having flown, several drivers seemingly did not care. Yukinori Taniguchi zoomed up the hill and smashed on the brakes, having noticed that the flagmen were putting their yellow flags down. Taniguchi did not hit anyone. Michael Soong and Jo Merszei (#70), on the other hand, were too busy battling to bother slowing down. Soong, a Hong Konger in a Seat Leon, and Merszei, a Macau native in a BMW, crashed into the back at Taniguchi despite the fact that the race had already been red flagged. Despite a second red flag, the race was resumed, with de Jesus, Chilton, Ng, Soong, Merszei, and Taniguchi out of the race.
47. JEAN ALESI JUMP START (2009, SPEEDCAR, BAHRAIN)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 50TH
Speedcars were an intriguing experiment.
In short, the Speedcar Series was a stock car series that ran in Asia for two seasons, 2008 and 2008-09. It was a neat idea, having F1 legends such as Vitantonio Liuzzi, Jacques Villeneuve, Jean Alesi, and Ukyo Katayama race stock cars across the Middle East, but due to finances the series did not last long.
At the series’ final race at Bahrain, the lights seemingly were delayed for whatever reason, and the drivers, performing a rolling start, were forced to stay in line until the race began. Jean Alesi, however, was unwilling to wait and, despite starting in the back, he was leading by turn one, having achieved one of the most blatant jump starts in all of motorsports by zipping by the entire grid before the lights had triggered.
Alesi would not finish the race, which was won by Vitantonio Liuzzi, very well. The series, organized out of the British Virgin Islands of all places, ran out of money shortly thereafter when its backer pulled out, and that was the end of that.
46. JARED CARLYLE HORSE JUMP (2007, NZV8, PUKEKOHE)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 29TH
Being part of a team owned by, according to tentenths, one of the members of AC/DC, isn’t a guaranteed pass for a driver to be very lucky.
Pukekohe Park in New Zealand is really weird. It’s a circuit full of swerves which, with the exception of a hairpin, are all high speed. It also used to be pretty low quality in terms of the circuit itself, possibly stemming from the fact that there’s a steeplechase layout for horses. But all in all, it just wasn’t a high quality circuit. A V8 Supercar famously took out a pole on which a PA transmitter was situated in 2005, warranting a red flag. In 2008, a pileup during the NZV8 race saw one car break one of the gates and four cars get on top of the guardrail, which folded, allowing two of them to go over the wall.
But youngster Jared Carlyle, part of a team apparently owned by one of the AC/DC members, showed just how ridiculous this track once was. He got turned around on the back chute in 2007 and took a wild ride over a horse jump.
After 2008, Pukekohe dropped off the V8 schedule, but returned in 2013 as a new and improved facility with proper tire walls, runoff, barriers where needed, and a new chicane at the end of the back chute. It’s stayed on ever since.
45. MAYR-MELNHOF FLIPS IN THE PIT LANE (2011, FIA GT, SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 36TH
Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof, a sports car racer out of Austria, Eugenio Amos, the gentleman racer from Italy who is also the husband of model Margherita Missoni, and HSH Prince Albert Von Thurn Und Taxis, a billionaire leader of one of Germany’s Houses, came together for the 2011 24h of Spa in a Lamborghini Gallardo. Unfortunately, their effort ended just past the second hour.
Spa has two pit lanes, the F1 pit lane, where cars enter off the chicane and exit off of La Source, and the regular pit lane, which is entered off of La Source and exited off of Eau Rouge, with an access area lasting through Radillon. If the event has a large field size, such as the Spa 24h, the pit lanes are combined.
Entering the pit lane too quickly, Mayr-Melnhof slid his car on the wet access road. The car shot across the grass and struck a barrier right in front of the marshals and turning the car onto its door. Mayr-Melnhof was unhurt, but his day was over, and a safety car was warranted.
Mayr-Melnhof ran in the Blancpain Sprint Series in 2017, while Amos and Von Thurn Und Taxis spent the year racing where they pleased. I suppose when you have money…
44. D.C. CROWDER STEALS THE PACE CAR (1986, NASCAR CUP, TALLADEGA)
RANK ON PREVIOUS LIST: 47TH
This one’s famous.
When the command to start engines at the 1986 Winston 500 was given, not everyone had stepped into their cars. Specifically, the pace car driver was out talking to a few officials still.
Enter Darren Charles Crowder, a 20 year old from Birmingham who’d had too much to drink and was standing in the pit lane. Seeing his opportunity, he hopped in and started up the red Pontiac Trans Am to take it for a 100mph joyride. Seemingly not every official had been told who the pace car driver was, so it took a bit for the officials to know it was stolen. Reportedly, the first words acknowledging the situation from an official who did know were: “Who’s that f–ker in the pace car?” (The Drive)
When the situation was identified however, the response was quick. Crowder was greeted by a roadblock of Alabama’s best when he came around to finish lap two, and he decided to slow, only to decide against giving up and lock the car’s doors according to The Drive. Someone had found a spare set of keys, and he unlocked the car’s doors, then Crowder locked them again before the doors could be opened. This pattern continued for a bit until Crowder was too slow in locking the door and was removed from the car. He was arrested, the race was started, and Bobby Allison would bring it home.
Interestingly, there appears to be no further documentation on Darren Charles Crowder. He’s disappeared off the Earth a la D.B. Cooper. Shall we call him D.C. Crowder?
The days when the European Touring Car Championship was relevant…
As the field rolled in to Silverstone, the Jaguars were coming off of an excellent run at Spa, which they’d dominated similarly to how they’d destroyed the field so far that year. Mother Nature seemingly wasn’t on the side of the Jaguars, however, and she showed it in an incredible downpour.
A bit past halfway in the 107 lap race, the skies suddenly darkened while most of the cavalry was out on slicks. Rallyman Marc Duez was first off in a Rover, and from there cars just kept piling in. BMW driver Barrie Williams was in for a scare when he had to jump on the roof of Chuck Nicholson’s Jaguar to avoid the spinning Alfa Romeo of Terry Drury. Interestingly, most of the lapped cars were stuck in the pit lane still due to reduced priority in pit stops, so they were mostly spared. The Rover of Duez-Allam, the Jaguar of Percy-Nicholson, the Alfa Romeo of Drury-Wilds, the BMW of Williams-Sytner were out of the race, with the BMW of Felder-Hamelmann suffering heavy damage but eventually continuing after the restart. The race’s eventual winner were the pairing of Kelleners-Brancatelli in the BMW, though Jaguar easily brought it all home at season’s end.
Races are very rarely called off. Usually, when races have to be ended, they’ll try their very best to get it in nonetheless. But sometimes, they must cancel, usually due to a fatal crash early on. Let’s take a look at a few of them. All of these had to be completely called off for whatever reason. No points could be salvaged from the events, and they were all declared non races. The whole event must have been cancelled to count. If one race was thrown out, I won’t include it. The races that were called off due to fatalities will be marked with asterisks.
1967: Italian F3 at Caserta*
By the time summer 1967 arrived, the Italian racing community was mourning. They`d recently lost Lorenzo Bandini, who had crashed in Monaco. To make things worse, on June 4th, Italian F3 driver Boley Pittard`s car caught fire on the grid at the start of a race at Monza. Pittard veered his car to the side to prevent a fiery pileup, but was very badly burned in the incident. He died on June 11th.
Italian F3 raced on. It ran Caserta, a 2.8 mile street circuit, on June 18th. Visible from the track sidelines was Reggia di Caserta, the tallest building in Europe to be built in the 1700s.
On lap seven, backmarkers Beat Fehr and Andrea Saltari made contact on the approach to Via Domenico Mondo. The pair crashed hard, and Franco Foresti soon crashed in response. Fehr and Saltari were unhurt, but Foresti broke his leg. Fehr hopped out of the car and started to flag down drivers. After a little while, Fehr left the scene, where he came across a small field that a car had set on fire. He found some off-duty firemen and alerted them to the fire, then returned to the scene of the crash to continue flagging down drivers. During his absence, Jorg Dubler crashed, vaulting into the air and hitting two poles. Dubler was badly hurt, but was able to get out with the help of two soldiers, one of which called for medics. In the meantime, the race continued. On lap nine, Giacomo ‘Geki’ Russo blew a tire on some debris and went off. He struck Fehr and plowed into a concrete barrier. Over the next two laps, the crash collected Clay Reggazoni, Massimo Natili, Corrado Manfredini, Manfred Mohr, G.R. ‘Tiger’ Perdomi, Silvio Moser, and Maurizio Montagnani, with four drivers, Antonio Maglione, Ernesto Brambilla, Sverrir Thoroddsson, and Enzo Corti, dodging the mess. The race was eventually ended on lap 11 when Natili, who was able to drive away, drove to the pits and let officials know. At last, the race was stopped.
Three drivers died in this. Giacomo ‘Geki’ Russo, who was being courted for an F1 ride, was instantly killed when the car hit the wall, which ejected him and split the chassis in two. Geki was a rich man from Milan whose father started a successful tissue company. His family disapproved of racing, which is why he raced as Geki. Beat Fehr died on the way to the hospital, having been struck by Geki’s errant car. G.R. ‘Tiger’ Perdomi was severely injured when his car crumpled. It took 30 minutes to extricate Tiger, who died a week later. He was conscious and alert during his removal, his leg pierced by the tachometer.
Racing never returned to Caserta. Officials decided to cancel any championship aspect that year, as the points leader (Geki) was dead. Geki actually held the points lead until the finale, where Maurizio Montagnani overtook him, but neither man was crowned champion.
1973: MotoGP at Monza*
What exactly caused the events of May 20th, 1973 to turn out the way they did is debatable, but it’s believed that, during the 350cc World Motorcycle Championship (now MotoGP) race at Monza, Walter Villa’s bike had a mechanical issue in the concluding laps, spilling oil everywhere. Rider John Dodds and several journalists alerted officials to the oil, but they were told that the races would continue. Dodds pushed the issue, and was threatened with police and gave up. The field quickly moved on to the 250cc race.
Late in the 350cc race, local boy Renzo Pasolini had blown a piston and retired from the event while running up front, heavily upsetting the popular rider. He got ready for the 250cc race with every intention of riding aggressively to the front of the pack.
Entering turn one on lap one (motorcycles did not use the first chicane at Monza), Pasolini, either unaware or uncaring of the oil, fell and went into the hay bales, sending his bike bouncing along the circuit. Pasolini and Jarno Saarinen were killed in the ensuing pileup, which collected Walter Villa, Borje Jansson, Chas Mortimer, Fosco Giansanti, Hideo Kanaya, Victor Palomo, and at least two others. Pasolini had skipped most of the hay bales and struck the steel guardrail directly, and Saarinen, the defending 250cc champion, was hit in the face by Pasolini’s Harley Davidson. The race was called on lap three, and both it and the 500cc race afterwards were cancelled.
Emanuele Maugliani just barely avoided the minefield of wreckage and suffering in the crash, but was killed a few days later during a race in what is now Slovenia when he crashed and his bike flew into the crowd. Maugliani’s bike killed five spectators and injured many more.
1973: Italian Junior Racers Championship at Monza*
Fifty days after the deaths of Saarinen and Pasolini, more tragedy struck. During the Italian Junior Racers Championship 500cc race, again at Monza, again in the first corner (they still were not using the frontstretch chicane). On lap three, as the field exited the first turn, Renzo Colombini crashed into the guardrail on the track’s outside. Trying to avoid him, Vittorio Altrocchio went into the haybales on the inside of the circuit. The field panicked, and several riders went down, with the pack still bearing down on them.
Colombini struck the bare guardrail, dying instantly. Renato Galtrucco was part of the first pack that had crashed in response, and he had been struck by Carlo Chionio. Galtrucco died shortly after arrival, and Chionio seemed to be in stable condition at first, but it quickly worsened and he died some time later. It apparently took a couple minutes to find Altrocchio – he’d flown over the guardrail and gotten stuck in the tree branches, and even more amazingly was relatively uninjured. Altrocchio suffered some facial injuries, but was released a few hours later.
Motorcycle racing ditched Monza after this. It only returned in 1981, and even to this day mostly national events are held.
1990: Copa Nissan Sunny at Roca Roja*
The Copa Nissan Sunny was a one make series for the Nissan Sunny that got underway in Chile in 1990. Chile had very few major race tracks in 1990, so all but one of the races in the series were at Las Vizcachas in Santiago, the capital. The one race outside of Las Vizcachas was at Roca Roja, in Antofagasta, in the northern part of the country. J.M. Silva entered Roca Roja as the points leader, with Carlos Polanco not far behind.
Polanco started the late November race towards the front. On lap two of the race, Polanco made contact with another car and flipped. The Nissan’s door flew open, and Polanco was thrown from the car, which eventually came to a stop inverted. Polanco died shortly thereafter.
In the wake of the tragedy, the Roca Roja race was immediately cancelled, though the planned Chilean F3 race sometime later went on as intended. The Copa Nissan Sunny’s organizer assigned Silva the title and immediately shut the series down, meaning it only lasted one season. Roca Roja was also done in by the crash, as it saw very few events after 1990. A few years later, a flood struck the area, and being as Antofagasta is just north of the Atacama, it was a vicious one. Roca Roja suffered severe damage and was demolished instead of being rebuilt. It is now a landfill.
1997: Japanese Formula Three at Fuji*
October 19th, 1997. Shigekazu Wakisaka and Tom Coronel made contact while battling for the lead on lap one of the penultimate race of the Japanese F3 season in 1997 at Fuji. Wakisaka turned over, doing several rolls in the sand trap. Coronel, the points leader, came a few inches away from almost certainly being beheaded by Wakisaka’s chassis, and had tire marks on his helmet. The two were able to climb out of their cars unhurt.
As they slowed for the caution, backmarker Takashi Yokoyama, the teammate to Shigekazu Wakisaka, didn’t seem to notice what was going on. While Wakisaka was fast and contending for podium finishes, Yokoyama’s results were very poor, this mostly being due to him running a 1996 model car instead of Wakisaka’s 1997 model car. As usual, Yokoyama had fallen back already and was a few seconds behind everyone. As they slowed on the front chute, Yokoyama approached them at a very high speed. Either he hadn’t noticed the safety car boards or had but was unsighted due to the fairly blind nature of the final corner’s exit, but either way he was running at high speed. Yokoyama’s car struck another one at 160mph, launching him airborne and into a gantry positioned sixteen feet in the air across the circuit. The car shattered, and Yokoyama died instantly. The race was red flagged and called off. Coronel was the champion that year, having secured the title with the race’s cancellation.
1999: Indycar at Charlotte*
May 1, 1999. On lap 61 of the Visionaire 500k, the third round of the 1999 Indy Racing League, held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Stan Wattles crashed in turn four. Open wheelers are made to break apart in accidents to help dissipate the energy, and that was the case with Wattles’ car. Wattles himself was unscathed. However, Scott Harrington and John Paul, Jr. proceeded to pile into the debris field, sending pieces of Wattles’ car and their own cars, including at least one tire, over the catchfence and into the crowd. While Paul, Jr. and Harrington were both unhurt as well, several fans were injured by the flying debris. The caution flag immediately came out, and the cars were paced around the track as they confirmed injuries. On lap 79, the cars were stopped, and it was announced that there had been fatalities. The race went no further, and, having not yet hit halfway (104 laps), it was declared a non-event. The Indy Racing League never returned to Charlotte.
In all, nine fans were severely injured, and three were killed. They were identified as Jeffrey Patton, Randy Pyatte, and D.B. Mobley. The fan fatalities were announced on air, though their identities were only announced later. A nine year old girl was critically injured, but survived. In 1999, most catchfences jutted straight upwards, but after this a curve to help keep debris in-bounds was mandated.
Interestingly, during the U.S. 500 CART race at Michigan in 1998, Adrian Fernandez crashed in the trioval, throwing debris over the fence and killing three people. The race continued on, so it’s possible that the IRL called the race off to show that it had a sense of decency and thus prevent fans from ditching the IRL for its rival.
2001: CART at Texas
The situation during pre-race for the Firestone Firehawk 600k at the Texas Motor Speedway was one of the most complicated in history, but in short, drivers were experiencing extremely heavy G-Forces.
A few drivers reported to teams that they’d been experiencing the onset of vertigo during practice. CART cars were faster than IRL cars, and usually when it oval raced it ran flat ovals, with the few high banked ovals on its schedule being wide-open. Texas is rather high banked and is a very tight oval, and the added speed made for some incredibly high G-Forces and the very real possibility that drivers would have to withdraw due to fatigue. CART held a driver’s meeting and polled drivers to see who had experienced the symptoms, and to the amazement of everyone, every single hand in the drivers’ section went up. Drivers later explained that they had experienced the symptoms during pre-season testing at the track, but had kept them to themselves, assuming that they were the only ones with those symptoms. Two hours before the green flag was supposed to fly, CART decided, out of concern for the safety of the drivers, to pack up and go home, and the race was never rescheduled. This was yet another piece of straw placed upon the camel’s back as CART started to lose favor with the public. It folded after 2007, and was merged with Indycar.
2005: Italian GT at Imola
Most of the countries that possess permanent race tracks have national Grand Touring series, and Italy is no exception. It’s a fairly nondescript series, and nothing special goes on in it, but it’s always nice to have a series where drivers can show what they’ve got against those of similar skill (not necessarily similar budget, though…), and national level series are extremely important to furthering the careers of aspiring young talents.
26 cars were entered into the season opener in 2005, to be held at the Imola circuit near San Marino. GT cars are quite well known for being absolutely lovely, and the cars that showed up to Imola were no exception. The standard Ferrari 360s and Porsche 996s were on the grid, along with some more obscure cars such as the Saleen S7-R and the Lister Storm. Practice was held on April 2nd.
That same day, Pope John Paul II, who had become the Pope in 1978, died. Organizers chose to cancel the race, which had been scheduled for April 3rd. Oddly, the race was not rescheduled for a later date as is traditional when an event is cancelled due to the death of a prominent figure. As such, Italian GT did not race at Imola whatsoever in 2005, only returning for the season opener in 2006.
2008: NEMA at Thompson*
Midget racing is one of the most popular and common forms of motorsports in the United States. Midgets are also extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand, where they are known as speedcars. These cars are lightweight and easy to turn over, but they’re thrilling to watch. Midgets usually race on short dirt tracks, though they do run paved tracks from time to time.
The NorthEastern Midget Association is a pavement midget series that has been going for well over 60 years. In 2008, one of the racers in the series was Shane Hammond. Hammond had overcome many adversities to even get into a race car, having survived a brain tumor at the age of 15. Race one of the series’ schedule that year brought them to the high banked 0.625 mile Thompson Speedway in Connecticut for the historic track’s season opening weekend. The Thompson Speedway’s season opening weekend, known as The Icebreaker, contains many different events such as late models, modifieds, and of course, the NEMA Midgets. The headliner of The Icebreaker is the NASCAR Modified Tour, with NEMA following not far behind on the ‘priority’ list.
On April 4, 2008, Hammond’s throttle stuck in the entry of a corner and the 27-year-old flew over the wall and into a billboard, collapsing it. The race, which was on lap four of 25, was called off immediately and the races were halted while the track workers removed what was left of the billboard. The NEMA race was not restarted, but after the billboard’s remnants were scrapped, officials decided to continue with The Icebreaker.
Hammond was dead on arrival to the hospital. Spectators were aware of his passing by the final race of the day. NEMA took some time off from the Thompson Speedway for the next few years, but has since returned to the somewhat large one kilometer oval. A new race joined the schedule in 2010 at the Waterford Speedbowl by the name of the Shane Hammond Memorial, and it remained on the schedule until 2016. The Waterford Speedbowl shuttered in early April of 2017 after its owner was arrested, and its future, along with the future of the Shane Hammond Memorial, is uncertain.
2011: Indycar at Las Vegas*
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…where should I even begin with one of the most controversial, destructive, and tragic abortions of a race in motorsports history?
It was announced early in the year that Indycar would be opening up the entry list to the Las Vegas race to non-Indycar drivers. If they received more than five of these entries, a panel would choose which five would be allowed to race. If one of these drivers won, they would receive five million dollars. Two dozen drivers said that they were interested in competing, but only six drivers actually were able to put together deals. All six deals fell apart, however. Scott Speed’s deal fell apart after he didn’t qualify for that year’s Indy 500, Kasey Kahne was dissuaded from running the race by Rick Hendrick, his new car owner, Travis Pastrana’s deal was cancelled when he was injured at the X Games, and the reasons as to why Kimi Raikkonen, Alex Zanardi, and Joey Hand’s deals fell through was never given.
On September 4th, 2011, Indycar announced that there would be no wild cards. It was then announced on September 13th that popular Briton Dan Wheldon, who had spent most of the rest of the year testing the new vehicle model that would be instituted the next year, would start the race in the back, and would split the 5 million with a lucky fan if he managed to win. Entry forms were due on October 6th.
On October 13th, Ann Babenco of New Jersey was chosen as that fan, meaning she’d get a large chunk of money if Dan brought it home in first. Ann got to meet Wheldon, and flew to the track to watch the race live.
Behind the scenes, however, things weren’t so rosy. Drivers were used to the speeds of 225mph, but they heavily questioned Indycar for allowing them on such a thin track. Addtionally, with an entry list of 34 drivers (some of whom very rarely raced in Indycar) and no intention to have anyone fail to qualify, drivers were worried as to how large the packs would be. Indycar ignored both concerns.
On October 16th, 2011, Tony Kanaan led the massive 34 car grid to the green at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dan, who was the in race reporter and had the onboard camera, quickly worked his way through the field. He seemingly played it cool, though other drivers could be heard over their radios swearing frequently and questioning how they’d get through 200 laps. It was only on lap 11 of 200 that tragedy struck.
Contact between J.R. Hildebrand and Wade Cunningham set off a vicious 15 car crash in turn two that sent many cars flying and several rolling. When the wreck began, ABC had been showing Dan’s onboard. Wheldon’s onboard camera was cut away from, but the Verizon subscribers who were watching his view live viewed it all the way through. Dan slammed into the back of Vitor Meira and took off, flying headfirst into the catchfence. The 2001 Indy Lights champion, 2005 Indycar champion, 2005 and 2011 Indy 500 winner, and Indycar veteran had no chance, dying on the helicopter. Pippa Mann and Will Power also turned over in the crash and both suffered injuries. One yellow flag lap was run before the race was red flagged, and several drivers reported that it looked like a bomb had gone off.
The track had suffered severe damage, and with few days left in the year to run the event, the race was likely to be cancelled regardless. In any case, when the confirmation came in that Dan Wheldon was gone, the 19 cars left were lined up three wide and did a 5 lap tribute to Dan with Amazing Grace playing on the PA system and every single crew member and 11 of the 14 other drivers who had crashed (Mann, Hildebrand and Power were still in the hospital, Hildebrand was not seriously injured but was badly shaken) standing by on pit road. 7 of those 33 have not stepped foot in an Indycar since, those being Danica Patrick (who was already planning on leaving beforehand), Davey Hamilton (who fully retired after the crash), Vitor Meira, Tomas Scheckter, Paul Tracy, Buddy Rice, and Alex Lloyd. ABC signed off with a last line from Marty Reid that ended with an explanation behind his preferred signoff phrase, ‘Until we meet again’, and that he usually used the phrase due to the finality of ‘Goodbye’ – a word he used to bid farewell to Wheldon as the screen faded.
Dan was officially killed by massive head injuries when his head hit a support pole in the catchfence. The fans who were watching the Verizon livestream saw his accident all the way through, but ABC cut away when the pileup began. The full footage belongs in the hands of Indycar, who have not released it beyond allowing a small extension to be shown for a Canadian documentary on the World Championships. The footage shown in the documentary shows Dan’s onboard as he tries to navigate the minefield, and freezes when Dan hits Vitor Meira.
In the aftermath, the public heard of the safety concerns that the drivers had lodged towards Indycar, and while the drivers mourned, the fans protested. In the end, Indycar lost a large chunk of its fanbase, but has stayed in operation. It had already planned for the Las Vegas race to be the last race with the old car type, as a new car type was to be introduced in 2012. Originally called the IR12, it was eventually renamed the DW12 for Dan.
Indycar will likely never return to Las Vegas, as the track has been shown to be unsuitable for Indycars after further testing. There were serious talks of never oval racing again in Indycar besides the Indianapolis 500, but Indycar eventually settled on cutting the oval count down to five (currently six). Indycar had been oval only until 2005, and in 2012 they were only running five. Interestingly, the first road course Indycar had run in 2005 had been St. Petersburg, Dan Wheldon’s hometown (Wheldon was actually much more well known in the States than in Britain; He’d moved to the States in 1999, and had become so attached to the United States that his resting place is Pinellas Park, Florida).
Even more so, St. Petersburg was the next race out for the Indycars. The new chassis was implemented for the St. Petersburg race, which was the 2012 season opener (Las Vegas had been intended to be the 2011 finale). Helio Castroneves won, and in one of the loveliest tributes ever seen in racing, drove up to the newly renamed Dan Wheldon Way, one of the roads that makes up the course, and gave his fallen friend a salute.
2011: MotoGP at Malaysia*
One week after the death of Dan Wheldon, on October 23rd, 2011, tragedy struck at Sepang in Malaysia during the MotoGP race. On lap two, Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards were running side by side for fifth when they were suddenly blindsided by another rider, who was hanging onto his bike after falling off of it. The pair struck the rider, and all three crashed extremely hard. It was a crash that unfortunately occurs every now and again in motorcycle racing.
Rossi and Edwards eventually rose to their feet, but the other rider wasn’t moving. It was evident by his #58 who he was: Marco Simoncelli, a popular young rider who had been running in fourth. He had lost control of his bike and fallen, and in a last ditch effort to at least bring it to a stop on the inside of the course and continue, had hung on to it. Simoncelli himself had been struck by Rossi and Edwards. Despite medics’ best efforts, the 24-year-old, who was often called Supersic by his fans, was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. A MotoGP race must last three laps in order to be official, and since the crash happened on lap two, the race was abandoned.
Two weeks later at Valencia, an incredible tribute was done for Simoncelli, in which the MotoGP, Moto2, and 125cc (renamed Moto3 the next year) riders all took to the track at once for a lap in memoriam, the first known time that all classes lapped the track together in any context.
When they got back, Paolo, Marco’s father, asked for a somewhat different tribute: something known in Italy as ‘casino’. It’s the opposite of a minute of silence, instead it’s a minute of extremely loud noise, in which everyone gathered attempts to generate as much noise as they can – and so they did, shouting, cheering, banging tools, and even shooting off fireworks.
Marco is remembered with the Misano Circuit in Italy, which has since adopted the full name of ‘Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli’. The #58 will never be available to anyone ever again in the MotoGP, Moto2, or Moto3 series unless they are specifically allowed to run the number by the Simoncelli family.
2012: Russian Racing Championship at Smolensk*
Russia has quite the motorsport fanbase. Circuits have been popping up all over Russia in the past few years. In 2006, Russia only had one permanent track, but as of 2017, I am aware of eight. In fact, there’s even a circuit called the Red Ring located in Siberia.
The Smolenskring is another one of the circuits. It opened in 2010, and sits about halfway between Moscow and the Belarusian border. It’s a fast circuit despite its many twists and turns, which led to tragedy one day a few years after it opened.
On August 19th, 2012, during the second lap of the Super Production race, Yuri Semenchev entered the long, sweeping last turn with no brakes or steering and went straight on into the barrier. The Honda Civic flipped over and violently bounced every which way before eventually coming to rest on its side. Yuri died a few minutes after admission, and the race went no further. All other Russian Racing Championship races that day were also called off.
The top Russian touring car series saw many fatalities in the Soviet era, however Yuri Semenchev was the first driver to die in the series since the Iron Curtain fell in 1991. He was 49 years old, and was rather new to racing. He began racing in 2010, two years before his death.