Sunday, November 13, 2011

Death race 2011: Did a desperate bid for TV ratings lead to the IndyCar crash that killed Dan Wheldon? - 12th Nov 2011

Thirty-four cars. A small, tightly packed circuit. And one man going for a staggering $5m prize if he could win from the back... As IndyCar bosses are accused of gambling with drivers’ lives to chase money-spinning ratings at last month’s Las Vegas 300, British driver Alex Lloyd reveals how he survived the carnage.

Alex Lloyd pulled on his helmet, climbed into his Dale Coyne Racing IndyCar and pressed the button that put 650hp at his command. He revved the 3.5-litre V8 engine, and the air around him heated with the exhaust fumes.

Normally the sound of the engine soothed the Manchester-born driver’s nerves. This time it didn’t.

‘There was an eerie atmosphere among the drivers,’ says Lloyd.

‘I had a bad feeling going into the race. Two or three guys said they were just looking forward to getting this over with. That’s not something you normally hear before a race.’

It was the last race of the 2011 IndyCar season, the Las Vegas 300, and the promoters had planned a thrilling finale.

Lloyd, one of several Britons on the IndyCar circuit, had qualified in 20th. But all eyes were on the man starting last, Dan Wheldon.

The 33-year-old British driver had missed most of the 17-race season, but was in Vegas on the promise of a $5 million prize – to be split with a randomly selected fan, Ann Babenco – if he could start at the back and finish at the front.

IndyCar boss Randy Bernard hoped this outrageous publicity stunt would help draw fans back to his ailing series. In recent years, viewing figures had fallen alarmingly. Read More