Does life flash before your eyes moments before a massive shunt? Best to ask these motorsport champions who survived spectacular close-calls with the Reaper.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN - 2020
One of the most violent-looking crashes in recent memory, the frightening imagery of Romain Grosjean's 221km/h incident in Bahrain appeared eerily similar to that of Francois Cevert's fatal crash in 1973. Thankfully, Grosjean emerged from the car and flames, and virtually walked to safety with the aid of trackside marshals. A testament to modern safety - and the once-controversial 'Halo' device - Grosjean is currently in hospital being treated for burns on both his hands and, amazingly, nothing else.
RYAN BRISCOE – 2005
One of those crashes that is so horrifically violent that you can’t believe anybody could possibly have survived. Unlike other drivers on this list Briscoe didn’t emerge unharmed, but his injuries – broken collarbone, concussion, bruised lung – were relatively minor given the severity of the impact and he was back racing again later that year.
PETTER SOLBERG – 2004
Part of Rally Germany is held in an enormous military proving ground. Next to the road are enormous concrete blocks called hinkelsteins, designed to stop tanks driving where they like. The footage below gives you some idea as to what they do to a rally car when hit at high speed. The damage was so severe, Prodrive was forced to scrap the million-dollar machine.
ROBERT KUBICA – 2007
The safety standards of F1 cars were given the ultimate test in 2007 when Robert Kubica slammed into a wall at the Canadian GP at 290km/h. The BMW Sauber was obliterated and covered the hairpin section of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in shrapnel. Amazingly the cockpit kept its shape and Kubica escaped with only a sprained ankle and a slight concussion.
MARK WEBBER – 2010
Webber’s time at Red Bull Racing was controversial to say the least and in Valencia in 2010, things went belly-up. Webber clipped the back of Heikki Kovalainen at over 300km/h, his F1 car hurled through the air, clipped a sign above the track, landed upside-down, flipped and smashed into a tyre barrier. Webber was lucky to walk away.
CRAIG LOWNDES – 1999
If a V8 supercar leaves the track at 200km/h and rolls five times, then it’s a safe bet it’ll make this list – especially as the driver escaped with only a dodgy knee. It also helps that it was at Melbourne’s Calder Park and the driver was Craig Lowndes. Craig said: “It was like being in a washing machine.” Appropriate considering he cleaned up the championship that year.
COLIN MCRAE – 2001
Entering the final round of the 2001 WRC season, Colin McRae, Tommi Mäkinen and Richard Burns were all in with a chance of winning the title. McRae set a searing pace from the start, but his gung-ho approach bit hard on Stage 4, when an ill-timed cut sent his Focus into one of the biggest crashes of the Scot’s career. And that’s saying something.
BILL BROWN – 1971
A burst tyre over McPhillamy Park at Bathurst sent Brown’s Falcon into the fence at 170km/h. In the video, keenly watched on YouTube to this day, you’ll see a flaggie sprinting for his life. But as the car rolls over the fence, folding in half about where the driver sits, you can’t help but think, ‘he’s dead’. But yet, Brown walked away, even driving home that evening.
GEOFF BODINE – 2000
Running up to 40 similarly paced race cars at high speed surrounded by unforgiving concrete wheels is always going to carry high risk, but it's truly astonishing that Geoff Bodine escaped from this monumental accident relatively unharmed. Bodine's truck is launched into the catch fencing where it explodes, before bouncing back onto the track and being bashed around like a pinball by following cars.
STAN FOX - 1995
At the start of the ’95 Indy 500, Fox dived low in turn one, on lap one. He spun, collecting a bunch of other cars with him, ending up reversing into the fence at silly speeds – without the front of the car. Legs exposed mid-air as seen in this horrifying photo, Fox suffered career-ending head injuries, but some say he was lucky just to survive.
FABIAN COULTHARD – 2010
A tyre blow out at 300km/h down the quickest straight in Australian motorsport at the 2010 V8 Supercars Bathurst 1000 caused Coulthard’s Commodore to roll almost ten times, ripping the car to pieces leaving just the bare roll cage and a few crumpled bits of metal once the car came to a rest.