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Suzuki hurt in Suzuka shunt

JAPANESE racing star Aguri Suzuki was injured last Saturday when he crashed his Ligier-Mugen Honda backwards heavily into a wall at Suzuka during final qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Aguri was on his final flying lap - with 10 minutes to go in the last qualifying session - when he put a wheel on the grass in the fast uphill sweepers behind the Suzuka pits. The car swapped ends frighteningly quickly and went straight into the wall, there being very little run-off at that point because there is a lake just behind the barrier and it is not a normal place for a crash to occur. It was a huge rearward impact with very little deflection so instead of being pitched into spins the car absorbed most of the energy of the crash and came to rest near the initial point of impact.

Aguri threw the steering wheel out of the car but was unable to climb out, clearly having been hurt by the whiplash. He stayed in the car until the doctors arrived and was then carefully extricated and helicoptered away to the Chuo Sogo hospital where it was found that he had suffered a fracture to the fourth rib and some bleeding in the lungs. Initial reports suggested a compressed fracture of the fourth vertebrae - probably as the result of translation problems between the hospital staff and Ligier personnel.

Ironically, there had been rumors in the paddock before the shunt that Aguri was about to announce his retirement from F1 and that will almost certainly happen now as Aguri says he is keen to concentrate on family life and not travel around the world to F1 Grands Prix. He may, however, continue to race in Japan, probably in Toyota touring cars.

Aguri's accident is the kind of crash which the FIA Advisory Expert Group on safety has been studying in recent months. This committee's recommendations have already been accepted by the F1 Technical Working Group and have agreed a new rear crash test for F1 in 1997. From 1997 onwards all F1 cars will have an impact-absorbing structure at the rear of the car. The Advisory Expert Group has also recently commissioned a study into putting energy-absorbing material between the seat of an F1 car and the chassis. Initial tests have shown that this significantly reduces the G-forces to which drivers are subjected in a rear impact.

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