MARCH 11, 1996

Martin Brundle's Melbourne crash

IN a race which saw Williams driver Damon Hill being handed the victory after his Canadian team mate, Jacques Villeneuve, was forced to slow in the closing stages with engine trouble, British driver Martin Brundle was lucky to emerge unscathed from a terrifying accident on the first lap of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last weekend. The Jordan-Peugeot flipped through the air and broke in two when it landed upside down in the gravel trap at Turn 3.

The accident happened after David Coulthard's McLaren suddenly speared to the left across the track as the field braked for the corner. He ran into Johnny Herbert's Sauber and Brundle was launched over the rear of the two cars.

"I had a lovely clear road ahead of me," he said, "and then suddenly there was nothing but cars going slowly."

Coulthard said that he had been hit from behind by a Ligier, but the only Ligier near him was in front and the more likely explanation is that a chain reaction of heavy braking caused the Scot to brake so hard that the rear end of his car broke loose.

The ensuing accident was dramatic, with Martin rolling several times.

"I was flat out in sixth doing about 290kph so the closing speed was too high for me to do anything about it," he said. "I was a passenger on a high-speed merry-go-round. I just concentrated on making sure I didn't hit my head. The accident seemed to go on for a very long time."

Martin crawled from the wreckage to find that the engine had been ripped off the car and was up above his rollbar. The race was stopped and Brundle rushed back to the pits to get a check-up so that he could restart the race. He had to run the entire length of the pitlane to find F1 doctor Sid Watkins to be given clearance and then he jumped into the Jordan spare car.

He started the new race from the pitlane, but, as his brakes were not up to temperature, he ran into the rear of Pedro Diniz's Ligier at Turn 3 when the Brazilian braked earlier than expected. This time Martin spun off and stalled.

After the race, Martin said his only problem was pain from his ankles, the result of leg injuries he received back in Dallas in 1984 when he crashed a Tyrrell into a wall. His pitlane jogging was the furthest Martin has run in many years...