DECEMBER 10, 2007

Rafael Sperafico killed at Interlagos

Rafael Sperafico, one of a family of racers from Brazil, has been killed in an accident at Interlagos. The cousin of racing twins Ricardo and Rodrigo and also a relation of Alexandre, Sperafico was taking part in a Stock Car Light series race, featuring space-frame chassis under production bodyshells. His FTS Competicoes car went off on the outside of the Curva do Cafe, the second of the fast left-handers on the way back to the pits - where there was a big accident in F1 involving Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso in 2004. The car bounced off the tyre barriers into the path of the oncoming cars and it was then hit by the ATW Racing car of Renato Russo, who had no way to avoid the impact. Sperafico died from massive head injuries. Russo also suffered head injuries and was taken to the Hospital Sao Luiz in Morumbi.

The accident is certain to revive questions about the safety of the Brazilian circuit. The Stock Car Light cars are obviously nowhere near as strong as the Formula 1 cars of today but the accident would not have happened if there had been more run-off area at that point. The problem is that behind there is little space behind the existing barriers where Sperafico hit the wall because the land on which the circuit is built runs alongside the main Avenida Interlagos at that point and the track cannot be reprofiled on the inside of the corner because of the drop down to the hairpin below. The only way to alter that would be to move or remove the hairpin and then create a new area on the inside of the track, which would involve substantial earth-moving, so that the Curva do Cafe could be reprofiled to allow for more run-off area.