W Series drivers unharmed but safety questions loom after Spa pile-up

W Series

Six-car pile-up in W Series qualifying at Spa raises more questions about safety at the famous Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex

Wreckage of Beitske Visser W Series car at Spa 2021

Wreckage of Beitske Visser's car after the Spa qualifying crash

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

All six drivers involved in yesterday’s W Series qualifying crash have escaped without major injury.

Ayla Agren and Beitske Visser were taken to hospital after the high-speed pile-up and have now been discharged. Visser, who underwent a CT scan and x-ray, confirmed that she had not suffered any fractures but was sore after her car was flung through the air.

A slippery Eau Rouge-Raidillon complex caught drivers by surprise at the start of yesterday afternoon’s qualifying session, as drizzle began falling and drivers were pushing to set a time before it became wetter.

Sarah Moore arrived first on the scene. She described the rear of her car snapping as she climbed the hill, then spinning off into the barriers on the outside.

Others followed in quick succession, piling into each other on the narrow section of tarmac run-off between the track and tyre barriers.

Visser’s car was third to spin off, hitting the other two cars backwards before she was then speared by two more drivers. Her car was flicked into the air and tumbled towards the track, landing with little more than the survival cell intact, and with scrapes to the halo.

“The cars have stood up unbelievably well to what looks like a massive crash,” said Dave Ryan, W Series racing director. “Spa is always quite eventful and today certainly proved to be for us.”

Recently, the track has been too “eventful” for many drivers’ liking, with several calling for urgent changes to the small area of run-off that has seen cars spin off and bounce back onto the track with fatal consequences.

At the beginning of this month, Williams reserve driver Jack Aitken suffered a fractured collarbone and vertebra, as well as a minor lung contusion after a similar crash at the same point on the circuit during the Spa 24 Hours.

His Lamborghini span and hit the barriers at the top of the hill, coming to a rest on the crest of the track, directly in the path of team-mate Franck Pereira. The resulting smash littered the track with debris and took out another two cars.

Both incidents come two years after the death of Anthoine Hubert during a Formula 2 race at Spa.

Related article

The Renault Sport Academy driver was caught in a crash at Raidillon. His BWT Arden hit the barriers and span back towards the track where it was hit by Juan Manuel Correa’s car, causing fatal injuries.

Earlier this month, Correa described Aitken’s crash as “particularly haunting” and said that he had raised safety concerns with organisers and motor racing’s governing body, the FIA.

Following the W Series accident, Aitken wrote: “I’m pretty sure everyone has gotten the picture of what needs changing.”

Since 1969 when the Belgian Grand Prix was cancelled due to the inadequacy of safety barriers, organisers have been attempting to balance the thrill of the swooping section with safety.

The corner claimed the life of Stefan Bellof and there were several near-misses before 1994 when the increased focus on safety following the death of Ayrton Senna led to a chicane being added at the bottom of the hill in 1994.

It was removed the following year after extra safety precautions, and now there is increased pressure to further improve safety without affecting the corner.

Spa has already proposed introducing gravel traps to the Raidillon section, as part of its plans to host a 24 hour motorbike race in 2022, and drivers are urging the work to be carried out, to avoid another repeat incident.

“We all know the risk when we sit the car going flat out at 240 km/h [149mph] up the hill,” wrote GT driver Kevin Estre, after he was involved in the Aitken crash.

“The only thing that could have helped us is gravel on the left side. If you replace the asphalt by gravel, every driver will be 2-3km/h slower. Right now, we all drive at the limit or even over it, knowing that if you have a moment, you just cut the track and do a ‘track limit’.

“In the modern time, we are not afraid of crashing, we are afraid of getting a drive though because of track limit!”