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Dan Wheldon, RIP Champ

The crash that took Dan Wheldon's life had been coming for years, drivers, commentators and pundits have talked about the big one and each race weekend that passed without it was a relief.

At the Las Vegas Speedway on Sunday the luck ran out.

With 34 cars packed into the short 1.5 mile banked oval, running the whole lap flat out - 225mph - and tightly packed as a result of the effects of slipstreaming a collision in the middle of the pack was always going to escalate into carnage. And so it proved. 15 cars wiped out, three, including Wheldon's launched into terrifying somersaults off the back of the cars in from of them. The bigger surprise was that there was only a single fatality.

Wheldon's tragic mis-fortune was that in the process of cartwheeling down the track his car's cockpit collided with the crash fencing that sits above safety barrier, ripping the rollbar and other safety structures from the car and inflicting 'unsurvivable' head injuries on the British two-time Indy 500 winner. Other cars - notably Will Power's - followed the same trajectory but impacted backwards preventing the fatal impact that killed Dan.

In 2005 Dan Wheldon was the Englishman to win the Indy 500 since Graham Hill nearly 40 years previously. In 2011 he repeated the feat - winning the race at the final corner, despite not having a regular drive for the season. His talent was unquestioned and he was liked and respected by his peers, his death has cast a shadow over Indycar racing.

In a tragic irony, Wheldon had spent much of the season testing a new car for the series, packed with enhanced safety features, including a rear bumper designed specifically to prevent exactly the sort of accident that led to Wheldon's death.

This was the last race with the old car...

RIP Dan, Britain's forgotten champion.


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