This weekend's Endurance Championship race at the Nordschleife - the historic circuit at the Nurburgring - was halted early after Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GT-R became airborne at the Flugplatz on the descent from Quiddelbacher Höhe, leaving the track and cartwheeling off the barriers over the safety fence and into the crowd.
Authorities confirmed that one spectator had died at the scene, whilst many more were injured. Mardenborough was uninjured and out of the wreck very quickly. The German police have impounded the remains of the Nissan, and no doubt will be looking for mechanical failure as a possible cause of the accident. The German racing authorities have banned high performance GT3 cars from the circuit indefinitely.
When cars get airborne the results are never good. At the end of the fast descent that leads to Flugplatz, Mardenborough's car will have been approaching it's top speed. Whether the young racer failed to lift over the notorious leap, or was travelling faster than normal because of a better exit from Quiddelbacher Höhe, for some reason air got underneath the front of the GT-R and once that happened a major accident was inevitable.
The Nissan seems to have stood up to the high speed impacts very well and on a modern circuit we would probably now only be talking about what a lucky escape Mardenborough had.
The question now is: does the Nurburgring have sufficient spectator protection for the speeds that cars are reaching? Evidence would suggest not. Fortunately there was just one fatality yesterday, and the track's owners may get the chance to rectify the problems. If it had been more, government's and courts would have decided the fate of one of motorsports iconic circuits.