Laguna Seca 1999 - Saturday Saturday

We arrived at the track expecting to catch the end of the morning practice session and were surprised to find it quiet. Only a few minutes earlier Uruguayan driver Gonzalo Rodriguez lost his life when he went off course at the Corkscrew.

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Corkscrew Crash Site
Corkscrew Tire Wall

This is where Gonzalo hit the concrete wall. It was only his second Champ Car event and at the time he was standing second in the Formula 3000 championship.

Out of respect for him, the drivers decided to suspend the remaining CART activities for the day.

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From the SpeedCenter Champ Car Forum:

Date: September 14, 1999 08:37 PM
Author: Russ Miller (RAMF1@aol.com)

I am the photographer in the blue sweatshirt that you can see in the video replay running down the hill away from the accident. I was in the area because I was heading down to the red-zone on the inside of 8a to kick the photographers out of that area. I was waiting for a lull in the action before I entered that area so I decided to shoot some pictures of the cars dropping down into the corkscrew. As soon as I saw Gonzalo's car not follow the correct racing line, I started to run because I knew parts were going to fly.

I watched the whole accident unfold and everything seemed to go in slow motion. The impact was so large that the concrete barrier was cracked in half and pushed back about a foot. The car slowly pole-vaulted over the signage with Gonzalo's head area hitting the supporting horizontal 1X6 that holds up the top of the banner. The board was broken but still together when I looked at it later. The car came down just on the other side of the barrier on its rear wing and then plunged down the 20ft drop to land upside down. It did not look like his head hit the dirt at this time.

There were 5 photographers below the accident and two of them ran up to get photos of the driver getting out of the car because it did not look badly damaged. As you can see in the video, I also started to take photos from where I was standing. I then yelled at the photographers to get away from the car, I thought it might burst into flame. Upon seeing the driver closer we knew immediately that Gonzalo was dead and every photographer put their cameras away. All said that they would not publish any of their photos of the accident. No film was confiscated at the track.

As for the credentials getting "Yanked" both Terry and I were told it was permanent and we were surprised to see the offending photographers back working the track Sunday afternoon.

I hope I didn't offend anyone and I tried not to be too graphic but I have to get my story out. I'm hoping the truth will help me heal...this is going to take a long time to get through and the memory will be with me forever.

Russ Miller

 

Back in a rather subdued paddock, Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan signs autographs for some fans.

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Tony Kanaan
Ashley and Dario

Scottish driver Dario Franchitti with girlfriend Ashley Judd..

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Gil de Ferran in the Walker Racing garage.

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Gil de Ferran
Michael Andretti

Newman/Haas driver Michael Andretti.

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Naoki Hattori, Walker Racing's Japanese driver.

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Naoki Hattori
Tecate Girls

This is me posing with the Tecate Girls.

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This is the Target two-seater demonstration Champ Car. Mario Andretti had been giving laps around the circuit to VIP guests earlier in the day.

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Two-seater Reynard
Twin Cockpits

A view of the two cockpits. Mario has been known to take passengers on laps that are faster than some of the drivers manage in the race!

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By the time of the Toyota Atlantic race a large tire barrier has been constructed on the Corkscrew.

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Tire Wall

Saturday | Sunday

Paul Jasper's Web Site | Racing | Vancouver 1999

1999-2000 Paul Jasper. Last updated Friday May 06, 2005.