TORONTO - In more than a decade of covering motorsports, four big crashes — two fatal — stand out.
First was at Fontana Speedway in California in 1999 where Vancouver’s Greg Moore was killed at the Marlboro 500 CART race.
The second was two years later at Daytona International Speedway when Dale Earnhardt lost his life in 2001 on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
The other two crashes both involved Robert Kubica, the first at the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007, when in an eerie replay of Moore’s wreck, his BMW Sauber turned on its side sending the young Polish driver head first into a concrete barrier.
On this past weekend it was his crash while driving a Super 2000 Skoda Fabia in the Ronde di Andora rally near the Italian village of Tetico, where his right hand was almost severed, and bones in his right leg and right arm were broken, that made another instant impression.
The latest reports from Santa Corono hospital has Kubica listed in serious but stable condition, with doctors still unsure whether the 26-year-old will ever have full use of his right hand again.
That he survived at all is his second miracle, considering the extent of his injuries this time around.
There were concerns among a team of doctors immediately after he arrived by air ambulance to the hospital that he would lose his hand.
But in a six-hour surgery doctors were able to reattach the blood supply and save the hand.
Doctors are now saying that it could be up to a year before they can say for sure the operation they performed to re-attach his hand was a complete success.
The Italian sports website IVG.it reports that Dr. Giorgio Barabino, chief of medicine in the hospital’s intensive care unit, was elated at Kubica’s recovery so far.
“His conditions have improved and are good, considering the crash,” Barabino said in a translation provided by autosport.com. “No infections have arisen in the post-surgery phase. There is a good medical evolution, considering the heavy traumas suffered.”
Regardless of the prognosis the message to Kubica should be clear: Twice you have cheated death, now take your winnings and retire.
CASH FOR POINTS IS A DISGRACE
The fact that NASCAR is the only major sporting organization on this planet that starts its season with its most prestigious event is only trumped by the bizarre fashion in which teams can qualify for the show.
NASCAR bosses — in their infinite wisdom — decided several seasons ago that the top 35 teams in the points from the previous season get a free pass into the Daytona 500.
That means new teams coming into the sports have to jump through all kinds of hoops just to get on the starting grid.
But more distressing is that NASCAR has allowed teams to trade and outright sell points to new teams if they can’t make it to the race through three qualifying sessions.
Last season, for example, department store billionaire John Menard, Jr., was said to have walked through the NASCAR garage in Daytona offering wads of cash to teams with enough points to make the race so that his son Paul could put his No. 98 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in the race.
This season, with Menard moving to Richard Childress Racing, he was on the hunt for points again, this time getting them from the TRG Motorsports team.
NASCAR should outlaw this circumvention of qualifying rules immediately and make the biggest race of the year a level playing field.
The cameras were clicking and the crew members were gawking as Sorel, Que., native Maryeve Dufault did her laps last month in the No. 12 Dodge Charger while testing at Daytona International Speedway.
Dufault is hoping to follow Danica Patrick into NASCAR with a strong showing Saturday in the ARCA series Lucas Oil Mist 200, that will officially open the 2011 stock car racing season at DIS.
The big difference, however, is that Dufault comes to Daytona a complete unknown, except for a few NASCAR Canadian Tire Series races last season and a pit stop as a development driver with Alex Tagliani’s IZOD INDYCAR racing team.
But in the beauty department, Dufault takes a back seat to no one.
The pulchritudinous 28-year-old caught the eye of Dodge Motorsports bosses at the NAPA 100 last season at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, where she finished 26th, five laps behind winner Andrew Ranger.
That fact that she brought her Quebec Dodge Dealers Charger back to the garage in one piece did impress brass enough to get her a season-long deal with Tony Marks Racing in the 2011 ARCA season as a Dodge development driver.
Here’s betting she may not get a podium finish at Daytona, but she will get more than her share of camera time.
The rumblings of the big exotic sports cars that populate the American Le Mans Series come to life this week at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway, with a few more recognizable nameplates for sports car racing buffs to ogle this season.
According to ALMS folks there will be 33 teams taking part in winter testing at the legendary road course that will host the 59th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida in mid-March.
Getting a lot of attention will be the Lola-Aston Martin coupe from Muscle Milk Racing and the Ferrari F458 GTs for Risi Competizione and Extreme Speed Motorsports.
“West Racing’s Lamborghini Gallardo will get plenty of looks as well as it prepares to makes its ALMS debut next month,” ALMS public relations types said in a release. “There are a number of other first-year entrants set to make their (ALMS) debuts — CRS Racing in GT with a Ferrari F430 GT, Performance Tech Motorsports and CORE autosport in LMP Challenge, and JDX Racing, NGT Motorsports and Kelly Moss Motorsports in GT Challenge.”
What sports car junkies won’t see will be the proposed Jagura RSRs out of the Paul Gentilozzi paddock.
Gentilozzi, as he always does, announced with great fanfare last month that he hired ex-Champ Car World Series drivers Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira and PJ Jones for a two-car assault on the ALMS GT class championship.
But now it appears there are still kinks to be worked out and that the team has pulled out of the Sebring tests.
“We have done a lot of work in the off season, making several changes to the pair of Jaguar RSR XKR GTs and anticipate a strong return to the track for 2011,” Gentilozzi said in a team statement. “Changing our test schedule allows us to focus on spares and component development as well as further off-track testing.”
Antoine L’Estage, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and his co-driver Nathalie Richard, of Halifax, N.S., won the first round of the Canadian Rally Championship’s Rallye Perce-Neige on the weekend. L’Estage and Richard are defending Canadian, North American and Rally America champions. .... Crew chief for the NASCAR Sprint Cup No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford needs only to open the door to the team’s garage to get inspiration for the 2011 championship. On the wall in the Roush Fenway training room there is a quote that says “The only substitution for hard work is a miracle.”....
Honda has announced that Hideki Mutoh will end his IndyCar Series stint and switch to Japan’s Super GT category for 2011. The 28-year-old has competed in America since 2007, when his second place finish in Indy Lights led to a promotion to IndyCar. He spent two years with Andretti Green Racing before joining Newman/Haas last year, with a second place at Iowa in 2008 his best result. ... The best look yet at what to expect from NASCAR bad boy Kyle Busch this season comes in a feature written by NASCAR.com senior writer David Caraviello who talks about the latest “new” image that Busch is pushing this season. .... It is a sad commentary on the 2011 Budweiser Shootout that the rules allow 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope a spot on the grid. Cope won only two races in his NASCAR career. ... In another attempt to get an American-born racing driver in Formula One, Alexander Rossi has been confirmed to drive for the Fortec Motorsports team competing in the Formula Renault Championship. Rossi ran the GP3 Series last year, winning two races and placing fourth in points.