American racing driver Jim Pace is lucky to walk away with nothing more than a bad taste in his mouth, after going for a wild ride at the wheel of his vintage race car during this weekend's WeatherTech International Challenge at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Per a report by Classic Cars Journal, Pace was behind the wheel of his 1974 Can-Am Shadow DN4 vintage racer during a qualifying session that featured a variety of other similar-era race cars, including some from Formula 1 and Formula 5000, when the open-wheel racer took to the skies along the famously-long main straight of the circuit.
Update/Correction: 7/26/20 4:30 p.m. ET: We've learned that driver Jim Pace is okay and did not suffer any injuries as a result of his crash. Also, we've been informed that the Can-Am race car Pace was driving was not his own, he was simply the driver of the vehicle for that particular event.
"Thank you all for the concern," Pace said via email. "A wild ride along the front straightaway at one of my favorite racetracks. A bit of air got under the nose and lifted, then blew over backward sliding down the straight. The rescue crew was there immediately and I exited on my own. Sorry, this nice car was damaged with me as the driver."
Pace was reportedly traveling at 180 miles per hour while closely following a similar DN4 car driven by Craig Bennett, when the front end of his car lifted and shot straight up like a plane during take-off, only to flip backward once and land on its roof. A video later uploaded to YouTube shows how everything unfolded from a nearby bridge along the main straight. A different video uploaded to Twitter shows a different angle, this one starting on the final corner as the cars travel uphill to the start-finish line.
It's unclear what the exact cause of the crash is, but it looks to be a textbook case of air getting underneath the car and simply lifting the entire thing up due to the high speeds. Also, I believe the 180-mph claim to be somewhat exaggerated, as even a modern-day IndyCar doesn't reach that speed until further down the straight. I believe the correct figure is somewhere between 110 and 140 mph. It's also unclear how many laps the Pace had driven up until that point, and whether the close following distance to the car in front had something to do with it.
Lastly, judging by both videos, Pace went airborne at the crest of the hill that initiates the run down to the first corner, which probably had something to do with air getting underneath the car.
This type of wreck isn't uncommon in motor racing, with the most popular and spectacular example happening at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, when not-yet Formula 1 race Mark Webber went airborne and did several flips in a Mercedes-Benz CLR before crashing into some trees.
Pace's official condition is unknown, but the original report and various posts on social media claim he walked away uninjured and was present to aid with the recovery of the destroyed race car.
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