Rally driver’s lucky smash escape

A rally car driver cut from his car after it slammed into a concrete power pole sparking a scrub fire is today in hospital recovering from a broken leg and ankle.

The 54-year-old Rotorua man, reported to be driver Dave West, was racing in the Old Coach Road Tarmac Sprint in Pukehina on Sunday when he lost control of his Toyota Corolla GT slamming into a pole about 1.15pm.

A Toyota Corolla GT rally car lost control smashing into a powerpole during a race in Pukehina.

Emergency services, including fire appliances from Pukehina, Te Puke and Maketu, were called to the crash at the intersection of Ohinepanea Road.

The impact of the crash brought down a powerpole onto a shelterbelt igniting a scrub fire next to the crashed car.

As the fire burned the co-driver was able to escape the car, but the 54-year-old driver was trapped by his legs. Together with bystanders, who came to the crashed driver’s aid, the car was towed away from the encroaching flames by a 4x4.

Firefighters arrived on scene and spent an hour and a half freeing the driver from the rally car before he was flown to Rotorua Hospital by the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter.

Pukehina Fire Brigade senior officer Errol Watts earlier told SunLive the car was travelling at speeds of 180km/h when it lost control coming around a bend.

Errol says two people were sitting in a car watching the rally where the car crashed and were lucky to escape injury.

After reading the crash report submitted by Motorsport Bay of Plenty, Motorsport New Zealand general manager Brian Budd says it appears as though it was a common race crash.

“I suppose it could have been worse that’s for sure, but these cars are built to withstand these sorts of impacts. That’s why we have the safety requirement in these cars,” says Brian.

“The car was checked prior to the event, so there was no issues round the standard or safety of the vehicle itself. If you hit a pole there are going to be some effects like that.”

Brain says the future of the event is not in jeopardy.

“It’s just one of these things and it can happen at any event. It doesn’t happen often, but motorsport does carry risks and we all accept that and have rules and regulations to minimise that risk,” says Brian.

A Rotorua Hospital spokesperson says the 54-year-old is recovering in a comfortable condition in hospital.


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