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Crash sends Grand Prix racer into the air, raises safety concerns

A video shows one of the cars clipping another, then going airborne. The racer makes a midair 360 before landing.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A wreck on the first day of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg could raise questions about fan safety, despite repeated assurances from race officials that the course is safe for race watchers.

“I didn’t expect anything that crazy to happen, really,” said Zach Blum, who was rolling when it happened.

Blum captured video near the starting line during an afternoon race. You can see one of the cars clipping another, then going airborne. The racer makes a midair 360 before landing

“It got a little sketchy because he got sandwiched in between two cars and I guess the wheels caught up with each other,” said Blum, “And then it just went up and flipped like two or three times.”

In this case, the race car lands on the track, but it was a reminder of a Formula 3 wreck in China this past November.

In that incident, the car went airborne like a missile, flying through a safety barrier. It injured the driver and a photographer.

If there is an area of particular concern at the St. Petersburg race, people familiar with the course say it would be in turn number 10. That’s where the racers gain a tremendous amount of speed along a straight away, before making a sharp turn just feet in front of hundreds of race fans.

Minutes after the first wreck, another car spun out of control right into turn 10, slamming into the tire pile.

“Everybody jumped back. People turned away,” said race fan Steve Nehring. Nehring was right there in the first few rows when the second wreck happened. He and other fans said it was jolting, even on the so-called safe side if the barrier.

“You know It’s concerning, but it’s races,” said Nehring. “It’s like any other sport, there are consequences."

“Yeah, it’s pretty scary. It is,” said Sheryl Spector, who was in the second row at turn 10. “But those are the chances you take when you’re watching this., You know?”

Related: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg 2019: What you need to know

Since November, 10News has been asking Grand Prix of St. Petersburg organizers if they’d considered altering the course layout.

However, Kim Green, who operates the St. Pete race, said the International Motorsport Federation had not mandated any changes.

“We have licenses with the IFA for our events based on the tracks build,” he said. “Based on their guidance.”

Racers, as well as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, said they have faith in event organizers and their commitment to safety.

“That’s the number one thing that they look at, actually, is whether this course is set up that it is safe for the spectators and say for the drivers,” Kriseman said.

“Whether it’s the stands, where they are, the positions - the runoffs for the cars, to the fencing it’s definitely something that they’re always trying to improve and make better,” driver Scott Dixon said.

Yet in one of the very first races where an airborne incident raised concerns. What was thought to be so unlikely, happened. Fortunately, it was without serious injury.

“You know, anything is possible with cars at this high-speed,” said Blum, looking at his video, “But they do a very good job protecting us.”

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