Tragedy in Byron rookie's first race
By ADAM HICKS email@example.com V8 SUPERCAR rookie Andrew Thompson watched from pit lane as Ashley Cooper's VZ commodore slammed into concrete barriers at the Clipsal 500 last weekend.
"I saw it on closed circuit television and didn't think too much of it," the former Byron Bay driver said.
"It was a big hit, but on the left side of car, and with all the roll bars I thought he'd just get out.
"It's turn eight, it's a fast corner you're normally doing a minimum of 210km/h through there and there are some big hits in that corner and almost everyone walks away from it.
"It didn't click that it could be bad, but a couple of hours later I heard it wasn't good."
The nation's motor sport community went into mourning when Cooper died earlier this week from brain and internal injuries sustained in Saturday's crash in the V8 Supercar support category, the Jujitsu Series, in Adelaide.
The incident was a sad note in what was otherwise a memorable weekend for Thompson in his first event in the number 50 PWR VE Commodore.
"I was just hoping to get through the first lap cleanly," he said.
"It was my first race so obviously I was a bit nervous starting the race but I was just focused on getting through the first couple of laps clean with no damage."
Thompson did make it through the first couple of laps cleanly.
"But I got turned around in lap three. I was punted up the rear and turned around," he said.
"About 10 laps later I had a puncture on the front left wheel and had to pit and get a new tyre.
"It was an extra pit stop I didn't need and I went a lap down from there and when that happens it makes it real difficult to get a result.
"Basically you're just going round and round for the next 70 laps just trying to finish and stay out of the way of other drivers."
Thompson went on to finish 20th and after some minor modifications to the car, began Sunday's race with a lot more confidence.
"In race two I got up to 13th," he said.
"There were two cars in front that were fighting and one of them went sideways and I went sideways to avoid it but got cleaned up from behind.
"He ran into my back right wheel and spun me around and sent me backwards into pit lane wall.
"That was the end of my race. It was a bit disappointing. The car in front of me finished fifth and we had some good pace and I thought we were in for a good result.
"We made some improvements and definitely had more speed. "Overall I'm pretty happy with it all and I think next round should be a lot better now we've figured out the car and understand it better we should be able to qualify in front of the carnage that happens at the back of the field."
Thompson said Cooper's tragic accident and his own minor bingles brought home the danger of the sport.
"The crash I had was pretty minor, but you do realise that there is the possibility it could all go wrong if you get hit the wrong way, or hit a wall the wrong way it could happen," he said.
"But it's just one of those things you don't really think about, you just focus on what your job at hand is.
"It's really just the risk that you take when involved in motor sports.
"It can happen, but there is a lot of safety gear to prevent it.
"Every now and then something bad will happen."