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Mar 15, 2001

Pace Car Deployment Delay, Bad Race-control Decision-making Caused Daytona Pile-up, Eyewitness Says

A racer and eyewitness says that a critical delay in deploying the pace car set off the incident that resulted in the Daytona 200 being red-flagged. And, over the two weekends of Formula USA and AMA racing at Daytona, race control, cornerworker deployment and decision-making were seriously flawed with resulting delays causing needless crashes, says racer Chris Norman, who himself suffered a broken arm in one incident.<BR><BR>"I was sitting in the infield at the exit of the dogleg (during the Daytona 200)," said Norman, of Antioch, Tennessee. "Anyway, the crash that started everything was Mike Ciccotto highsiding coming out of the west horseshoe. It was a pretty ugly crash and Mike didn't move for almost a minute. Mike's a pretty fast guy so he wasn't too far behind the leaders that early in the race. I was wondering if they were going to bring out the pace car to help him out.<BR><BR>"About the time (leader Mat) Mladin came (back) into the infield Mike started to sit up. When Mladin had already passed and the big pack for second was coming through, Mike was getting to his feet. At the angle I was at, I could see Mike in the horseshoe and Mladin on the banking at the same time. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the pace car take off. I said to my brother, ‘What the hell are they doing bringing the pace car out now, he's already up and they didn't even wave the pace car flag.'<BR><BR>"Only then did I notice that the cornerworker at the entrance to the west horseshoe was in fact waving a faded-looking orange flag. It was hard for me to see and I was just standing there. I'm not sure if the cornerworker in the left-hander heading onto the banking was waving the pace car flag when the big pack of riders came through—it would have been close. I'm almost positive it wasn't out when they were coming into the west horseshoe. But they were racing so hard I'm not surprised they didn't see it.<BR><BR>"It seemed to me that the powers to be thought about bringing out the pace car for a good minute-and-a-half and then they decided to hurry up and throw it to get in front of the leader since he's almost at the pace car spot. Basically they had over a minute to throw the flag and didn't until Mike was on his feet. I personally think that was a bad decision. And that's what caused the pile-up with (Jamie) Hacking and (Aaron) Yates which ultimately led to the (Scott) Russell crash.<BR><BR>"Of course, I already had a bad attitude concerning decision-making after I crashed in the Formula USA Unlimited Superbike race in the rain. I highsided coming out of the chicane. I'm not sure how many people crashed there but it was a lot. Like more than a dozen. The officials then shut down the racetrack and told everybody there was some slippery spot on the track and they couldn't fix it. As far as I know I was just the second person to crash there. But after the third or so, don't you think there's a problem that should be checked out?<BR><BR>"And I sat in turn one for the AMA 600 Supersport race and saw Roger Lee (Hayden) blow a motor and had to watch crash after crash after crash after crash after crash. I think there were five. But that was about three too many. They had to know they had a problem there—everybody in the stands knew.<BR><BR>"I'm not trying to start any war. I'm just relaying my experience at Daytona. And I feel there were a lot of people hurt and a lot of machines destroyed because of some bad decisions made by people other than riders.<BR><BR>"I feel I've earned my right to bitch since my brand-new GSX-R is all tore up and I'm trying to type with a broken arm. But hey, that's racing. I'll see you guys in five weeks."<BR><BR>Norman's statement was originally posted on wera.com and is reproduced here with his permission.<BR>
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