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Drivers slam Macau driving standards

Photo by FIA WTCC MediaLeading World Touring Car Championship drivers have criticised the driving standards of the Asian competitors in the series, after a spate of accidents in the season finale under safety car conditions.

The second race of the day had already been suspended once after a multiple pile-up at the first corner, eliminating eight cars. However the race had to be suspended for a second time after an accident on the mountain section of the track, caused by drivers not adhering to yellow flags.

Tom Chilton was forced to drive around slowly after suffering from mechanical problems, and was collected by Eurico De Jesus’ Honda when the Macanese driver failed to slow sufficiently to negotiate the slow Chevrolet.

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With De Jesus’ Honda blocking most of the track, the safety car was deployed, although it missed picking up the field at first, which were allowed to go around onto another lap. Leading cars were able to pass in single file at the accident area at sufficiently slow speeds. However from Franz Engstler backwards, drivers failed to exercise sufficient caution.

Engstler was thus collected by team-mate Charles Kaki Ng and Henro Ho. Filipe Clemente de Souza piled into the back of Ng and Yvan Muller, breaking the latter’s suspension. Moments later Yukinori Taniguchi, who had slowed to a stop, was collected heavily by Michael Soong and Joesph Rosa Merszei, the latter suffering extensive damage to the front of his BMW.

During the stoppage only Ho, Muller and Souza were able to have their cars repaired to take the restart. Muller admitted that Macau was a gamble but criticised the experience of the Asian drivers in the race.

“Macau is a gamble – unfortunately it is the last race and everybody is a bit excited,” admitted Muller. “I did my best to avoid all of the crashes, but then I had to stop because there was a queue. One guy [Souza] behind arrived flat-out and couldn’t avoid me so he broke my car.

“It was a safety car for sure. But even where the car was stopped, 50 or 60 kph was too fast. And the marshalls didn’t tell us they were there, or to slow down, so by luck all of the top ten cars could stop on time. But all of the other guys who do only one race per year and don’t know much about the rules – they don’t do at least half a season – they arrive flat out and that is what happened.”

D’Aste, who had been watching the race from the sidelines, was much more critical of the driving standards in the incident.

“I think it is absolutely crazy,” said D’Aste. “It seems that the drivers that crashed now didn’t go to the briefing, because our race director explained to us very well – when you see white flags or yellow flags, slow down a lot. Chilton had no chance to put the car somewhere [safe] because at that point you have no chance, there are walls everywhere. So he was trying to find the first free space to put the car, but it was impossible.

“The mistake was done by, I think, a Chinese car which crashed against him. This is absolutely crazy, because when you see a yellow flag there you have to slow down a lot. The director told us and he was very clear.”

As for Chilton, the Brit admitted that he was unable to continue due to damage to his car’s exhaust, caused by receiving too many taps from James Nash behind.

“Basically I blame it on the driving standards,” said a frustrated Chilton. “I don’t know what the problem was with James but he hit me very hard up the backside about 4 or 5 times. He just kept hitting me and hitting me from behind. He hit me so hard the last time it bent the exhaust pipe and it meant that the engine couldn’t breath, so the engine conked out.”

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