A pair of crashes during test runs thousands of miles apart Wednesday resulted in injuries to Elio de Angelis and Mario Andretti, who were teammates on the Lotus Formula One team in 1980.
De Angelis, 28, was in critical condition in a Marseille hospital after an accident while testing his Brabham at the Le Castellet track in Southern France. Andretti, 46, suffered minor injuries when he hit the third-turn wall at Indianapolis.
A spokesman at La Timone Hospital said De Angelis was suffering from skull, brain and chest injuries and was in the emergency intensive care unit.
Track officials said De Angelis' car spun, turned several somersaults and bounced over the guardrails for 300 yards before landing upside down on a service road, bursting into flames. The accident happened in a 170-m.p.h. left-right sweep after the pit straight.
Other drivers, including Australian Alan Jones, Frenchman Alain Prost, Finn Keke Rosberg and Briton Nigel Mansell, were first on the scene. They used their on-board extinguishers and ran for trackside help to put out the fire, then helped rescue crews to right the vehicle. A doctor at first said the Italian driver had no pulse, but after 15 minutes of chest massage, he detected a heartbeat.
De Angelis was given emergency treatment and was then taken to the hospital by a helicopter summoned from Marseille, about 40 miles way.
While Andretti's injuries were minor (bruised knees and a cut to the inside of his left foot that required several stitches to close), the crash could be a major setback in Andretti's bid for a second Indy 500 victory.
He was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was treated and released.
A Newman-Haas team spokesman said Andretti had been told to stay off his feet the rest of the day, and Dr. Henry Bock, the track medical director, said the driver would be checked at the Indianapolis Speedway infield hospital today before being cleared to resume driving.
Track observers said that that something appeared to let go on the right rear of the car, sending Andretti's Lola spinning into the Turn 3 wall. The nose of the car was sheared away, and the right front suspension was left dangling.
The car, running laps over 205 m.p.h. shortly before the crash, spun 480 feet into the concrete wall. Andretti was able to climb out before safety crewmen arrived at the scene.
The Lola was the same one that Andretti qualified last Saturday at 212.300, good for a second-row start.
Bob Sprow, Andretti's crew chief, said, "The race car tub is on its way to England to be repaired at Lola. We hope to get it back by (next) Wednesday so we can use it on carburetion day."
Sprow was referring to the final two-hour practice session next Thursday.
"We can maintain our fifth starting position if we use the tub we used today. As long as we don't change more than 49% of the tub, it will be considered the same one.
If the car cannot be repaired, Andretti would have to start the backup car at the rear of the 33-car field.