Sunday April 29th, 2001
A tyre burst might have caused the fatal crash of ex-Formula One driver Michele Alboreto while testing on a circuit in Germany, investigators said on Sunday. The 44-year-old Italian was killed on Wednesday after losing control of his Audi R8 during a testing session for the Le Mans 24-hour race on the Lausitzring track, some 145 kilometres south of Berlin.
"It has been established that the rear-left tyre burst," said State prosecutor Petra Hertwig, who is in charge of the investigation. "But it remains to be confirmed that it (the tyre burst) was the cause of the accident."
Alboreto was at the wheel on a straight section when his car went off the track at an estimated speed of over 300 km/h, hit a fence and flipped over. He was killed instantly.
Lausitzring security adviser Klaus Steinmetz had said earlier that the rear-left tyre might have exploded, which would explain why the car suddenly went off to the right in ideal weather conditions.
Audi said the car involved in the accident had already completed thousands of kilometres on many circuits in preparation for the 2001 season without any problems. Lausitzring manager Hans-Joerg Fischer said the accident had nothing to do with the track, a brand new state-of-the-art facility costing 310 million marks ($142.3 million) which was inaugurated in August last year and presented as the safest circuit in the world.
Alboreto won five Grands Prix in the 1980s and was a member of the Porsche team which won the 1997 Le Mans and the Audi team which finished third there last year. The Italian driver competed in 194 Formula One races from 1981 to 1994 and achieved three of his five Grand Prix wins for Ferrari.
Alboreto moved to sportscar racing after bowing out of Formula One in 1994. He joined Audi in 1999.