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Top speedway meet marred by accidents

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

Steve WilliamsTwo drivers were involved in serious accidents at Mc- Donald’s Kihikihi Speedway on Sunday - one of them Tiger Woods’ caddy Steve Williams.

Grave concerns were held for Williams after he was knocked unconscious when his limited saloon flipped six times in 38 metres down pit straight.

He was involved in a battle royale with Ross Cresswell. They were side by side cornering when Cresswell’s ‘Mustang Sally’ clipped the tail of Williams’ saloon, turning him sideways.

Once he regained consciousness, he was carried to the St John Ambulance where he was checked for head and neck injuries. Minutes later, and much to the relief of the large crowd, he was walking around relatively unscathed.

He will have to sit out a mandatory 21 day competition stand down - which puts him out for the remainder of this season.

Not so fortunate was Auckland standard stockcar driver, Paul Chatfield, who suffered serious burns when his car burst into flames. On impact with another car, his stockcar’s fuel tank split and the fuel ignited, engulfing the ‘cockpit’.

The driver hit the quick release lever and leapt out, but his clothes were alight and had to be doused with a fire extinguisher. He was taken to the burns unit at Waikato Hospital for treatment.

Speedway Club president Roger Wells said everyone’s thoughts went out to Paul Chatfield. “You can never plan for or expect a fire like that to happen. All cars are checked to the highest standard before going out on the track to attempt to prevent it from happening, but nothing is foolproof.”

The driver himself was interviewed on TV3 News this week and said philosophically that “accidents do happen in speedway”. He said it had not put him off racing - his family had been involved in speedway for 36 years and he planned to continue.

Mr Wells said the safety measures implemented by Speedway NZ for driver restraints and car design certainly helped Steve Williams. “If that happened on the open road at that speed you would expect a fatality.”

See coverage of Sunday’s meeting on page 14 of today's Courier.