Macau Grand Prix

‘There were sparks and the exhaust threw out a flame but I walked away’: Laurens Vanthoor recounts harrowing crash in last year’s Macau GT Cup

The Belgian survived one of the most spectacular crashes Macau had ever seen last year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 1:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 10:53pm

For Laurens Vanthoor, it’s a moment that remains frozen in time.

As the Belgian driver approached the Mandarin bend near the end of last year’s SJM Macau GT Cup – FIA GT World Cup, his car clipped the Armco barriers and shot suddenly skyward before landing on its roof as sparks flew.

It was one of the most spectacular crashes Macau had ever seen and the immediate fear was for the worst.

But, somehow, the approaching field missed the upturned Audi R8 LMS – with Vanthoor still trapped inside – and he was able to walk away from the damage, uninjured.

“It was pretty scary,” the 26-year-old Vanthoor said. “You don’t know what’s happening and then all of a sudden you’re flying through the air. You have no control and you see all the other cars coming through at you.

“There were some sparks and the exhaust threw out a bit of a flame, but I walked away without anything – no bruises, I didn’t feel sore, there was not even a scratch.”

Vanthoor says it took a few months before he could really talk openly about the experience and recalls the fear he felt immediately for the people who were watching on in Macau, including his wife Jacqueline.

He was trapped inside an upturned vehicle but with no means available to let everyone know he was okay.

“I knew my wife was watching so I wanted to tell the team I was fine but the radio didn’t work. The feeling afterwards was very strange,” he said.

Things became more surreal when Vanthoor was declared the race winner, with less than five laps completed.

“I knew the rules so I knew I would be the winner but there were just too many mixed feelings. I didn’t know how to act,” he said.

“It was the first time over the whole weekend that I had driven behind another car into Mandarin and I misjudged it. It was an unfortunate situation but it happens in racing.

Laurens Vanthoor wins Macau Grand Prix GT World Cup ON HIS ROOF after stunning crash

When I got to the hotel I just had to lay down and think for a minute. I just didn’t know how to behave. I’m calm about it now but it took a long time.”

Vanthoor has returned to defend his crown this year, having made the switch to a Porsche and driving now alongside Hong Hong’s Darryl O’Young for the Craft Bamboo Racing outfit.

This year’s GT race is loaded with talent – and no fewer than eight drivers who have topped the podium at some stage in Macau, including two-time F3 grand prix winners Felix Rosenqvist and Edoardo Mortara.

“It’s a big race and it gets bigger every year,” said Vanthoor. “It’s a super tough field but I am pretty relaxed. I’ve raced all those guys.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant but I have beaten them as well so I know who they are and what they can do.

“I’m confident. It’s great for everyone that all these drivers are here.”

And while the history books will forever have the Belgium down as the 2016 champion, Vanthoor said there remained a lingering sense he still has some business to attend to this weekend.

“There are two ways of looking at last year now,” said Vanthoor. “It was not how I wanted to win. I didn’t cross the finish line. I crashed so it wasn’t 100 per cent deserved. But we were leading all the laps and we definitely had the speed to win it.

“It was just a strange race but now I want to go out there and win and show the world I can win in a normal way as well.”