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Macau Grand Prix

Sophia Floersch crash: inside Macau Grand Prix photographers’ bunker hit by 276kmh ‘missile’

  • Photographer Christiaan Hart reveals frightening moment of impact and aftermath
  • Lucky escape after car flew off track at 276 kilometres per hour through safety fencing
PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 11:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 10:03pm

A photographer inside the Macau Grand Prix bunker hit by Sophia Floersch’s car has revealed the frightening moments of the impact and the immediate aftermath of the horror crash.

Hong Kong-based Australian Christiaan Hart was one of five photographers inside the tribune at the Guia Circuit’s Lisboa corner, capturing the moment German 17-year-old Floersch flew off the track at 276 kilometres per hour.

“It was like a missile coming at us,” Hart told the South China Morning Post.

The Van Amersfoort Racing driver had initially been spun backwards into the crash barrier further down the flat-out straight, a collision which ripped both her left-side wheels off their axles and effectively left her without brakes.

She then hit a raised inside “sausage” kerb, which launched her Dallara-Mercedes airborne through the safety fencing and directly into the photographers’ tribune.

“I didn’t see the initial touch, just on camera after reviewing it,” Hart said. “We were shooting the front cars initially, and then I saw through the camera she was coming out of control towards us.

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“I thought she was gonna slide into the barrier and then you see this thing come at you a million miles an hour.

“The next thing you know there’s a loud bang, and we’re all on the ground. We checked if everyone was OK, then got up and checked where car was.

“Everything happened so quick, it was instant. One minute you see the car sliding, the next you see this flash go past you, then the sound and there’s no time to think.”

Floersch’s car had landed back down on the Armco barrier below at the marshal’s post, with the automatic fire extinguisher having gone off.

“We were looking around to see what the damage was, then we looked out through the box to see if she was OK,” Hart said. “I could see her hands were moving, and we made eye contact, I could tell she was conscious.

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“You shoot the scene, that’s why we’re there. If you could tell she’s not conscious then you probably would’ve not shot that.”

Most of the photographers, including Hart, were positioned on the right side of the bunker “to get that clean shot down the straight”.

But Japanese photographer Minami Hiroyuki was on the left side which bore the brunt of the crash. He suffered a concussion.

“It was chaos in there, he was on the ground, a bit dazed,” Hart said. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK’ and got up and tried to shoot a bit more. Then he sat down again and that’s when we knew it was not so good.

“Initially no one came up – we had to call for the medics below to come up and assist him.”

Local photographer Chan Weng-wang, who had been standing below the bunker at the corner, suffered a liver laceration, while track marshal Chan Cha-in suffered cuts to the face, an abrasion of the upper abdomen wall and a fractured jaw.

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“From the time we got up from the floor to the time we looked over, it was roughly 40 seconds and there were already two marshals on the scene with Sophia and checking her,” Hart said. “Then another 30 seconds and there were ambulances and medics, so the response was very fast.

“There were two guys taken, they were around the car. One was under the car slightly at one point. They got him out very fast, I think the other was hit by debris.

“They were assisted very quickly. We saw them taken off out the back of the bunker on stretchers. You know they’re conscious and alive but don’t know what’s happened.”

After regaining his bearings. Hart surveyed the damage in the bunker.

“We said to each don’t go over there to the left – you could see the whole back of the bunker was blown out,” Hart said. “We stayed to the right but the whole structure had definitely shifted a fair amount.

“We couldn’t get out through the back exit, that had all been pushed down. There was a slight gap there where we eventually made our way out.”

Floersch’s Van Amersfoort Racing boss, Frits van Amersfoort, said she was “lucky to be alive” and must have had “an angel on her shoulder”. The photographers had an equally close shave.

“The bunker is quite a popular spot for photographers, normally you can have up to 10 people in there at a time,” Hart said.

“You have to apply for the slot, and you get your allocated race. If it had been full, then it could’ve been a lot more serious. It was just luck on that day, at that time, there was no one else on that left side shooting.”

Hart said it had taken a few days for what had happened to sink in, though Van Amersfoort Racing sent him an email on Thursday.

“They wanted to reach out and check I wasn’t hurt, which shows they care,” Hart said. “They said they were extremely happy to hear I wasn’t physically injured, that it must have been quite an intense experience, and that they were hoping I was well.

“It was very good, I appreciate them reaching out, it’s something they didn’t have to do. It shows they’re thinking of everyone.”

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Hart stressed he has no intention to pursue legal action against the race organisers.

“We all signed waivers at the start, when you apply for a pass and pick it up. Everyone is aware of the risks, it’s dangerous, that’s part of it,” he said.

“We’re doing our job. No one expected it. It’s one of those freak things. It’s definitely an experience I won’t forget.

“In some ways it’s good we’ve been there to document it and we’ve all come out of it OK. It won’t stop me shooting motorsport.”

You can follow Christiaan Hart’s photography on Facebook