Van Amersfoort Racing team boss Frits van Amersfoort has called for changes to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps after a fatal accident in a Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) race last weekend claimed the life of Dutch racer Dilano van ’t Hoff.
MP Motorsport’s Van ’t Hoff died on Saturday after a collision with Adam Fitzgerald in wet conditions at the end of the second race. Fitzgerald suffered several broken bones.
The incident occurred just after the high-speed Eau Rouge–Raidillon corner complex, a high-speed left-right-left ascent that then sharply flattens as cars continue towards the Kemmel Straight. It was just a few metres from the location of Anthoine Hubert’s fatal accident in the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps.
The other driver involved in that incident, Juan Manuel Correa, sustained serious lower body injuries that left him unable to race for more than a year. Correa returned to F2 with VAR this year for his first full season since the accident.
Speaking to InsideF2 at a virtual media roundtable ahead of F2’s Silverstone round this weekend, Van Amersfoort, who also fields a team in FRECA, said it was time for a more serious revision to the Belgian track.
“I’m really in favour of changing the circuit. It’s an interesting point. It will be a controversial point, of course. We like Eau Rouge–Raidillon for its challenge,” he said.
“When you see it and you see these cars going through it, it’s of course wonderful to see, but in my opinion it’s simply too dangerous. In contrary to when I was young [and] racing was really, really dangerous, nowadays, racing is quite safe.
“From my point of view, we should change that corner even though it probably breaks with history. I think it’s good to realise that we don’t drive on the Nürburgring [Nordschleife] anymore after Niki Lauda’s accident, and that’s also for a reason,” Van Amersfoort said, referencing the three-time F1 world champion’s accident during the 1976 German Grand Prix that left him with severe burns.
“[Either] Spa will be changed, or especially the Eau Rouge–Raidillon section, or we don’t drive on Spa anymore with single-seaters. That’s my opinion.”
A violent multi-car incident during the 2021 24 Hours of Spa left former Formula 2 driver Jack Aitken with a lung contusion and a fractured collarbone and vertebra.
Calls for change intensified a few weeks later following a six-car pile-up at Eau Rouge in the 2021 W Series round that sent Beitske Visser and Ayla Ågren to hospital as well as a large accident for McLaren’s Lando Norris at Raidillon in a wet F1 qualifying session the next day. All drivers ultimately escaped from those incidents unhurt.
Circuit operators spent more than 20 million Euros on safety improvements the following winter, including the repaving of the Eau Rouge–Raidillon section and the expansion of the tarmac run-off area on both sides of the complex. The changes aimed to reduce the chances that a car would ricochet back onto the racing line after an impact as well as to enable the circuit to host motorbike racing.
Nevertheless, in the second Italian F4 race at the circuit in May of this year, VAR driver Ivan Domingues bounced back onto the racing line after an impact with the outside wall exiting Raidillon, whereupon two other drivers collided with his damaged car.
Van Amersfoort said that in light of these incidents, he was worried about returning to Spa for Round 11 of the 2023 F2 season later this month.
“We have to realise, since Anthoine and now Dilano passed away at more or less the same place, a lot of accidents, severe accidents, happen there,” the Dutchman said. “Of course, they were not fatal, but also in our own F4 team, I think it was three weeks ago [that] one of my guys … escaped. I mean, the car was a wreck.
“Sorry – what are we doing? We can’t just do nothing. To me, we should change it as quickly as possible because really, I’m quite concerned about going to Spa in three weeks. I really am.”
Last weekend at Spielberg, VAR driver Richard Verschoor dedicated his Feature Race victory – the team’s first in F2 – to his countryman and friend Van ’t Hoff, whose 2021 Spanish F4 Championship victory he had witnessed from the sidelines.
Images: Thomas Suer / ts-photo.de