A FERRARI driver who died yesterday after hitting a wall on a race track was estimated to have been driving at 190km/h at the time.
Andy Bass was taking part in the Hawke's Bay Club's annual track day at the Taupo Motorsport Park in New Zealand when he crashed his 360 Spider into a wall of tyres about 1pm.
The construction company director was rushed to Taupo Hospital in a critical condition but died.
An 18-year-old passenger, described as a friend of Mr Bass, walked away from the crash with minor injuries.
One of the first on the scene was fellow club member Don Thompson, a doctor, who did first aid on Mr Bass.
"One of the guys here had a pretty powerful car," Dr Thompson said.
"The weather here was a bit cool and maybe that contributed to the tyres not being right, but he just spun and hit a wall.
"I was the only doctor up there so they called me over. We did the usual stuff that you might do and then the ambulance came along."
Dr Thompson said Mr Bass - a director of Florida Construction and 458 Construction, which were incorporated in 2010 - was popular and well respected by club members.
"It's really just an awful tragedy."
The 18-year-old passenger suffered the full impact of the crash but was able to walk away. "He was pretty upset ... [It is] an incredibly terribly sad business," Dr Thompson said.
Taupo Motorsport Park track manager Ian Bowater said the car was "reasonably badly damaged".
"It came off the track at speed and hit a wall of tyres. It would have been doing 190km/h when it left the circuit. Our condolences go out to the family."
While Mr Bass' fatal crash was the first at the track, there had been serious incidents in the past, but rigorous safety protocols were in place.
"When a private club wants private hire of the race track, they inspect the circuit before they go on to it," Mr Bowater said. "They sign an agreement to say that, 'Yes, we're happy with the track' and FIA Grade 2 licence and a MotorSport NZ Grade 1 licence - it's one of the highest-graded tracks in New Zealand.
"Each driver, after they go through a rigorous driver's briefing by the organisers of the club, sign an indemnity - taking all blame away from the circuit and the car club; it's a standard form that all race tracks in New Zealand have."
Hawke's Bay Club members participating in the track day were required to wear helmets and fireproof clothing. Their vehicles had also to be registered, warranted and mechanically safe, and comply with Motorsport NZ regulations, the club's website states.
MotorSport NZ general manager Brian Budd said that as the track was being hired privately at the time of the crash, it wasn't subject to the organisation's rules. "We've got no jurisdiction over it."
Hawke's Bay Club president Alan Cooper said Mr Bass had joined the club only recently. He said he didn't know him well, but his home had been re-piled by Mr Bass around 30 years ago. "He's an old acquaintance and he'll be sadly missed."
Mr Cooper said the track days were an annual event and around 20 of the club's members attended this year.
"I know they're very strict on safety and they try to do their best. It's a tragedy for us."
He said Mr Bass had put a fresh pair of tyres on his Ferrari just minutes before crashing. "They'd just stopped for lunch and had a bit of a rest and let the marshalls have a rest. He put some brand-new tyres on. How that impacts, I don't know."
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton described Mr Bass as "a hell of a nice guy". He said he had lunch with him 15 minutes before the crash. "It was an incredibly sad ending to the day."
The Ferrari 360 Spider is a 400-horsepower vehicle with a top speed of more than 290km/h. It accelerates from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Secondhand, it sells for around $150,000.
Police said the serious crash unit was investigating the crash on behalf of the coroner.
An acquaintance of Mr Bass who did not want to be identified told Hawke's Bay Today that the crash victim had moved to Hawkes Bay recently from Australia, after spending about 30 years overseas.
- additional reporting: Harrison Christian, Hawke's Bay Today
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