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Fittipaldi injured in early race crash

April 6, 1997

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (AP) _ Brazilian driver Christian Fittipaldi broke his right leg Sunday when involved in a spectacular crash with Gil de Ferran on the second lap of the Australian IndyCarnival Indy-car race.

Fittipaldi was trapped inside his car after the accident in which he was clipped from behind by de Ferran. Medical and emergency officials removed Fittipaldi from the car after about 10 minutes.

Fittipaldi, with an oxygen mask over his face, was conscious when taken by stretcher to the trackside hospital. After being stabilized, he was taken to a hospital, where he was scheduled to undergo surgery Sunday night for a compound fracture to his right leg.

``I remember everything,″ Fittipaldi said from his hospital bed. ``De Ferran hit me from behind and I hit the wall in front of the pit. The second hit was completely unbelievable, I went in head-on. I couldn’t feel anything in my right leg, so I was pretty worried.″

Parts of Fittipaldi’s car flew around the track at the end of the straightaway at the start of the second lap, with bouncing tires coming dangerously close to going over the wall and into the spectators.

``It was unfortunate,″ de Ferran said. ``We were going down the track and we ended up touching. I hope he’s OK.″

Race announcers estimated Fittipaldi was traveling at about 150 mph when the accident happened.

Michael Andretti, following behind the accident, had to dodge the chassis debris and also came close to being hit by the bouncing tires.

Officials ordered a restart becuase more than half the 28-car field had not completed the first lap. Scott Pruett then took advantage of a collision between Paul Tracy and Alex Zanardi to win the incident-marred race.

Zanardi, who started in his backup car after the accident, finished fourth. De Ferran, also in a backup car, was fifth.

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