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Alboreto says mechanical failure caused Senna’s crash

March 17, 1997

IMOLA, Italy (AP) _ Former Ferrari driver Michele Alboreto said in court Monday that a mechanical failure caused Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Alboreto, the second driver to testify in the trial of six top Formula One officials charged with manslaughter in the death of the three-time world champion, made his statement after studying the footage of the accident in court.

``I believe that the cause of Ayrton Senna’s crash was a mechanical failure,″ Alboreto said. He added, however, he could not be specific about the kind of mechanical failure.

Alboreto, who drove with Ferrari for five years during the 1980s, escaped unhurt in a high-speed accident at the Tamburello corner in 1991 _ the same corner of the Imola circuit where Senna crashed May 1, 1994.

Alboreto’s crash, when he drove with the Footwork team, and other accidents at the same corner sustained by Nelson Piquet, Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese, all were caused by mechanical failures, prosecutor Maurizio Passarini alleged.

``Mechanical failures are possible in auto racing given the extremes of the sport,″ said Alboreto, who left Formula One after winning five of 194 Grand Prix races.

The prosecution in the trial, which opened last month, contends that a badly modified steering column cracked in Senna’s Williams-Renault, causing the crash.

Senna died of massive head injuries after failing to make the Tamburello corner and crashed into a concrete wall.

Frank Williams, head of the Williams-Renault team, team technical director Patrick Head and team designer Adrian Newey are among those on trial.

Race organizer Federico Bendinelli, circuit manager Giorgio Poggi and race director Roland Bruynseraede have been charged on grounds that the Tamburello corner did not meet safety standards.

``The swerve on the right of Senna’s car leads me to think of a mechanical failure,″ Alboreto said after testifying. ``I don’t believe small bumps on the asphalt could have caused a F-1 car to speed off the track.″

Italian defense lawyers for Frank Williams and Head contended earlier in the trial that the condition of the asphalt at the Imola circuit had not been properly investigated.

The Tamburello corner has been redesigned and the track has been resurfaced since Senna’s fatal crash.

The court also heard testimony Monday from an Italian race steward and a Renault official about data-recording boxes recovered from the wrecked car after the crash.

The Williams box recorded data from the car’s gearbox and chassis while the Renault box recorded engine data.

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