Motor Racing: Irvine suspended after spectacular accident

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The Independent Online
Eddie Irvine, the Irishman who drives for the Jordan team, was banned for one grand prix and fined dollars 10,000 ( pounds 6,700) by the Interlagos stewards after a lurid mid- race accident which involved four cars and sent the Benetton of Jos Verstappen, making his Formula One debut, flying across the track at 180mph. The incident will also be passed on to the world governing body for further action.

Verstappen celebrated his 21st birthday this month, a couple of weeks before he discovered that he would be making his Formula One debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix in the second Benetton as a late replacement for the injured J J Lehto. Impressive in practice despite a career amounting to no more than 50-odd races of any kind, he was challenging Irvine for 10th place as they began the 36th lap.

Irvine, in turn, was closing up on Martin Brundle, but between them lay Eric Bernard's Ligier, a lap behind. Coming down the back straight, Verstappen pulled out to the left to pass Irvine's Jordan, which had its nose under Bernard's rear wing. The Benetton's front wheels were almost level with the Jordan's when Irvine, too, jinked left.

The two cars collided and slid side by side for a moment before Irvine slowed, allowing Verstappen to slew across the track in front of the bunch and to launch himself over Brundle in a barrel-roll that wrecked the Benetton and, in passing, split the Englishman's helmet.

An hour later nursing stiff necks, they were all giving evidence. Irvine's explanation - that the Ligier had braked unexpectedly and that he had not seen Verstappen because his mirror had come loose early in the race - clearly failed to convince the stewards.

When Verstappen returned to his pit, every mechanic took time off from celebrating Michael Schumacher's victory to shake their No 2 driver's hand. Mechanics watch the races on TV, too, in the pits, and are hard to fool, especially when their car is just being delivered back on a truck in the form of scrap metal. 'I enjoyed it all,' Verstappen said. We'll be hearing more of this one.

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