Company director killed at HB club event

By Harrison Christian, Brendan Manning

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INSPECTION: Police go over the scene of the fatal car crash at the Taupo Motorsport Park yesterday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
INSPECTION: Police go over the scene of the fatal car crash at the Taupo Motorsport Park yesterday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

UPDATED: Police have named the driver of a Ferrari killed in a high speed crash as Andrew Gordon Bass, 61, of Napier.

Mr Bass, a director of Florida Construction and 458 Construction, died in Taupö Hospital from injuries received when his vehicle collided with a tyre wall.

The Police Serious Crash Unit is investigating the crash on behalf of the Coroner.

At the time of the crash Mr Bass was wearing fireproof racing overalls, a crash helmet and a safety belt.

Mr Bass was taking part in the Hawke's Bay Club's annual track day when he crashed his Ferrari 360 Spider into a wall of tyres about 1pm.

An 18-year-old male passenger, described as a friend of Mr Bass, survived the crash with minor injures.

Taupo Motorsport Park track manager Ian Bowater said the tragedy happened during the club's annual track day.

"The car was reasonably badly damaged, it came off the track at speed and hit a wall of tyres. Our condolences go out to the family."

Hawke's Bay Club president Alan Cooper said Mr Bass had joined the club only recently.

He didn't know him well, but said his home had been re-piled by Mr Bass about 30 years ago.

"He's an old acquaintance and he'll be sadly missed."

The track days were an annual event and about 20 club members had attended this year.

"I know they're very strict on safety and they try to do their best. It's a tragedy for us."

One of the first on the scene was fellow club member Don Thompson, a doctor, who performed first aid on Mr Bass.

"One of the guys here had a pretty powerful car. 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," Mr Thompson said.

"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."

Mr Thompson said Mr Bass was a good, popular man who was well respected by other club members. "It's really just an awful tragedy."

The 18-year-old passenger had walked away from the crash.

Mr Bass had put a fresh pair of tyres on his car minutes before crashing, Mr Thompson said. "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 said he enjoyed lunch with Mr Bass 15 minutes before the crash and he had seemed a very nice person.

"It was an incredibly sad ending to the day." While it was the first fatal crash at the track, there had been serious incidents in the past and rigorous safety protocols were in place, Mr Bowater said.

"When a private club wants private hire of the race track, they inspect the circuit before they go on to it. 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 drivers' 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 taking part in the track day were required to wear helmets and fireproof apparel. Their vehicles must also be registered, warranted, mechanically safe and comply with Motorsport NZ regulations, the club's website said.

The Serious Crash Investigation Unit was investigating the incident on behalf of the coroner, police said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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