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Rolex 24 at Daytona briefly stopped after horrific crash

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The Canadian Press
1/25/2014 8:53:28 PM
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli were admitted to a Daytona Beach hospital Saturday night for further testing following a two-car accident right before the three-hour mark of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

IMSA officials said both drivers were awake and communicating, but gave no other information about their conditions.

Gidley was driving for the pole-winning GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team. He had to be cut out of the No. 99 Corvette, which crumpled like an accordion when he plowed into the back of Malucelli's Ferrari.

The cars were heading into the kink in the infield portion of the track facing directly into the sun. Malucelli's car had apparently lost power -- his team said he radioed he was pulling out of the way -- as the cars headed into a high-speed turn.

At the same time, Gidley tried to lap a slower car. He pulled out to the left and tried to duck under the lapped car, apparently didn't see Malucelli off the pace, and drove directly into the Ferrari at nearly full speed.

The race was red-flagged as emergency workers tended to both drivers. They were placed onto stretchers, loaded into ambulances and taken to Halifax Health Medical Center, located roughly a mile outside the race track.

"This stuff, it happens, it's racing. But you never expect it to be your car, your team," said Gidley teammate Darren Law.

Olivier Beretta, Malucelli's teammate on the Risi Competizione team, saw a replay of the accident and wondered if the glare played a role in the wreck.

"It's difficult to say because it's the sun going down, and in this corner you don't see very well," Beretta said. "I don't know. I honestly don't know. The most important thing right now is Matteo, the rest I don't care. It's just Matteo and the other driver."

Many drivers inquired about Gidley's condition. Christian Fittipaldi passed by the accident scene before the race was stopped and was concerned for Gidley's well-being.

"At that point, conditions were really hard. The sun was setting. There were two points on the track where you couldn't see anything," Fittipaldi said. "One was at start-finish and the other point was coming out of Turn 3 and coming out of the kink. I imagined there was a slow car ahead of him and he couldn't see."

The clock ticked off roughly 90 minutes under combined red and yellow flag following the accident before racing resumed. The sun had gone down and the drivers had turned on their headlights by the time the field went green again.

The bizarre accident was yet another disappointment for the GAINSCO team, which was the surprising pole winner Thursday despite limited preseason testing and a thin budget that has the organization planning to run only five of the 13 events in the in the inaugural United SportsCar Championship season.

The odds were stacked against the GAINSCO team winning the race -- since 1994 only three pole winners have reached Victory Lane in the twice-around-the-clock endurance event -- but a strong showing would have sufficed.

Although the team won the pole in 2007 and finished second in 2008, it has finished no better than seventh since and had DNF's in 2010 and was 89 laps off the pace in 2012.

When racing did resume, the event got its feel good moment when Wayne Taylor came out of retirement to briefly get behind the wheel of the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette.

The 58-year-old last raced in 2010, in this event, but was talked into driving one stint as an opportunity to join the lineup with sons with Ricky and Jordan. The opportunity came about when Ricky rejoined the team that won the Grand-AM driver championship last season with Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli.

Wayne Taylor, despite his vocal reluctance to do much in the car, seemed to be on pace as he battled Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan.

"My Dad just held Tony Kanaan off for two laps. I have a very cool Dad!" Jordan Taylor posted on Twitter.

The plan had been for Ricky Taylor, who started the race, to turn the car over to his father. But the driver change came as the sun was setting, and the team decided at the last minute to instead have Angelelli drive second.

"When I got out of the car, there was a big glare and he has had trouble with his eyes and his old age," Ricky Taylor said, laughing slightly. "We would like to put him in in the nighttime, and preferably under yellow, because he's also a little on the shorter side. He has a big insert in his seat and we have to get him snug in there tight. We have to loosen our belts up a lot."

His sons said their father has been protesting competing in the event, but they believe he's secretly enjoying himself.

"After the race he will look back on it and be very happy that we made it happen and that we got through it," Ricky Taylor said. "He is hating it. He doesn't enjoy driving anymore. He always wants to get out of the car. But every time he is finished driving, he's happy."

Memo Gidley (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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