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Old April 30th, 2001, 08:52 AM   #1
Magic Mtn Dan
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German probe says burst tyre likely crash cause

German probe says burst tyre likely crash cause

BERLIN, April 30 (Reuters) - A burst tyre was the probable cause of a fatal crash involving former Formula One driver Michele Alboreto, German investigators said on Monday.

The 44-year-old Italian was killed last Wednesday after losing control of his Audi R8 during a testing session for the Le Mans 24-hour race on the Lausitzring track, some 145 kilometres south of Berlin.

"Three independent experts and three further specialists from Audi and Michelin have succeeded in determining the probable cause of the accident," the state prosecutors office in Cottbus said in a statement.

"Based on the preliminary results of the intensive technical investigation it is assumed that a sharp object at first caused slight damage from the outside to the left rear tyre," the prosecutors said. "This let to a loss of pressure and shortly thereafter, at a speed of 320 kmh, the mechanical destruction of the tyre."

Alboreto was at the wheel on a straight section when his car went off the track, hit a fence and flipped over. He was killed instantly.

Lausitzring security adviser Klaus Steinmetz said last week that the rear-left tyre might have exploded, which would explain why the car suddenly went off to the right in ideal weather conditions.

Audi said the car involved in the accident had already completed thousands of kilometres on many circuits in preparation for the 2001 season without any problems.

Lausitzring manager Hans-Joerg Fischer said the accident had nothing to do with the track, a brand new state-of-the-art facility costing 310 million marks ($142.3 million) which was inaugurated in August last year and presented as the safest circuit in the world.

Alboreto won five grands prix in the 1980s and was a member of the Porsche team which won the 1997 Le Mans and the Audi team which finished third there last year.

The Italian driver competed in 194 Formula One races from 1981 to 1994 and achieved three of his five grand prix wins for Ferrari.

Alboreto moved to sportscar racing after bowing out of Formula One in 1994. He joined Audi in 1999.
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