January 26, 2014 — via Associated Press — AP Photo/John Raoux — DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Memo Gidley suffered a broken back and injuries to his left arm and left leg that required surgery after a horrific two-car crash Saturday less than three hours into the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
Gidley’s spinal fracture is unstable and will require additional surgery, according to a statement released by the International Motor Sports Association on Sunday morning.
Gidley underwent surgical procedures on his left arm and left leg at Halifax Health Medical Center. He continues to be evaluated.
Matteo Malucelli, the other driver involved, was held overnight for evaluation and is resting comfortably.
Both were awake and communicating after being admitted Saturday night after the crash occurred in the sports car endurance race, according to David Hart, IMSA director of communications.
Gidley’s No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP slammed into the Ferrari driven by Malucelli 94 laps into the 24-hour race on Daytona’s infield road course.
Gidley was taken directly to Halifax — located about a mile from the speedway — bypassing the infield care center after rescue workers extricated him from the car. Malucelli, who did not have to be cut from the car, was also transported to Halifax.
The race was red-flagged as rescue workers tended to both drivers, placing them on stretchers then into waiting ambulances. It was the first red flag in the race since 2004, when heavy rain brought the race to a stop.
The race resumed about 90 minutes after the accident happened.
At the time of the wreck, Gidley was running fourth in the race, which was about to pass the three-hour mark. He was racing down a high-speed section of the track between Turns 3 and 4, headed into the sun. Malucelli was ahead of him, reporting to his pits that he was without power and pulled over to the left.
Gidley, however, slammed into the car as he negotiated that section of the track.
Alex Tagliani, competing in the PC class, said his thoughts were with Gidley and his family.
“Hopefully he’s OK,” Tagliani said. “He’s in good hands with the doctors. Let’s cross our fingers.”
Malucelli, 29, a native of Italy, was running in the top 16 overall and third in the GTLM class at the time of the crash.
“It’s difficult to say what happened,” said Olivier Beretta, a co-driver in the No. 62 Ferrari with Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni. “The sun is going down, and in this corner you don’t see very well. I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know what happened, but the most important thing right now is Matteo.”
Gidley’s car started from the pole position with Alex Gurney behind the wheel. Jon Fogarty and Darren Law are the car’s other drivers for the race.
The car had extensive front-end damage, and the track was littered with debris.
“These things happen in racing, but you never expect it to be your car and your team,” Law said. “I don’t know what’s going on. I hope he’s OK. I’m pretty sure we’re out of the deal. I really don’t know what happened. I looked up on the TV and saw we were in a crash. We’re going to the hospital now.”
Drivers complained about the sharp glare from the setting sun in two places — as they crossed the start/finish line on the speedway portion of the course, and as they exited Turn 3 in the infield portion of the course and began accelerating toward Turn 4, a slight left-hand kink.
Gidley’s car struck Malucelli’s car just before they reached the kink.
“(The sun) was very, very bad for the first part of my stint,” said Christian Fittipaldi. “I’m 200 percent certain that Memo had that problem. When he came out of Turn 3, he basically couldn’t see anything. He just nailed the car right in front of him.”
Asked if IMSA officials should have used a yellow flag in the areas affected by sun, Fittipaldi said, “That’s a good question. Very good question, actually. You have a point.”
IMSA officials said they would review the accident after the race.
“We currently are managing the race and closely monitoring the situation back in the hospital,” said Scot Elkins, IMSA vice president for competition and technical regulations. “We subsequently will evaluate the accident.”