Supercar driver dies after crash

V8 death 'unusual'

Last updated 00:29 26/02/2008

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V8 Supercars boss Wayne Cattach said there were no indications of safety equipment failure in the crash that resulted in the death of race driver Ashley Cooper in Adelaide.

Cooper, 27, from Ulladulla in New South Wales, died yesterday from injuries he suffered when his vehicle crashed during the second-tier Fujitsu series at the Clipsal 500 meeting last Saturday.

Cattach defended current safety measures and street circuits, saying it was an unusual accident and he had seen other drivers walk away from worse looking crashes.

"This one didn't look all that bad to me," he said.

It was the second serious accident in the Fujitsu series following New Zealand driver Mark Porter's death at the Bathurst 1000 meeting in 2006.

FAMILY JEWEL

The rookie V8 Supercar driver Ashley Cooper's hero was Dale Earnhardt, the NASCAR legend who died in a jolting crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

Yesterday, in a sad coincidence, the father of two died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital from head injuries.

Racing in the second-tier V8 Supercar series, the Fujitsu series, Cooper's Holden Commodore clipped the inside wall entering a notorious turn and slammed into the outer concrete perimeter barrier at about 200kmh.

His parents, Alan and Maree, and his wife, Casey, were at his bedside when he died. His five-year-old daughter, Ella, and three-year-old son, Bailey, his sisters, Rebecca and Rachael, and his brother, Aaron, also spent time with him yesterday.

Alan Cooper said: "He was the pinnacle of our family. We revolved around Ashley. He was one of the most likeable and respected people that you would meet, and that's not his father saying it, that's just the truth. The guy was just one of the nicest fellows you could ever, ever meet."

Cooper started racing at the age of 18. "He had the total support of his family and friends," his father said. "He never liked the limelight, he only wanted to motor race. He had no ego. He wanted to go racing and be Ashley Cooper - just himself, he never wanted to be anybody else."

Cooper was the 2006 V8 Ute rookie of the year and two weeks ago took delivery of a V8 Supercar from driver and team owner Paul Morris for the 2008 season.

"It was a real family thing; they were doing it [V8 racing] as a family," Morris said. "It was Ashley and his dad and a few of his mates. It's a real shame. He was good young guy who loved his family and his racing."

The death of Cooper and several other jarring crashes during the Clipsal 500 weekend have ignited debate about whether V8 Supercars have become too powerful for some temporary street circuits.

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The television commentator and former V8 driver Neil Crompton said: "Tracks and race cars are safer today, and drivers' protective gear has progressed tremendously since the 1960s and 1970s, so it shakes everyone so much more when something like this happens."

-AAP and SMH

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