Vintage News

9/13/2013 - Historic Trans-Am Crash at W. Glen Hospitalizes Local Photographer

Watkins Glen, NY - A local reporter-photographer was evacuated by helicopter and hospitalized last Sunday for injuries suffered when a vintage Trans-Am race car lost control and hit a tire wall at Watkins Glen International during historic car races held at the 3.37-mile road circuit. The car's impact into the tire wall knocked the guardrail behind it some four feet back, striking the man and throwing him 15 feet into a creekbed, where he lay unconscious. Nearby corner workers rushed to his aid immediately.

Ron Levanduski, 58, was released from the hospital yesterday (Thurs.) following surgery the day before to repair compound fractures in his upper left arm, two broken ribs and a "slight concussion," he told VM, shortly before leaving Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, PA. Surgery was delayed to to concerns about infection from dirt in his wounds.

Levanduski was photographing the 4th lap of the New York Governor's Cup race featuring the Historic Trans-Am group in the "Toe of the Boot" (Turn 7) section of the track when the No.16 1968 Penske Camaro of Bill Bryan lost control while attempting a pass of another car from the inside lane of the uphill right-hander. Levanduski told VM it looked to him like Bryan was making a late-braking pass attempt and he "saw a puff of smoke, like he was locking his brakes," but the car kept coming at what Levanduski, a former Formula Vee and Formula Atlantic racer, estimated at 120mph.

After the impact, Associated Press photographer Tom Ryder, who was shooting from a nearby spot, said Bryan was able to exit the crumpled car before going to the ground, according to a report in the Elmira Star-Gazette, for whom Levanduski was shooting. Phil Barnes, manager of security at WGI was quoted by the paper as saying Bryan told him he lost his brakes. Bryan told VM through a spokesman that he had no comment, other than to say he was glad he was wearing his head/neck device. The Sportscar Vintage Racing Assn., which sanctioned the races, has mandated such driver safety devices for all its participants. Both Bryan and Levanduski were evacuated to the track's infield medical center (where Levanduski said he woke up) and choppered to hospitals. Bryan was treated and released, according to the Star-Gazette report.

Levanduski told VM, "I only had time to turn to my right, or I wouldn't be talking with you right now," explaining that his injuries could have been much more severe if the guardrail had hit his front instead of his left side. From his hospital bed, he noted that he appreciated a bouquet of flowers decorated with checkered flags that had been delivered with a note from SVRA. The newspaper quoted SVRA president/CEO Tony Parella as saying, "We're sad this happened. I wish both driver and photographer a speedy recovery. Our prayers go out to their families."

The Camaro's crash was not the only accident at the vintage race weekend, which had more than 300 cars participating, but no other injuries were reported. It's not unusual for such accidents to occur at the Glen, as its multiple turns, steep elevation changes and high speeds, coupled with minimal runoff areas and guardrails alongside combine to make it challenging for even the most skilled drivers.

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