Dan Wheldon, the two-time Indy 500 winner, has died after injuries sustained in a crash during the IndyCar Series finale in Las Vegas yesterday.
During the 12th lap of the race, the 33-year-old British driver – who had started in last place – was caught up a huge 15 car pile-up. He was unable to avoid the crashes in front of him, which sent his car into the fencing surrounding the track.
The championship's organisers had put up a $5 million prize if Wheldon, or any other driver who was not a regular in this year's IndyCar series, could successfully go from the back of the field to finish in first place.
The race was stopped immediately and he was airlifted to the nearby University Medical Centre in Las Vegas. The tragic news of Wheldon’s death from the injuries sustained was officially confirmed two hours later.
In 2005, the man from Emberton, Bucks became the first Englishman since the great Graham Hill in 1966 to win the Indianapolis 500.
The IndyCar chief executive Randy Bernard said: "IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today."
Canadian driver Paul Tracy said: "I saw two cars touch each other up in front of me and then I tried to slow down, couldn't slow down. Then Dan's car, from what I saw in the videos, came over my back wheel and over top of me. Just a horrendous accident."
Fellow driver Danica Patrick said: "It was debris everywhere across the whole track, you could smell the smoke, you could see the billowing smoke on the back straight from the car."
Following the confirmation of his death, the entire driving field reformed for five tribute laps (see video below). Scotland’s Dario Franchitti, who secured his third straight IndyCar series after the race, was in tears as he lined up for the tribute.
Wheldon, who lived in Florida, is survived by his wife Susie and young sons Sebastian and Oliver.