Race tracks have lots of safety measures in place to prevent fans from running in front of cars while they’re driving flat-out. But those aren’t nearly as effective at keeping out animals — as Fernando Alonso recently learned.
While conducting his first oval test Wednesday in preparation for his upcoming Indianapolis 500 bid, Alonso struck two birds simultaneously on the back straight at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With as many upwards of 70,000 people concurrently streaming his five-hour shakedown, according to Motorsport.com, the ensuing explosion of feathers generated quite a lot of attention throughout the racing world.
Though the incident interestingly wasn’t the first time animals have wandered out onto a hot track. Here are five instances from multiple categories when furry, feathery and/or scaly creatures found themselves in the paths of oncoming race cars:
Codasur Rally Championship: dog
During a round of the FIA Codasur Rally Championship, a dog made its way onto the stage with a Mitsubishi Evo barreling down on it. This dog must have superhuman foresight, though, because it positioned itself such that the Evo jumped right over it. Rally stages actually are one of the only types motorsport venues that don’t do much to prevent people or animals from stepping into harm’s way, so we’re surprised this doesn’t happen more.
Bruno Senna, nephew of three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna, didn’t have the same luck when a dog snuck onto the Istanbul Racing Circuit. The Brazilian driver was going so fast when he made contact with it that his front suspension was completely destroyed. He was very shaken up after limping back to the pits, though when he arrived, his team had no idea what happened because it hadn’t yet seen a replay.
Alonso said if he encounters birds again during the Indy 500, he won’t try to avoid them, but fellow F1 driver Sebastian Vettel is a bit more animal-friendly. During the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel came across two seagulls parked directly on the racing line at the exit of Turn 1. Rather than continue as usual, Vettel locked-up and ran wide to avoid them.
It was twilight at Atlanta Motor Speedway when Kevin Harvick nearly hit what he thought was a cat during the 2014 Oral-B USA 500. As it turned out, however, the critter running across the track toward the infield was a squirrel. Maybe he just wanted to steal some nuts from fans who were camping on the infield.
We understand temporary tracks can’t always be as safe or secure as purpose-built ones, but the Marina Bay Street Circuit clearly has lots of room for improvement. After a British fan drunkenly meandered onto the circuit in the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix, a lizard followed suit in 2016. Thankfully, Godzilla’s stroll was during a practice session, rather than in the middle of a race, so Max Verstappen and his engineers had fairly lax reactions to the situation.