Noosa racer and son badly injured in Targa Tasmania crash
MOTOR SPORT is dangerous. Just ask Noosa racing driver Rob van Wegen and his son Ben who survived a horror crash in this week's Targa Tasmania rally.
Rob was behind the wheel of the pair's race-prepared 1968 BMW 2002 Ti when he lost control at over 150kmh when cresting a hill, ultimately impacting a tree at high speed.
Immediately after the accident a fire broke out in the engine bay. Despite suffering a broken leg, co-driver Ben managed to open the mangled passenger door and use the car's fire extinguisher to put out the flames. "It was only then I realised I'd broken my leg; it's amazing what adrenalin will do," Ben said.
The younger van Wegen also had a broken rib, but Rob's injuries were even more severe. The veteran racer needed an operation on a compound fracture to the left leg as well as treatment for several broken ribs, fractured vertebrae and a bone chip to the right ankle.
While such injuries could hardly be described as lucky, Ben acknowledges that the outcome for both could have been a lot worse considering the severity of the accident. "In a road car crashing at that speed we'd have been killed," he said. "It's unbelievable how well the car held up considering; the strength of the safety equipment did what it should have and probably more."
The accident happened on stage two of this year's Targa Tasmania, which is the world's largest tarmac rally and now in its 25th year. It travels over 2000km with more than 40 competitive stages on closed roads, attracting up to 300 classic and modern race cars.
The father and son team are veterans of the Targa, the 2016 edition being Rob's 14th outing and Ben competing in his fifth. Sadly, this year's race will be the most memorable for the wrong reasons.
"We got airborne at over 150kmh going over a crest and landed awkwardly," Ben explained. "The car speared off into a big spoon drain, we went up on two wheels and into a tree after that. The impact moved the motor over to the driver's side about two feet."
Ben was full of praise for his fellow competitors who immediately helped the injured crew; the medical crew in the first intervention vehicle; the Tasmanian ambulance team and Launceston General Hospital where Ben and Rob were taken by ambulance after the crash.
All cars competing at Targa Tasmania are fitted with a RallySafe unit which uses satellite technology to alert organisers and other competitors should a car crash or spin. "The gyro in the device detected the accident, I hit "medical assistance required" and within two minutes the first intervention vehicle was on the scene with a medic," Ben said. "Dad had to be cut out of the car by the Jaws of Life."
Despite the incident both Ben and Rob say they are keen to race again when they recover: "It's still the most fun you can have with your pants on," Brisbane-based Ben said.
Dad Rob is a well-known Sunshine Coast motor sport figure being a founder member of the Noosa Beach Classic Car Club and a regular Noosa Hill Climb competitor alongside his son. Sadly, it appears the classic BMW, after years of loyal service, cannot be repaired.