Racer Ashwin Sundar death: What is likely to have gone wrong

March 19, 2017 at 10:21 pm

The car comes speeding from Sathya Studio Road on to DGS Dinakaran Salai and encounters a speed breaker. Police say the car is travelling at about 120 kmph.


The BMW Z4 is normally considered a safe ride, but sports cars are vulnerable at high speeds on narrow Indian roads.

The car crash early on Saturday, which claimed the lives of national racing champion Ashwin Sundar and his wife Niveditha, is a tragic reminder of the need for increased safety on Indian roads.

Ashwin was driving a BMW Z4, a two-seater, two-door roadster, which is inherently a ‘very safe car’ from the German luxury brand. But, even as the police investigate the cause of the crash and the subsequent fire and the car manufacturer refuses to offer an official statement of the cause until the investigation is completed, it may be worthwhile to separate fact from fiction so that we may learn to be safer on the road.

Ashwin Sundar seems to have been behind the wheel of a four-year old BMW Z4. It would be highly speculative yet to mention whether there were any modifications to the vehicle that may have led to a compromise with regard to its safety performance. But, the car had at least two previous owners who may have made changes to the vehicle. Only the police investigation can confirm if there were any extensive modifications — externally or internally.

The car comes speeding from Sathya Studio Road on to DGS Dinakaran Salai and encounters a speed breaker. Police say the car is travelling at about 120 kmph.

The driver seems to miss the speed breaker that was not illuminated. At the speed at which the car is travelling, it goes over the speedbreaker and flies up.

Then, a sequence of events follow that indicate that the driver had lost control of the car. The car hits a median, veers and runs on to the pavement

The car then crashes into the space between the compound wall and a tree. Immediately, it bursts into flames. Onlookers are unable to rescue the driver and passenger.

One of the common problems with sports cars being driven at high speeds on narrow Indian roads is the lower level of visibility they offer through their slim windscreens and windows, which then affects reaction time.


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From the initial reports, it seems like the Z4 swerved off the road, hit a tree and was possibly wedged between the trunk and a wall behind it. There is a possibility that the doors were jammed between the wall and the tree, thereby trapping the occupants. The 2012 Z4, like most cars of today, was designed with door locks that are meant to release in the event of a collision. These cars are extensively tested to ensure that the doors remain capable of being opened in the event of a head-on or front-offset, rear-offset or even a side-impact collision.

Even though it would be speculative to make the claim, there is a possibility that Ashwin and his wife may have survived the crash. But, the ensuing fire completely destroyed the car and led to the death of its occupants. It is only in the movies that car crashes always result in an explosion and a raging fire. In real life, cars catch fire after an accident only rarely. In fact, the global average is less than 5%. Most modern cars have systems that are designed to cut off the ignition and fuel supply in the event of a collision. We need to wait for the investigation to come up with the possible reasons for the blaze.

(S. Muralidhar is the Motoring Editor, The Hindu Business Line)

the hindu

Nivethida sundar is a Sri Lankan Lady who had just passed the final MBBS and qualified as a  Medical Doctor.