Wisconsin, USA, August 5. Champ Car driver Cristiano da Matta is fighting for his life after a freak and horrific accident during testing at the picturesque Road America racetrack in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
The Brazilian suffered head injuries after his car collided with a deer on the woodlands circuit.
He is intensive care in the Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, Wisconsin.
Da Matta, the 2002 Champ Car champion was testing his Rusport Lola-Ford in the series’ final Thursday practice Open Test session. It’s estimated he was running at 180mph when the deer bounded on to the track between turns five and six.
Eyewitnesses said the deer was hit by the right front of the car, and thrown on to the cockpit area hitting da Matta's head.
Da Matta was knocked out and the car charged out of control into a tyre wall.
Da Matta was helicoptered to the medical centre in Neenah, Wisconsin, where emergency surgery was performed.
Da Matta, nicknamed Shorty, won the 2002 Champ Car series with Newman/Haas before moving to Formula 1 with the fledgling Toyota team in 2003. His best F1 finish was sixth, and he ended the season 13th in the drivers' standings with 10 points, but ahead of teammate Olivier Panis. In 2004, he scored three points before being replaced by fellow Brazilian Ricardo Zonta in mid-season.
In a statement the Toyota team said last Friday that when he was with the team, “Cristiano was always a fighter and everyone involved in the team wishes him the best as he fights for his recovery.”
After returning to Champ Car, da Matta raced with PKV Racing in 2005, moving to Dale Coyne Racing at the start of 2006. When Rusport fired A.J. Allmendinger, da Matta moved there. His best finish with Rusport was on the streets of San Jose at the end of last month. He finished second ahead of teammate Justin Wilson.