Macau racer André Couto is undergoing surgery at a Hong Kong hospital following a racing accident that resulted in a fractured vertebra in his lower back (L1).
The crash occurred on lap 15 of the third round of Saturday afternoon’s China GT Championship in Zhuhai, where Couto was driving under the colors of Spirit Z Racing at the wheel of a Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3.
Couto’s condition is said to be stable despite his injuries, according to sources including his father Carlos Couto, teammate Yuey Tan from Singapore, and the event organizers.
A China GT Championship spokesperson said the incident occurred after Couto “[lost] control of the Number 23 Spirit Z Racing Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3, which resulted in the car skating across the gravel trap and making [a] front-end impact into the tire barrier.”
The crash occurred at Turn 6 of the Zhuhai International Circuit (ZIC), a sharp right turn after a long high-speed section.
The organizers added that the accident might be related to “treacherous conditions” during the day, “in a race that was marred by multiple incidents triggering suspension of the race no fewer than three times”.
Couto was conscious immediately after the accident, and was transported to Sun Yat-sen University No. 5 Hospital in Zhuhai, where he underwent a computerized tomography (CT) scan that revealed a fracture to his L1 vertebrae.
According to both organizers and team members, the crashwould have taken place while Couto was driving at a speed between 160 to 200 km/h, meaning that he would have absorbed a major impact.
“Luckily we are racing drivers in the modern day or that would’ve been much worse news,” said teammate Tan at the time of the crash, referring to the full top-of-the-line protection equipment that both drivers use, as well as the security conditions of the car itself.
On Couto’s current condition, Tan said, “He’s still telling jokes and was well aware of everything going on. He was also even doing a post-race debrief while lying down. It was a tough moment for all of us in the team, but he’s one of the strongest guys in motor racing, and I wish him a speedy recovery.”
Couto’s father said on Saturday that the driver “is in a stable condition, not in a life-threatening situation” and that he would be transported to Hong Kong “to continue further treatment.”
After spending the night at the hospital, Couto was airlifted to Hong Kong via a Medivac helicopter in the early hours of Sunday morning. He will undergo surgery and complete his recovery period in the neighboring city.