Paqpaqli tragedy: Super car had traction control switched off when it ploughed into people

Porsche engineers told the court on Tuesday that the Spyder 918 had its traction control mechanism switched off and was being driven in racing mode when it crashed into spectators in the 2015 charity event

The Porsche 918 Spyder that crashed into the crowd at Hal Farrug in the 2015 Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina charity event • Photos: Malta Police Force
The Porsche 918 Spyder that crashed into the crowd at Hal Farrug in the 2015 Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina charity event • Photos: Malta Police Force

The supercar that caused the Paqpaqli għall-Istrina crash in 2015 was being driven in race mode when it smashed into spectators, the magistrate’s court heard.

The Porsche Spyder 918, also had its traction control mechanism switched off, at the time of impact.

The information emerged in court after a day-long sitting during which three Porsche engineers testified via video conference.

Porsche driver Paul Bailey and other members of the Paqpaqli organising committee stand charged with the tragedy in which several people were injured after the car careened off the track and ploughed into the crowd.

Three Porsche engineering experts, who formed part of a six-man team summoned to Malta to assist local experts after the crash, testified from Germany about their findings after they examined Bailey’s hyper car in 2015.

Thomas Gruenter, electrics and electronics specialist with the German car manufacturer since 2002, said the Porsche Spyder 918 had five driving programmes, which the driver could select at the press of a button on the steering wheel.

The driver could shift the driving mode from the least powerful e-power and hybrid onto the sports, race and hot lap modes.

In the latter two modes, the car develops maximum power of 900bhp.

During the diagnostic tests in Malta, the engineers established that at the moment of impact, the Spyder had been set on race mode, with its general and traction controls both switched off.

They explained that such stabilisation control was used in case the vehicle ended up in a critical position.

Gruenter said that when the car was switched on, all systems would automatically be activated. Switching them off required an action by the driver, he added, clarifying further that since 2015, this was prescribed by EU law.

Moreover, Porsche wanted to make sure that the car would revert to its original settings at the end of the drive, leaving it up to any successive driver to readjust the settings.

Once the traction control was switched off, the vehicle would give three different alerts, consisting of warning lights and an acoustic signal, as feedback to the driver, the expert continued.

Some 70 sensors all over the vehicle transmit data which provided information of the state of the car exactly at the moment of impact, the witness explained. This information also indicated that the reading of the tyre pressure was somewhat lower according to the last reading recorded.

Under cross-examination by Bailey’s defence lawyer, Giannella de Marco, the witness explained that the information collected was handed over in pdf form to Martin Bajada, the Maltese court-appointed expert who had first contacted the Porsche representatives via the Maltese importer for assistance in the investigation.

Gruenter said this protocol file was in readable form, neither damaged nor encrypted, as allegedly stated by another court expert appointed in the course of the magisterial inquiry.

Gruenter said it was not possible to determine the time when the traction and general controls were switched off, when asked by defence lawyer Stefano Filletti.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja is presiding over the compilation.

Police inspectors Josric Mifsud, Silvio Magro and Hubert Cini are prosecuting.

Giannella de Marco and Stephen Tonna Lowell are counsel to Paul Bailey.

Appearing for the various members of the organising committee are lawyers Joe Giglio, Filletti, Arthur Azzopardi, Michael Sciriha, Raphael Fenech Adami and Albert Zerafa.

Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia, Roberto Montalto, Michael Grech, Shazoo Ghaznavi, Alessia Zammit Mackeon and Reuben Farrugia are among the lawyers appearing parte civilefor the victims.

Lawyer Jason Azzopardi was assisting the Porsche witnesses in Germany during Tuesday's video call.


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