The 2011 Indy Car Championship has been decided in disastrous fashion with a fiery 15-car wreck. Briton Indy 500 champ and Gold Coast 600 V8 participant Dan Wheldon has died in hospital.

Update: Dan Wheldon has died in hospital this morning, Sydney time. RIP. Our thoughts are with his family and the Indy Car Series drivers. He was 33.

The accident happened on lap 12 of the final round of the championship in Las Vegas. A bumper 33-car field was entered with a massive $5 million on offer if a non-regular driver could win the race. Prior to the race itself, drivers had shown serious concern over the 225 mph (362kph) speeds that cars were reaching around the 1.5 mile oval.

The accident began when Sebastian Saavedra’s car clipped James Hinchcliffe running into turn one. Neither car could hold it together and carnage ensued into turn two, with some cars ending up either upside down or on fire. Also involved in the crash was Paul Tracy, Jay Howard and, of course, Will Power.

Fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe, former Toyota F1 test driver and Gold Coast 600 V8 participant, said the crash was like nothing he had ever seen in his career.

“I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ryan Briscoe said. “The debris we all had to drive through the lap later, it looked like a war scene from Terminator or something. I mean, there were just pieces of metal and car on fire in the middle of the track with no car attached to it and just debris everywhere. So it was scary, and your first thoughts are hoping that no one is hurt because there’s just stuff everywhere. Crazy.”

Wheldon, 33, has been air-lifted to hospital in a critical condition. Four other drivers including Power have also been taken to hospital with health complaints. The race has been red flagged with Scot Dario Franchitti declared the 2011 champion, successfully defending his 2010 crown.