CERVINIA, Italy -- Bernhard Lehmann led East Germany to a 1-2 finish in the four-man event at the World Bobsled championships Sunday on a day marred by two spectacular crashes.
Lehmann, driving the East German I sled, clocked a total winning aggregate time of 4 minutes, 14.06 seconds for the four runs over two days on Cervinia's 1.5 kilometer Lac Bleu course. With clockings of 1:02.97 and 1:03.66 on a bright, sunny morning, he broke the track record for the second day in a row.
In second place was East Germany II, driven by Detlef Richter, in 4:14:63, half a second behind its sister sled. Switzerland I, piloted by Silvio Giobellina, finished third in 4:14.81.
But away from the medal contenders there were spills among the backmarkers.
Japan's No. 1 sled and the No. 1 bob of West Germany both hit the wall coming out of the perilous Curva Bianca (white curve) on Sunday's first run and crashed heavily as they skidded down the final part of the natural ice course.
Japanese driver Hiroshi Okachi, second in the starting list, was taken to a hospital in shock after suffering facial cuts as his sled slammed into the ice at 119 kph. Brakeman Naomi Takewaki also hurt his shoulder in the pile-up at the same spot where Soviet Union I crashed Saturday.
Half an hour later, West Germany I, with Anton Fischer in control, flipped on its left side coming out of Curva Bianca, shot up vertically while roaring through the finishing curve and slammed back to earth with the four-man crew hanging out of the cockpit. Crewmen Franza Neissner and Ewe Eisenreich were treated for knee injuries at the trackside clinic.
Sunday's two crashes brought the total of practice and race mishaps in the week-long, four-man event to five-all in the vicinity of Curva Bianca, a sweeping arc which leads into the straight before the finishing curve, where speeds can hit more than 130 kph.
Lehmann shattered the track record of 1:03.52 he set Saturday, shaving off more than half a second to clock 1:02.97 on the final run. Prior to Saturday, the course mark was 1:06.54, set last January at a World Cup meet.
Switzerland's No. 1 driver Giobellina had a chance for the silver medal after placing third fastest on the first run. But a slower performance on the determining heat nudged the Swiss back to third behind the powerful East Germans.
Switzerland's fine all-around performance was borne out by the No. 2 sled which took fourth place with a time of 4:15.31.
The host Italians finished fifth thanks to superb drives by Alex Wolf.
East German bobsled superiority might go into decline beginning next season due to changes in international rules on sled design.
The top-secret and sophisticated East German suspension will be outlawed in several months, placing the rival Swiss and Soviets on almost even terms with the modern masters of the sport.
'The East Germans are real professionals,' said Italian coach Giancarlo Torreani. 'Their training is more intense and they're extremely dedicated.'