Simona de Silvestro’s effort at Texas came to an inglorious end on Saturday night. After an accident that left her stranded on track with the right sidepod spouting flames, it took the IndyCar travelling safety crew 40 seconds to extract her from the car. Apparently, the fire hose that they have attached to the safety truck failed and the fire bottles that they brought to bear on the blaze proved insufficient for the task. This resulted in one of the crew members forcefully yanking Simona from the car.
Simona escaped with only minor burns to her right hand and has been fully cleared to compete at Iowa next weekend. But this could have been far worse. Drivers are urged to stay in their cars until the safety crew has evaluated an accident. If Simona had incurred a head, neck or back injury in her accident, yanking her from the car could have been a bad course of action.
The IRL has already owned up to this safety catastrophe. They recognize that this level of response is unacceptable. Luckily this time, there were no bad injuries. But you have to wonder how Holmatro feels. They sponsor the IndyCar safety travelling safety crew and they provide much of the rescue equipment that the safety crew uses. The nature of the hose failure is unknown at this time.
Here is the IRL’s press release on this subject:
First and foremost, we make the safety of our competitors a priority when on the track. The primary hose on the series’ safety truck malfunctioned, so the safety team had to go to the backup of the bottles. All equipment is checked prior to going on track before every race. We are examining why the hose malfunctioned to ensure this equipment failure will not happen again.
Our Safety Team consists of approximately 24 highly-trained safety personnel with a minimum of 14 attending each event – 2 trauma physicians, 3 paramedics and 9 firefighters/EMTs. Team members have an average of 20 years of experience in their respective areas. The safety team is recognized for its high standards and high performance and this problem will be addressed.
Penske, Power and the Fuel Nozzle
But that is not the only safety related problem we have seen recently. At Indy, Will Power was released from his pit before his fuel nozzle was disengaged from the car. The fuel nozzle broke loose from the hose and remained attached to the car as it left pitlane. Power brought his car up to speed and remained on track for at least 2 full laps, all the while distributing bits of the nozzle onto the racing surface. race control brought out a yellow due to the debris and gave Will the black flag for leaving pitlane with pit equipment still attached to the car.
Once again, it is good that nobody was seriously injured but the incident itself shows poor oversight by race control. It appears that the IRL did not learn much from the death of Henry Surtees or Felipe Massa’s near tragic incident last year. Those were freak accidents, one caused by a bouncing tire from a racing incident immediately ahead of Surtees on the track, the other caused by a spring that fell out of a cars suspension. Why do I bring this up? Power’s fuel nozzle could have fallen off the car and caused another freak incident.
The fact that Power was even allowed by race control to leave the warmup lane is disturbing. Beyond that, it is reprehensible that Penske allowed Power to get up to speed and pass up pitlane twice hoping for a yellow so they could remove the nozzle without causing further damage to their race strategy. Simply put, Power should have been excluded from the race the moment he passed up pit entry on his out lap. That fuel nozzle was a known chunk of debris that could dislodge from Power’s car at any time. Unlike the other two incidents listed above, that chunk could have made contact with a car going 230mph with concrete walls all around.
The IRL would do well to reevaluate their safety procedures. Due to the speeds and the concrete walls surrounding, IndyCar is easily one of the most dangerous sports on the planet. The IRL has done well since their inception of being on the leading edge of safety technology, and rightly so because if they were not, the whole sport could be shut down by government oversight and public opinion. With new sponsors onboard (IZOD, Holmatro, etc..) the IRL has to be very careful that they continue to set the standard for racing safety or these newfound partnerships could disappear. Not to mention the human lives that could be lost.
Racing is dangerous enough as it is without the added danger of burning up in your car due to malfunctioning safety equipment or losing your life to a fuel nozzle hitting you in the face.