I hoped that I could wait to post this after a positive medical update for Justin Wilson was released but as of the last report I saw (Indy Star 8:05 AM) there was no such update. As those of you who read this blog know it is full of sarcasm, curmudgeonly comments and levity, there will be nothing like that in this post.
I’ve been around open wheel racing for nearly 60 years, ever since I started tagging along with my Dad to watch midgets at the Cincinnati Race Bowl in the mid 50s. In all of those years I regret to say that experienced way too many deaths and severe injuries. There was a time that it seemed like we would lose a sprint car driver almost every weekend. We have come a long way and thankfully we witness far fewer serious incidents. After every one of these serious injuries or fatalities we hear the same mantras “The only thing important is the recovery of the (concern for the family), nothing else has any meaning.”. None-the-less memory fades and we go back to the track, the TV, iPad. I refuse to believe that it is ghoulish cravings for carnage that brings most of us back, but I’m not entirely sure just what does bring us back. Crashes are exciting, until someone gets hurt, but they seem to increase attendance and TV rating so sanctioning bodies walk a thing line between mayhem and boredom.
Years ago drivers were exceedingly superstitious, to some degree they probably still are. There was always the myth of the “evil car”. It was usually a single car that seemed to be a magnet for serious crashes. We all know this is foolishness, but If I were ever to believe in such a. car it would be the current Dallara. It is not haunted but there is something wrong with it, at least on high speed relatvely flat ovals. As much a IndyCar and NBC try to present Wilson’s injury as freak accident it was not. While being hit in the head by a nose cone at 200+ mph is certainly freakish we must look beyond this and consider why the nose cone was flying through the air. This was in no way freak, in fact it was almost predictable. Look at the many spins at IMS and Pocono. The majority were very similar. In a corner the car goes from full stuck to full lose without warning and does a snap spin. There is no possibility of catching the car. The drivers are passengers at this point. This is a result of having a flat pedal the entire lap and taking on faith, not feel, that the car is going to stick because the engineers tell you it will.
I am no engineer but I have some idea how race cars function and even I can see that there is something other than driver error coming into play. Is a certain yaw or pitch causing the wing to stall? Is a suspension park flexing or binding at certain stresses? I ask the question: since this seems to be a problem with the design or function of the base chassis, since it happens to cars with either aero kit, what is drastically new and different about this Dallara in relation to prior iterations? The rear diffuser bumper pod configuration is the answer. As far as I know IndyCar is the only open wheel race car that has aero devices (other than the rear wing) astern of the rear tires so I say look there first.
What concerns me most is that IndyCar and the manufacturers either have a callous disregard for the well being of the drivers of a total inability to deal with issue, whatever the cause. I don’t believe it’s the former but even a remote possibility is chilling.
If we are going to be stuck with spec cars at least open up the field to other manufacturers to design an sell aero kits. Next we take away 25% of the downforce and give the drivers 800-1000 bhp. You would see overall speeds increase, faster in the straights, braking and lifting for slower corner speeds. The racing would be better and safer because it would be back in the hands of the drivers.
© Through the Catch Fence 2015