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
Earlier today Charlie Kimball joined the IndyCar “Mile High Club”. The aerodynamicists at Chevy and Honda have had almost 3 months to figure out how to keep these cars from flying. Obviously the “band-aid” approach hasn’t worked. They won’t get serious about this until a driver gets killed or maimed for fear of alienating the ghouls who think crashing is the best part of racing. Too much downforce = too much lift when reversed. Take away 25% of the downforce, give them 1000 bhp and put the racing back in the hands of the drivers. You would see higher speeds in the straights and lower speeds in the corners – and better racing.
IndyCar announced that it’s new areo consultant, Rube Goldberg, has come up with a solution to the “Flyin’ Dallara” phenomenon. Henceforth both Chevrolet an Honda will be rquired to close off the rear bumper panels on all superspeedways in order to decrease lift in the event a car suddenly reversing direction. This will effectively create a parachute behind each rear wheel, so, in the event that Mr. Goldberg’s calculations are wrong and the cars fly anyway, the parachutes will provide for a soft landing, not to mention a distinct reduction in straightaway speed. When asked why they didn’t simply remove the wheel guards altogether (and be like every other open wheel series) Mr. Goldberg stated that IndyCar always did things the hard way.
1. People watch racing to see cars compete on the track not at the keyboard in the pits. Strategy races suck.
2. IndyCar does not race in the rain, they race in the wet.
3. IndyCar lies to its fans, they stopped the race because they didn’t want more cars crashed, they don’t trust the drivers. Lightning was a BS excuse, the weather services showed no lightning within 100 miles of Belle Isle when they red flagged the race.
4. Graham Rahal will never be respected as a racer until he stops blaming somebody else for his problems, sometimes things just happen – suck it up and move forward. This is the same reason that no matter what he does Will Power will be no more than an asterisk in Indy Car history.
It has been reported that the rocker arm that failed causing James Hinchcliffe’s near fatal crash at Indy was manufactured in November 2011 and had 14,000 miles on it. In addition it was not even the current beefed-up iteration. Usually parts get upgraded by the manufacturer because there is a question about them. Did Dallara or IndyCar advise the teams of any concerns? From the manufacture date and the mileage (which I personally find incredible) it was the original part that was delivered with the original car 3+ seasons ago. I’m sure there are numerous “show cars” that have rocker arms with less mileage than this one. I cannot conceive of putting a driver in a car at a high speed oval with a single nut or bolt, much less a suspension part, with that kind of use and not meeting current spec. How many times has that part been stressed in 3 full seasons of racing. When was it last off the car? When was it last properly inspected? I don’t know how much it costs but probably not much more than a wrap and I’m sure that that car has been wrapped many times in the last 3 years. If a team’s budget is so small that it can’t afford replacement of basic suspension components it shouldn’t be competing at this level. If IndyCar is so dedicated to safety why aren’t they policing this more carefully.
Today IndyCar made its best attempt to date to emulate the 3 Stooges. Making up rules as you go along is not good management. Dumbing down qualifying is not good for fan relations. First and foremost experimenting with new, untested aero pieces at your flagship event is begging for disaster. Blind faith in wind tunnels and computer simulations is not foolproof and relying on it for the Indy 500 is just plain ignorance. Qualifying with new rules with 30 minutes of practice at the world’s greatest race diminishes the value and importance of the event. I’ve seen more interesting qualifying at Eldora Speedway and it only took 30 minutes. Today cost IndyCar tens of thousands of fans who couldn’t find the TV coverage and finally just gave up and went outside to enjoy the weather. I simply couldn’t stand the tension of the last row shootout. I used to say that IndyCar management was just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic but it’s too late for that – the ship is now at 90 degrees and sinking fast. Tell me, if you were a promoter or sponsor would you pay a sanctioning fee and advertising rights for an IndyCar race when they can’t even get the most important race right?
I don’t often agree with Robin Miller but he really nailed it today at racer.com.