October 22, 2003

Tony Renna becomes the 67th person to die at Indy: and the first to die there since Scott Brayton in 1996. Any chance we'll hear calls for increased safety in the IRL like we have in NASCAR?

posted by mr_crash_davis to other at 03:25 PM - 18 comments

Coming on the heels of Kenny Brack's launch into the fence at TMS, it seems like it's only a matter of time before something is done to slow the cars down. Oh, and hi everyone.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 03:31 PM on October 22, 2003

hello mr. davis. or do you prefer crash. or do we eschew brevity for the full mr_crash_davis? These things are important you know. They've caused many a tizzy in the past.

posted by lilnemo at 03:38 PM on October 22, 2003

It seems logical that, given the subject of my first post (and the user number I ended up with) that I just go by Crash, but I'm not picky about it.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 03:43 PM on October 22, 2003

welcome crash.... Saw this headline this morning, but it didn't give any indication of how serious his injuries were. From what I know of the IRL circuit, the cars are built for flat out speed, rather than handling, acceleration, etc. to help N.Amer manufactures salvage the exodus of fans to F1 a few years back. I'm not sure about calls for improved safety, as not much is gonna save you if something goes wrong while clocking 220 mph....

posted by garfield at 03:47 PM on October 22, 2003

crash it is then. Welcome. On Topic, though, admittedly, I know little of it... There is no way in Hell NASCAR or IRL do anything about this. Undoubtedly there will be an investigation, or at the very least a study. But little to nothing will change the speed at which these events are raced, nor the frequency of the crashes resulting therein. Both bodies understand that, though unfortunate, speed and hellacious crashes are the bread and butter of their sport. Without them, there is no sport.

posted by lilnemo at 03:48 PM on October 22, 2003

*waves at crash* I don't follow racing, but that wreck at the Texas Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago was amazingly horrific. Anyone know what Kenny Brack's condition is? I know they were treating him at Parkland, but he's been usurped in local news by the seperated Egyptian twins.

posted by Ufez Jones at 03:54 PM on October 22, 2003

Kenny was flown out of DFW to Indy yesterday, coincidentally, to start rehab.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 03:59 PM on October 22, 2003

And garfield, you're probably right. Think anyone would pay to watch restrictor-plate IRL racing?

posted by mr_crash_davis at 04:00 PM on October 22, 2003

not this cat.

posted by garfield at 04:04 PM on October 22, 2003

I don't know enough about it to speak confidently, but it seems that it took the death of a legend (and weeks of accompanying mass media coverage) for NASCAR to change its safety mandates.

posted by mbd1 at 04:08 PM on October 22, 2003

I think one question is whether there is something fundementally wrong with the IRL specs which makes the cars built be susceptable to becoming airborne? Renna, Brack, Mario Andretti, and others have all gone airborne in IRL cars this year, without th touching of wheels that usually launch open-wheel cars.

posted by gyc at 04:54 PM on October 22, 2003

gyc, great question. Now, where did I put my doctorate of Physics?

posted by garfield at 04:59 PM on October 22, 2003

How sad. Disclaimer: I'm a CART fan, and I dislike the IRL for what it did to open wheel racing in the USA. Now, coming in the aftermath of Kenny Brack's accident, I have to say that the IRL is fundamentally unsafe. The whole ethos of the IRL is to encourage side-by-side racing, with lots of passing. That's fine in theory, but in practice, it's just dangerous. The sorts of speeds these cars get up to is just insane. Two wheels coming together can lead to disaster, as we saw with Brack. Now I know there was no other cars involved with Renna, but 218 mph is just too fast when there are no run off areas. 218mph on the straights of Hockenheim may be OK. 218 on the bends of Indianapolis is not. I have my heart in my mouth every time the IRL races, and I will have the same fear when CART runs at Fontana. These cars just should not be running ovals. I saw CART at Brands Hatch earlier this year. That is the sort of track these cars belong on.

posted by salmacis at 05:18 PM on October 22, 2003

You beat me to it salamacis. I'll post it anyway: Couldn't part of the problem be the oval track? An oval track results in the cars constantly going 180-220ish MPH right against a wall. Compare that to a typical F1 track that has a variety of turns with sand traps and only short straight sections. An IRL accident at 200+ MPH into a wall is a hell of a lot more dangerous than a typical crash in F1, regardless of the safety equipment used. I remember Senna, and I know that F1 has had safety problems, but it seems like they've tried harder than their American counterparts to make the sport safer.

posted by dusted at 05:38 PM on October 22, 2003

To be fair, Senna's accident was in 1994 (I believe). That's nearly a decade without fatalities in F1. I know some people complain about the chicanes making circuits less interesting, but if it helps avoid nasty accidents then I'm all for it. The F1 cars have changed radically since 1994 as well. The wheel tethers, position of the driver, increased cockpit height etc have made these cars amazingly safe, considering the inherent dangers of the sport.

posted by salmacis at 06:16 PM on October 22, 2003

Yeah, I know, Senna died a long time ago. His death really affected me at the time because I was a teen obsessed with F1. He was my favorite driver: introspective, incredibly talented and hardcore enough to run Alain Prost off the track. I'm sure Renna has some young fans that are totally devastated today.

posted by dusted at 08:16 PM on October 22, 2003

Fundamentally, motorsport is dangerous. It seems reasonably obvious. If you're going to do 300 km/h, whether on a bike or in an open wheeler, sooner or later people die. Hell, you think concrete walls are too unsafe? Never watch the Isle of Man TT, rallying, or hill climbs.

posted by rodgerd at 09:10 PM on October 22, 2003

I'm a bit late to this thread, but I have a few thoughts. First, this weekend in Australia Mario Andretti was overheard talking to Dario Franchitti (former CART driver, now in IRL, but presumably looking for a ChampCar ride next year if he's travelling all this way). Mario was talking about the fundamental design flaws of IRL cars which cause them to become airborne so easily, and he also said that you couldn't pay him any amount of money to get into one of those again. I'm not pleased with IMS in how they handled the accident. After it happened they scrambled to repair the fence and take away any sign that there was an accident there, thus hindering any kind of investigation into the matter. They are more concerned with their image than they are finding what's wrong with their cars and drivers' safety. When I see a coverup like this it just makes my stomach turn. CART had a race in Germany at the Lausitzring this year with a field half full of rookies and not a single accident. What is the difference? They certainly weren't lacking close racing that day, anyone who watched the race could tell you that. I think it's partly that the mandated wing angles of the IRL cars make them too easy to drive. Juan Montoya said that his grandmother could drive one of those cars after he won the Indy 500. This would make the drivers less fearful and less alert when in the middle of a long race where they don't ahve to do anything but turn left now and then. I've also seen way too many drivers take huge risks in cutting off other drivers and trying to bump them into a spin. Open wheel oval racing is simply not the place for that kind of thing. As such, I don't think a series should base its entire schedule on oval racing, it's simply too dangerous, doubly so if the drivers get complacent about the risks involved, which they seem to be. Robin Miller in a recent column pointed out that there have been 86 IRL races and a total of 76 drivers hospitalized in that time. By any standard that's far too many, and there's no way you can justify it by saying 'motorsports is dangerous'. There's something fundamentally wrong with the IRL and they don't seem to want to ask themselves why. They're too busy fixing the hole in the fence and going on with their banquet this weekend like nothing happened.

posted by Space Coyote at 09:13 PM on October 25, 2003

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