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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Indycar and Dan Wheldon

On the death of Dan Wheldon I have to say that I'm at a loss to really address it in any meaningful way.  I can only give my sympathies to His wife, children and his family and say that from my perspective I was only aware of Dan's abilities in a racing car.

Before he went to F2000 in the US, Autosport used to make much of his abilities in Formula Ford and put him down as a potential future F1 star.

Sadly that opportunity never arose so, from an F1 fan's perspective, I never really got to see him race other than in highlights showing him winning the Indy 500 and read about him as Rookie of the Year and Indy Champ.

I'm afraid that I've never been a great fan of the Indycar series and I'm also very sorry that these accidents seem to be relatively regular in that sport.  In F1 we are lucky that since Imola in '94 we have had no fatalities on the track but in Indycar in the same period there have been 5 deaths, 6 now, and several serious accidents.

I don't know the ins and outs of Indy racing or the safety measures which they have put in place over the years but I would point to Kubica's accident in Canada in 2007, Webber's in Valencia last year, Massa's horrific injury in Hungary 2009, Perez' crash at Monaco this year, and Ralf Schumacher at Indy in 2004.  The level of safety which has been put in place since 1994 is such that, in the majority of cases, the driver's have walked away from accidents which, pre '94 would have been likely to be fatal.

Watching Mosley last night on the news I was struck by the point he was making, that oval racing and the banking evolved due to the fact that the original cars didn't really do cornering particularly well at speed therefore the banking allowed higher speed racing to evolve.

Modern Indycars are well capable of cornering at speed a fact that is evidenced by the number of street circuits on the calendar so really I ask the question "has the series outgrown the ovals?".  Can they not leave them to Nascar and evolve the sport to increase the safety of the cars and drivers and future circuits?

Look at modern F1 circuits in comparison - we've moved on to a state where gravel traps, common in the '90's, are now replaced by large, tarmacked run-off areas; where modern designed circuits are wider and bigger and the fans are moved further and further away.  While I'm not a fan of the Tilke tracks there is no question but they are safer - a little duller perhaps and requiring gadgets like DRS and KERS and degrading tyres to liven them up - but safer.

F1 has its anachronism being Monaco - and these are necessary to celebrate the history of the sport - but Indy has the Indy 500 which could be its anachronistic track - it's bow to the history of the sport.  In light of the sad death of Dan Wheldon perhaps it's time for Indy to move on.