Cars, Formula 1, International News, Mercedes-Benz, Motorsports

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W11 EQ Performance debuts as team, Hamilton chase seventh titles in 2020

We’re eagerly awaiting the start of the 2020 Formula 1 season, which kicks off in Australia on March 15. To whet our appetite, the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team has just released images of its latest challenger, the F1 W11 EQ Performance.

No details have been released just yet, but the car appears to be an evolution of last year’s W10, with hallmarks including a conventional front wing design, aerodynamic wing mirror shrouds and a large air box surrounding a triangular crash structure. There are a few notable changes, such as a new nose “cape” design and even tighter sidepod packaging, the inlet now situated above the side impact structure.

The livery has been revised with red accents derived from chemicals producer Ineos, which signed a major five-year sponsorship deal. Elsewhere, the silver and black design is similar to last year’s car, with the Petronas green stripe now a solid one; the array of three-pointed stars at the back of the engine cover now also gets one red star to honour former chairman Niki Lauda, who passed away last May. Eagle-eyed readers will also notice another new sponsor in the form of AMD, which jumped ship from Ferrari.

Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport will field an unchanged lineup of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Both the team and Hamilton are chasing their seventh titles this year, before an overhaul of the current regulations takes effect in 2021. What do you think of the new car and livery?



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Cars, Feature Stories, International News, Local News, Motorsports, Proton

Proton Iriz R5: Why does it use the Evo X’s 4B11T mill?

Last week, we learned a great deal about why Mellors Elliot Motorsport (MEM) chose the Proton Iriz as its R5 rallying machine. As it turns out, the Iriz platform was exactly what the famed racing team was looking for, and the Iriz R5 proved its mettle in almost every rally championship it’s involved in.

As for the engine, it’s powered by a 4B11T engine plucked from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, but downsized from a 2.0 litre block to the mandated 1.6 litre capacity. If FIA ruling was the dominant factor with which engine displacement was determined, why did MEM not use Proton’s Campro S4PH 1.6 litre engine as a starting point? Chris broke it down for us.

Now, according to the ex-rally champion, there’s no hard FIA ruling stipulating that an R5 race car should be powered by the same engine as the road-going car. In fact, every other participating R5 rally car doesn’t use their respective factory-fitted engine. What’s important, though, was that the engines must not exceed 1,600 cc, and there should be an FIA-approved air restrictor fitted onto the turbocharger system. This is basically a 32 mm tube which limits air flow (thus levelling the playing field), and it’s used by every other competing car.

In theory, MEM could use the Campro S4PH engine and have it modified to the same output and reliability as the 4B11T engine. That’s because the internal components, such as the pistons, camshaft, cylinder sleeves are all manufactured by MEM using race-grade materials.

As proof of concept, Proton R3 took the Campro S4PH engine and had it rebuilt to race specification, then shoehorned it into the Iriz, Saga, and Suprima S during the course of the Malaysia Championship Series (MCS) and Sepang 1000 km (S1K). That engine made over 200 hp without forced induction, and the piston dimensions were identical to that of the actual production unit. As race engines go, it was pretty reliable, too.

Again, theoretically, MEM could do with the Campro S4PH engine, but why not? Well, it all had to do with the position of the exhaust valves and ports, which in the case of the S4PH unit, are located aft of the block. This would mean that the turbocharger would have to be installed up front, which causes a series of compromises.

First, a more complicated exhaust system would have to be fabricated, and this adds unnecessary length and weight to the entire car. The pipe would also have to bypass the gearbox (which in itself is larger than the factory unit) before reaching the back, and this is where it would run into bulky hardware such as the transfer case.

The complexities don’t end there, because ideally a rally car’s engine has to be tilted by about 25 degrees backwards, a seemingly simple modification that yields better weight distribution and driveshaft alignment. These two factors are way too crucial to overlook, hence the decision to go with Mitsubishi’s all-aluminium 4B11T engine.

With the turbocharger mounted behind the 4B11T engine, MEM could fabricate a simpler exhaust system that’s significantly shorter and lighter than it would be otherwise. As a matter of fact, the heat generated from the turbo can easily be directed rearwards without the hot air coming into contact with the engine, thus creating a more stable engine operating temperature over longer periods of time.

According to Chris, the downsizing necessitated the use of smaller cylinder sleeves, resulting in the strengthening of the smaller pistons. With this reinforced 1.6 litre 4B11T engine, not only is it FIA R5 compliant, it also harks back to the production Iriz which was once available with the 1.6 litre engine.

That sorts it, then. Now, would you like to know whether MEM built the Iriz R5 independently, or if Proton had a hand or two in developing the race car? Stay tuned to find out!

This piece has been translated from the original story written by our BM counterpart.



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BMW News, G82, M4, Motorsports

BMW Again Confirms G82 M4 Will Exceed 500 HP in M4 GT3 Preview

Today’s press release from BMW (see below) regarding the M4 GT3, a customer racing program model, sees BMW reconfirming that at least one of the road-going G82 M4 models will exceed 500 HP. As we’ve posted previously, it’s expected that the next gen G80 M3 and G82 M4 will come in multiple variants with different power figures.

This statement was in the press release: The production model BMW M4, which forms the base for the BMW M4 GT3, is powered by a six-cylinder engine with BMW M TwinPower Turbo Technology that achieves more than 500 hp.

And yes, the M4 GT3 teaser image as seen below confirms large vertical kidney grilles, as expected.

Full Press Release:

New icon for BMW M Customer Racing: BMW M4 GT3 to take to the track in 2022.

December 6, 2019

Munich. The customer racing range of products in the BMW M Motorsport programme is getting a new top-of-the-range model. From the 2022 season, privateers and privateer teams around the world will have the opportunity to do battle for wins and titles in a GT3 model based on the next generation of the BMW M4. The BMW M4 GT3 will be the new top vehicle in the customer racing offering.

The race car has been in development for several months and will undergo intensive testing next year. The BMW M4 GT3 will succeed the BMW M6 GT3, which has been in action around the world since 2016 and has brought home wins at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL), the FIA GT World Cup in Macau (CHN) and in numerous international race series.

The production model BMW M4, which forms the base for the BMW M4 GT3, is powered by a six-cylinder engine with BMW M TwinPower Turbo Technology that achieves more than 500 hp. The engine and chassis of the road vehicle are the perfect basis for the development of the GT3 racing version. With this goal in mind, the BMW M engineers built an engine – the S58 – that boasts impressive engine characteristics and explosive power delivery, the motorsport genes of which can also be experienced away from the racetrack at any time.

“With our new GT3 project, we are emphasising the significance of BMW M Customer Racing. It is a central pillar of our motorsport programme,” said BMW Group Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. “With the introduction of the new GT3 regulations for 2022, the BMW M4 is the perfect base. The core product from our colleagues at BMW M is yet again just great. Without wanting to give too much away, the BMW M4 GT3 will be a real highlight in terms of optics and technology. The term ‘icon’ is definitely appropriate here. We want to play a major role in international GT racing with the BMW M4 GT3, as its predecessor did at its victories at the 24-hour races in Spa-Francorchamps, at Macau and in many other race series around the world. Development is already at full speed. The rollout is planned for the second half of 2020.”

Markus Flasch, CEO of BMW M GmbH, said: “It is only logical that future top models in customer racing will be based on the next generation of the BMW M4. We will already be setting new standards in terms of sporting performance in production, which is why it makes sense to present the new GT3 sports car on this platform as well.”

While the 2020 season will be one of development and testing, regular tests in race conditions are planned for 2021.

Anyone interested in the BMW M4 GT3 should contact BMW Motorsport by email at:

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Motorsports, News

MotorTrend: New Cars – Car News and Expert Reviews – MotorTrend

With the 2019 Formula 1 season concluding December 1 in Abu Dhabi, the drivers, engineers, mechanics, and the rest of the thousands of people who bring the F1 circus to life every year will get a rare break. But time off is a rare commodity in motorsport, especially for the designers and engineers charged with creating the multimillion-dollar race cars that are a huge part of the series’ appeal.

Indeed, the drivers might command most of the publicity and money, but without a good car, they are essentially nothing. That’s why, with the world’s most capable, technologically advanced road-racing machines, F1 is naturally home to some of the world’s top engineering talent. For aspiring race engineers, though, its barrier to entry can be high. At the same time, Grand Prix teams are always on the lookout for fresh talent to supply their design and engineering departments with new ideas and key team members of the future.

That’s why Infiniti and its corporate sibling Renault in 2014 founded the Infiniti Engineering Academy. The program annually sifts through thousands of young applicants drawn from universities all over the world, ultimately selecting a handful of elite winners to spend a year working and training with both Infiniti on the production-car side and Renault Sport F1 at the pinnacle of motorsport.

As the F1 season draws to a close, a fresh class of aspiring engineers is just days away from this year’s final U.S. competition scheduled for December 5, near Nashville. For the winner, it will represent the beginning of a potentially career-altering journey. To mark the occasion, we caught up with Sabré Cook, last year’s American winner who was one of seven fresh faces to recently complete the program’s 2019 installment.

A native of Grand Junction, Colorado, the 25-year-old race-car driver received her degree in mechanical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 2017. Cook began racing karts at the age of 10, and in 2018 she competed in U.S. F2000 and F4 prior to contesting the 2019 W Series F3 championship in conjunction with her year spent in the Infiniti Engineering Academy. She gave us the lowdown on just how valuable the program can be.

Now that you’ve done it, how was the academy experience?

Sabré Cook: Yeah, this year’s been amazing. [This time] last year I was able to win the academy final in the U.S. Then I moved to the U.K. in January and from there, I started at Infiniti Technical Center for the first six months. Then I worked in the vehicle-testing department, and I mostly worked with noise-related consumer issues and concerns. I learned a lot because I’m not a sound engineer, so I definitely got to learn a few things. So that was really fun and I’ve never been in as big of a corporate environment as that, getting to experience the office life and see how a big company like that functions, which is obviously very different to motorsport. I think it was a really good, valuable experience for me to be able to take that and put it on my resume for later on.

And then you moved to the Renault Formula 1 side…

I started at Renault F1 in July. I’m currently working in composite suspension design, so really busy right now obviously, working toward the 2020 F1 car. I learn so much every day and honestly I couldn’t replace this experience with anything else; I’m around some of the best engineers. Even though they take us through this process and really make sure they get some of the best engineers [into their program], once you get there you still have to continue to work hard and continue to try to impress and try to contribute to the team, because if you don’t—obviously you want to get invited back to maybe, possibly stay [in a fulltime position]. So, the whole year has very much pushed me to grow in a lot of ways and I’m really thankful for the opportunity.

They were also very receptive of your schedule, apparently?

Yes, amazingly. They obviously knew coming into it that I raced. Especially because the weekend that I was selected [for the academy], I was also racing [at Circuit of the Americas] in F4, so they’re like, “Okay, we can probably make this happen.”

Then, I did race in the W Series [F3 cars] all this year as well, so it was extremely busy with that, but they were amazing with saying, “You need to take your holiday days. We’ve set those dates out.” I can work around that; as long as I get my work done, then it’s fine. Then not only did they do that, but they also gave me access to the Renault Sport Racing Academy, so I’ve been able to train with them a little bit and do a couple of events. I think that’s really helped me to kind of see how [Renault is] developing drivers to eventually race in its cars in the future. So overall it’s been a very blessed experience for me.

What was the first thing that went through your mind when you won the opportunity to participate in the program?

After I initially won, I was like, “Okay, this is great, but I have a race this weekend, so I need to deal with this later.” [The race] was that weekend, but then the Monday afterward I was like, “Oh my God. My life is going to completely change next year.”

It took maybe a month and a half before it really sunk in, and then I remember on the plane over for the first time, I was sitting in the seat and we were maybe half an hour into the flight, and I’m like, “Oh my God. What am I doing?” You have a little bit of a panic mode because it’s such a new experience and it is scary. You can’t pretend it’s not. You’re going to a new country, going to an amazing company, and you wonder, “How am I going to do?”

But I think I was in a place where I was trying to figure out where I was going, the correct direction to go next in my life. For this opportunity to kind of show up almost perfectly and at the time that I needed it—I’ve grown immensely in so many ways personally, intellectually as a driver over this year because of this experience. I think it’s one of the best that probably ever could’ve happened to me and I highly recommend it to anybody that is looking to go into it, obviously.

What do you think the experience gave you that no other one could have?

Living with strangers was one. Yeah, this is the first time I’ve had all male roommates. Obviously you can imagine my father when he first heard about that. You show up and you get to meet all of these new people, and I live with some from New Zealand, Mexico, and Germany. So it’s a very diverse group, but it’s a cute, little, dysfunctional family and the crazy uncle, mom and dad, and our child is Patricio who we regularly give a hard time about cleaning his room … it’s great to have that experience and get to know people from different cultures more.

How far do you think the academy advanced you in terms of where you would’ve been without it?

If I really had to put a time on it, I guess I’d put it as maybe two to three years. It gave me a way into F1, directly into where they were confident enough that I could contribute to the team and gave me certain jobs. Then they work you up until you’re actually in charge of something that’s a bit more impactful in the car.

I think to get to that point versus just trying to use my contacts that I had previously, I could’ve maybe got an internship, but I wouldn’t have been at the same kind of, looked like at the same level. Obviously I got the experience of working in Infiniti, too, so having a car manufacturer on your resume is huge. And I didn’t have any contacts here in the U.S., and the car manufacturers here. So, to be able to go through that, I think that really gave me an advantage over where I would’ve been without it.

When it comes to the work you’re assigned, it’s all real projects, yes?

Yes. I’m actually in charge of the [upper suspension wishbone] for next year’s car. So that’s currently what I’m working on. There’s so much to learn. I would love to stay at Renault because I think there are so many different areas. Just look at one piece that I’m working on; the level that you have to go through of detail just to create this one part is insane. What really was cool was, once we got to Renault, they let me go in the clean room for a few days and you actually get to make parts yourself and laminate them—and then cure them, and then take them out of the molds. So, they make sure that you understand start-to-finish how the product gets made.

I think that was really important. The same with Infiniti; you go downstairs and you work with the techs, alongside the techs, especially in my position. I would spend most of the day in a workshop, working with the techs and going through the cars. Being able to have more hands-on experience in my job was really valuable to me because I like that. I like working with my hands more, so for me I think a lot of other companies, I would probably have just sat behind a desk or something.

What’s your plan for 2020?

I’m going to finish out my contract until the end of the year, as well as [attend] the U.S. Infiniti F1 Engineering Academy final Nashville. Then going into next year, I would love to stay in England. I’m actually really enjoying it and I think it’s a great place for me to continue to grow, but I do have [a spot in the] W Series confirmed for next year. I do have other opportunities that have presented themselves to come back and race in the U.S. and try and pursue the dream of getting to IndyCar, so I’m trying to kind of decide right now which direction is the best way to go, as well as if they even have spots available or they want to keep some of us on [from the academy].

Is the Road to Indy ladder program on your radar, then?

Right now, I do have a team that would like me to run Indy Pro next year, through the full season, even though there would be two conflicts with W Series, but they’re still willing to do it. I’m not 100 percent sure, it’s not been confirmed. I hope I can confirm it by the end of the [year], but you never know what’s going to happen.

What’s your 10-year plan? Racing? Engineering?

Obviously, I love engineering. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have pursued it this far and I wouldn’t have pushed this hard to get here. For me, it’s almost a bit scary in a way for me next year if I would just focus on racing because I don’t want to give the engineering up. I feel like I’ve made good progress and I feel like I’ve got a lot of momentum going now, being in the academy. It’s hard for me to want to step away from that to try and pursue other things, but no matter what, I’ll for sure come back to engineering because you can’t race for your entire life.

Engineering is definitely part of who I am as a person. I think no matter what, I will try to stay with that. You just have to kind of adjust as you go on, but in 10 years I’d love to obviously get more experience as an engineer and work more toward being a race engineer in F1, as well as an IndyCar driver. I think I can do both dually, as I’ve done so far, anyways. They compliment each other, so it’s not like if I just go race I’m not going to learn any more about engineering. I’m glad that they both can coincide together.

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The post Meet Sabré Cook, Infiniti Engineering Academy Winner and Race Car Driver appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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Motorsports, News

Motorsports Safety: What’s Next?

“This is a cruel sport,” late racer Dan Gurney said as he watched track workers cover the body of a teenage boy his car had just hit and killed. At the 1960 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, Gurney’s BRM P48 suffered brake failure at 140 mph, ran off the track and through a barbed-wire fence, and overturned, breaking Gurney’s arm and injuring several other spectators.

Three years later, journalist Robert Daley published a book chronicling one of the most dangerous eras in racing, using The Cruel Sport as its title. In fact, “Motor racing is the cruelest sport,” Daley wrote. “It is also the most brilliant, because it is man wrestling with his demons on the edge of the infinite.”

That was 56 years ago. With massive advances in technology, things are certainly better now than in Daley’s time: Of the 16 drivers in the first Formula 1 Grand Prix he covered—Monaco, 1958—half eventually died behind the wheel.

But there’s no argument that racing remains a very cruel sport. Although fatalities at the top professional level are rare, deaths still occur in troubling numbers: According to Automobile research, in the three-month period of March, April, and May 2019, at least a dozen racers died, most of them in amateur events. And in late August at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, motorsports safety again became a global topic following the death of Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert, and severe injuries to Juan Manuel Correa.

So what to do? Individual drivers can, of course, stop racing, but motorsports will continue. After all, the first recorded motorsports fatality occurred nearly 120 years ago. The only other option: Although racing is safer than ever, it needs to be made safer still.

Gary Nelson is the manager of Action Express, the two-car IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype team that has won four season championships since its 2014 debut. But long before that, Nelson, as crew chief, won the NASCAR Winston Cup title in 1983 with Bobby Allison and the Daytona 500 in 1982 with Allison and in 1986 with Geoff Bodine.

NASCAR hired Nelson in 1991 to be the director of Winston Cup, a job he held for 10 years before he became vice president of research and development in 2001. That was the year Dale Earnhardt was killed in the Daytona 500, and everything changed. Nelson’s primary responsibility was to build the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, and investigate ways to make racing safer, which he did until he left in 2007.

There are, Nelson says, “primarily three real threats to the driver. The first is a high g load,” which happens when the driver comes to a sudden stop or takes a hard hit. “This is not the sort of thing we typically see in a traffic accident. [Longtime motorsports medical authority] Dr. Terry Trammell once said that the type of serious injury a race car driver receives is not like a motor-vehicle crash. It’s more like what you see from falling off of a building. A high g load is the biggest threat to a driver.” Second, Nelson says, “is intrusion, when something from outside the car comes into the cockpit and makes contact with the driver. The third one is fire. Of course, other things can happen, and there can be combinations of factors, but those are really the three categories of threats.

“I’m knocking on wood as I say this, but in the top series, all three have been effectively addressed with advances like driver-restraint systems, more armor around the cockpit, soft walls, good fuel cells, and fire-resistant equipment, but you can never stop trying to make things better.”

Indeed, “We’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit,” says Dr. Steve Olvey, the physician who, along with Trammell, has specialized in racing, largely due to his work with IndyCar and its predecessors, including CART and USAC. Olvey’s book Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life-Saver was a game-changer when it was released in 2006, and now it’s the basis of a 106-minute documentary, also called Rapid Response, that was released to theaters on September 6.

As a medical student in Indianapolis, Olvey began volunteering at the Indianapolis 500 in 1966. If he thought it would be fun, well, it wasn’t. “One of the ambulances was a hearse, with an oxygen tank and a gurney. That was it,” Olvey says. During the worst of it, “One in seven drivers was killed every year.” Olvey and Trammell, along with plenty of others, began pushing for change. In procedures, in equipment, in race cars, in racetracks, in education for drivers, team owners, and track owners.

One of the biggest problems is the trickle-down effect: There essentially isn’t one, Olvey says. Major series like NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, IMSA, and the NHRA have the resources to develop and implement sophisticated—and often expensive—safety changes, plus the clout to make them mandatory. Professional teams and drivers have the money to invest in the new technology.

Small tracks and amateur drivers might not. According to a story in the New York Times, there were at least 141 fatalities at short tracks—hometown dirt and paved ovals—between 2002 and 2016, when the story was published. This bothers Olvey to no end. “A Saturday night racer will pay $1,000 for a new set of tires for his race car but won’t invest the same amount in a helmet that could save his life,” he laments. “I mean, how much is your head worth? How much is your life worth?”

Add to this that local oval-track racing is struggling in many parts of the country, with both car counts and fans on the decline. Many tracks don’t make a head and neck restraint system mandatory. Often, faced with losing a car and the cost of driver and crew pit passes if the track turns an entry away for not having proper safety equipment, the track may decline to vigorously enforce whatever rules it does have. “I used to think that insurance companies would drive change—that they wouldn’t insure a track if the level of risk wasn’t addressed,” Olvey says. “But that hasn’t happened.”

Similarly, most top tracks have SAFER barriers that protect drivers from concrete or steel walls in a crash. The barriers, pioneered in 2002 by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are made of steel and foam (SAFER stands for “steel and foam energy reduction”), and they’re designed to give way substantially when hit by an out-of-control car. But SAFER barriers cost between $400 and $500 per foot to install, and for even the most profitable small tracks, that’s out of the question.

One racer who is trying to address this is RJ Valentine, a longtime sports-car driver who was on the winning team for the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Several of his businesses involve karting, and he developed impact safety systems, including KISS (kart impact safety system), for kart tracks. He has adapted the technology for the ProLink safety barrier—a simple, relatively inexpensive soft wall that can be used on a variety of tracks.

The barriers are made of half-inch polyethylene and can be partially filled with water. Each 4-foot barrier weighs 73 pounds, making for easy installation and replacement in case of damage. Fill intermittent barriers to one-quarter capacity with water, and each one weighs 500 pounds, heavy enough to absorb a solid hit. Best of all, the barriers cost, including installation, about $70 per foot.

Other than that—and general track upgrades like improving the racing surface, nighttime and emergency lighting, and beefing up emergency crews with personnel, training, and equipment—much of the safety in amateur racing is in the hands of the driver.

“It’s amazing what some Friday and Saturday night racers and tracks get away with,” a frustrated Olvey says. “It isn’t always expense—we’ve learned how to do a lot without spending a lot of money.” He recalls that he was at a lower-level stock car race and was stunned to see a car that had zero padding on its metal roll bars, including the portions “that could definitely come into contact with the driver’s head in a crash. That could easily result in a fatal head injury. It’s just asking for trouble.”

How the Three Main Threats Have Been—and Will Be—Addressed

Exposure to High G Load

You likely know that gravitational force, or g force, is the measurement of a unit’s mass under acceleration that is roughly equivalent to weight, with g equal to the gravitational acceleration on Earth. Depending on the track, an F1 driver can experience forces of 5 to 7 g’s in turns or under braking.

A typical crash into the wall at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when it had unprotected concrete walls, could easily expose the driver to a 100-g hit. With the SAFER barriers, most crashes are in the 60-g range. But even with a SAFER barrier, high-g crashes can happen. IndyCar driver Sebastien Bourdais’s 2017 crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying was 118 g. James Hinchcliffe’s crash at Indy in 2015 measured 126 g.

Although it isn’t directly related to g-force levels, the HANS device has saved at least as many lives as the SAFER barrier. The most widely known crash resulted in the death of Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500, where an entirely survivable-looking crash into the Turn 4 wall resulted in a basal skull fracture that killed the sport’s biggest star.

In the 10 years leading up to Earnhardt’s death, 15 drivers were killed across NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and CART. Of those, at least eight died from basal skull fractures: NASCAR’s J.D. McDuffie (1991), CART’s Jovy Marcello and NASCAR’s Clifford Allison (1992), F1’s Roland Ratzenberger (1994), IndyCar’s Scott Brayton (1996), CART’s Gonzalo Rodriguez (1999), and NASCAR’s Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin (2000).

The skull fracture itself might not be fatal, but what typically kills drivers is uncontrolled bleeding due to the rupture of blood vessels located near where the brain stem leads to the spinal cord.

The HANS and similar approved devices tether the helmet to prevent the head from snapping too far forward in a crash. The HANS was invented by racer Jim Downing and his brother-in-law, Robert Hubbard, and Downing started racing with one in 1984. But acceptance was painfully slow. In 2000, Downing made the rounds at a Chevrolet NASCAR test. “Only one driver refused to talk to me,” Downing says: the ultra-traditionalist Earnhardt. But his death changed everything. Later in the 2001 season, after a bad crash at Charlotte, Jeff Gordon praised “God and my HANS device” for saving his life.


This past May marked the 25th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest racers ever: Ayrton Senna, killed at the 1994 F1 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola in Italy when he hit a concrete barrier, which caused the right front wheel and suspension parts to come in contact with his head. Since then, there have been multiple fatalities and some serious injuries, most of them happening in open-wheel racing, due to intrusion.

In July 2009, Formula 2 racer Henry Surtees, 18—son of 1964 F1 champ John Surtees—was killed when he was hit in the head by a wheel from another car that broke its tether after a crash. Six days later, F1’s Felipe Massa was knocked unconscious when a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s car struck him in the head. In August 2006, Cristiano da Matta, the 2002 Champ Car champion, was in a coma for 29 days after he struck a deer while testing at Road America. In August 2015, da Matta’s former teammate, Justin Wilson, was killed in an IndyCar race at Pocono when the nose cone from another crashed car hit him in the head.

In a gradual response, F1 adopted the halo in 2018, a loop around the top of the cockpit with a bar that leads vertically down from the loop to the body in front of the driver. Meanwhile, IndyCar is partnering with Red Bull Advanced Technologies to develop the Aeroscreen, a wraparound windshield anchored by a titanium, halo-like framework. It will be ready for 2020. “I think it’s a great idea,” says IndyCar and F1 veteran Juan Pablo Montoya, who currently races for Penske and Acura in an IMSA prototype. “The more protection, the better. I think they’ll get used to it quickly, just like Formula 1 drivers did. Every driver I talk to says they don’t even realize the halo is there.”

At least as important, though, is addressing the intrusion that occurs when a car goes into fencing that is supported by stout poles; that’s what killed IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon when he crashed at Las Vegas in 2011, and it’s what ended the career of IndyCar’s Dario Franchitti after he crashed on the temporary street course in Houston.

“That one’s tough,” Olvey says. “There are ideas out there but no consensus on which one is the best.” Among them, Olvey says, is something similar to the clear screen that surrounds a hockey rink, “but even if that’s possible, the cost would certainly be prohibitive.”

The latest crash of that sort, at Pocono in August 2018, left IndyCar driver Robert Wickens paralyzed from the waist down, though he continues to make progress in rehabilitation. Olvey says the fact that Wickens lived is a testament to enhanced safety in the IndyCar platform: “No way would he have survived that five years ago.”

But the crash triggered a memory by Wickens’s longtime friend and attorney, Len Gaik. In 2011, when Wheldon crashed in Las Vegas, Wickens and Gaik discussed the tragedy, and from that was born a rough idea of a fix that might work, at least in some circumstances: Move the support poles back away from the track, and attach the fencing to the wall at the bottom, as it is now—but up top, the fencing would be suspended from poles that Gaik describes as “like a light pole, with an arm that extends out toward the track.”

Gaik sketched out the idea, wrote a summary of it, and applied for a patent, “just to see if anyone is interested,” he says. “I have no idea if it would work, but we have to do something.”

And then there are incidents and intrusions such as the one involving Hubert and Correa at Spa. After Hubert crashed and bounced off a barrier, his car was struck by Correa’s, which was traveling in excess of 100 mph. The impact split Hubert’s car in two, reminding everyone who saw the crash of the huge forces involved in high-speed impacts—and of the challenge involved in dissipating them and building cars strong enough to withstand them.


This one, Olvey says, has been successfully addressed in the professional series, “but you can always do more.”

As noted with many other safety innovations, “that trickle-down just hasn’t trickled down” to many local facilities and amateur drivers, though. Quality suits, onboard fire extinguishers, and more durable fuel cells have never been cheaper, so hopefully, maybe—someday. But the desires and efforts of many to see that it does aren’t going anywhere.

Additional photography courtesy of IndyCar and RJ Valentine.

The post Motorsports Safety: What’s Next? appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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Local News, Motorsports, Proton

GALLERY: Inside Proton R3 headquarters – a brief tour

Proton R3 will be fielding a three-pronged attack on this year’s edition of the Sepang 1000KM endurance race which takes place at the Sepang International Circuit this weekend, where the #82 Proton Saga and #83 Proton Iriz will compete along with the firm’s newly-liveried Saga courtesy of Design For Speed contest winner Azham Bin Zainol.

This weekend, the Saga with the new livery design will be driven by Admi Shahrul and Syafiq Ali, regular winners of the Sepang 1000KM, along with Faye Kusairi, Nurul Husna Nasharuddin and Leona Chin in the #82 Saga, joined by Farique Hairuman and Mitchell Cheah in the #83 Iriz.

The repeated success enjoyed by the Proton factory team certainly comes from the detailed work which will rarely be seen by the general public, who will usually see racing as the more commonly broadcast action on-circuit, as well as trackside. The tip of the iceberg, as it may be.

As for the cars themselves, these originate from the main production line, after which R3 goes to work on the cars, stripping them back to the basics and applying the necessities for a life at the racetrack; check out the Iriz, Saga and Suprima S R3 race cars in further detail, here.

The Saga and Iriz R3 race cars are powered by the same S4PH 1.6 litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, albeit suitably built for the rigours of racing. This is in accordance with the Malaysian Touring Car (MTC) regulations which stipulate the use of a naturally-aspirated engine displacing between 1,401 cc and 1,600 cc.

This will produce peak outputs in the region of 180 hp to 190 hp, said Proton R3 team principal Gary Lee. These engines are slated for a service life of over 1,000 km before rebuilds, though they have previously taken ex-Sepang 1000KM engines and run them for a further 800 km. These powerplants can therefore, in practice, handle almost 2,000 km before requiring rebuilds, he added. The engine and transmission remain the most expensive parts of the car, and cost around RM60,000 each or RM120,000 collectively.

Proton R3 is one of two factory-backed teams currently competing in the Malaysia Championship Series, which the Sepang 1000KM is a part of. Personnel in Proton R3 work exclusively on the team’s racing programmes and its cars, and not staff who are multi-tasked from the automaker’s mass-production operations.

The team is keen to dispel the myth that Proton R3 outsources its machining to external contractors – for example, the rumour that the crankshaft for the S4PH engine is sourced externally is just that; a rumour, and that component is in fact a factory-stock item, team principal Lee said. Even with components which R3 does not necessarily manufacture themselves, the involvement runs deep.

Perhaps more widely known in superbike circles, suspension components manufacturer Ohlins is the supplier to Proton R3, who regards the Swedish company to be the best at what it does. Proton R3 is one of only two organisations in Malaysia to conduct the full range of testing, servicing, rebuilding and calibration of Ohlins automotive components – the other being the principal importer of Ohlins products themselves, according to the national automaker’s motorsport division.

An endurance race such as the Sepang 1000KM which takes place this weekend is the most involving one on the national racing calendar for the team; before the feature race starts on Saturday, Proton R3 will have arrived at the circuit today to commence setup for practice and final tests before qualifying and then ultimately, the race.



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