Fence, Pocono, IndyCar, 2018

Tracy urges IndyCar to remove fence posts after Wickens crash

IndyCar

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Paul Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car champion, has called on IndyCar racing to improve safety at oval tracks following Robert Wickens’ crash in yesterday’s Pocono 500.

Wickens suffered extensive injuries after his car was launched into the fence behind the barrier at turn two during yesterday’s race.

Tracy, who was part of the NBCSN commentary team during the race, urged the sport to find an alternative to the chain link fencing and posts used to contain accident debris at tracks.

“[I’m] so relieved that Robert Wickens will be OK,” Tracy posted on social media.

“But that again was too close for comfort. It’s long overdue for the racing industry to start looking into a new way of retaining the cars inside the track without poles, fence and cable.

“If it were me I would have much rather gone out of the park! We lost Dan Wheldon. Dario Franchitti and Robert Wickens had [angels] looking down on them.

“But it’s time as a community of racers and fans to push things to a higher level. I know racing is a dangerous game and we know the risks, but it can always be better.”

The race was red-flagged for two hours while a damaged fence post was replaced. Before the restart one driver, Tracy’s former rival Sebastien Bourdais, complained that the repair job was inadequate.

“Kudos to Sebastien Bourdais for saying how it was and having the balls to get back in and have one of his best oval drives ever,” Tracy added.

“Sorry for the rant, I’m just thinking out loud. Let’s all put our thinking caps on for the best solution and most cost-effective one.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 30 comments on “Tracy urges IndyCar to remove fence posts after Wickens crash”

    1. They prefer to go over the fence? They are stupid? If the car get out of the track a million things can happen
      It can hit spectators or marshals
      It can hit in a tree or something with the cockpit and kill the driver
      I can think a million things that can go wrong outside the track that are life threats to the driver or anyone outside of it.

      What they can do is take out the fence and put plastic glass that is very hard if it can handle the weight of the car at 350klm+ but even this cannot alter the end result which is that something really fast crash on a static object.

      The fence save lives normally. And as a matter of fact this driver life saved by it.

      1. @bluechris I believe they looked at some sort of plexiglass 15 or so years ago & concluded that it would introduce far more problems than it would solve.

        They found that glare & dirt would obscure visibility for the fans, That if a car did get into it they would bounce off in such a way that there was an increased risk of the car landing on top of other cars & that the impact of the car landing back on the track would increase the risk of back injuries & also that if they did shatter the shards would be far more likely to cause injuries to fans.

        It’s something the IRL, Champcar & Nascar were looking at & all came to similar conclusions.

      2. He didn’t say that, he’s saying they need to find an actual alternative to a mesh fence held up by poles.

      3. There was a telephone pole and power cables on the other side of the fence. As bad of a crash it was, the fence probably saved his life by keeping him within the track.

      4. The material has to have some give in it to absorb, and remove some of the energy from the from the impact a hard surface like plexiglass simply will not do the trick and as a couple of other comments have said, will likely lead to something far worse

    2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      20th August 2018, 12:50

      The fence should be suspended by cable which has measured tension break sockets.

      The posts could be further back (maybe 2 metres) with an overhang at the very top supporting the fence.

      The fence will then act more like the catch-fencing used in f1 in the early 80s.

      The break sockets should allow quick reinsertion to speed up re-erection of the fence.

      That would do the trick

      1. Was coming to post something similar with safety nets a bit like for downhill skiing. This way you can decelerate more gently than current impact, avoid the car to return on the track and risk second impact while the car is already severely damaged and can’t sustain a similar impact as well as before, and avoid the car to fly away in the crowd of anywhere uncontrolled.

        1. Until a driver is tangle in this “netting” and there is a fire or urgent reason for extraction.

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            21st August 2018, 8:30

            Drivers have an air supply and fireproof clothing. A fire can be put out quite quickly. So that’s survivable. If a driver hits his head on a post at 180mph it is not survivable.

      2. The two philosophies that we have to consider here are about whether the protection should be able to grab and slow the car down as gently as possible or whether it should pose a sliding screen the way the wall does that doesn’t at all absorb the forward speed of the car.
        Mind that it is always that more than 1 car can simultanously hit the barrier, so it is crucial that the first car to hit the barrier doesn’t nulify the protection for the car that would hit it right behind.

        1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          21st August 2018, 8:32

          I had thought about this after my original post. A fence of the current type would also be needed 2 metres back.

    3. I’m thinking of a kind of fencing that allows the car to slide instead of tangle in it.

    4. The solution is to keep the cars from getting to the fencing, which violently rotates the car like a helicopter and tears it apart. If the soft wall was twice as high, or the fence covered with the softwall exterior so the car slides rather than gets caught and sheared that would greatly help. Seating areas would have to be pushed up higher, but big deal.

    5. The bigger thing they need to do is look at why the current generation of cars are so much more likely to get air & get into the fence than the cars of old were.

      Certainly if you go back & watch CART/Champcar races on the ovals they never used to lift & get into the fence. The IRL cars from around 2001 were where this trend started & it has carried on with all the IRL cars since & the post re-unification DW12.

      There’s an inherent flaw in the design philosophy that is making this sort of thing far more likely than used to be the case & that is what needs to be looked at.

      1. This wasn’t that kind of a crash (you’re thinking last year’s Dixon at Indy where the floor acted as a sail and lifted him up and into the fence), Wickens’ car hit RHR’s straight on the nose and ramped over it. Pretty much any car would to this open wheel or not if hitting a ramp, and race cars usually aren’t designed to collide head on with each other since that’s not something that normally happens. Alternatively Wickens could’ve submarined under RHR but in such a crash one car will always be pushed upwards it’s just the question which one.

        It is very unfortunate that the way Wickens’ car jumped over RHR nose was just enough to clear the SAFER barrier – had it been just 1ft taller he would’ve walked away.

        The biggest problem here is the catch fencing, the way the cars are being caught up in it and violently torn apart by it. I’m sure there’s plenty of room for improvement there.

        1. There were accidents in CART where the cars touched in the same way, Where the car on the inside got a bit up on the wheel/nose of the other car & yet still didn’t launch into the fence.

          There’s just something about these cars that make that sort of thing far more likely than used to be the case. I mean it’s not as if this sort of contact with cars impacting in this way is something that only started happening recently, This sort contact is pretty standard for oval racing for decades yet cars getting air under them enough to hit the fence was never an issue.

          Also even without any other cars involved these cars seem to get some air after hitting a wall & have at times got fairly high. Look at Bourdais solo car crash at indy last year, he did a whole flip despite no other car been involved.

          It’s a trend with this chassis & that helps cars get on top of other cars & then into the fence.

          1. @gt-racer, in recent years, there has been a trend for some of the aero packages to suffer from severe aerodynamic instability.

            We had a case a few years ago where drivers were losing control on their own because the rear wing on some superspeedway aero kits was prone to stalling and destabilising the car – the problem was then compounded by the fact that the kits would, as the yaw increased, start producing lift instead, so the further the car spun round, the more unstable it would become.

            To some extent, I wonder if this is perhaps a consequence of the way that the underfloor area of the car has been designed. The floor is designed to work in very close proximity to the ground and will rapidly lose performance as it is lifted away from the ground, whilst the bodywork of most open wheeler cars tends to produce a net lift force (excluding the wings, of course).

            It would not take a huge change in pitch for the floor of the car to effectively stall, but you would still have the lift force generated by the bodywork – to some extent, the design of the car may well not be particularly stable and might have a negative feedback loop built into it that, once the car starts to become unstable, tends to increase the instability of the car and makes it more likely to take off.

    6. Seems like the fence post is the problem more than the chain links. They could change to a suspended design. Have the posts 2 meters back from the fence and have suspending cables holding the chain links.

      1. @david-beau Came here to say exactly this. If you look at the slow speed footage the problem is not that the car took flight (in fact the 2018 spec has holes in the forward portion of the floor specifically designed to prevent that https://www.autoguide.com/blog/wp-content/gallery/indycar-series-dallara-ir-12/dallara-ir-12-indycar-series-06.jpg), it was that Wickens rode up RHR’s car onto the top of the SAFER barrier and slide on the rail until it caught the vertical fence posts which ripped the car into pieces and spun it violently. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XAjgcaj9l4

    7. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
      20th August 2018, 15:58

      The best option for IndyCar, would be to move away from Ovals completely.

      Look at the attendance at Pocono from this year and previously, it was absolutely dreadful, same for Texas, Phoenix and other Ovals. The only exception is Indy, for obvious reasons. I think there is a generational shift (in America) at play, where lots of younger fans simply aren’t interested in oval racing. NASCAR’s numbers are horrific, and Indy’s Oval numbers are struggling as well.

      Simply getting rid of Ovals would be an easy solution to the problem, and one that probably wouldn’t be met with much resistance, except from just a few old-guards.

      1. No way Todd. Oval racing is a fundamental part of IndyCar’s identity uniqueness and appeal. It also raises the prestige of the series that markets itself as the most versatile racing series.

        But, somewhat along your sentiment, IndyCar should only use those oval tracks that offer great racing, but are also visually pleasing.

        This year 6 out of 17 races are held on ovals. I don’t think this number should ever fall below 4 oval races.

      2. @braketurnaccelerate Attendance actually tends to not be too bad. Texas regularly draws between 45-50,000 fans which is more than some of the road circuits get. Pocono is usually 20-25,000.

        Attendance on ovals can often look worse than they are due to how big they tend to be. F1 at Indy always faced the same problem, It always drew crowds larger than at most of the european venues but the scale of the place always made it seem empty. Shanghai suffers from the same issue, It usually draws 150,000+ but the scale of it makes it seem more empty than it actually is.

        As to dropping ovals…. How did that work out for Champcar?

      3. I agree. Keep the Indy 500 only and slow the cars down.
        The rest can be street and road circuits.
        A young mans life is changed for the worst and it happens frequently – this is flat out crazy!

    8. I think at least part of your answer is in the us navy.. aircraft arresting nets used on carrier’s to catch planes. There could be

      1. Not a bid idea, but the system used to stop jets is in a somewhat controlled/predictable environment.

    9. When cars interlock wheels and a car gets higher than a crash barrier I’d ban any drivers involved in causing that incident for a year.

      Cars are so safe these days drivers cause ego driven accidents you just didn’t see before the days of carbon fibre tubs.

      Some onus of responsibility has to go back on the driver.

      That will solve half of it straight up.

    10. Jonesracing82
      21st August 2018, 5:14

      For mine the barrier needs to be higher so the car can’t make contact with the fence as that is what does all the damage.

    11. Someone else also suggested this- make the wall and safer barrier double the height. Wickens would have then been deflected back to the track and not reached the fencing.

    12. I really hope Alonso doesn’t go there.
      This happens too often in Indy car – at least in NASCAR the cars are safer.
      To think the cars are harder to drive this year (reduced rear wing) makes me wonder what they are thinking.

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