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'Perfect storm' led to Vegas tragedy

IndyCar's official comprehensive report on the events of October 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon cites a 'perfect storm' of multiple factors.
IndyCar's official report into the fatal accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October has been published, concluding that several factors occurring together in the worst possible combination resulted in the death of Dan Wheldon.

"There are multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan's life," said Brian Barnhart, IndyCar's President of Operations. "It is a tragedy. Our thoughts and support will always be with Dan's family."

While the report did not find that high-banked ovals in themselves are unsuitable for IndyCar racing - "IndyCar and CART/Champ Car have successfully conducted numerous races over numerous years on courses that meet the definition of high-banked ovals," the report said - it was clear that the main factors had been an interplay between the existing Dallara chassis and the current Las Vegas Motor Speedway configuration that had been at the root of the accident.

"Due in part to the geometry of the track, each track has its own unique routes around the circuit that optimize speed and handling capabilities," the report explained. "These routes are considered 'racing grooves' and create restrictions on where a driver can place the race car on the track to remain competitive. Most tracks have limited numbers of racing grooves. For example, it is not unusual for ovals to have only one or 2 racing grooves, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."

But in the case of Las Vegas Motor Motor Speedway, it emerged from analysis of the video playback that the variable-banked, multi-grooved and recently repaved surface offered an almost limitless freedom for drivers in the existing Dallara chassis to manoeuvre at full speed almost anywhere across the track during the race, and still be competitive. Combined with the expected close 'pack racing' seen on race day, this was what led to the instability that produced the first accident, the report by independent forensic crash investigators suggested.

"While this incident could have occurred at any track at any time, the dynamic of the current car and the overall track geometry at Las Vegas Motor Speedway under race conditions appears to have been causal to this incident," the report stated.

"What was evident in the Las Vegas event was that the entire racetrack was useable and the lanes were limitless," added Barnhart. "That was a variable that had not been seen before."

The report added that this hadn't been possible to detect in advance during the standard formal two-day compatibility and performance tests at LVMS on November 15, 2010 conducted by drivers Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske, or the private testing by IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights teams that had followed. The multi-groove characteristic only emerged as teams fine-tuned their set-ups during the practice and qualifying sessions during the race weekend and started to race in packs at increasing speeds.

The immediate cause of the accident was contact between the #06 (James Hinchcliffe) and the #17 (Wade Cunningham) as they entered the first turn on lap 11. The right front of the #4 (JR Hildebrand) then made contact with the left rear of the ailing #17 which is what finally triggered the multi-car crash.




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 2011 season finale. [Picture credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media]
The stage set for the memorial celebration. [Picture Credit: IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon in pit lane at Vegas. [Picture Credit: IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon takes the #77 out on track at Kentucky. [Picture Credit: IndyCar Media]
Brian Barnhart, President of Operations for IndyCar, at the press conference presenting the accident report into events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Randy Bernard, Chief Executive Officer of IndyCar, at the press conference presenting the accident report into events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Randy Bernard, Chief Executive Officer of IndyCar, and Brian Barnhart, President of Operations, at the press conference presenting the accident report into events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Will Power sits in his pit stand prior to practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Will Power sits on pit lane prior to the evening Open Test session at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Will Power in his pit stand at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Will Power in his pit stand prior to track activity during the Open Test at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 24, 2014, winning the IndyCar race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Russell LaBounty/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, August 24, 2014, winning the IndyCar race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Russell LaBounty/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power on pit lane prior to the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates capturing the pole Saturday, August 23, 2014, with the fastest qualifying time for Sunday`s IndyCar race at at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates capturing the pole Saturday, August 23, 2014, with the fastest qualifying time for Sunday`s IndyCar race at at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power (right), driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, is congratulated by teammate Helio Castroneves after capturing the pole Saturday, August 23, 2014 with the fastest qualifying time for Sunday`s IndyCar race at at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 captures the pole Saturday, August 23, 2014, with the fastest qualifying time for Sunday`s IndyCar race at at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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sukhsc - Unregistered

December 16, 2011 9:48 AM

Rubbish...just a huge smoke screen to make us believe that this was a rare event and that IndyCar is safe. They have some big problems over there and wont be surprised if this happens again

walrus909 - Unregistered

December 15, 2011 11:26 PM

That track is like the old Monza bowl. Unlimited grooves, 225 mph, a big field, and unforgiving iron instead of trees. Just a sad sad day. Danny you are one of the ace of aces. Miss you.



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