IndyCar »

'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 and Takuma Sato crash out during the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power crashes out during the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power crosses the start/finish line during practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power out front in the early stages of the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, qualifies fastest Saturday, June 13, 2015 capturing the pole position for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race through the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Power will start in the front row with teammate Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates after qualifying fastest Saturday, June 13, 2015 capturing the pole position for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race through the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Power will start in the front row with teammate Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet V-6. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power wins the Verizon P1 Award and the pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power affixes the Verizon P1 Award emblem to his Chevrolet after winning the pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power wins the Verizon P1 Award and the pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power peels out of his pit stand for qualifications for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Energizer Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6 IndyCar, celebrates his victory with teammate Tony Kanaan Saturday, June 6, 2015, after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Canaan, driver of the #10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet finished in second-place. (Photo by Russell LaBounty/LAT for Chevy Racing)

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.


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.



© 1999 - 2015 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.