15 December 2011
'Perfect storm' led to Vegas tragedy
However, the report disagreed that 1.5-mile ovals as a class should now be dropped. "IndyCar has determined that it would not be appropriate to frame its analysis of the suitability of IndyCar Series race cars to high-banked ovals by looking at all tracks of this classification as a general category," the report said. "Each high-banked oval has unique characteristics, and each should be considered individually."
The report's findings could therefore clear the way for IndyCar to sign a deal to return to another high-banked 1.5 mile oval in 2012, Texas Motor Speedway, without fearing a recurrence of the tragic events of Vegas.
The report went on to discuss other factors that had been suggested as causes. The suggestion that there had been too many cars on the track had not significantly contributed to events, the report found. It calculated that on a 1.5-mile oval, 34 race cars permitted 233 feet per race car which was within acceptable parameters based upon a number of factors such as length and width of the race track, travel considerations, pit space capability and the manoeuvrability of the cars.
The report also pointed out that NASCAR Sprint Cup raced with 43 cars earlier in the year and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series had raced the day before the accident with 34 vehicles on track, with no problems emerging, and therefore concluded that the accident seen on October 16 could have happened with any size starting field.
"However, the previously discussed experience with freedom of movement during the race does create questions of whether an IndyCar starting field of any size is appropriate in the future," the report added. "This will be a topic for further review and investigation based upon the 2012 car dynamics."
The report also assessed and included resumés of all the drivers racing that day and pointed out that "All drivers had prior experience in the IndyCar Series and/or other racing series. Of particular note, no driver was participating in his/her first IndyCar Series race event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In addition, 5 drivers had previously won the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at least one time."
The report specifically praised the efforts of the Holmatro Safety Team and the Las Vegas fire crew, which were described as "rapid and decisive" in the aftermath of the accident.
"All drivers were out of their race cars in a rapid and controlled manner, and assisted as needed. All of the fires were extinguished rapidly and without incident," said the report. When it came to efforts to save Wheldon himself: "Extrication of the driver of the #77 was temporarily impeded by entrapment of the lower extremities. This situation was dealt with without interruption of life support measures. The Safety Team was on the scene with the #77 within 35 seconds of the initial impact in the multi race car crash, and the driver was extricated from the race car within 4 minutes."
Wheldon was stabilised in the infield care centre and flown to hospital by helicopter, but was declared dead on arrival from the head injuries that he had sustained.
The idea that the $5m challenge had in some way contributed to the accident was also dismissed. While the rules of the challenge had put Wheldon at the back of the grid, the report pointed out that penalties, post-qualification changes and other incidents often see a driver start from the rear without adverse affects.
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