Team Lebanon drivers Khalil Beschir and Basil Shaaban paid a visit to Lola's Huntingdon base this week, to check on the progress being made as their chassis is repaired after the former's spectacular accident at Brands Hatch two weekend's ago.

Beschir rolled into the Paddock Hill gravel trap at around 90mph following a collision with Italy's Enrico Toccacelo, but emerged unscathed from the cockpit of his A1 Grand Prix entry to rapturous applause from the crowd. If its participation in the series had not already put Lebanon on the motorsport map, the accident certainly put Beschir and his flying car onto the back - and some front - pages of most newspapers, and the driver was presented with the roll hoop shroud from his car by Lola managing director Rupert Manwaring as he and his team-mate gained an insight in to racecar design and manufacture.

"The capabilities here are fantastic and it was fascinating to find out exactly how the A1 GP cars are made and how they are made with safety as well as speed in mind," Beschir said, "The first thing I thought of when I knew that the car was going to roll was 'don't worry, these cars are strong and I will be okay'. Now I know exactly how much hard work, skill and thought goes in to protecting us when things go wrong."

The Lebanese chassis was viewed by both drivers as it underwent repairs in Lola's composite shop, while senior composite engineer Craig Turner and sales manager Paul Jackson were both on hand to explain the procedure.

"Khalil's accident was quite unique in that his car touched down on a kerb after a substantial launch from the wheels of the other car," Turner revealed, "The damage to the roll hoop was actually quite minimal but, obviously, we replace any hoop that has been involved in such an accident.

"I would estimate that the car impacted the kerb at approximately 75-80mph before it then dissipated more energy by rolling through the gravel trap. In terms of design, the roll hoop is vital as a safety feature, but the chassis and driver are also important in the overall packaging when it comes to ensuring that these accidents are survivable in modern racing."

Before the A1GP cars turned a wheel in anger, they undertook stringent FIA crash testing procedures, which see static loads of 7.9 tonnes unleashed on to the roll hoop. The part, as well as the rest of the chassis, passed the tests with flying colours but the hoop, although relatively simple in design, now has added safety features that are unseen to the naked eye.

"Because the hoop is designed solely in carbon fibre and often impacts on a hard surfaces such as tarmac or, indeed, in this instance, a kerb or rumble strip, we utilise a small metal plate in the top of the structure which protects the hoop against abrasion when a car is inverted for a period of time," Turner added, "This plate is encapsulated into the first two layers of composite material within the hoop and helps to maintain the structural integrity during an accident. Although it is not a dynamic part of the hoop design, in our experience it is a necessary additional safety feature within it."

Beschir and Shaaban will be back in action at the second round of the A1GP series, at the Lausitzring in Germany, this weekend, and will be looking to improve, not only on their finishing record, but also the 22nd place that Beschir achieved in race one at Brands Hatch.

 

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