Video: Franchitti applauds safety of IndyCar Series chassisUPDATE Dario Franchitti has seen the video replays of his crash during the Firestone Indy 400 and the Indianapolis 500 winner is appreciative for the safety features built into his racing maching.
"Mr. Dallara is a personal friend of mine; I've always been a fan of his," said Franchitti. "He has given us fast cars that are very strong as well. I have to say that the car absorbed all the impact. It is because of that car that I'm sitting here today with just a bruise on my nose. It is just incredible." That Franchitti and the other drivers involved in the multi-car melee were not seriously injured is a testament to the integrity of the Dallara chassis - especially the roll hoop -- borne from structural requirements and hours of testing.
"We have a number of mandatory structures to create the safest environment we can for the drivers," said senior technical director Les Mactaggart of the sanctioning Indy Racing League. "The current chassis has to undergo a number of mandatory tests to do with the crushability of the car, how we absorb energy in the side structure, how the roll hoop performs and how the structure of the chassis under the roll hoop performs because it's not just a roll hoop structure. You have to attach it to something that can withstand the forces as well."
After the cars touched wheels, Franchitti's car pitched left and sideways at the nose of Dan Wheldon's car. Airflow underneath the flat-bottomed chassis sent it airborne and it landed upside down on the track. The No. 9 car driven by Scott Dixon and No. 22 car driven by A.J. Foyt IV had nowhere to maneuver and ran into/under Franchitti's car, which sent it skidding across the asphalt racing surface.
The roll hoop, which protects the drivers in such situations, worked as designed. The tubular steel frame roll hoop was mandated to withstand 18,000 pounds of vertical, 6,500 pounds of lateral and 15,500 pounds of horizontal loads in testing. The sanctioning body also required that the structure it was fastened to (the top of the carbon fiber tub) also would be able to withstand similar loads.
"That's part of the process of evaluating what happens to a car in an accident situation, and we either change our testing procedures or the structures of the car to eliminate possibilities," Mactaggart said. "The standards we use are the same as the FIA on the Formula 1 cars. The next generation of car will have the same test, but I've already increased the vertical, lateral and horizontal loads, so the test will be much more stringent."
Every time an IndyCar Series car is involved in a crash, IndyCar Series director of engineering Jeff Horton collects data from the on-board system and photographs the cars. Mactaggart also will visit the "bone yard" to examine the wreckage.
"Principally to see if the structures have responded in ways we anticipated to a pre-accident situation because obviously every accident is different," he said. "The whole car could be subjected to forces we hadn't anticipated. So it's a very important process for us to see if everything has worked as we anticipated and if it hasn't to make a note of it and see what applications we can improve to get the results we wanted or incorporate into the future design of the car." If/when a damaged car returns to service, it must pass a safety inspection before moving to the technical inspection pad and finally onto the racetrack. Each chassis is identified by a serial number. The safety inspection team reviews the repaired areas based on Horton's photographs.
"If it was a major repair, such as Dario's car, it would have to go back to Dallara (in Italy), which would fill out paperwork for what it did to fix the car and send it to the league," IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch said. "All the things that come into play (headrest, pedals, seatbelts, seat, etc.) in an accident are checked every race."
Franchitti, who drove same chassis to victory in the 91st Indianapolis 500 in May, is thankful for the standards and stringent testing, which prevented the roll hoop especially from being compromised.
"I have to say that it did its job," he said. "It really saved me. I guess I owe that car a lot."
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