NHRA and Ford's Blue Box safety program
Last season, Ford Racing Technology began working together on an NHRA safety initiative in wake of the Eric Medlen tragedy. A large part of that initiative was the Ford Blue Box safety program, the data collection box that has been mandated by NHRA to be on all Top Fuel and Funny Cars for 2008. Two weeks ago at the Charlotte media tour, Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology, talked about the safety initiative and where it stands heading into this weekend’s NHRA POWERade season opener at Pomona.
|Ford Racing Blue Box|
DAN DAVIS – Director, Ford Racing Technology -- “We went to work with John Force to make the sport safer and we went to work hard – very, very hard, right away – which I thought was good. John was absolutely dedicated to it as were we, so it was great to have a partner that was so dedicated. We made some changes to the car and did some things that made the car safer. I honestly believe that those changes saved John’s life (in his Dallas crash), so, to me, the fact that we did have a fatality was horrible. Those were hard days for us, but Eric Medlen motivated us to do something that I honestly think saved NHRA. To me, John Force is just about NHRA, and I think without the things that we collectively did with him, we would have lost John. Thank God we didn’t and we’re continuing to push even harder and quicker to have better cars and a safer environment. We’ll work on that and it’s going to make the whole sport safer, which is a good thing for everybody. It’s not just about us. It’s for the whole sport. It’s hard to feel good about this because of the death that occurred and all the agony that John has gone through. John was hurt very badly. I don’t know that everyone really realizes just how extensive his injuries were, but his core body survived because of the things that we had done, based on Eric. So thank goodness we didn’t just sit around and do nothing.”
HOW IS DETROIT WORKING WITH HIS GUYS IN INDIANAPOLIS? IS THERE A LOT OF COMMUNICATION? “There’s communication on a daily basis. We have engineers working on the chassis that interact with Force’s guys, Coil and Bernie, everyday. We’ve taken their products and brought them to Detroit and put them on our twist rigs to figure out how strong they are and what their moments of inertia. We modeled that whole thing and computer modeled it, and then we made new chassis. We brought those back to Detroit. We twisted them and validated them all. We’re testing today with a chassis that has been strain-gauged. The entire thing has been strain-gauged, so that we can once again look at applications and see if our models are accurate and try to get that all correlated. So it is a very massive effort. It is very engineering driven with experts and it’s making a difference and we’re doing it in the right way.”
AND YOU’RE GIVING THE BLUE BOXES TO EVERYBODY? “The blue box is something that we learned in open-wheel a long time ago that if you have no data about a crash, you have an impossible time in trying to figure out how to simulate a crash and figure out how to improve and, of course, there was no data. I felt it was very important. Someone else is going to crash a dragster because it happens, so, whoever it was, we wanted that data. The only way, to me, to get that to happen would be to have someone come in and supply everybody with the box and have NHRA require it so someone isn’t trying to save weight by leaving it off. And to have NHRA have the ability to interrogate it and make sure that they’re working and all that, so I felt like somebody needed to step up and facilitate the process and I was willing to do it because in the big scheme of things, it’s a negligible expense. What it really took was just a commitment and then working with NHRA to make it a requirement because, unfortunately, someone else is going to crash, but let’s get the data of what happens.”
MORE ON NHRA SAFETY. “In NHRA we are making a hell of a difference in that sport and a lot of it is what Pat DiMarco [Ford engineer] is doing and all the blue box stuff we’re doing and the helmet testing we’re doing. With the helmet testing going on, we’ve got all the NASCAR Cup guys coming to us going, ‘Tell me about the helmet. What did you find?’ We’re doing this because we care. We’re in there learning about stuff and, thankfully, through you guys (the media), we have a reputation for being real straight. I have a reputation with you guys of being straight. I’ll tell you what’s really happening. We have that reputation everywhere and we enjoy that reputation, so then we can help the sport and we can do so legitimately. In a way, that’s what we’re here for. If we can save one life or save one injury or one something because of helmet testing we did or chassis testing or whatever we did, then we did our job.”