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IRL calls "our bad" on De Silvestro fire response
Ed Note: We applaud the IRL for not sugar-coating this, stating that they failed to live up to standards, and what they will do to see it never happens again.

From Jack Arute's You Don't Know Jack blogsite:

Unlike the honchos at BP, the Indy Racing League has come clean regarding Simona De Silvestro’s terrifying fiery crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Now the question is where do they go from here?

In an effort to be transparent, I have reprinted in its entirety the official release from the IZOD IndyCar Series:


INDIANAPOLIS (June 16, 2010) – Upon review of the on-track fire during the June 5 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indy Racing League discovered a procedural error in the packing of a fire hose on one of its trucks that caused it to malfunction as well as a breakdown in Safety Team protocol in its response to the incident.

“First and foremost, the Safety Team puts the highest priority on driver safety,” said Mike Yates, track safety manager for the Indy Racing League. “Prior to every race, the Safety Team tests all hoses to ensure they’re working. At Texas, there was an error in the re-packing of the hose after the test, which caused it to malfunction. We are modifying hoses on all the trucks beginning this weekend in Iowa to prevent this from happening again.

“Additionally, upon arriving at the scene of the incident, our protocol calls for Safety Team members to take pressurized canisters with water and Cold Fire to the car to extinguish the fire as a first response. In situations like this, decisions are made in a split second based on the severity of the incident. After critiquing the situation, we have determined that the canisters are a more efficient and effective way to quickly suppress on-track fires. This will be reviewed with all Safety Team members.”

The Safety Team consists of approximately 24 highly-trained personnel with a minimum of 14 attending each event — 2 trauma physicians, 3 paramedics and 9 firefighters/EMTs. Team members have an average of 20 years of experience in their respective areas.

“Our Safety Team is at the forefront of motorsports safety and over the years has set a very high standard in its response to all on-track incidents,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the Indy Racing League. “We are always continually looking for ways to improve the way we operate. What happened at Texas was a result of human error and we will work diligently to prevent this in the future. The safety of our teams, drivers and officials on the racetrack remains our number one priority.”

The Safety Team is divided into three response units. When an on-track incident occurs, the first team to arrive on the scene is responsible for the driver and his/her extrication from the car, if necessary. The second team begins track cleanup at the area of impact. The third team makes a complete lap around the track to check for fluids and debris that may have been dropped during the incident.

The Safety Team conducts frequent training sessions for its members and meets daily with track safety personnel during event weekends

In our IndyCar Central Pre-Race program from Texas, I applauded the IRL for their diligence in “expanding the survivability envelop for drivers” in the Series.

They have taken thaty first step with their findings from the  De Silvestro incident.

I’m sure that we all will see a heightened awareness this week at Iowa. But, that is only the first step. What lies ahead is a comprehensive examination of all options to insure that the next time (and there will be a next time) such an incident occurs, faster more efficient response takes place.

This means having plans in place when equipment malfunctions. Items for consideration run the gamut from having the safety pins removed on all fire extinguishers whenever there is a car on the track to developing some sort of “quick release” for the head surround and ancillary paraphernalia (radio wires, etc.)  and items that may hinder a driver’s escape.

One things that does deserve consideration is the heroic efforts of a couple of the safety crew that risked their own well being to try and make a bad situation a good one. (The bottom line is always the welfare of the driver and De Somona was rescued with minor injuries)

Following the crash, I wrote: “You cannot slice this any way that doesn’t make the IRL look like a joke.” From the sound of things, the leadership at IndyCar felt, to some degree, the same. What is praiseworthy is there candor in their post-analysis. What is expected, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, is that in the end the IZOD IndyCar Series will emerge from this Black Eye and return to the top rung of driver safety.

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