Joined: 05 Aug 2001
|Posted: Tue Sep 04, 2001 6:29 pm Post subject: SAFETY IN KARTING
|This is a very important topic for me, for a few reasons. First, I'm only 17 so I have a lot of years to go, and I hope to get through them. Second, I started my real interest in racing just after Ayrton and Roland died that first weekend of May in 1994 and have always regreted missing the magic they, and others we've lost, displayed on the track. Third, I've grown up in the 90's. This is a time where old fashion ideals are gone, and I have often longed for the more "romantic" (if you will) time. By that I mean someone crashing and you stopping to help them (ie Fittipaldi stopping when Donohue went off, Guy Edwards and 4 others pulling Nikki Lauda out of his burning Ferrari, etc. It was good to see Irvine helping with Burti at Spa though), granted in the top levels there is better course work, but in karting if someone takes a big tumble I often wonder if I would be too concerned with my race to ignor their life. Also, as I believe Stewart said, they used to race carefully b/c everyone knew they held eachothers lives in their hands, which has obviously faded as seen by the countless number of people who "take out" others on the track.
So on to the real topic. No karting obviously isn't safe enough. That's a gimme. I would like to thank a lot of track owners/operators that do run safer tracks. Marshall Martin has a very nice track in South Bend, as does Hollis Brown in Vegas, both are as safe as can be made (maybe the trees at SBRP, but regardless of the danger I like them). I really like SBRP's "pillows" although i've been fortunate enough not to hit them! The really good thing here is that not only do they save the driver, but equipment doesn't seem to be damaged as much either. Downfall? I hear they're difficult to move if you get into them and can continue b/c they kinda flop around, of course had they been hay the kart would be bent...
TRACK DESIGN--I think the biggest thing here is not only the layout (ie straights too close to eachother, etc.) but also runoff. Now i've given thought to this. I think the biggest problem is placement of the track within the land owned. For example, Badger Raceway in Dousman, WI. I love the track (one of my fav's), but b/c of the way it's placed on the lot there's only about 15-20 feet of runoff at the end of the front straight (then a fence!). It can catch you out, as Nick Watt found out when his ICA stuck and spun him into the hay there...Had there been more runoff there would have been no impact. Moreover, some tracks with close straights actually seperate the two with hay and low fences the same height as the hay to keep them from moving to the other side(I know it sounds bad, I think it is). Also, on hay, it's good if it's fresh and at least 2 bales thick and high (more thick at high speed areas). However, this hay that's been there through rain, and snow, and the past decade of ecological events...you know the hay that animals live in and grass grows on...it is this hay that is not crash friendly and should be replaced. I know it costs money, we're in racing, it's not a new concept. Ok, trees, I like them a lot. I really like how the shade will affect the track and all...but safety wise i'd recomend you cut them down, sell them for lumber, and buy those "pillows" like at SBRP.
TRACK OFFICIALS--I think this is where BIG improvements can be made! Corner workers need to be trained (in medics as well as how to go about the job). 3 workers per corner or chicane. One flags, one looks up track, one looks down. Moreover, as a racer I would really like it if the corner workers helped the karter to continue if the position is not imediately dangerous (ie a push back onto the track after everyone's passed by).
SAFETY GEAR--Not so much we as karters can do about this. To be honest I buy my gear and as long as it works and it's comfortable it's good for me. I think seats are important, to avoid injury to the ribs. But overall, helmet, suit, etc., if you buy something from Europe then it has already met the FIA's standards.
DRIVERS--I think this area is also a place for big improvement. First, as others in the thread have said, if the track isn't safe, don't race it. I think this is fundamentally important because in the end the person that has the most affect on your life is you. Moreover, I would like to see groups of drivers band together to correct problems and or abandon races due to safety. I know that sounds like the work of the devil, but i'll remind you that F1 does it, Champ Cars do it, NASCAR does it, even FSA didn't race at Imola in 97 (year right?) b/c it wasn't safe. The drivers must be able to represent themselves to the organisers and have changes made, b/c it's not the organisers who are risking death or injury, it's us. Also, as far as rough driving is concerned. I think that in a racing condition one should think a little more about the consequences of diving inside someone. I know that would make for a "slow driver" but it's better to finish second than be dead. Also, note to the governing bodies, it's not always the guy that's passing who is at fault. If the karts are side by side, and the outside guy turns into the inside, it was that guys fault.
There's bound to be a lot more...but at this time i'm going to stop. I realize that a lot of this hinges on money. That's the real problem faced. To change track layouts or make new tracks cost lots of money (it should be in the few million $ range to do it right i think). At the same time, small things don't take that much money. Cutting down a tree (besides zoning and all that) takes an axe, some lighter fluid for the stump, and enough guys to lug it away from the track...
MTM Karting www.mtmkart.com
[ September 04, 2001: Message edited by: Mark MacDonald ]