Thursday, October 27, 2011

Franchitti: We should still race on ovals, but make them safer

(by Simon Strang 10-26-11)

Four-time IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti believes ovals should remain on the category's schedule in the future as the investigation into the 15-car crash during the Las Vegas finale that led to Dan Wheldon's death continues.

Franchitti was critical of the decision to run the event on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motorspeedway venue at the time because the nature of the track led to close proximity racing with little or no margin for error. But he insists that oval racing is part of the fabric of the sport and should not be discarded altogether.

"I love the fact that the IndyCar series is the mix of all the disciplines and to win the championship, you've got to be strong at all of them," the Scot said in an interview with AP. "So we've got to be on ovals, and it's got to be safe. It's got to be a lot safer."

"You can always look back with hindsight, but we've raced on the 1.5-mile ovals before," Franchitti added. "With the information they had, I think they believed what they were doing was right. Going back now, I wouldn't do it, because we know the result."

Franchitti also supported IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard's decision to call off the race in the aftermath of the accident.

"He [Bernard] made absolutely the right choice," Franchitti said. "Especially when I got back in the car and I realised how emotional I was there, and I thought 'Absolutely right decision.' I think most of us couldn't drive because the tears, we couldn't see where we were going.

"The drivers were very concerned. Each person was very confused, and Randy, ultimately, he really as a leader did a good job and took the decision out of our hands.

"You cannot blame one person for this. Motor racing is not safe. We've known that since I started racing, and I don't think we're being cavalier in saying that. But we have to move on, look at what we do now.

"We are going to look at all those elements and try and take as many of them out of the equation, to do whatever we can to make this as safe as we possibly can."

Bernard himself he had no doubts in his mind about the right course of action in the events that immediately followed the accident: "I felt that I didn't really care about tradition on this," said Bernard. "I felt like no driver in their right mind could have a clear head knowing that one of their friends had just died, and I felt this is where I needed to make a stand and say 'No.'"

Franchitti will get his first taste of the new-for-2012 Dallara set to be named in honour of Wheldon - who led the development driving of the project - when he tests it at Sebring on Wednesday.

Asked whether he'd considered his own future in the sport following the death of his friend and former team-mate, Franchitti replied: "I've definitely wondered if it's worth it," he said. "But I believe I still want to race."

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