Thursday, December 22, 2011

IndyCar's Barnhart says Las Vegas banking not to blame for Wheldon's accident

(by Mark Glendenning 12-12-11)

IndyCar president of operations Brian Barnhart has quashed claims that Dan Wheldon's fatal accident at Las Vegas in October could be attributed to IndyCars running on 1.5-mile, high-banked ovals.

The suitability of IndyCars to tracks such as Las Vegas and Texas has been subject to intense scrutiny since Wheldon's crash, with the series confirming last week that it was backing out of plans to race at Las Vegas next year.

Barnhart, who announced the initial findings from the investigation into Wheldon's crash earlier today, said that the incident at Las Vegas was not triggered by the banking, but by the fact that the drivers could run flat-out on the full width of the track.

"Each track should be taken into consideration on an individual basis, not simply by banking alone," he said. "IndyCar and Champ Car have successfully carried out many races over the years at tracks that meet the definition of high-banked ovals.

"Due in part to the total geometry of the track, each track has its own unique routes around the circuit that optimise speed and handling capabilities.. Most tracks have a limited number of racing grooves - it's not unusual for ovals to have one or two grooves.

"Racing grooves not only restrict drivers' naturally aggressive racing behaviour, but make the location of another competitor's car more predictable. The examination of video at Las Vegas shows pack racing that is normal at high-banked ovals.

"What we also witnessed was almost unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions. This capability of nearly unlimited movement on the track without the natural restriction of racing grooves must be attributed to the overall track geometry beyond banking.

"This movement not only allowed for increased car-to-car contact, but made it more difficult for drivers to predict the movement of other drivers around them."

The series has formed a technical committee comprising IndyCar officials, team engineers and representatives from chassis manufacturer Dallara to focus on the aerodynamic and mechanical considerations relating to racing on 1.5 mile, high-banked ovals in the future.

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