June 17th, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS — IZOD IndyCar Series officials have discovered a procedural error in the packing of a fire hose on one of the safety team’s trucks working the June 5 event at Texas Motor Speedway, which caused it to malfunction as the safety team attempted to help Simona de Silvestro after a fiery crash on the 1.5-mile superspeedway.
“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.”
When de Silvestro crashed on lap 100 at TMS, a fireball erupted from her HVM Racing Honda Dallara. It took several intense moments for safety crews to arrive, but once they did arrive and attempt to extinguish the flames, the fire hose malfunctioned.
De Silvestro eventually escaped the blaze with help from members of the safety team, but not before burning her right hand. Series officials have been scrutinized since the incident and promised to review safety procedures to determine where the breakdown took place.
The safety team consists of approximately 24 personnel with a minimum of 14 attending each event — two trauma physicians, three paramedics and nine 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 conducts frequent training sessions for its members and meets daily with track safety personnel during event weekends.