IndyCar has released its official review of the October 16 crash that killed Indianapolis 500 champ Dan Wheldon. The report acknowledged that Wheldon’s head coming into contact with a fence support post was ruled the specific cause of death, in keeping with the October 17 autopsy that concluded blunt force trauma to the head killed the British racer. However, the report added that the exact cause of the accident itself could not be pinpointed.
“While several factors coincided to produce a ‘perfect storm,’ none of them can be singled out as the sole cause of the accident,” investigators concluded. “For this reason, it is impossible to determine with certainty that the result would have been any different if one or more of the factors did not exist.”
Despite two days of safety testing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway before the start of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar World Championship, drivers knew it would be a potentially dangerous race. The track’s size allowed for a large field of cars running at unusually high speeds, which prohibited the “racing grooves” that typically help channel cars into some type of order. The result was track-side chaos. Drivers couldn’t tell where other drivers were or were headed, so routes to safety were hard to come by.
Gian Paolo Dallara, head of Italian manufacturer Dallara Automobili, recently told Autosprint he doesn’t believe that the 220-mph speeds contributed directly to the crash. Instead, he blames problems with wheel-to-wheel contact.
“If two wheels that rotate in the same direction touch, even at just 50kph [31mph], the car behind shoots up in the air,” Dallara said. “There’s nothing you can do.”
Dallara says that the new 2012 chassis had undergone a redesign aimed at reducing the risks of lifting off from wheel-to-wheel contact even before the 15-car crash that killed Wheldon. And in an ironic twist, it was Wheldon who had helped IndyCar and Dallara test the new chassis, logging upwards of 2,000 miles on it. In honor of the racer, Dallara recently announced it has named the new design the DW12. E3 Spark Plugs supports the new name and Dallara’s efforts toward creating a safer race car.
Meanwhile, race officials have dropped the Las Vegas Motor Speedway from the 2012 IndyCar schedule. Pending continued track testing, the series may return to Vegas in 2013.