Safety – an Important Read

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Last week, Jim Downing, the co-founder of HANS Performance Products penned an open letter to the racing industry.  Downing manufactures the HANS (Head and Neck Restraint Device) – one of the most important pieces of saftey equipment ever developed for race car drivers.  This has been a bleak season in the world of Motorsports, with several drivers lost – and Downing has some thoughts to share.

This letter needs to be read by every driver – from all racing series…and their fans:

To: Drivers, Track owners and Motor Racing Media
From: Jim Downing, co-founder of HANS Performance Products
Subject: Safety on U.S. short tracks and drag strips

It’s a sad fact the number of fatal accidents in motor racing is worse than people realize. We know, because it’s been part of our responsibility as a safety company to keep up with injurious accidents to learn what we can for future reference.

From April of this year through August, there have been at least 20 fatal accidents around the world where a driver or co-driver has been killed due to a racing incident. By any standard, it’s been a disastrous season. But there’s another statistic that’s even worse. The rate of fatal accidents on short ovals and drag strips in the U.S. continues to get worse. Since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal accident at Daytona, there have been at least 194 drivers killed in crashes on short tracks and drag strips – despite all the new safety improvements available. This data comes from the landmark safety study by the Charlotte Observer, SFI and current media accounts.

This tragic trend among weekend warriors has been evident in the past two seasons. In April through August of last year, four drivers were killed by crashes on short ovals and two were killed on drag strips. With several months remaining in the season, this year five drivers have been killed on short ovals during this same time span and three drivers have died in drag racing accidents.

We can do better than this in U.S. motor racing. This letter is a plea for drivers and track owners to take steps that can immediately improve safety on short ovals and drag strips. Four pieces of equipment can make a vital difference in cockpit safety: Head Restraints, full containment seats, head surrounds and side nets.

Of the eight fatalities on short ovals and drag strips this year, we believe the proper use of this system of cockpit safety equipment could have resulted in more favorable outcomes in five of the crashes.

Weekend warriors can install this equipment at a reasonable cost without waiting for track owners to build expensive solutions that may not be feasible.

It’s a matter of drivers realizing that the sport of racing will always be dangerous no matter what type of track or car is involved or how high or low the speeds. When it comes to speed, last December at the IMIS Safety and Technical Conference, we demonstrated that a Delta V (sudden decrease in velocity) of 42 mph can result in a fatal head or neck injury.

At the IMIS conference, we also cited statistics about the deaths of weekend warriors on short ovals and drag strips increasing since the death of Earnhardt. Sadly, that trend appears to be continuing. In honor of those racers who have been killed and with an eye on the future, we hope that as a respected member of the motorsports community you will join us in making racing safer and help raise awareness about improving safety for weekend warriors.

The Young and the Techless – F1 Vol. 1 Preview

In an effort to apprise ya’ll readers of the off-track action from around the world, I bring you my new weekly column: The Young and the Techless.  With just about every racing series worldwide moving to ever more restrictive regulations in an effort to make racing more competitive, I figured the title would be fitting (1. And you folks are car people… 2. Yes, I did jack the title idea from Ross, but he approved!)

FIA Formula One World Championship – Rules Changes and Off-Season Testing Update

Certainly the biggest story this F1 off-season has been the rule change the FIA enacted to lower the cars’ noses to make them safer in a nose-to-side impact.  The trend since the early 2000s has been to continuously raise the height of the cars’ noses to aid in under-car airflow.  This trend necessitated massive compromises in suspension geometry (lending us to the suspension arms having more anhedral than a Harrier – good God I’m a nerd…) and also necessitated nose-cones being almost at level with the top of the monocoque (and hence the drivers’ heads).

Under pressure from the designers, the FIA kept the rule for height of the monocoque at 625mm but mandated that maximum nose height not exceed 550mm causing most teams to design a horrid step in the nose:

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Thankfully, Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes have gone with a gently curving nose, which is far more aesthetically pleasing:

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The pre-season testing has been rather uneventful, save for two major storylines:

Lotus-Renault F1 Team had to pull out of the second testing session at Barcelona because of defective front suspension mounts.  They discovered at the first test in Jerez (with chassis 1)that the car’s handling wasn’t responding as expected, then with the higher loads of Barcelona’s corners the front suspension on chassis 2 failed.  They immediately pulled out of the test and went back to their factory at Enstone, England and set about a redesign to rectify the problem.

Another bombshell (read: sarcasm): The token backmarker-reject team HRT (Hispania Racing) had its new 2012 chassis pass 17 out of 18 FIA crash tests, thereby failing homologation and not being allowed to attend the first two tests.  Just last week the HRT finally passed the 18th crash test and was homologated.  HRT hope to debut their new crapwagon car this Sunday.

Testing times amongst the other teams have been just as sporadic as they always are in testing (small teams running on low-fuel just to post fast times to attract sponsorship money).  General consensus is that Reb Bull Racing will still be the team to beat (read: another Vettle championship), but many pundits are saying McLaren’s “radical” non-stepped nose car might pose a challenge to Reb Bull at the hands of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

Stay tuned later today for TYatT V8 Edition, and also a look at the new World Endurance Championship.

The State of the Website

Gentleman who like Gentleman, and Ladies who like Ladies – the State of Queers4Gears is strong!

2011 was a banner year for Q4G.  We welcomed new contributors Ross Bynum (Indy), Cody Globig (V8 & F1) and Carla Page (NASCAR).  They share our love for racing and making people laugh….making them a perfect addition to the crew.  Troy Germain and Michael Myers pumped out the weekly podcast: “The Queers4Gears Radio Hour” – and while it wasn’t on the radio and sometimes didn’t last an hour – we appreciate you listening each week.

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Queers4Gears was profiled in two newspapers in 2011:  The Santa Rosa Press Democrat and The Las Vegas Review Journal.

One of the year’s highlights was when YOU – our readers and twitter followers donated to support Q4G founder Michael Myers in the Las Vegas AIDS Walk.  Q4G readers donated $1545.00 and that amount was matched by Penn and Teller!  Thanks to you – over $3000.00 was donated by Queers4Gears to AFAN (Aid for AIDS of Nevada.)

Site traffic made a dramatic jump this year.  Q4G moved to a new server host – and during the transition a technician asked if we still wanted the site blocked from the bots.  We were not aware that the “bots” used by search engines to index material for your searches was being blocked from Q4G until late this year.

Once we invited the bots in…. traffic jumped from an average of 3,500 unique visitors per month to over 12,000!

In 2012 – we are adding a new podcast, Michael Myers and Hannah Rickards will be covering action off of the track this season in “Out of the Tunnel.”

Keep your eyes open for weekly recurring race commentary that we hope will keep you laughing.

See ya at the track……………

Aussie V8 Sydney Telstra 500 Preview

This weekend’s Sydney Telstra 500 marks the final event of the 2011 V8 Supercar season.  The title is still up for grabs between Team Vodafone teammates Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup.

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Whincup enters the race with the advantage over Lowndsey, but the 888 Racing duo has never had much good luck around the challenging street circuit around Sydney Olympic Park.  Last year the top three contenders in the championship were running nose to tail when the rain began to pour in Sydney, and all three crashed at the same time, in the same corner, from the same overcooked-it-on-slicks mistake.  One of those drivers was Jamie Whincup, and the advantage going into that round was Dick Johnson Racing’s James Courtney who ended up taking the title in his battered Falcon.  Lowndes also had an incident in that fateful race for the second consecutive year.  Both Vodafone boys are hoping for better luck in Homebush this time round.

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Either man can take the title by the end of Sunday’s second 250 kilometer sprint race, and the gorgeous Sydney street circuit always pans out to be an exciting weekend of the world’s top touring car series.  Watch this space for updates as the weekend progresses.

On a side note: all month long the V8 Supercar circus has been supporting Movember, the growing of cheesy mustaches in honor of Breast Cancer awareness and research.  This photo of DJR’s Steven Johnson makes him look more like a redneck American at a tractor pull (I speak from experience; I love tractor pulling) than a proper Aussie racing driver.

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What really takes the cake, though, are the facial accessorizing done by Craig Lowndes and Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison.  I couldn’t find any good photos of them for this article, but if you get a chance, please go watch any video clip either man has appeared in this past month.  Now those are some mustaches that must be seen to be believed!  Seriously, both drivers are sporting some wicked ’70s porn-’staches.  And if you think they aren’t overt porn-’staches then I don’t know what is!  These two men have always been rather cute (to me at least), but damn…  Turn OFF! (and I’m a bearded man myself, so that’s sayin’ something!)

F1 and V8 News and Notes

by Cody Globig – Q4G F1 and V8 Contributor

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Indian GP:
Well, another brand new race in the FIA Formula One World Championship is under our belts. There were on track battles, some well-publicized skirmishes, and somewhere in the ungodly haze of New Delhi a race broke out.
I’m not going to go into an analysis of the race this time ‘round, because let’s face it, it’s an F1 race… They’re not all that exciting, and even I’ll admit that. I’m just too fascinated by the cars and engineering to look away (and it’s the same with LeMans each year too). Sadly, it was rather hard to look at the cars because one could barely see the length of the front straight through the awful haze that permeates that part of India. I think it’s great that a developing country like India has the opportunity to host a grand prix, but dayum! I couldn’t imagine breathing that air, let alone eating the food and risking “Delhi Belly”.
The excitement of the weekend once again involved a row between Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. This time, Massa rather blatantly drove into the side of Hamilton as they were entering a corner, and driver-representative to the stewards Johnny Herbert agreed. Race control penalized him appropriately (in my opinion).
As per the usual par for the course, the media went crazy over the situation. Jenson Button was even questioned about this ongoing hate-fest between Massa and Hamilton; a story which you can read here, in which you can read Jenson’s reply of, “I don’t give a f***!” to the Massa/Hamilton question.
Oh yeah, remember that race that I mentioned? Reigning and this year’s World Champion Sebastian Vettle won again. And he set the fastest lap on the last lap (much to the political chagrin of his boss!).
V8 Supercar Silly Season Starts
Silly Season down under has swung into full gear with just a couple rounds left in the 2011 V8 Supercar season. It was announced the other day that Stone Brothers Racing has signed Lee Holdsworth away from Gary Rogers Motorsport. 2012 will mark the first year in the main game that Holdsworth will be in the Ford camp, piloting the IRWIN Tools Falcon seat vacated by Alex Davison. Davison, younger brother of Ford Performance Racing’s Will, is now looking for a ride for next year.

The Q4G Radio Hour – Season 1 / Show 32

On this week’s show we welcome new Q4G F1 and V8 Contributor Cody Globig and talk about the upcoming F1 and V8 races in the US.  Jeff Gluck from SB Nation called in to talk about the story he broke reporting the Chad Knaus instructed Jimmie Johnson to wreck the rear of the #48 if they won the race.  We also have an interview with Truck Series driver Jen Jo Cobb and Troy and I make our Martinsville picks…. listen here:

 

Meet Cody Globig – Q4G F1 and V8 Contributor Preview

Queers4Gears is excited to announce we continue our expansion into covering other forms of motorsports.  I started it all in 2009 with a primary focus on NASCAR – we now have a few folks covering stock cars and in the past year we have added Indy Car and NHRA contributors to the site.  Now we add Formula 1 and V8 Super Cars to the site.  Both series have announced plans to race in the US in the coming years – so the timing could not be better.  Join me in welcome Cody Globig.  You can follow Cody on Twitter: @theSAABwriter or email him: globigcy AT mail.uc.edu

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I’m Cody Globig. I’m a 21 year old English and Journalism student at the University of Cincinnati, I’m gay, and I am obsessed (which is putting it very lightly) with cars and motor racing.

I’m just a lil’ (and at 5’3” I mean that very literally) old country boy from Hamilton, OH (about a half-hour  North of Cincinnati) but with a particular proclivity to non-US motoring.  Many of my family members have worked in the auto industry – most for Ford, hence I have a distinct bias toward the boys from Dearborn – so naturally I was immersed in all-things-automobile from a very young age. Most of the credit would have to go to my grandfather, bless his 91 year old heart! An insatiable tinkerer to this day, he gave me the foundations of my mechanical knowledge and fascination which I’ve grown and refined my entire life.  These days, I actually teach my own father about cars more than he teaches me anything (except life lessons; he’s good at that – love you Mom and Dad!), but we still have a tight hobby-bond over our family’s other pastime: hunting.  I’m not an obsessive white tailed deer hunter like my father, but I do have two bucks mounted in my bedroom from my pre-college days as a family venison provider.

Compared to my long-standing passion for road cars, my interest in racing is somewhat new.  When I was younger, I always loved cars, yet I never got the point of racing.  February 18, 2001 changed that though.  The ’01 Daytona 500 was the first race I ever watched (nothing else good was on, and I liked cars, so I figured, “What the hell… Why not?!”).  Over that 5 or so hours, I saw the power, speed, and excitement of motor racing.  I saw the highest of highs in Michael Waltrip, then racing’s lowest of lows just minutes later.  I’ve always been a fearless soul, and I suppose the realization of watching the most dangerous moments of a race sealed that passion into my heart. Ever since, I have been fascinated with the men and women who participate in one of the most dangerous sports in the world; their courage, tenacity, and undying will to win.  Moreso, I am a massive nerd, and my obsessive fascination with the machinery involved is an absolute illness.

For that first year of my NASCAR fandom, I either didn’t realize or didn’t care that other racing series existed (that turned left and right!).  During the ’01 off-season, though, I discovered the wonders of touring car racing from across the globe each weekend when Speedvision (God bless that long-forgotten channel format) showed the British Touring car Championship, European (now World) Touring Car Championship, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, and my favorite: the Australian V8 Supercar series.  Road racing tin-tops became my life’s passion that winter, and come March, I discovered the (at the time) 19,000rpm wonder that was the FIA Formula One World Championship. Oh yeah, and I’m also quite big into rallying (which is why my first car was a 1967 SAAB 96 two-stroke).

Now don’t get me wrong, I like all forms of racing, but at heart I’m a road racing guy, though I still follow NASCAR fairly closely.  My specialties these days are my very close following of the Aussie V8s and Formula One, which is why I reached out to the great Michael Myers and asked if he’d like a contributor for F1 and the V8s since (respectively) one is returning to the US in 2012, and the other coming to our shores for the first time in 2013, both to Austin, TX and the magnificent Tavo Hellmund and Hermann Tilke lovechild: Circuit of the Americas.  NOTE: Ross and Michael, you lucky b******s… Living so close and all…

Forget Planking, We Go Hopping on the Gold Coast Preview

October 23, 2011 – by Cody Globig; Aussie V8 Supercar Guest Blogger – follow Cody @theSAABwriter

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I figured that as soon as I got home from my long day at work I would be instantly jealous of everyone in Surfer’s Paradise on Queensland’s gorgeous Gold Coast. Sure enough, I was. Here I am, sitting in my pajamas in 40 degree, partly cloudy Cincinnati and watching the SPEED Channel telecast of the V8 Supercar Armor All Gold Coast 600. Yep, way jealous. Great weather for the second race day (the 600k race is run over two 300k heats on Saturday and Sunday), great cars as always, great racing, great international drivers, and being Surfer’s Paradise: some seriously hot men everywhere… Ugh…

The Gold Coast 600 is in its second year of being an international motorsports festival. Each team has its primary driver paired with some star co-driver from around the world. The Indy Cars were well represented, especially in the wake of the tragedy one week ago, by Helio, Gil deFerran, Sebastian Bourdais, among others. NASCAR had Boris Said (close enough…). There were touring car/GT/sportscar stars galore (Andy Priaulx, Gianni Morbidelli, Darren Turner, Dirk Muller, Emanuele Pirro, etc.). Formula One was also well represented with current Force India F1 driver Tonio Liuzzi, and former driver Mika Salo (and Pirro/Morbidelli if you’re an anorak like me). America’s favorite GT stars Joey Hand and Patrick Long were also there.

The weekend started tricky yet again (same as Bathurst a fortnight before) with rain hitting just five minutes into the first qualifying session. Jamie Whincup and his co-driver SeaBass Bourdais (who was by FAR the quickest co-driver throughout the weekend) set a blinding pole time before the rains came, and they repeated the feat on Sunday for the second race as well.

The first race was decently uneventful. Most of the international co-drivers aren’t exactly used to standing starts, let alone ones in cars weighing 1.5 tons, 600+ bhp, and on piddly 11” tires… It became very apparent very quickly when the start was botched by what looked like half the field (the cars were started by the guest drivers, then handed off to the series regulars after a stint or two). The main theme of the races all weekend was curb-hopping. The V8 Supercar officials have always been fairly strict at Surfer’s, and at the season-openning Clipsal 500 on the Adelaide street circuit, about cars putting four wheels over the curbing going through the many chicanes. Earlier this year at the Clipsal 500, officials came up with the bright idea of putting in timing loops in the middle of each chicane bend and placing transponders on the centerline of each car. If the timing loop gets tripped by a car’s transponder, it means the car had cut the curb far enough to give an unfair advantage. Drivers are allowed 5 free curb-hops, and if that number is exceeded then a drive-through penalty is handed out. What I didn’t expect to see at Adelaide was how many bloody drive-throughs there were! Every lap at least one car got a penalty, and the Gold Coast was no different! In fact, the timing loops were getting such a workout that they BROKE and V8 Supercars had to send officials to each chicane to watch the cars and report back who they deemed needed to be served a drive-through.

In any case, Bourdais took to the Vodafone Commodore like a duck to water and he and Whincup soared to an easy Race 1 win.  Teammate Lowndes (who was leading the championship after Whincup’s electrical dramas at Bathurst) ran into his own issues in qualifying and the race. Some electrical issue cropped up in his Commodore this time and prevented a decent finish in Race 1. Overnight the 888 Racing crew changed the car’s entire wiring loom and got it to behave properly for the first time all weekend.

As I mentioned earlier, Whincup and Bourdais had the pole for Race 2 as well, and the second time around the start went a bit cleaner. P2 starting Ryan Briscoe in the #2 Toll HRT Commodore balked the start and bunched the field up, but that was about all – until halfway through the first lap…

Jan Magnussen in Russell Ingall’s Supercheap Auto Commodore punted the Bottle-O Racing Falcon of Christian Klein sending Klein spearing off into the barriers. The car was destroyed and the Safety Car was deployed.

Soon, the race went green and the rest of the race (save for a couple more Safety car periods) went off rather well.  There were numerous epic battles throughout the field, one involving teammates Lowndes and Whincup after the first stint, others involving archnemesis teams Team Vodafone battling HRT.

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By the time the race boiled down to the last 10 laps, the battle was on between Whincup and Mark Winterbottom’s Orrcon Steel Falcon. Frosty was clearly faster than the Commodore through the twisty bits, but, being a street circuit, just couldn’t get by until lap 94 when he outbraked Whincup and just eked past.

Winterbottom’s win came as his first of 2011 after being overshadowed by Ford compatriot Shane van Gisbergen of Stone Brothers’ racing (who claimed his first ever career Supercar win earlier this season). Co-driver Richard Lyons was absolutely thrilled to have the victory under his belt since he doesn’t have a full-time drive anywhere. “It’s great to help get other teams to notice you. I’d love to come here full-time! It’s such a great championship!”

It was also a fine day for the Kelly racing squad with three of their four cars in the top ten. It nearly ended badly for Todd Kelly, though, on lap 100 when he and Ingall had some serious contact, then getting into it with Jonathan Webb immediately after getting past Ingall.

The weekend came full circle with respect to our remembrance of Dan Wheldon. The weekend at Surfer’s commenced with a small memorial ceremony with all V8 Supercar officials, drivers, and crews involved, then culminating Bourdais was awarded the Dan Wheldon Memorial Trophy for being the highest scoring international co-driver after Race 2.

The championship fight is still white hot after Whincup’s 2nd and Lowndey’s finish well down the order in 20th place. The next race is the Falken Tasmania Challenge at Symmonds Plains Raceway in three week’s time.