Sunday, June 6, 2010

59.65 Seconds

UPDATE 6-7 4:14pm est: A statement issued by the IRL can be viewed HERE.

59.65 Seconds.  The length of a pit stop, you ask? Not even close. Pit stop with a stall? Nope. Driver slides through the box, car gets rolled back, pits, then stalls it? Close, but still no.  59.65 seconds, according to my stopwatch, was the amount of time from the moment the yellow flag dropped to the point Simona De Silvestro was pulled from her burning Dallara on Saturday night.

Now, I realise that the Holmatro Safety Team normally does a fantastic job.  In fact, the only complaint I've had over the last 4 or 5 years is that it takes a little to long to get back to green after a yellow, but that's it.  Until Texas.  It took roughly 21 seconds for the #78 TSGW/HVM car to come to a stop after hitting the wall, another 12.22 seconds from the point the car stopped until a Holmatro crew member was at the scene and actually attempting to get the rookie out, and another 26.55 seconds before De Silvestro was finally out of harms way.  1 minuted passed, over one and-a-half laps at Indy could have been turned, 7 and-a-half pit stops could of been done from the point the car stopped before the De Silvestro was removed, and that is unacceptable.

The timeline:

After suffering with a loose race car much of the night, the #78 Dallara made hard contact

Roughly 20.88 seconds into the accident, the car has stopped on track and the flames are growing.  

6.63 seconds later a safety vehicle has arrived.  

3.59 seconds after that, 4 workers are attempting to bring out a fire hose connected to the front of the Holmatro truck.

2 seconds later a worker leaves the front of the vehicle to tend to Simona. 

Roughly 6 seconds after the Safety Vehicle had stopped a member has the fire hose in hand.  

14 seconds later, without an ounce of fluid coming from the hose, another member leaves the vehicle to help the young Rookie out of the #78.  

2 seconds later a second Holmatro truck arrives.  

Another 3.7 seconds passes, 2 members still trying to pull the Swiss Miss from the car, a member from the original truck comes with a hand held fire extinguisher, very little if anything comes out.  

6 seconds later, with 3 members yanking on her, another still attempting to use the failing extinguisher, a few more from Safety Truck #2 come flying in with another non-working hose, Simona is finally pulled from the crushed and burning car.

Finally, after roughly 1:07:00, the fire seems to be under control
I'm not going to sit here and bash on the Holmatro Safety Team because normally they're top-notch, and what the guys did to pull Simona out of the car was heroic.  However, the speeds have got to pick up, no question about it.  The crews were quick to respond to the accident, but when the equipment failed, the scene turned chaotic.   I'm not sure when the protocol changed from fire extinguisher to fire hose as the go-to equipment, but that's got to be looked into.  Not only were both hoses incredibly slow, they didn't even work.

With just minor burns to her right hand, Simona De Silvestro turned out to be relatively O.K., but she was lucky, the Safety Team was lucky, and the league was lucky.  If the injuries would have turned out worse, like they very well could have, the backlash would of been huge, and rightly so.  But, just because she was O.K. doesn't make the situation O.K.  The incident needs to be reviewed and changes need to be made so that what I saw yesterday will never be seen again. 

By the way, Simona is a class act.  The IZOD IndyCar Series has to hold onto her! Did you see her post crash interview? WOW!


Exactly my reaction! One of the Versus commentators said this was this first time in quite a while he had seen a fire like that on an Indy car. True enough, but it seemed like they had forgotten what to do when there is a fire. The truck seemed to park in the wrong place, to begin with--too far away from the car to make using the hose a viable choice. And then it went downhill from there, as you've correctly described.

In the past, IndyCar safety crews have rightly been lauded for their performance, setting the standard for every other racing series. But last night's performance was simply unacceptable.

Does anyone know what happened to the Delphi Safety Crew ?
And how long has the Holmatro Safety Team served the full sized IndyCars? (not talkimg indylights)

Theres no excuse for "Safety Team" crew members wasting time shutting the doors on the rescue vehicle, time to unfurl the hose as a person is helpless in a burning car. Whoever trained these guys should be fired.

I didn't see the race live, and this is the first I've heard of the accident, but it's a depressingly familiar story.

From you're timings there are 37 second between the first rescue team arriving and Simona being pulled from the car.

I have no idea how the safety teams are trained, either in the US or Europe, but there seems to be a feeling that if a car is on fire and the driver is in danger then put the fire out first. This is fine when the fire is controlled quickly, or when the flames are no-where near the driver, but otherwise I have to believe that a driver's safety should be top priority.

I suggest anyone who want to see terrying similar practice have a look for videos of a Lamboghini Trofeo crash at Brno, or a Dutch Supercar Challenge crash at Assen - both last month.

James - The_Lap_Times

I totally agree! It would appear that either there is a training issue with the use of the hose and pump mounted on the truck, or there was some equipment malfunction. It also appears that the crew may have expected the fire to burn out on its' own. Whatever the case, the amount of time it took to handle the situation was unacceptable. I'm not a fireman, but I think that a fire extinguisher would have been more appropriate in this incident.

This was some of the most incompetent motorsport marshalling I have seen in decades. I don't care that normally they do a good job. That makes no difference whatever. Last night they did a lousy job and I hope every day between now and the next time they are at a track they are being put through training routines to deal with any emergency. Fire fighting is something that should be automatic to them but they mainly stood around looking lost with equipment that either didn't work or they didn't know how to use.

The most annoying aspect is this was almost the ideal situation for the safety crew. The car was the right way up, on flat ground at the inside of the track and only one car was involved so everyone could conccentrate on that. Imagine if it had been four cars high up on the banking and one had been upside down and on fire. We could have had a fatality.

Major changes need to be made before the next race and I would start by firing whoever is in charge of training because they have done a terrible job. I never want to see another driver sitting in a burning car while marshals stand around trying to work out how to make their safety equipment work. That should be something that stopped happening in the 1970s.

Anon #2, I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the Holmatro Safety Team was the Delhi Safety Team. To my knowledge it was just a sponsorship name change.

I believe that the Holmatro Safety Team came over in the merger with Champ Car in 2008. Holmatro was a big Champ Car sponsor towards the end, and I seem to recall that bringing in that safety crew was one of the only things the IRL really took as it existed in the CCWS.

Could easily have been tragic. (Simona is a super-hero.) Whatever the name of the safety team, there needs to be an investigation, re-training, firings, heads rolling, whatever they need to do to ensure a driver is never left waiting that long in that situation ever again. That was pathetic.

You blamed "equipment failure". The guys in Truck#1 didn't seem to have a clue how to respond in a professional manner so I suggest it was likely "user error".

My main issue with the response is that the guys in Truck#1 had NO PLAN. If there are 4 guys in a vehicle, they should each have an assigned role. But here, all 4 guys do is head to the front of their truck to unravel the hose! There's no way they planned it like that! Not one of them grabbed an extinguisher, initially.

Point #2: Why is the medical guy(in blue) manning a fire-hose? He's best assigned to unravelling the hose at the front of the truck, so that in a few seconds time when it's functioning, he's freed up to approach in a safe manner and tend to the race car driver. If your medical guy gets burned fighting a fire, he's no good to you (or the race car driver).

Compare the response of Truck#2: 1 guy responds to car, 2 guys go to the hose(1 to take nozzle, 1 to unravel), 1 guy goes to back of vehicle to grab extinguisher.

The guy from the 1st truck goes and gets the extinguisher. You said "very little if anything comes out" and later, a "failing extinguisher". I beg to differ: it appears that in his initial haste he simply FORGOT TO PULL THE PIN!

He wastes about 4s putting the extinguisher down and trying to pull it out. Having done so it then worked properly and in fact he uses it to good effect, squirting water directly on Simona's right hand (which is in the flame).

Compare again this guy's response to that of his counterpart in Truck#2 pulls the pin as he heads to the vehicle & squeezes the trigger WELL BEFORE he gets close. It's a 'test squirt', and because he pulled the pin, it works.

re: hoses -- Watching Truck#2, it appears that it took 14s from the time they started unravelling the hose to the time it appeared to pressurize (you can see the 'snake' moving by itself just as the commentator says "You need to get", although Simona was already out of the car by this point).

Truck#2's hose was unravelled more in less in a straight line. Truck#1's hose has big loops and S's in it, and we can even see at one point well into its apparent 'failure' that it's kinked. There may well have been a kink out of camera-view, too, which would explain its initial uselessness.

The guy in blue actually lets go of the hose when the guy with the extinguisher still hasn't yet successfully got it deployed! (Brave, or stupid?.. it's hard to say).

9 seconds later, with the help of someone from the Truck#2, she is free, but just as we hear the word "car" in "all kinds of difficulty getting her out of the race car", we see a puff of spray from the hose nozzle head as the guy with the extinguisher appears to inadvertently step on the trigger.

So, Truck#1's hose was pressuring, and it did pressurize but when it finally did, nobody was holding onto the trigger. I realize that it is impossible to say whether they should have continued to try to get it to work or abandon it like they did, but it appears that if they'd done things properly they wouldn't have faced that dilemma in the first place, and also that had he been still been holding on to the nozzle he might have successfully unkinked within a matter of seconds and could perhaps have used it to keep the fire away from Simona's right arm and hand.

This may have been an isolated incident, but I don't think IndyCar drivers should assume that they are getting the proper protection they deserve.

IndyCarNation (official IndyCar Twitter account, I understand) tweeted last night: "Gang, the Holmatro Safety Team has a job much tougher than I. They do their job very well and they will learn from their mistakes"

There' no room for mistakes. IRL drivers should boycott until they can be assured they're in safe hands.

Not one individual from the original Champ Car safety team was retained after the merger sadly...

Actually there are two former CART Safety team members associated with the IRL safety crew. As a former CART employee I will say I was surprised at the 59 second timing. I watched and to me it was a lifetime, and I am sure Simona felt the same.

I was yelling at the TV.... This should be used as a lesson for how Not to respond. The IRL needs to step up their safety program... How to do that? Easy bring in people like Lon Bromley former head of CART safety and members of his team like Dave Hollander. People who were the best!

CART's old medical center is sitting in a parking lot collecting dust. It was the finest unit of its kind and served the whole traveling community.

Safety and the well being of the drivers, crew and other workers should be on the top of the list of things the IRL should do...... A lot could be learned from the CART days. Only if the people in the IRL could be humble enough to learn from the past

That was a complete joke - I have never been so horrified at the actions of a 'safety' crew!

It doesnt matter if they did have one mistake, that is one too many. If they are OK with having an occasional problem they need to find a new line of work. Perfection is the only acceptable degree of performance from these folks. They need to practice those situations and have fail-safes in place for when things like extinguishers don't work.

Contrast Simona's struggles to get herself out and Helio's quick exit later in the race. It took him 18 seconds from the time his car stopped until he was on his way to yell at Mario Moraes. Helio could have gotten out TWICE! The response by the first safety crew on the scene is an obvious failure, but league also needs to address some safety skills training for the drivers - especially the rookies.

This certainly wasn't the former Champ Car safety crew. They worked like clock-work and consistently on every wreck. Fire or not, guy #1 would arrive with an extinguisher. Guy #2 would attend to the driver. Guys #3 & #4 would arrive with additional extinguishers. Truck #2 would arrive with more extinguishers. This was the response every single time... almost as if they had a plan and had rehearsed various scenarios.
The response on Sat night looked like amateurs, who were unprepared and out of shape. Fortunately one of the crew on Sat night responded bravely and helped get Simona out and that she hadn't lost consciousness.

She is a class act is every sense of the word. She could have whined, complained, and called them out. She instead was already focusing on the next race. Wow, if that isn't bad ass I don't know what is!

For those that are confused, the Holmatro Safety Team is the exact same thing as the Delphi Safety Team that the IRL has used for years...they just lost Delphi as a sponsor coming into this year (because of Delphi's reliance on the American automakers), and Holmatro, maker of rescue equipment, stepped in. The Philips Emergency Care medical vehicle & crew used to be part of the Delphi Safety Team, they just have a separate sponsor as of this year. These are all the same guys that have saved many lives over the years, the same guys that TK calls his "guardian angels." This was ugly, yes, but this is a great safety team.

BTW, the article has a few instances of "could of" and "would of"...it's "could've" and "would've," a contraction of "could HAVE" and "would HAVE."

Does Holmatro sell fire hose? I'd like to know exactly who makes the stuff they use. PURE GARBAGE

great post man...very useful especially for a full time blogger like myself...keep em coming mate...cheers

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