We speak of safety quite often in the pages of Circle Track, and we know that most racers are aware of the dangers. That being said, we aren't totally sure all racers act on that information as they should. We feel fortunate to bring this subject closer to home by showing one incident that could have happened to anyone, and we will explain some technical facts about auto racing crashes and how to survive them.
In this case, the driver walked away. In too many cases, they do not. Let's see why this crash was survivable so we can plan our safety program around the positives. Today's race car driver has many safety features at his disposal that were not available 10 years ago. Racetracks, too, have stepped up to the plate and made their facilities safer. It is the combination of these two areas of improvement that allowed our crash test driver to survive.
Here we see Billy's car begin to contact the tire wall.
It is evident from the spray that the tires were filled with water, making them much heavi
Note the end of the concrete wall on the left of the tires. It is broken from earlier hit
Crash Test Real Person Our subject is Billy Eppink from Walker, Michigan, who has been racing for eight years. He was driving a Super Stock car at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Michigan, on Saturday, May 6, during a practice session. His right-rear tire slipped off the pavement coming off Turn 2, he got loose, he corrected, and then the right-front tire slipped off. He was at full speed and headed for the tire wall in Turn 3 with the throttle wide open.
Billy's car was built by his father, Ross Eppink, and was new in 2005. It had the latest safety equipment and, as we will see, they all came together to produce a positive result to a bad situation. Our pictures tell the story.
The photographer was Randy Ellen, and his timing was impeccable. He states: "I've only brought a camera to the racetrack three times-April 15, April 29, and this time on May 6, where I shot the heat races only and this one tire warm-up session. I still have no clue why I happened to be shooting that car. On that day I decided to bring my new Nikon D200 camera and shoot with that. So this was the first time shooting with this camera and only the third time at the track." He did a remarkable job capturing this sequence, and his framing was perfect.
In the first two frames, we see the car start to contact the outside wall, which is protected by large equipment tires and smaller car tires. Notice the wall in the second frame and how it is broken. We suspect that before the tires were installed, some cars might have hit that wall to cause it to break. The track might have reacted to that by installing a compressible barrier, much like the ones used by tracks on the Nextel Cup schedule.
Had this car hit the concrete wall at this speed, things might have gone bad in a hurry. Still, it's a hard hit. As we go through the next 10 frames, we see the car go airborne, flip around, shed its skin, and crash to the ground on its roof. A good fuel cell with a mechanism that prevents spills when the car is inverted significantly lowered the chance of a fire. It's a good thing, because it took several minutes and about three or four rescue persons to extricate the driver, who was alert and uninjured.