Monday, October 18, 2010

Why race cars have roll cages, and circuits have sand traps

From the first lap of the Bathurst 1000 last week. This is what happens when your left rear tyre blows out under braking at 280+kph. Kids do not try this at home:

Bathurst is the only motorsport event I make time to sit down and watch, and I have done almost every year since the mid 80's. It's just epic. I used to watch a Formula One quite regularly when it was still free to air, but the race times aren't conducive to sleep down here. I don't even care about Ford vs Holden. I like that the cars are vaguely similar to something I could potentially own in this country, but mainly I watch it for its own sake.

Admittedly part of attraction of motorsport is to see what happens when shit happens, but all the same after an off like this you are willing the driver to get out and do something to indicate all is well once the vehicle has stopped. In that respect this was one of the scariest racing incidents I have watched live (the other involved fire...) Happily in this case he did just that (and the fire guy too), waving to the crowd before checking out what was left of his car. I have also seen a crash like this happen in front of me at less than half the speed, but with similar results, which was much scarier than any crash I have seen on TV. That driver was somehow okay too, but running up to the wrecked car to check was one of the most unsettling things I have ever had/forced myself to do; I had no idea what I was going to find when I got there, but was pretty sure it wouldn't be anything good.

I like how the view from the rear looks like a roadrunner cartoon or something, just a big cloud of dust with bits of car flying out. Also interesting to see all the passive safety design do its job. That stuff flying off isn't a problem; each piece that leaves the car takes a bit of kinetic energy with it, which is a bit less for the roll cage and various harnesses and supports to deal with.

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