Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500, the SAFER barriers had many chances to show how well they lived up to their name. Despite all the wall-banging in Turns One and Four, the SAFER walls did what they were installed to do – absorb energy and keep the drivers safer.
KEVIN FORBES has been the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Director of Engineering and Construction for the past 18 years. During the first weekend of Qualifying we had a nice long chat about track safety and the Speedway, especially the SAFER barriers.
Forbes said then “There have been no debilitating injuries in any accident involving the SAFER barrier.” And he would know. Forbes oversaw the design and installation of the SAFER barriers, which were installed first at the Speedway and proven before they were installed at other tracks.
Turn One’s SAFER barrier attracted more than its share of incidents during the first weekend of qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500, and then again during the race. Forbes had said “There’s just something about that corner (Turn One-Two) which elicits accidents. But the SAFER barrier works! It is better to talk about saving lives and careers. It helps maintain stock-in-trade.”
No one was injured in Qualifying and all drivers were cleared to drive after their incidents.
After all the wall-whacking in the Indy 500 race, only one driver was hurt, and it wasn’t debilitating. VITOR MEIRA/No.14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises took a ride on the wild side, after hitting the Turn One wall. He was hospitalized at Methodist Hospital with fractures to L1 and L2 vertebra. Meira was fitted for a back brace by orthopedic surgeon DR TERRY TRAMMEL, and the driver’s medical regime, set up by DR MICHAEL OLINGER, Indy Racing League’s medical director, is “non-operative management.” Meira is expected to remain in hospital for two days.
IMS is currently using Version 2 SAFER barrier. One of the main improvements is that there now is a universal Styrofoam shape which is compatible with both open-wheel cars and stock cars. No more swapping out the Styrofoam between races. Five steel tubes are welded together instead of four in the barrier’s exterior. The attachment points anchoring the barrier to the existing concrete retaining walls have been improved. The barrier has been permanently lengthened an additional 200 feet from the entrance of Turn One northward.
At one point in the first weekend of Qualifying, track activity had to be stopped so the Turn One wall could be repaired. And again during Sunday’s race repairs were needed in the same general area. There’s a repair kit on the truck ready to use. The damaged SAFER barrier part is cut away, replaced and welded. It doesn’t take long.
During all on-track sessions, Forbes sits in Race Control, overseeing and directing the track and safety issues and responses . He’s done this for the past five years.