SAFE Is Fast

The Road Racing Drivers Club has taken on the very large task of mentoring up and coming young drivers, with FIA’s help. Monday, RRDC went viral Monday when it launched its SAFE is Fast website, taking its driver development seminars to the next level.

RRDC had already gathered an impressive panel to cover a broad spectrum of seminar topics which now have been videoed and expanded for the website, which is hosted by BOBBY RAHAL, RRDC President, Rahal Letterman Racing team owner, and father of IndyCar driver, GRAHAM RAHAL.

SAFE stands for Skilled, Assured, Fitness and Empowered. It was the focus of the RRDC FIA Young Drivers Symposiums free to young (teenage) drivers, to help them get on the right track for a successful racing career. Three such workshops were held, in Indianapolis, at the 2010 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and last December at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show. The idea was to talk safety in a way the drivers wanted to hear.

The wildly popular seminars reached a finite number of young drivers who were able to attend. RRDC is now taking a more global approach, in an effort to reach more drivers where they live, and also provide for a permanent record of its expertise. The goal is to have the young amateur drivers visit the website, find sections of interest, take quizzes, check out the parts they like, and customize it to suit their needs, etc.

Some very creative, committed and capable veterans in motorsports, spearheaded by Rahal and long-time RRDC member, JIM MULLEN, put together a plan to train young drivers, which has been more than two years in the making. With the goal of teaching that SAFE is Fast, RRDC sought and received a grant from the FIA Motor Sport Safety Development Fund, which is tasked, among other things, to promote programs for young drivers safety. FIA underwrites grants, courtesy of its $60 million share of the $100 million fine assessed to McLaren-Mercedes by the FIA World Motorsports Council in the fall of 2007. The fund was created to manage the distribution of motor sport safety-related programs worldwide…Spygate money being put to good use.

Bobby Rahal
Bobby Rahal

Celebrating website launch!
Celebrating website launch! Jim Mullen, Judy Stropus-RRDC Media Consultant, and Tom Davey. Photo by Jeff Tan

RRDC is a U.S.-based organization comprised of America’s and Europe’s most successful racing drivers, as well as leading professionals in the motorsports industry, race officials, and motorsports journalists who have made significant contributions to the sport. Among its many members are champions from Formula One, Indianapolis 500, and top American amateur road racers.

The video segments currently number fifteen, and include topics hosted by people who are household names in motorsports including 30 RRDC members.

RRDC Secretary – five-time SCCA National champion, TOM DAVEY, handled the production of the website, with JEREMY SHAW and TAMY VALKOSKY as Coordinating Producers.

Tamy Valkosky
Tamy Valkosky. Photo by Mike Levitt/LAT

A writer and filmmaker, Davey comes from a motorsports production background and has been involved with more than 200 TV productions, including ESPN’s “Secrets of Speed” series.

The website interview process began last December at the PRI Motorsports Trade Show, and at the 2011 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, Long Beach, Lime Rock and Rahal’s race shop in Ohio.

There will be frequent and continuous updating the website. Currently there are ninety minutes of video on the site, edited down from twelve hours of footage, with another hour coming soon. Everything was shot in HD. All editing was done on a laptop using Adobe Premier CS5.

Not only are there individual presentations (tutorials) incorporating safety with graphics and video support, there also are many sound-bite interviews with forty drivers, owners, engineers of all kinds, industry leaders and motorsports figures, covering many aspects of racing, including setups, passing, transition to ovals, working with engines, etc.

The website is not a linear thing. It is an ambitious, multi-year project.

Dr. Dallaire said “Hopefully it (the website) will be something that will help young drivers look at the sport a little differently and focus on things that they don’t often consider when they are just starting out.

Mullen wrote the original FIA proposal, which had to follow the chain of command to ACCUS – The Automobile Competition Committee of the United States. ACCUS is the National Sporting Authority (ASN) of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) for the United States. ACCUS is comprised of the seven major motorsports sanctioning organizations: Grand Am, IMSA, IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, SCCA and USAC, each nominating two directors to its Board. Additionally, a number of independent directors are elected annually. The World Karting Association (WKA) is an associate member.

Mullen drew on his advertising background to write the RRDC proposal which had to include the 14-page application. Mullen also created a photo presentation which accompanied the text version, and all was given to Dr. QUENTIN CROMBIE, Director of Programmes of the FIA Institute. Mullen insists he is an agent behind the scenes working for RRDC, the real force behind the project.

The FIA review committee was chaired by seven-time F1 champion, MICHAEL SCHUMACHER, of Germany. On the panel were FIA President JEAN TODT of France; former FIA President, MAX MOSLEY of England; NICK CRAW of Colorado, USA; FIA Senate President and RRDC member; and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice President NORBERT HAUG of Germany.

Drs Olvey & Trammell
Drs Olvey & Trammell. Photo by Mike Levitt/LAT
Patrick Long
Patrick Long
Dario Franchitti
Dario Franchitti
Roger Penske & Mike Hull
Roger Penske & Mike Hull
Graham Rahal & Scott Pruett
Graham Rahal & Scott Pruett
Memo Gidley
Memo Gidley
Boris Said
Boris Said
David Donohue et al
David Donohue et al
Chip Ganassi, Scott Pruett & Justin Bell
Chip Ganassi, Scott Pruett & Justin Bell

Thus far, the website videos/topics include:

Helmets and HANS Devices by STEPHEN OLVEY, M.D., neuro-critical care specialist, authority on brain concussions, and Founding Fellow of the FIA Institute for Motorsports Safety – among other things; and TERRY TRAMMELL, M.D., orthopedic surgeon, motorsports safety consultant, and Founding Fellow of the FIA Institute for Motorsports Safety in Paris – among other things;

JACQUES DALLAIRE, Ph.D, Exercise Physiologist, Founder and President Performance Prime, Inc., helping drivers develop mental skills and performance-improvement strategies

ROGER PENSKE and Penske Racing President, TIM CINDRIC; CHIP GANASSI and Ganassi General Manager MIKE HULL, and BRIAN HERTA – successful multi-series team owners and staff, discuss What Teams Look For.

JIM LEO, C.S.C.S., President PitFit Training, Inc. fitness training and sports nutrition for drivers and crews talks about Driver Fitness, with

MICHAEL ZIMICKI, President Sliderule Motorsport, Inc., driver coaching, data analysis and engineering talks with GRAHAM RAHAL about The Driver Coach

JIM JORDAN, Mazda Alternative Marketing Manager, sponsorship, branding, social media and other non-traditional marketing programs.

DARIO FRANCHITTI, Indy Car and Indy 500 driver on Transitioning from Karts to Cars, along with seven other drivers

PATRICK LONG, Porsche factory driver and four drivers with different viewpoints on Learning a New Track

GRAHAM RAHAL, IndyCar racer with six others discuss Braking

MEMO GIDLEY, all around professional driver covers Overtaking with nine others

JULIAN ROBERTSON, Engineer Target Chip Ganassi Racing and ten others discussing Working with an Engineer

DAVID DONOHUE, Professional Driver and two others discuss Cockpit Management

MARTIN BRUNDLE, F1 and sports car driver discusses The Ladder System with nine others

JEREMY SHAW, who co-hosted the three RRDC Seminars and founder of Team USA and four alums

Jeremy Shaw & Team USA winners, Buddy Rice, Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, J.R. Hildebrand, Josef Newgarden, Conor Daly & Charlie Kimball. Photo by Mike Levitt/LAT

RRDC SAFE Is Fast Billboard

Topics still to be covered include Basic Driver Workout, Basic Car Setup, Friction Circle, Understeer and Oversteer, Data Acquisition, Aerodynamics 101, Tire Management, Rain Driving, Pit Stops, Oval Racing, Evolution of Safety, Kids Helmets, Getting In The Zone, Marketing Yourself and Working with the Media.

The website also has Links, Further Study/Recommended Reading and Credits.

RRDC annually presents several prestigious awards dating back many years – The Mark Donohue Award, for outstanding performance at the SCCA Runoffs; The Phil Hill Award for outstanding service to road racing, which is presented during Rolex 24 at Daytona pre-race ceremonies, with Craw as one of the winners (2010); and The Bob Akin Memorial Award for road racing sportsmanship and tradition.