Derrick Walker
Derrick Walker
Derrick Walker, IndyCar President of Competition and Operations, puts it this way: We learn from accidents and move on to ways to make racing safer.

Friday night during Final Practice at Auto Club Speedway, Verizon IndyCar driver, Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda, had a horrific accident. He spun out and was unavoidably hit by Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Aleshin then spun up, down and around, and hit the safety fence. Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda got caught out in the debris. Kimball and Andretti were checked and cleared to drive. Aleshin was air-lifted to nearby Loma Linda University Medical Center, where, as per Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar Consultant, Aleshin is now in stable condition after a procedure for a chest injury.

While the young Russian Rookie recuperates and recovers from his torso injuries, the IndyCar Safety Committee and IndyCar Vice President, Technology, Will Phillips, will be working with all the data recovered from the car remains. Among the members of the IndyCar Safety Committee are two drivers – Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda. Others are Dr. Trammell; IndyCar Director, Engineering/Safety, Jeff Horton; and IndyCar Vice President of Competition, Brian Barnhart.

The IndyCar folks very carefully and laboriously sift through all pieces and parts, download data, take multitudes of photographs and generally do an accident reconstruction. All of this is done before the car can be released back to the race team.

Once back in IndyCar’s Indianapolis headquarters, all the involved IndyCar folk will carefully analyze all the details, and learn from the process, which can take several weeks.

Included in the analyzed data will be the G-forces, which can be detailed by the IndyCar Earpiece Sensor System, aka accelerometers. These three sensors are integrated into the earpieces all IndyCar drivers are required to wear. They sense and measure vertical, lateral and longitudinal G-forces sustained by the driver at the moment of impact. These devices have been mandatory for IndyCar drivers since 2003, and Indy Lights drivers since 2004. Since 2007, the accelerometers have been manufactured in-house by IndyCar.

The load failure of the chassis is determined by a push test, exerting force on the car until something happens. This leads to the number of anticipated G forces which can be tolerated before failure. In Aleshin’s accident, the load failure was higher than expected, based on the initial data collected before the event. That was a good thing.

All of this leads to new innovations which in turn lead to greater driver safety.