8th Annual "Racing Goes Safer"
Safety Seminar at the
2019 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Long Beach Convention Center
April 13, 2019

After a brief welcome to the Stand 21 Safety Foundation’s 8th annual safety seminar by the organization’s founder and President, Yves Morizot and his son Romain, this year’s guest of honor, David Hobbs was introduced.

David raced and lived in an era when driver safety was not only a new concept, but mostly rejected by both racers and race management as a hindrance and therefore undesirable. David Hobbs has had a long racing career encompassing participation in many categories, from F3 to F2, F1, Can Am, IROC, USAC Indy cars as well as NASCAR, and racing twenty times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  

After a brief welcome to the Stand 21 Safety Foundation’s 8th annual safety seminar by the organization’s founder and President, Yves Morizot and his son Romain, this year’s guest of honor, David Hobbs was introduced.

David raced and lived in an era when driver safety was not only a new concept, but mostly rejected by both racers and race management as a hindrance and therefore undesirable. David Hobbs has had a long racing career encompassing participation in many categories, from F3 to F2, F1, Can Am, IROC, USAC Indy cars as well as NASCAR, and racing twenty times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  

David described in a humorous manner, several of his own encounters with near-death situations.  He also told of the difficulties Jackie Stewart encountered when attempting to promote the idea that racing car drivers did not have to be gravely injured or die because of a lack of basic understanding about what would make racing tracks and racing cars, as well as personal protective equipment, safer. David expressed his own early doubts, and how he finally rejected that obsolete idea that racers knew their risks and had to assume them, without any effort by anyone else involved to offer basic protection either in the cars or their environment.

Next on the agenda was a touching tribute to Dr. Bob Hubbard, inventor of the head and neck support system known as HANS, with his friend and brother in law, Jim Downing.   Don Taylor, RGS Foundation’s Director, with the participation of Yves Morizot and Tom Gideon, described the circumstances of the HANS invention and its long road to acceptance, and it finally being embraced by racers, leading to its increasing mandatory use worldwide.  It has shown to be a great asset in improving frontal crash survival in most racing cars.  After the basic invention and the creation of prototypes, the Hubbard Downing Inc. (HDI) company was formed to produce the device. The HANS received much attention after the well-publicized deaths of top-level racers in F1, Indy car, and NASCAR due to basilar skull fracture.  

Meanwhile outside of the US, the FIA also got involved with advancing driver safety, and asked Mercedes-Benz to investigate ways to reduce the occurrences of basilar skull fracture in frontal crashes.  The HANS was identified as a better approach to protecting F1 drivers than their own experimental results using airbags. Armed with this new knowledge, the FIA required that at least three manufacturers be involved in production of the device to guarantee adequate volume to meet expected demand. While Mercedes-Benz selected Schroth, a German safety belt manufacturer as one licensee, Hubbard-Downing chose Stand 21 with which they had previously collaborated.  The Stand 21 engineering team, working with HDI, went on to develop the device well beyond its basic design.  

In 2012, the HANS business was sold to Simpson Race Products and the collaboration ended. In January 2019 the HANS patent expired.  Stand 21, the largest manufacturer and seller of HANS, now offers the “FHR” (for Frontal Head Restraint), and is able to market these devices worldwide.  The next push is to decrease the price so that all levels of racers have access to this life saving product.

IndyCar’s Director of Engineering and Safety, Jeff Horton was next to describe the great advances in racing drivers’ body and head protection inside the cockpit. Through the use of multiple layers of neoprene foam of different densities to improve energy absorption, and the reduction of body and head travel, they were able to reduce the acceleration forces suffered by racers during a crash. 

Mr. Horton has also been involved with Dr. Terry Trammell and other top safety engineers, in the development of on-car devices to minimize the effects of projected debris, such as that which caused the death of Justin Wilson. At this time, a protective vertical bar affixed ahead of the cockpit is now mandatory in IndyCar, and research continues.

Eibach President, Wilfried Eibach, a great friend and supporter of the Stand 21 Safety Foundation, and Eibach’s Jared Reyes presented a video about enhancing racing cars’ safety through a process of true equalization of the springs used in NASCAR’s top classes, and for better vehicle handling on the street.

John Gorsline  (the Gorsline Company CEO, Driver Protection Insurance) and Mike Semel (U.S. Grand Prix Retired Fire Chief, Watkins Glen International Safety Director & CART IndyCar Safety Team Member) made an emotional presentation of “The Hidden Safety Team”.  The term refers to after-accident activities which provide support, both financially and on the human level for wounded racers and their families, such as paying expenses to repatriate family members, comforting them in times of distress. 

No one likes to think of the aftermath of racing crashes for the families, and John and Mike, as well as other people in their tightly knit group, are the ones picking up the pieces and working to reduce stress on the driver’s family.  John and Mike are truly dedicated to their mission, and are members of the Racing Safety United Alliance.

Peter Cline and John Winker of Vet Motorsports introduced their mission of “Finding a New Tribe” for veterans of recent wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) through motor racing. Peter, a former AMA motorcycle racer, offers programs for military personnel to participate in motor racing and regain life motivation in time of difficult reassignment to civilian life. Eligible are Active military, Guard, Reserve and veterans with a service-connected injury DD214. Some mechanical aptitude or a 'gear-head' mentality is good, but not a must-have. Gold Star families are also eligible for this program, covering both car and motorcycle racing from amateur to expert levels.

On November 10, 2013 at El Mirage dry lake, California, SCTA driver Brian Gillespie of the Hasport Hondata Insight team experienced a terrific crash at nearly 190 mph, followed by a series of high-speed rollovers that effectively tore his car to pieces. Brian described his misadventures and recovery from his injuries that included a collapsed lung. He praised his wearing of a HANS, first introduced to SCTA by Yves Morizot and the Stand 21 safety team, for saving his life. Now, fully recovered, Brian is back to racing again. The video of his crash has been seen online by hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Ron Main of SCTA showed a great video of what it’s like to drive at nearly 470 mph at Bonneville, Utah. “George Poteet, who drove the Speed Demon streamliner to its record, knows no fear. There's no other way to explain how he consistently straps himself into the automotive equivalent of an RPG and pulls the trigger. But George trusts Stand 21 to protect his body from crash impact and fire”.

The seminar ended with closing remarks by Don Taylor and by Yves Morizot, who introduced Stand 21 North America’s new General Manager, Edgar Hernandez.  A catered lunch followed that allowed mingling for the largest audience to date, making this 8th edition a great success. 

 

The seminar was made possible with the generous support of Eibach, the SAE of Southern California, the Gorsline Company, and Jim Michaelian of the Long Beach Grand Prix Association

© 2017. Racing Goes Safer is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All rights reserved.

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