"Rapid Response" Film Review
By Philippe DeLespinay
I first met Dr. Stephen Olvey in the year 2000, when he was CART’s chief medical officer, and visited the mobile hospital that he had been advocating for years. To say that I was impressed is putting it mildly.
By 2012, Dr. Olvey was now a guest speaker at the “Racing Goes Safer” safety seminars organized by Yves Morizot, the President and owner of Stand 21 Racewear. As a Foundation member, and now giving mini seminars at various venues across the country, I absorbed and retained every bit of his analysis and recommendations that I added to my personal knowledge about racing gear learned through many years as a distributor of the Stand 21 Racewear in the United States.
Produced by Roger Hinze and Michael Miles, this film has been adapted from the book written by Dr. Stephen Olvey titled Rapid Response. As a representative of the Stand 21 Drivers’ Safety Foundation, “Racing Goes Safer”, I was privileged to be a guest at the premiere gala in Indianapolis before the "500". I strongly encourage everyone involved in auto racing, to go and watch this great, well made movie, then to keep up with the great work accomplished by Dr. Stephen Olvey and Dr. Terry Trammel, and now through their involvement with the www.racinggoessafer.org drivers’ safety foundation. Attendance was amazing, with several racers whose lives were saved by Dr. Olvey and Dr. Trammell: Derek Daly, “Chip” Ganassi, as well as luminaries from Indycar and other racing series, such as Jim Michaelian, President of the Long Beach Grand Prix Association.
In the 1960s, racing accidents were commonplace… so were fatalities.
“One out of seven drivers was killed every year?
Safety was barely an afterthought. Drivers accepted this as part of the job and continued to take to thetrack, eager to please fans, make money, and prove that they had what it took to survive. However, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway already had what were likely the most advanced medical facilities on any racing track worldwide, because the IMS had the only on-site hospital, under the direction of Dr. Thomas Hanna. Dr. Hanna began his service to the “Speedway” as early as 1931, and officially in 1960. But the makeshift hospital at the Speedway and Dr. Hanna had limited equipment and resources and it took many more years to improve this, especially the need for adequate helicopter emergency transport of injured drivers and the need for immediate on-track intervention and help to injured drivers. Indeed, the only available ambulance at the Speedway was also, a hearse… that was unfortunately used as such far too often. From 1966 and until 1975, young Dr. Stephen Olvey, who had been asked to volunteer his services to the Speedway, was effectively the only staff at the IMS hospital, until he asked his friend, Dr. Henry Bock, to help him staff the entire racing circuit with medics able to address serious injuries much faster than it had ever been done before. Dr. Bock and Dr. Olvey became co-assistant Medical Directors in 1976. Dr. Olvey left USAC and the Speedway in 1979 to join CART at the urging of several drivers and the owners. Medical care on the traveling circuit was virtually non-existent. It was during the CART years that medical care developed to the place it is now.
By 1982, Dr. Bock was named Senior Director of Medical Services at the IMS, and brought improvements to the facilities, but immediate medical and mechanical assistance (driver immediate medical stabilization and extraction) to the actual crashes sites remained a serious issue after Bock’s retirement in 2006. A faster intervention system was still sorely needed. Meanwhile, as CART Chief Medical Officer, Stephen Olvey advocated, lobbied for and put in place, with the later help of another friend, Dr. Terry Trammell, the rapid intervention system that has since, saved many lives at various racing venues and provided the finest example for the world’s racing community of the ultimate intervention system.
Three-time IndyCar Series/ World Series champion Rick Mears:
“You don’t think about what could happen. If you start thinking about what could happen, you’ll slow down”.
“Rapid Response” is a fast-paced documentary that tells the story of medical and safety professionals who refused to accept the high mortality rate among American race car drivers, fundamentally altering the history of motorsports. Michael Miles sums it up:
“In 1966 Medical student and racing fan Stephen Olvey gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he is asked to volunteer at the Indianapolis 500 on their medical team. What started as fun insider view of a sport he loved quickly devolves before his eyes as he sees the level of medical support given to the drivers, whom he has befriended, is terrifyingly non-existent. After feeling helpless at the scene of what turned out to be a fatal accident, Dr. Olvey sets off on a mission to build a team to apply science to transform motorsports from the most fatal form of sport to one of the safest. Over the next 30 years they succeed and the science that they develop influences modern trauma medicine and the passenger cars we drive today. This is the story of the most fatal era in Motorsports and the “Indy 500” doctors who pioneered safety and helped the drivers to cheat death.”
“Rapid Response” will be in Theaters from September 6th, 2019, and is far more than a documentary. It is the tale of the adventure and passion of Dr. Olvey and his crew to reduce the risks encountered by racing drivers through an efficient, on-site, mobile facility allowing most emergency treatment and surgery to injured drivers. Featuring interviews with medical professionals Dr. Olvey and Dr. Trammell as well as drivers, including Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Parnelli Jones, and Rick Mears, Rapid Response highlights the most deadly era of racing and the innovations that led the sport out of the dark ages.
About the Author: Philippe DeLespinay
After his company Racewear USA was the exclusive US importer and distributor for Stand 21 Racewear from 1982 to 1995, Philippe de Lespinay volunteered his work as Technical Advisor for the Racing Goes Safer Foundation”.