IndyCar Aero Kits Are Needlessly Dangerous

StPetedebristampabaycom

Photo from tampabay.com

IndyCar’s aero kit era began ominously Sunday in St. Petersburg with flying debris from the race striking and fracturing a spectator’s skull. Brigitte Hoffstetter was treated on scene before being taken to the hospital where she spent many hours in the trauma unit. Her husband said she’s fortunate to be alive. Meanwhile, IndyCar has reached out to her family and is investigating the incident.

JPMstpeteindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

We can save the series some money by pointing out what we’ve already concluded. That is, IndyCar aero kits are needlessly dangerous. They’re dangerous on a number of levels – to spectators and fans, to drivers and to the sport itself. IndyCar is currently looking into the cause of the spectator’s serious injury in Florida. We hate to jump to conclusions, but Honda‘s quite likely the culprit with many lighter, smaller and more likely to detach pieces incorporated into their kits. The piece that struck Mrs. Hoffstetter reportedly flew about a hundred yards.

100yroldhonda

Image from Indy Race Reviewer

The most basic rule of business is you don’t want to kill off your fan base. Even seriously injuring them is frowned upon in most sectors of the economy. Racing is an inherently dangerous and risky sport and IndyCar with its sheer speed and open wheel nature is especially so. But it’s rather foolish to double down on the danger, as the introduction of sharp extra pieces of carbon fiber clearly does. The new fangled body kits are also dangerous to the fan base in another way – boring them to death with endless cautions. There were five lengthy caution periods in Sunday’s race and easily could have been more.

kimballstpeteindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

The carbon fiber winglets also pose quite a risk for the drivers who have only a couple inches of helmet and even thinner visors covering their heads and faces. The incident last year at the IndyGP where James Hinchcliffe was struck in the head by flying debris and briefly incapacitated behind the wheel should have served as a wake up call to the series brass. Instead they forged ahead with the new kits in 2015, so far with predictable results.

RHR helmet

Photo from Ryan Hunter-Reay

The nature of the new cars also ups the intensity level for drivers through more fragility. As witnessed Sunday, aggressive driving leads to breakage, debris and cautions which feeds a continued cycle of aggression, debris and cautions between competitors. There were several examples of this at St. Pete, most notably Rahal spearing Kimball from behind and earning a penalty in the process. As Will Power said afterward, there was an “amazing amount” of pieces flying off the cars.

JPMstpeteindycarcom

Photo from indycar.com

Unfortunately, aero kits now have become a real threat to the series itself, which hasn’t been the most successful or stable racing series for decades. Sunday was supposed to be the kickoff of a new era in IndyCar racing. The series instead has a potential public relations nightmare on its hands the likes of which it hasn’t seen since three fans were killed and eight injured in the stands at Charlotte in 1999 by a tire.

germancrash

Photo from dailymail.co.uk

Of course other forms of racing have had their share of spectator tragedies as well including NASCAR and just last week an endurance race in Germany where a fan was killed. Inherent risks and legal liabilities aside, the debut of the newly kitted cars didn’t exactly knock fans out – at least not in a good way. The question is, when will IndyCar admit its costly and tragic mistake and act to correct it?

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37 thoughts on “IndyCar Aero Kits Are Needlessly Dangerous

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