One of the details yet to be finalized as the new-for-2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship works to integrate and blend assets from both the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series is how safety response will be determined for accidents.
ALMS has used a traveling safety team from sanctioning body IMSA, while GRAND-AM, like others in the NASCAR family of series, tend to use local workers at each track.
Per a report by John Dagys for SportsCar365.com on Tuesday, IMSA’s Safety Team may not be retained into 2014, after Dagys spoke with IMSA Safety Team Coordinator John Zilles. The rest of Dagys’ report is a must-read.
And immediately after the story broke, reaction was swift and decisive on social media. The hashtag #ISupportTheIMSASafetyTeam has nearly gone viral – it certainly has made the rounds among IMSA and ALMS drivers, series participants and fans in the last 24 hours or so.
Here’s just a handful of driver tweets:
— Oliver Gavin (@olivergavin) October 22, 2013
— Tommy Milner (@TommyMilner) October 22, 2013
#ISupportTheIMSASafetyTeam Really, do I need to say more?
— Spencer Pumpelly (@SpencerPumpelly) October 23, 2013
Not like there’s any mystery, but #ISupportTheIMSASafetyTeam
— Duncan Ende (@DuncanEnde) October 23, 2013
Compromising Drivers and crews safety on grounds of cost can’t happen. #ISupportTheIMSASafetyTeam
— Ryan Lewis (@RyanLewisRacing) October 22, 2013
Sports car racing this year has had to deal with two major losses, with Allan Simonsen’s passing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Sean Edwards’ accident while in the passenger’s seat during a training session last week.
Although neither occurred in a GRAND-AM or ALMS event, the impact and reverberations have been felt deeply in both series. The ALMS drivers, in particular, have a needed peace of mind and comfort level with the IMSA Safety Team from seeing them on a regular basis; the safety workers, too, have a vested and dedicated interest in knowing how to handle an accident based on the different types of cars.
ALMS is not alone in having a traveling crew. IndyCar’s Holmatro Safety Team is widely considered the gold standard in North American motorsports and thanks to the efforts of Drs. Steve Olvey, Terry Trammell and Michael Olinger, among others, over the years, countless drivers’ lives have been saved and severe injuries prevented.
The counter-argument which must be taken into account is that the TUDOR Championship, now fully under the NASCAR umbrella for 2014, could open a Pandora’s Box for the rest of NASCAR if the traveling safety team continues.
That’s a question for another day but you’d want to think that NASCAR, which to its credit has made tremendous safety and car advancements in the last dozen years anyway since Dale Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500, would not scoff at the suggestion that traveling safety teams for other NASCAR championships could be a benefit.
This will be a very important issue to follow over the next several weeks.