GP2: Japan F3 champion Matsushita joins ART Grand Prix

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ART Grand Prix has completed its line-up for the 2015 GP2 Series season with the signing of 21-year-old Nobuharu Matsushita.

The French team confirmed in January that McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne would be retained for 2015, with the Belgian hoping to go one better than his second-place finish in the standings last year.

However, Takuya Izawa has been dropped for the new season and replaced by Matsushita, who has enjoyed success in Japan’s junior championships.

“First of all, I would like to thank ART Grand Prix for giving me the opportunity to race in GP2,” Matsushita said. “I am honored to be a part of ART, which is one of the most prestigious teams in young drivers’ promotion.

“The GP2 Series gives me the chance to race alongside great rivals, following the Formula 1 calendar all around the world. This is a big challenge for myself but I am determined to do my best as GP2 is the best way to race in F1, which is my dream since my childhood.

“I would like to express my thankfulness to Honda who supports my challenge, my fans, friends and family.”

Matsushita won the Japanese F3 title in 2014 with six wins and five pole positions, following on from his Formula Challenge (now Japanese F4) win in 2012, and ART team owner Sebastien Philippe believes that he has the perfect teammate in Vandoorne.

“Nobuharu has a lot of experience in motorsport and his talent is a certainty just from reading his resume, including that he is the reigning Japanese F3 champion,” Philippe said.

“Nobuharu will have many new things to discover and the start of the season will be marked by a learning phase for him, but ART Grand Prix has full confidence in his qualities and in the team’s experience to help Nobuharu integrate very quickly into the discipline. With Stoffel Vandoorne by his side, he also has the ideal teammate.”

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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