GP2: Vandoorne claims record-breaking Austria pole

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Championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne continued his sensational start to the 2015 GP2 Series season by claiming a record-breaking pole position in Austria on Friday.

Vandoorne managed to edge out ART Grand Prix teammate Nobuharu Matsushita by 0.089 seconds at the end of the qualifying session with a fine final lap that left the rest of the field reeling.

The result marked the Belgian driver’s seventh pole position in GP2, which now stands as a new all-time record in the series.

Seven poles is impressive enough, but it is made all the more stunning by the fact that they have come in the last eight races. Vandoorne’s first GP2 pole was in Belgium last year, and he has started on pole at every race since then with the exception of Monaco last month.

“Today was another good day for us,” Vandoorne said. “It’s good to be back on pole position after missing it out in Monaco. Practice was quite good this morning. I felt I had a good pace. I had a bit of bad luck with traffic and we tried different setups as well.

“We knew the direction to take in qualifying this afternoon. Everything played out pretty well. On the first run, it was about learning about the super-soft tres. It’s the first time we have them here. It was a bit new for everybody.

“We could do more push laps than expected. For the second run, we tried to put everything in place and it was good enough for another pole position”

Vandoorne will now be looking to extend his sizeable championship lead in the feature race on Saturday, but will have to remain wary of Matsushita just behind. Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly qualified third ahead of Rapax’s Sergey Sirotkin, whilst Rio Haryanto rounded out the top five.

American driver Alexander Rossi struggled to find any pace due to a brake problem, leaving him 12th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

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

James Black/IndyCar
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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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