Report: FIA to conduct closed cockpit tests next month

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The FIA is set to conduct closed cockpit tests next month, according to a report from Motorsport.com’s F1 editor Jonathan Noble.

In the last seven or eight years, there have been increased instances of drivers’ helmets being hit by debris in open-cockpit cars. Henry Surtees lost his life in a Formula 2 race, hit by a loose wheel in 2009, and most recently Justin Wilson has lost his life after being struck by an errant nosecone Sunday in the latest IndyCar race at Pocono.

There was Jules Bianchi’s striking a crane, going underneath that, in his accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix that ultimately claimed his life this July.

Felipe Massa (hit in the helmet by a spring during the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix weekend) and James Hinchcliffe (hit in the helmet by, ironically, a piece of debris of Wilson’s car in the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis) have also been struck, although both have recovered. Massa is active once again in F1 after returning to action beginning with the 2010 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, while Hinchcliffe resumed a little more than a week after his accident and raced in the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

Previous approaches have been tried – including a fighter jet cockpit approach – but been deemed too unsafe as either the polycarbonate cover would shatter, or debris would fly higher and pose a threat to fans or track workers.

As it is, debris has flown quite a bit in IndyCar this year, particularly with the introduction of manufacturer aero kits which see a higher number of aero appendages added to the base Dallara DW12 chassis.

FIA technical director and Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting told Autosport in a separate report that given all the work the FIA has done for years, there eventually needs to be a way forward to see an enhanced form of cockpit protection.

“We have put in a huge amount of time, effort and research into this project, which has not been easy, in fact bloody hard,” Whiting told Autosport.

“But I can definitely see the day when this will happen. One day there will be something that will decrease a driver’s risk of injury.”

Pocono race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay pondered what could happen during the post-race press conference.

“So, you know, these cars are inherently dangerous with the open cockpit like that, head exposed. Maybe in the future we can work towards some type of — we’ve seen some concept renderings of something that resemble as canopy, not a full jet fighter canopy, but something that can give us a little protection but keep the tradition of the sport,” Hunter-Reay said.

Hunter-Reay has noted that INDYCAR has made some good safety advances in the past, notably the creation of the SAFER Barrier which debuted at the 2002 Indianapolis 500.

“Credit to the Verizon IndyCar Series and everybody involved. We’re always looking at ways to make this sport safer. First we had the innovation with the SAFER Barrier. Oval tracks in general we need to start looking into the next 20 years, maybe making the walls a little bit higher. Maybe coming up with something a little bit better than just mesh fencing and poles.

“But, we need to start moving forward on it. And INDYCAR has always been at the forefront of safety. I give them a lot of credit for that.

“When it comes to open-wheel cars, open-wheel is an open cockpit, always has been. But there’s been some renderings of almost like a boomerang looking device in front of the driver that wouldn’t block the vision but would deflect something like this.

“There’s been many renderings I’ve seen. Unfortunately it’s only natural that when there is a situation like this, a dire situation, that breeds innovation. You know, it’s unfortunate, but I think that’s the way life is in general. I think that’s the way everything works.”

NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell also expressed his personal desire for canopies when reflecting on Wilson’s life and career during a Monday night interview on NASCAR AMERICA.

There will be drivers who may not prefer a closed-cockpit future, and that’s to be expected – nothing is unanimous.

However it appears the time has come when the discussion stage looks set to move to an action stage.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III