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Matsushita closes out GP2 post-season test quickest

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Honda youngster Nobuharu Matsushita closed out the final day of GP2’s post-season test in Abu Dhabi at the top of the timesheets for ART Grand Prix.

Matsushita helped ART win the teams’ championship in GP2 this year, claiming one race win and two further podium finishes in his debut season.

The Japanese racer is set to remain with ART in GP2 for 2016 thanks to its ties with McLaren, who Honda powers in Formula 1.

Across the three days of testing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, Matsushita topped three of the four sessions he took part in, posting a fastest time of 1:48.313 on Friday.

Matsushita went four-tenths of a second quicker on Wednesday, but the fastest time of the three days of testing was set by Nicholas Latifi on Thursday afternoon for DAMS.

The test saw a number of drivers enjoy a taste of GP2 machinery ahead of a possible move up to the series in 2016, including DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein, F3 drivers Felix Rosenqvist and Antonio Giovinazzi, and GP3 drivers Jimmy Eriksson, Emil Bernstorff, Luca Ghiotto and Alex Fontana.

GP3 has also been testing at Yas Marina over the past three days, with FIA F3 graduate Charles Leclerc setting the pace for ART.

Leclerc, 18, is widely regarded as being one of motorsport’s future stars, and has been tipped to join Ferrari’s Driver Academy for 2016. A report from motorsport.com has also linked the Monegasque racer with a development role at Haas F1 Team for 2016.

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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