Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Action Express secures third straight 1-2 finish

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Action Express Racing didn’t have the pace, but did have the strategic smarts to win its third straight IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race – both for the 2016 season and at Road America.

The No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran started only fifth but leapfrogged the polesitting No. 55 Mazda Prototype (Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez) on pit strategy.

On track, Cameron turned in an impressive pass on Jordan Taylor during the race, coming out of Turn 3 on Lap 44, using Jeroen Bleekemolen’s No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R as a pick and then slingshotting under Taylor on the inside. It was the net lead on track before the final pit stop sequence.

Action Express has also secured its third straight 1-2 finish this season, with the No. 31 car ahead of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling-backed entry of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa.

This brings the No. 31 pair within a point of the No. 5 pair in the championship, 253 to 252, with just two races remaining.

The No. 5 car won at Watkins Glen while the No. 31 car won last time out at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. That’s the same result as has happened at Road America the last two years; the No. 5 car won in 2014 and the No. 31 car won last year.

Mazda, which had an unquestioned pace advantage throughout the weekend, saw a near certain first win go away courtesy of a strategic blunder – ultimately decided when the rest of the Prototype field pitted on Lap 28 and the No. 55 car didn’t from the lead.

That left the No. 55 car to pit under green at the one hour and 11 minute mark and saw its gap go from leading by 25 seconds to trailing by 39, following the minute-plus pit stop delta, and again to pit under green with 36 minutes remaining after the leaders had already pitted for the final time.

It slotted the No. 55 car back to fifth place overall and in class, behind the two Action Express Corvettes, Taylor and brother Ricky in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, and the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda of Ozz Negri and John Pew.

Other class winners included Tom Kimber-Smith and Robert Alon in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 (PC), Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R (GTLM) and Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R (GTD).

More to come from the other classes here in a minute, following a crazy finish in the GT ranks.

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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