Photo courtesy of IMSA

O’Ward, Masson set to continue with Performance Tech

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Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Patricio – or Pato – O’Ward and fellow talented teen Kyle Masson delivered as good a debut as could be done at the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona. O’Ward, the 17-year-old Mexican set the fastest race lap as part of Brent O’Neill’s dominant quartet in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09, en route to the class win in Prototype Challenge.

He’ll join James French for the season in that car, with Masson confirmed for the remaining rounds in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup veterans. Masson will run a Mazda Prototype Lites (MPL) chassis in IMSA’s Prototype Challenge series this year, a separate supporting division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Those three plus Nick Boulle won the PC class at the Rolex 24; a story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Kallmann on French is linked here.

The PC class within the WeatherTech Championship has an eight-race schedule this year, with the four endurance races joined by rounds at Circuit of The Americas, Detroit, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America.

“We had opportunities arise going into Daytona and if we had a good showing we could get Pato’s deal done,” O’Neill said. “He’s really just awesome, he and James will be great together. It’ll be a good pairing and a plus for us is that we have two silvers that are really fast. It gives us options in the pits with what we can do with strategy.

“The only thing we’ll really be working on with Pato is how he still loses sight of time during the race. He comes from the format of 45-minutes races. He’s from the sprint race mentality so every once in a while, you have to tell him to reign it in. But he’s so professional in the car. He doesn’t throw the car off and he turns competitive lap times. They’ll be awesome teammates and I know James is excited about it. They’re both great kids.”

“The PC car is so different than what I’ve driven before,” O’Ward said. “It’s heavy but it’s not a slow car. It was impressive when I drove it. The PC has 540 horse power, roughly I think. It’s an enjoyable car to drive. In the rain, it’s not so enjoyable. With the cold weather and rain in the Rolex 24 it was difficult to handle. That’s more the weather though not the car. It’s not as physical as I thought it would be. It’s the only open cockpit car in IMSA. So, it’s cool to be a part of the last year of the class.”

“As a unit we all worked really well together at Daytona and we had great pace. I think keeping the group that swept Daytona together is a smart move and I am ecstatic about the opportunity to stay with them,” Masson added.

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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