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Di Grassi calls Mexico Formula E win ‘one of the best races of my life’

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Lucas di Grassi has called his last-to-first charge to victory in Saturday’s Mexico City ePrix “one of the best races of my life” as he slashed the gap to Formula E championship leader Sebastien Buemi.

Di Grassi qualified a lowly 18th on Saturday before being hit on the opening lap of the race, prompting the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team to pit the Brazilian early and complete a rear wing change.

After narrowly avoiding going a lap down, di Grassi made a second stop ahead of schedule after a safety car period, swapping cars to give himself track position once the leading drivers all pitted.

Despite having far less energy with which to complete the race, di Grassi managed the situation well and kept clear to take a memorable victory at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

“I had a very poor qualifying today so I started at the back. Somebody crashed into my back, broke my rear wing,” di Grassi explained.

“There was a safety car, I came back, I was last. And then the safety car came about Lap 18. By that moment, when I did the stop, I thought that after the safety car went out and I had a 25 second lead to the next car when they exited the pits with half the race to go, I think I could have fought for the win, because I was roughly two seconds off and there was 14 laps remaining in that moment.

“So I thought that it was going to be tight but I could have made it. When the second safety car came and I had much less energy than those guys, I went on the radio because the safety car came in and the car was moving already. In my head I’d lost the race in that moment, because I was not able to hold them up with the amount of energy I had.

“And then luckily I had Jerome [d’Ambrosio] behind me with a little bit of hold up. I managed to create a gap and kept on just using regen, just tried to be as energy-efficient as possible, just trying to focus on my race until the last corner and just celebrated like crazy.

“For me it was one of the best races of my life in terms of how I drove the second stint, of how energy efficient I had to be.”

The result saw di Grassi end Buemi’s win streak at three races and sliced the Renault driver’s championship lead from 29 to just five points as he could only finish 13th.

Formula E returns in Monaco on May 13.

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

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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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