Drivers credit racing’s safety advancements in social reaction to fiery Grosjean F1 crash

Grosjean safety social reaction
Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
0 Comments

An F1 crash that engulfed Romain Grosjean in a fireball for nearly 20 seconds before the driver escaped with minor burns prompted social reaction from drivers around the world Sunday, hailing the safety of auto racing.

Grosjean was airlifted to a nearby hospital with suspected broken ribs but seemed to have avoided major injuries after being able to scramble from the remnants of his destroyed car.

Lewis Hamilton, who clinched his seventh Formula One championship two weeks ago, was leading after starting from the pole position in the race, which was red-flagged for more than an hour after the terrifying crash on Lap 1 of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

During the delay for repairs, the Mercedes driver posted his gratitude for Grosjean’s health and for F1 safety advancements,noting in a tweet that “the risk we take is no joke, for those of you out there that forget we put our life on the line for this sport and for what we love to do.”

Many other drivers chimed in on Twitter, particularly several from the NTT IndyCar Series.

IndyCar introduced the aeroscreen last season, a device designed to shield drivers in crashes by essentially enclosing a cockpit that historically had left their heads exposed to debris and intrusion. Justin Wilson was killed after being hit by a nose cone in an Aug. 23, 2015 incident at Pocono Raceway.

It came in the wake of F1’s halo, which was made mandatory in 2018 — three years after French driver Jules Bianchi died from suffering a head injury during a crash in the Oct. 5, 2014 race at Suzuka, Japan.

The device since has been credited with saving other drivers from serious or fatal injuries.

IndyCar champions Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti were among those who hailed enhancements to keep drivers safe.

Two-time Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne and IndyCar driver Dalton Kellett directly credited the halo with helping save Grosjean’s life, with Kellett explaining how energy was redirected into the chassis and away from the driver.

Simon Pagenaud (a fellow countryman of Grosjean), Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, Pato O’Ward, Max Chilton, 2016 champion Nico Rosberg and several drivers from NASCAR and elsewhere also weighed in after seeing the Grosjean crash.

Formula One technical director Ross Brawn told Sky Sports that the halo device, which was installed on F1 cars in 2018 to prevent cockpit intrusion and protect drivers’ heads, had prevented the type of fatal crash that often happened in similar impacts from years ago.

“Undoubtedly, we’re going to do a very deep analysis of all the events that occurred because there were a number of things that shouldn’t have happened,” Brawn said in a postrace interview. “The fire was worrying. The split of the barrier was worrying. I think the positives are the safety of the car. That’s what got us through today. … There’s no doubt the halo was the factor that saved the day and saved Romain.”

FIA president Jean Todt said the organization “always put safety at the top of our priorities and will continue to do so.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
0 Comments

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”