Jackie Stewart

February 9, 2009 by  
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Jackie Stewart aka The Flying Scot is a renowned Formula One driver from the ’60s and ’70s. Stewart took home 3 world titles and participated in the Can-Am championship. After his career as a race car driver ended he went on to become a popular commentator, consultant and team owner.

Sir John Young Stewart, OBE was born on 11 June 1939 in West Dunbartonshire. Stewart’s interest in cars was piqued at an early age as his family owned Dumbuck Garage in Milton. His father had previously been a motorcycle racer and his brother Jimmy was an increasingly popular race car driver. In 1953 he competed in the British Grand Prix with team Ecuri Ecosse. Although his parents discouraged their sons from racing after Jimmy was injured, Jackie accepted an offer by Barry Filer to test his cars at Oulton Park. During the test runs Jackie Stewart left a major impression on the spectators. Ken Tyrrell of Cooper soon heard of Jackie and quickly contacted his brother to organize a tryout. Tyrrell was suitably impressed by Stewart’s fast times and asked him to join the team in 1963.

In 1964 Jackie Stewart took part in Formula Three and had his first win at Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit. In 1965 he joined BRM so as to compete in Formula One. He debuted in South Africa and later gained a victory at the BRDC International Trophy. Unfortunately in 1966 he would have won the Indianapolis 500 had it not been for a mechanical problem and thus he was given the honor of Rookie of the Year. During the Belgian Grand Prix of 1966 Stewart was involved in a terrible crash due to rainy weather. The marshals were unable to help him, so his teammate Graham Hill rescued him. Because of this event Jackie Stewart began a campaign to improve safety in motor racing. Removable steering wheels and a main electrics switch became mandatory and BRM provided a medical truck.

In 1968 and 1969 Stewart drove F1 for Ken Tyrrell. Behind the steering wheel of a Matra MS80 Jackie Stewart became the 1969 World Champion. He once again became World Champion in 1971 and 1973. During his racing career, Jackie Stewart received great recognition including the Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” award and BBC’s “Sports Personality Of The Year” in 1973. In 2001 Stewart received the title Sir. Even after retiring as an F1 driver Jackie Stewart, The Flying Scot, has gone on to exert an influence on the sport.

NHRA Decides to Shorten Runs For Safety’s Sake

July 21, 2008 by  
Filed under News

When drag racing became more and more popular in the early 1950s and 60s, the National Hot Rod Association‘s home track was Pomona Raceway in California. The track was built as a quarter-mile and the cars’ speeds were only nearing 200 mph so the logistics worked. But that was then, and this is now. Today cars reach speeds in excess of 325 mph, and officials now fear that the track hasn’t changed enough to accommodate these high speeds.

This fact was brought into sharp relief recently when the life of Scott Kalitta, a Palmetto Funny Car driver, was brought to a catastrophic end when his car launched into the barrier at the end of a run last month in New Jersey, causing the car to explode with the driver still trapped inside. There were likely more factors involved in the crash than simply the lack of space and increase in speed, but the tragic event was a stark reminder that something needed to be done about the problem. The accident took place in Englishtown on a track that was built in 1965 – one of many tracks that, like Pomona Raceway, have run out of space to expand the runoff area at the end of the quarter-mile in case of emergencies such as these. Since the runoffs cannot be expanded, something else needs to be done to ensure that these tracks continue to remain relatively safe places to participate in motor sports. With this in mind, the NHRA has made the decision to shorten the races for Top Fuel and Funny Cars to just 1000 feet instead of the full 1 320-foot quarter-mile that has been the standard up until now. Both events see the fastest cars on the track and the most risks taken, and shortening the track will no doubt see a lot of cars slowing down in order to stay on the track.

Although the NHRA has said that this is only a temporary solution to the problem, a lot of people in the auto racing industry are up in arms about it. They feel that speed is the name of the game and a good driver will just suck it in and do their best. They also fear that the NHRA’s decision will become permanent. However, the decision made by the NHRA is clearly not about slowing the races down – it’s about the long-term safety of the drivers involved in these races. As long as there is insufficient space for a car hurtling down a run at 325 mph to slow down safely, the risk of more accidents like Scott Kalitta’s is just too great. Tracks must be altered, races must be shortened or technology must improve – we will no doubt see interesting developments in all three of these facets of racing in the near future.

Michael Schumacher Heads New Motor Sport Safety Development Fund

May 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

The Motor Sport Safety Development Fund has been created to manage the distribution of the $60 million awarded to the FIA (Federation Internationale De L’Automobile) as part of the $100 million fine which was imposed on McLaren-Mercedes in 2007. Heading up the new fund as Chairman, is Michael Schumacher, seven times Formula One world champion.

In addition to Michael Schumacher as Chairman, the fund’s management committee includes Max Mosley, FIA President; Jean Todt, Member of the Board of Ferrari; Nic Craw, President of the Automobile Competition Committee for the USA; and Norbert Haug, Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.

As the name of the fund suggests, it will ensure that the money is used in the interests of motor sport safety. Working hand-in-hand with the FIA Institute, the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund will establish a Young Driver Safety Scholarship Program, a Facility Safety Improvement Consultancy Program and an Officials Skills Safety Training Program.

Expressing his viewpoint with regard to his appointment as Chairman of the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund and the role it will play, Michael Schumacher has been quoted as saying: “I’m proud to be able to help with the further development of safety in motor sport across the world. The FIA has achieved a great deal already in its safety activities but the grants available from this new Fund will make a huge contribution to improving motor sport safety, especially in emerging motor sport markets.”

Jean Todt stated that he was pleased that the unfortunate events of last year had been resolved and that it had resulted in a worthy project. As a long-standing member of Ferrari’s Board of Directors, Todt would have been acutely aware of the ins-and-outs of the so-called “spy scandal” in which McLaren stood accused of, and was found guilty for, cheating by using data obtained from a Ferrari employee to improve its own car. The $100 million fine has gone down in motor sport history as the harshest punishment ever given to a team since the sport began 57 years ago. Additionally, the FIA stripped McLaren of all its constructor’s points for the entire 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship season.

Norbert Haug said that the money entrusted to the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund would be used to ensure that the sport had strong foundations. FIA President, Max Mosley confirmed that the intention had always been to use any money received from the McLaren-Mercedes fine for the benefit of motor sport at grass-roots level. Now that the money has been allocated, it will be invested in a safer future for motor sport.

The Physics of NASCAR

March 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is a professor of physics, researching biomedical nanomaterials at the University of Texas in Dallas, USA. As a devoted NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) fan, she is fascinated by the science behind this popular American sport. This intense interest has been channeled into writing what is being haled as one of the most educational and intriguing books that has ever been written about NASCAR – “The Physics of NASCAR“.

Although some may be tempted to dismiss the book as being too technical for the average NASCAR fan to comprehend, this would be a misconception. The author manages to superbly balance the numerous scientific aspects of the sport with its human element and this is reinforced by the appealing stories of her visits to the racing tracks and the development facilities during her research for The Physics of NASCAR.

Professor Leslie-Pelecky was given access to race shops, crew chiefs, pit crews and mechanics to research her book, and she has displayed the ability to translate technical jargon into something that the majority of fans can readily understand. She acknowledges that she did not fully appreciate the extent of the science behind NASCAR at the beginning of her project and emphasizes that her greatest reward has been to become acquainted with an exceptional group of people who are united in their passion for racing. Critics agree that the people discussed in the book as well as the bits of history and general information are very interesting and because these are balanced with the technical aspects of auto racing, the book is both educational and entertaining – even if best read with a dictionary at hand.

The information for the book has been taken from different areas in the United States. For example, in one chapter Professor Leslie-Pelecky talks about tires at a shop in North Carolina and includes the history of vulcanized rubber as a point of interest. In another chapter she examines track safety improvements, such as more efficient barriers, that are being tested in Nebraska.

Interestingly, research reveals that 75 million people are NASCAR fans, forty percent being women. Television broadcasting of NASCAR events reaches 100 countries in 21 languages and NASCAR generates over two billion US$ in sales of licensed products each year. Just with these figures in mind, there is certainly a market for “The Physics of NASCAR” – a book which combines the curiosity of an auto racing fan with the expertise of a physics professor resulting in a book that NASCAR fans are sure to appreciate.

Racingsafer.com Driver Safety Seminar

January 22, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

With the objective of providing auto racing drivers with knowledge to enable them to make educated decisions regarding their personal safety as well as elevating safety at the track, Racingsafer.com will be hosting a Driver Safety Seminar at the K-Star Ranch in Mansfield, Texas on 26 January 2008. The seminar has been arranged in response to requests from various race tracks, manufacturers and service providers in the interests of promoting racing safety.

Although auto racing is an inherently dangerous sport, safety equipment and chassis manufacturers continuously make advancements in their products, which help to make this popular sport safer. There is no legal requirement for drivers to update their equipment, but many sanctioning bodies and racing track authorities try to encourage drivers to take advantage of rapidly advancing technology to enhance the safety level of auto racing.

The keynote speaker at the Racingsafer.com Driver Safety Seminar will be Tina Cresswell, the Sales Manager of Simpson Race Products. Having worked at Simpson Racing Products for 10 years and with 12 years of auto and sprint car racing experience, Tina is certainly qualified to offer sound advice on the latest technology.

Representatives from FASTT Motorsports Rescue will give some valuable insight on providing a safer environment for drivers and their crews, as well as for spectators at the track. The FASTT rescue truck is fully equipped with advanced rescue equipment which includes, saw-alls, hydraulic rescue tools (Jaws of Life), jacks for vehicle stabilization and hand tools. Additionally the truck, known as “Rescue 1”, is outfitted with a variety of fire extinguishers as well as a system capable of extinguishing larger fires. Rescue 1 is also equipped with life support equipment to attend to the medical needs of injured drivers. Each member of the FASTT team has received extensive training in track safety and fire suppression, as well as rescue and emergency medicine.

Participants at the Driver Safety Seminar stand in line to win some great auto racing related prizes. These prizes will include safety equipment and the latest fuel cell product from RCI as well as a Fire Tech System. One lucky seminar participant will be awarded with a Team Membership to the Hall of Fame by the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.

The proceeds of the Racing.com Driver Safety Seminar will benefit the Ryan Bard Foundation and go toward future events for driver safety education, which is sure to benefit all involved in the fast moving world of auto racing.

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