Safety concerns at Laguna

The talk at Laguna Seca was all about safety after Patrick Carpentier flipped over a safety fence during first qualifying.

Safety concerns at Laguna

Carpentier was unhurt in the accident which took place at turn four, a fourth gear right-hander approached around 140 mph.

The Canadian dropped a rear wheel into the dirt as he braked for the corner, spun backwards off the road and was launched into the air by the sand trap. He hit the tyre barrier tail first and bounced off the tyre barrier and over the fence, coming to a stop upside down.

"It didn't seem as bad as it looked on TV," Carpentier said. "I was very lucky not to go sideways, or I would have smashed into the wall. It never hit big until it stopped, but I had no idea I'd gone over the fence."

Carpentier had a sore neck but was otherwise uninjured. His accident resulted in a two hour delay as the sand-trap was reprofiled. Many of the drivers were very critical of the safety conditions at Laguna Seca, but Carpentier had no serious criticisms.

"There's nothing wrong with the safety measures here," Carpentier said. "The track is pretty safe. The only problem is the gravel pits don't slow you down, but they can launch you."

The sand trap at turn four was higher than the track surface and track officials reduced the height of the trap to match the racetrack during the two-hour delay. The drivers had a meeting to discuss the situation and were joined by CART's interim CEO Bobby Rahal, chief steward Kirk Russell and other CART officials. Although some drivers were talking before the meeting about not driving, they emerged from the meeting agreeing to race and went out for the final qualifying session.

The drivers have hired retired racer and TV announcer Parker Johnstone to act as a safety consultant. Johnstone is charged with the responsibility of inspecting tracks and making recommendations for improvements. He went out to examine the track after the sand traps had been lowered and reprofiled.

"Parker went out and looked at it," Rahal said. "He was surprised the work had been done so quickly. I'm a driver and I would have no concern about going out there. I drove here when it was considerably less safe than it is today."

Rahal says new Championship Driver's Assocation (CDA) president Mauricio Gugelmin has been very proactive this year, including hiring Johnstone as a safety consultant. "I don't know if you can focus on every possible solution," Rahal added. "I don't know any circuit in the world that can say that. In Vancouver I met with Mauricio and his group. Parker Johnstone has put together a very professional document. It's the best thing ever done by CART. It's the first time anything like this has been done in an organised fashion.

"We are doing this in company with the promoters. The commitment is there from CART to do it correctly. Now, having said that, it doesn't accommodate every possible situation. That's just not possible."

Franchitti was particularly critical of both Laguna Seca and CART. Gonzalo Rodriguez was killed in qualifying last year at Laguna Seca and Franchitti is not impressed with the changes that have been made since then.

"It's very unfortunate that nothing has been done," Franchitti said. "Somebody was killed here last year and it's very disappointing that nothing has been done. Bobby Rahal arrived six months too late. Things are getting pushed through now but we were very lucky today.

"I think the cars outgrew this track many years ago. And the attitude here is not very good. I had an argument with somebody here yesterday because he wouldn't let me go 'round the track in a golf cart. I wanted to take a look at the work they'd done, but the guy wouldn't let me go around."

De Ferran disagreed with Franchitti. "There are a number of places that can be improved," de Ferran said. "Safety improvements are never something you can finish. Even if we dealt with every issue we'd find there are always new things to push for, but I think what Dario says is not accurate because some work has been done."

Laguna Seca general manager John Stornetta said plenty of work has taken place in the past year. Stornetta said run-off areas have been expanded at turn five, and at the Corkscrew where Rodriguez crashed last year. More than 900 cubic yards of dirt were used to fill and level the run-off area at the Corkscrew and the run off has been extended from twenty to fifty feet and a 100 year old tree was also moved some twenty feet in order to improve visibility for the drivers.

shares
comments
Castroneves on provisional pole
Previous article

Castroneves on provisional pole

Next article

Herta fastest in practice

Herta fastest in practice
Why romanticism isn't the key factor in Lola’s racing return Plus

Why romanticism isn't the key factor in Lola’s racing return

The iconic Lola name is being relaunched after it was taken over by new ownership. Part of that reboot is a planned return to racing, though the exact details of this are still to be finalised - though its new owner does have a desire to bring the brand back to the Le Mans 24 Hours. But romanticism doesn't appear to be the driving force behind this renewed project...

General
Jul 14, 2022
Rating the best drivers of the century so far Plus

Rating the best drivers of the century so far

Autosport's Top 50 feature has been a staple of the magazine for the past two decades since its first appearance in 2002. Here are the drivers that have featured most prevalently during that time

General
Jan 7, 2022
The best motorsport moments of 2021 Plus

The best motorsport moments of 2021

Motorsport produced one of its greatest years of all-time in 2021 despite a backdrop of ongoing COVID-19 challenges and an ever-changing racing landscape. Through the non-stop action Autosport has collected the finest moments from the past 12 months to highlight the incredible drama and joy motorsport generates

General
Dec 31, 2021
The racing comeback artists who resurrected long-dormant careers Plus

The racing comeback artists who resurrected long-dormant careers

Making it in motorsport can be tough, and sometimes drivers move elsewhere before their best chance arrives. Here are some of those who made it back

General
Dec 26, 2021
The hidden racing gem attracting ex-F1 heroes Plus

The hidden racing gem attracting ex-F1 heroes

It’s rarely mentioned when it comes to assessing the best national contests, but the Brazilian Stock Car series that reaches its climax this weekend has an ever-growing appeal. Its expanding roster of ex-Formula 1 names has helped to draw in new fans, but it's the closeness of competition that keeps them watching

General
Dec 10, 2021
The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under Plus

The one-time Schumacher rival rebooting his career Down Under

Joey Mawson made waves in the middle of the last decade, beating future Haas Formula 1 driver Mick Schumacher - among other highly-rated talents - to the 2016 German F4 title. A run in F1's feeder GP3 category only caused his career to stall, but now back in Australia Mawson's S5000 title success has set that to rights

General
May 8, 2021
The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing Plus

The lesson football’s would-be wreckers could learn from racing

OPINION: The greed-driven push for a European Super League that threatened to tear football apart is collapsing at the seams. Motor racing's equivalent, the football-themed Superleague Formula series of 2008-11, was everything that the proposed ESL never could be

General
Apr 21, 2021
The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan Plus

The F1 and Indy 'nearly man' that found contentment in Japan

Having had the door to F1 slammed in his face and come within three laps of winning the Indianapolis 500, the collapse of a Peugeot LMP1 shot meant Japan was Bertrand Baguette's last chance of a career. But it's one which he has grasped with both hands

General
Feb 27, 2021