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When men push machines to their limit in the spirit of competition, there’s an ever-present risk that something can go wrong. In other words, as long as there is automobile racing, there will be crashes.
No cars race faster on a closed oval circuit than the cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series. At some tracks, the drivers are pushing the limits at more than 220 mph. Here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the IndyCar Series drivers will push their machines near the 200 mph mark in qualifying and race above 180 mph.
INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Firestone Indy Lights championship, has always been at the forefront of motorsports safety. Tony George, the founder of INDYCAR, initially funded and pushed for the development of a “soft wall” with the University of Nebraska. That project produced the SAFER Barrier which is now attached to nearly every major oval race track in the United States.
The sanctioning body has also led developments in driver and car safety as well. Funding and research has helped with the evolution of driver safety cells, race track wall attenuators and yellow light systems.
Perhaps one of the best known safety features of the IZOD IndyCar Series is neither a wall nor a device; rather, it is people. Many consider the most valuable safety feature of INDYCAR to be the men and women of the Holmatro Safety Team. These people are the first responders to any accident in the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights championship.
In 2011, the Holmatro Safety Team will accompany INDYCAR to 17 events in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Japan, including the MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Under the supervision of Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR’s director of medical services, and Mike Yates, manager of track safety operations, the Holmatro Safety Team consists of approximately 24 safety personnel with a minimum of 14 attending each event depending on the type of track – oval, street course or permanent road course. The traveling staff includes two trauma physicians, three paramedics and nine firefighters and EMTs. Safety team personnel have an average of 20 years of experience in their respective areas.
Holmatro is a leading manufacturer of rescue tools found on fire trucks and other emergency vehicles across the United States. It provides the equipment used by INDYCAR’s traveling safety team. The company is more than 40 years old and is known for its manufacturing of high-pressure hydraulic equipment for rescue, industrial and marine applications.
“We have worked with the men and women of INDYCAR since the league began in 1996 to ensure that the on-track response to accidents is as efficient and effective as possible,” said William “Giff” Swayne, president of Holmatro. “As a world leader in rescue equipment, our gear is called upon every day to save lives. What we learn in racing helps us to keep ahead of the new technologies that will ultimately make their way into the cars that our customers will deal with on the street.”
The team travels with four safety vehicles and brings the most sophisticated racing technologies with its state-of-the-art, high-performance Holmatro rescue equipment to each venue. It continually evaluates its on-track procedures to be at the forefront of motorsports safety for participants and spectators. The Holmatro Safety Team works in conjunction with and coordinates the safety personnel staffing each venue, including firefighters, ambulance and tow-truck providers and track maintenance crews.
In the IZOD IndyCar Series, it’s not just the drivers and cars that have a reputation of being fast. The Holmatro Safety Team is the best in the business and makes speed a priority.
When an Indy car crashes, the speeds produce impacts and forces on the human body that are unimaginable. So as the saying goes, every second counts. Within seconds of race command calling for a caution flag for an accident, the Holmatro Safety Team is rolling in their state-of-the-art safety trucks. Over the years, there are countless accounts of a safety truck pulling alongside a crashed race car as it hobbles to a stop.
Upon arrival at the crash scene, the safety team jumps into action with each member having a specific role. An INDYCAR doctor or paramedic will immediately attend to the driver as other members work to stabilize the crash scene, which can be as simple as sweeping up “speedy” dry used to soak up car fluids to as dangerous as putting out a fire.
In addition to competitor safety, the Holmatro Safety Team plays a vital role to the overall fan experience at an IZOD IndyCar Series race. If there is an accident, it’s the team’s responsibility to clean up the crash site quickly and efficiently, so racing can resume as soon as possible.
So as the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and cars race around “The Magic Mile” at breath-taking speeds, know that they are under the watchful eye and care of the world leader in motorsports safety and track response – The Holmatro Safety Team.