A violent crash during a race Saturday in Daytona caught the attention of Grand Prix of St. Petersburg fans.
"It was really shocking," said Peggy Naruns of St. Petersburg, "I've never worried about it, I'm always on the long strip but it's a good point, now that we saw that."
One of her co-workers admitted she "always" stands close to the Grand Prix's fencing, and even after Saturday's crash, "I'm still going to stand at the fence."
St. Petersburg Grand Prix president Tim Ramsberger said there are similarities and dissimilarities between what happened in Daytona and what could happen in St. Petersburg. In Daytona, several cars tangled, one went airborne, a barrier fence was torn and some debris, including a tire and wheel assembly, flew over the barrier fence and into the grandstand.
The crash injured 28 people, including 14 admitted to local hospitals, two in critical condition. According to the Raleigh, North Carolina Observer, 46 spectators were killed while watching a wide variety of races between 1990 and 2010. Ramsberger said safety is a top concern of the Indy series, and his course will be certified three times before this year's race: By Indy inspectors, the race's insurance carrier, and by an international body overseeing many professional races.
"It's in the interest of safety for everyone, not only the fans but the drivers, the corner workers, photographers, media that are working the event that are near the track," Ramsberger said.
The two main safety components in St. Petersburg are the barrier fencing and the design of the cars themselves. The barrier starts with reinforced concrete barriers not only lined up end-to-end, but also pegged into the street with heavy metal bars to prevent them from moving. Then four strands of heavy cabling is pulled tight between poles inserted into the concrete barriers.
"The cabling is high tension and can withstand a lot more than the mesh fence in terms of impact" Ramsberger explained, while a final layer of chain link fencing "...is to keep all those components that there would be, pieces that break away, on the track."
Similar fencing techniques are in place at Daytona, but will now be reviewed after Saturday's crash.
Ramsberger also said Indy-style cars are designed to break up in a crash, now have fenders to prevent wheel-to-wheel contact between cars, and are aerodynamically the opposite of airplane.
"Airplanes are designed to lift, the wing configurations [on Indy cars] force air on top to keep the car down," Ramsberger said. He said through the first nine years of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg there have been several collisions between race cars and the concrete barriers, but no contact with the barrier fencing.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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