Indy 500 driver Helio Castroneves found himself upside down and airborne after losing control of his race car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice.
It really is quite amazing how safe top-tier open-wheel motorsport is these days. Back in the sixties, seventies and eighties motorsport was one of the most dangerous sports in the world and drivers were constantly being killed in massive accidents – as James Hunt once said of his Hesketh F1 car, ‘to all intensive purposes this thing’s a bomb on wheels’. It was incredibly dangerous – sure they had roll-over protection so they didn’t span their necks should things go south, but there was highly flammable fuel sloshing around either side of the cockpit and the chassises were no where near as strong as the carbon fibre ones we have today.
To see just how safe a current Indy car is take a look at the video below. Helio Castroneves lost control of his racer on the banking at Indianapolis during practice and the rear of the car slammed into the wall at what was probably around 180mph, the car spun backwards but what happened next was really rather spectacular. The car took off and became airborne and flew around 30 meters down the track backwards. Eventually the car hit the track and righted itself, but the lack of damage to the car and its driver are truly remarkable. The front and rear wings were torn off during the impact and one of the front wheels snapped off, but otherwise it looks to be in decent shape. And Helio Castroneves walked away with nothing but a slightly hurt ego we suspect. Despite the incident, he returned to the track later in the practice session and the fifteenth fastest lap time! Amazing.
Check out the video below.