Before we start, let’s get this out of the way: whoever designed the 2016 schedule should be forced to wear a hairshirt for the entire three weeks between the races in St Petersburg and Phoenix. Not only does this 20-day delay diminish fan enthusiasm, it makes word butchers like your humble host contemplate assembling clickbait posts like “17 things to do while you wait for the next Indycar race!!!”
CONFESSION TIME: I actually started to write that post, and it freaked me out for, like, days.
So to kill time, err, engage the audience those of us with keyboards start writing about serious subjects, hypothesizing and pontificating how to best move the series forward into the 21st century, which oddly enough to some fans means going back to 1992 or something. Not judgin’, just sayin’.
Which brings us to the discussion of canopies by George at Oil Pressure. Your humble host will now embarrassingly commence upon the navel gazing.
To be honest, the entire concept of canopies is cringe-inducing, for many of the reasons George outlined. Within about five seconds after the airing of footage showing a silvery piece of mortality raining down on Justin Wilson the whole of Indycar-related social media seemed to erupt with “ZOMG!?! Canopies now!!!” And if you weren’t vehemently shouting #Canopies you were a Neanderthal, or you have no respect for life, or you were Hitler. Because in schools these days they must be teaching that “Hitler” means “person who disagrees with me”.
CONFESSION TIME AGAIN: I don’t have an opinion about canopies. (“You’re driving the opposite direction of clickbait there, buddy” – The Spotter)
Yes, I’ve seen the F1 Halo, and yes, it looks weird, but it is intriguing. And I built dozens of model airplanes as a kid, so fully enclosed canopies would look completely cool, assuming they could be safely removed quickly, and wouldn’t distort sight lines for the driver, and wouldn’t fry the driver like an ant under a magnifying glass. And I’ve watched a fair share of sprint car racing so roll cages are fine with me. And the semi-windshield designs in George’s post also look interesting. But, as I said, I don’t have an opinion as to which would be better. Instead I’d rather someone determine the question is that “canopies” is supposed to answer.
It doesn’t make much sense to simply blurt out “We need to make racing safer from head injuries!”, slap together some catchy hashtags, then call it the dog end of a day gone by. Instead there ought to be a discussion of what specific kind of head injuries heed to be addressed, which are the most frequent, which are the most threatening. Who knows, maybe even a blue-ribbon panel or whatever good folks at 16th and Georgetown would call a committee that could address this.
Here’s what I’m getting at: By my count in the last three years that have been three noteworthy head injuries*, one fatal and two serious. Dario Franchitti at Houston in 2013, James Hinchcliffe’s at the Indianapolis road course in 2014, and the aforementioned tragedy involving Justin Wilson at Pocono last year. Each of those three involved completely different circumstances leading to injury, which seems to my simple brain that the discussion involves up to three different types of solutions, probably more when you factor in small objects or large objects or immovable objects coming at a driver’s head from quite a number of possible angles. Or conversely, and more succinctly, I don’t think there is a single solution to all of these scenarios.
(*Forgive me if in Indycar there were others such injuries in the last three years that I don’t recall, but truth is I have a horrible memory. I mean, I wouldn’t know what day of the week it was if it wasn’t printed on my vitamin case.)
And this doesn’t even begin to discuss the reason there aren’t any canopies now, which is primarily to allow a driver to escape a car-be-cue scenario as fast as possible. And yes, after all these paragraphs I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, I’m just saying out loud why I don’t have anything to say out loud about canopies.
Am I adding anything to the discussion? Probably not. Like I said, a lot of navel gazing.
At any rate, the discussion of canopies underscores the state of modern Indycar racing, and when I say “modern Indycar racing” I mean the Era after Tonny Renna’s car launched into the catchfence at Indianapolis. History shows that to be the moment when automotive development for Indycars became a backbencher to safety development, at least to the Hulman-George family. While my memory may be fading I do remember the number of submissions for ideas leading up to the current Indycar chassis, so it stands to reason Indycar could solicit solutions similarly for devices to resolve this issue. Once they specifically define the most common and preventable scenarios that lead to traumatic head injuries, that is.