There is an old debate rising up with new vigor lately: is high performance driving getting to be so dangerous that major changes need to be made? There has been a recent major incident (fatality) at Road Atlanta (RA) that seems to be spurring the online commentary and chatter. Heavy hitters like Ross Bentley (one of my favorite authors, of Speed Secrets fame) and Don Salisbury (founder of Blue Ridge SCCA region, Blue Ridge PCA safety head) have weighed in. And they say that horsepower is too high, speeds are too high, and danger is too high. And that changes need to happen.
These two highly-knowledgeable instructors propose that speeds on the straights at tracks for cars without roll cages be potentially limited. Ross Bentley says, "We either make cars have all the safety equipment, or we control speeds." When asked how he came up with the idea to limit speeds on track, Don Salisbury states, "That is easy: Structural integrity, kinetic energy and years of watching high speed incidents "tearing apart" and "balling up" cars in club and pro races with a large part of that being the heavier Showroom Stock cars. You have street cars without rollcages doing 150+ at some tracks. They were never designed to crash at those speeds."
There was an interesting counterpoint made by Mark Hicks, General Manager at Chin Motorsports.com, one of the largest private organizers of track day events. He contends, "In the last 5 years, I'm aware of 4 fatalities nationwide in track day/HPDE events: 2 involved running-off into trees after loss of control in a corner at tracks with inadequate safety barriers. 1 was a crash at corner exit that resulted in an injury that was exacerbated by an undisclosed medical condition (a normally healthy driver would have likely survived). And, the incident most recently at Road Atlanta, which happened on a straightaway. Applying a straightaway speed limit cannot be demonstrated to have a mitigating affect on a single one of the incidents described above. Even though the nationwide numbers of participants has increased in recent years, there's not a sudden spike in fatalities. In fact, fatality probability, as a factor of track miles driven, is probably at an all-time low."
Personally, I have enjoyed many side conversations (often on Facebook) on a related range of topics such as, "what exactly is the educational component of high performance driving education (HPDE)?" and "how is progress measured, especially if lap times are no longer applicable?"
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