JULY 1, 2008
F1 knowledge to help drag racers
The death of Scott Kalitta, one of the stars of the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) biggests stars a week ago at Englishtown, New Jersey, has called for changes in safety measures in the sport and the NHRA is now looking at ways to improve its safety with the specific aims being to stop engine explosions, find better ways to employ parachutes, develop brakes to more effectively stop the cars and to examine better run-off areas and catch nets.
The NHRA says that it has requested data from FIA regarding design and make-up of runoff areas in other forms of motorsports to see if it has any useful applications to cope with the unique forces that are seen in drag racing.
Kalitta's accident is still being investigated but the initial work has shown that his engine exploded at 300mph at the end of the quarter-mile run. It continued at virtually unabated pace. There is speculation that the explosion could have damaged the brakelines or that the driver was unconscious but the details are yet to be established. The car covered another half a mile before it reached a gravel bed, extending 30 metres. At the back of this was a catch net. In most accidents drivers arrive at speeds under 150mph and this is sufficient to stop the car, but the speed in this case sent Kalitta's over the gravel and into the safety fence. There are reports that there was a concrete support for either the fencing or a camera boom, which Kalitta hit.
Another 20m beyond this is a concrete wall that curves in from the right. This is designed as the final protection at the end of the strip as there is a road behind the wall.
This deflects any cars to the left rather than having them flip over the wall and into the roadway behind. This appears to have been what happened with Kalitta.