Safety engineers honored

THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA engineers who developed the "soft" walls which have been fitted in recent weeks at Indianapolis have been awarded the Louis Schwitzer Award, which is given annually for those who have developed new concepts in racing technology.

The Indy Racing League and NASCAR have been working for four years on the walls, which help to reduce the G forces to which drivers are submitted in accidents. The result is the Steel And Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier which was developed by a team of engineers led by Dr Dean Sicking. Sicking and three colleagues (Ronald Faller, John Rohde and John Reid) were all recognised for their achievement.

The soft wall is bolted to existing concrete barriers and consists of steel tube barrier backed by 16 inches of energy-absorbing foam. This means that the barrier gives way just enough to absorb the impact of the car but not enough to cause act as a launch pad.

It is reckoned that the barriers have already saved lives at Indianapolis but they are believed to have limited application in Formula 1 where the existing barriers are as effective as the "soft" barriers, which were developed specifically for oval racing.

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