JUNE 11, 2002
No reaction from Le Mans
THE motor racing world will be crossing its fingers this weekend during the Le Mans 24 Hours as the race organizers appear to have decided to ignore a warning from the FIA that the cars have been found to be dangerous if they go sideways at speeds greater than 95 mph. The worry is that they will take off and fly. The FIA published a report which was produced after two fatal accidents. Two separate windtunnel programs looking into the phenomenon produced the same result.
The FIA chose not to take direct action to stop events taking place, presumably because of the possibility of legal actions which might have resulted from the cancellation of races but, instead, handed the responsibility to race organizers and issued a warning and guidelines to all sports car teams and race organizers.
That was two weeks ago.
There has been no reaction from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest about the FIA research and one must presume that the organizing committee for the Le Mans 24 Hours has considered the possible implications of an accident and has decided to go ahead with the race.
This is a huge risk as the ACO could, in theory, face criminal charges if there is an accident and it is ruled that they ignored a clear warning.
Although GrandPrix.com has been criticized for reporting the story, we are convinced after conversations with FIA engineer Peter Wright that the worries are genuine.
The danger for Le Mans is that the 8.5-mile track is run largely at very high speeds with six sections of the circuit seeing the cars running at speeds in excess of 95mph. The southern sections of the track are the least dangerous as although the speeds on the main Hunaudieres straight reach 205mph the number of people in the area is severely restricted. The Mulsanne and Arnage sections are slow enough not to be too much of a worry but the fast run through the woods from Mulsanne to Indianapolis sees the cars travelling at around 190mph, although once again public access is restricted.
The big worry is the section by the pits (where the Le Mans disaster occurred in 1955) where the cars are travelling at 165mph with crowds on one side of the circuit and pit crew on the other. There are also worries in the Tertre Rouge section where the speeds are around 95mph. The other section where there is potential danger is the run up from Arnage to the pits as the cars go through the Porsche and Maison Blanche sections at over 170mph, and there are public enclosures alongside the circuit.
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