Feature Image: Marshall Pruett via Twitter.

The clichéd phrase on the back of a motor racing event ticket has always been most true for the participants, and for some dare it be said that has been some of the attraction. But when tragedy strikes questions should be asked, and from the moments of the incident on Sunday at Pocono Raceway, the spectacle of open cockpit racing has been brought into question once again.  So why do we enjoy the spectacle so much? Does it hark back to a bygone era of fighter pilots, gladiators and pioneers that in our modern safety conscious times we should consign to history ?

In a bid to understand the driver’s perspective, SportscarGlobal.com‘s Nick Holland (SCG) spoke with the Strakka Racing team who due to series circumstances have moved from the closed cockpit design of the Strakka-Dome S103 to the openness of the Gibson 015s.

image003Strakka-Dome S103

image004Strakka Gibson 015s

SCG – How does the cockpit experience differ between your two recent cars?

Danny Watts – As a former single seater driver, I feel comfortable in the open car – its familiar and I drove the Zytek so this particular car is an environment I have experience in. Obviously we are out in the elements now but the Gibson has more room and is less claustrophobic, it was very tightly packaged in the S103. I think we have a better view in 015S, we don’t have the ‘a’ pillars for instance. It’s a little bit different as a viewing field but we quickly adapt.

SCG – What, in your opinion, are the challenges in partially or totally closing a cockpit?

Dan Walmsley – The industry as a whole would need to look and work together to decide what is the optimum solution. Whilst closed cars offer some protection, they can make it harder for the extraction teams to do their job efficiently. The DOME had a very snug cockpit but in the factory and at track side, you practice getting in and out of the car and there are regulations with a maximum time to extricate yourself.  I think for the challenges of changing the configuration of a car it is best to speak to a vehicle manufacturer.

With that in mind you can take a look at the AMG-Mercedes F1 concept by following the link  below

http://www.formula1.com/content/fom-website/en/latest/technical/2015/8/video—mercedes-cockpit-protection-concept.html

SCG – Thanks Strakka Racing for your time, we wish you all the very best of luck as our LMP British Battlers!

The ACO’s endurance series (FIA WEC, ELMS, AsLMS) and the newly announced French LMP3 Series are clearly in a comfortable place for the near future with coupes being the order by regulation from 2017. Current media coverage appears to call for prompt change in other categories, and some might speculate that if previous incidents had been acted on we would not be at such a loss now. Though ifs, buts and maybes have always been present in hindsight.  It is a risk we need to assess, but should ensure that any solution is as complete as we can make it. There may be retrospective ‘kits’ that can better protect the legacy of open cockpits, but it comes to regulation and brilliant design to brush the challenges aside.

In the meantime, let us all be a bit more #BadAss; with the tragic loss of Justin Wilson last week once again ignighting the debate the motorsport family has banded together and this weekend we will see liveries and helmet stickers adorning cars and drivers all remembering one of our sport’s friendliest and strongest competitors.

Justin was not rich, unlike many he did not make millions from his sport but he lived it to the full, he was the true definition of a racer sacrificing constantly to achieve his goal and delivering astounding drives from often mediocre cars. He leaves behind a wife and two young daughters – please consider donating to the fund that has been setup to ensure their future wellbeing – Online donations can be made via Justin’s website HERE – RIP #BadAss.

Basass