Who Works in CART 1997
JUST RELEASED! — The Official Directory for CART Racing
Soft Walls at Rio
©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.

"Belted" tire walls in use for the first time

The Rio 400 was the first event CART used a new technology in tirebarriers to improve oval racing safety. In response to safety concernsraised after multiple injury-causing accidents in 1996 at the EmersonFittipaldi Speedway in Brazil, CART placed specially 'belted' tirebarriers into the impact areas along the outside walls of turns 1 and4.

These tire barriers are wrapped in a special 1-inch thick beltingmaterial made by Goodyear, and are held together with steel rods.Tire cores are filled with a plastic material to keep them fromcollapsing too easily.

Before the race, CART chief steward Wally Dallenbach explained that"it's something the drivers wanted and it's untested, so I'll wait tocomment on it." Mauricio Gugelmin's high-speed impact at the eventtoday, plus multiple lesser contacts in race, practice and qualifyingsuggest that the barriers did their job and protected driversextremely well.

With further improvements and experience gathered at the race today,one could expect similar protection to be tested at other ovals wherehigh g-forces continue to threaten life and limb of drivers. Whatremains to be tested is how the technology performs at shallowapproach angles one could expect at high speed tracks like Michiganor Fontana.

Absurd as it may sound, but apart from the promising safety aspectCART must also consider the impact of race delays that could becaused by high-energy deformations of these soft walls. A 30 minuterepair of a wall during a live telecast would not help the TV-ratingsduring a live telecast. But what if it is that one delay that saves alife? Further testing and development of high-tech barriers like thetire walls tested today at Rio could bring about new era in driversafety in oval racing.