INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Dec. 19, 2003 - A comprehensive review of Tony Renna's fatal accident is complete, officials from the Indy Racing League announced Dec. 19.
Renna suffered fatal injuries Oct. 22 in an accident in Turn 3 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during tire testing. Renna was turning his first laps in a Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.
The combined data from various technical resources provided IRL officials insight into what happened during the crash. However, the data did not produce a 100-percent conclusion as to why the tragic accident occurred. There are many unknown possibilities that could have contributed to the cause of the accident.
The Renna family has been informed of the findings.
"We appreciate the due diligence of the League and their investigation," the Renna family said in a statement forwarded to the League.
The accident review focused on why the car went into the air and what happened to the car during the accident, and while the cause of the accident is unknown, IRL officials were able to gather valuable information.
"The goal of an Indy Racing League accident review is to learn as much as we can about what happens during a crash, not necessarily why a crash happened," said Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the Indy Racing League. "The League focuses on what happens during the crash because that is where we learn more about chassis integrity and other safety initiatives.
"The review of this accident was more difficult and prolonged because it was a private test. Although we are confident we've pieced together what happened during the accident, it appears we will not know why the crash started. That is the frustrating part of this effort."
The accident review revealed that Renna's car entered Turn 3 at 227 mph. At a point just past the apex of the turn, the car did a 90-degree spin to the left into the infield grass. The car began to skip through the grass as it traveled sideways, allowing air underneath the car and causing it to lift into the air. While in the air the car spun approximately another 30 degrees to the left.
The car traveled across the track through the air and made contact with the debris fence on the outside retaining wall in Turn 3. IRL officials said it appears that the most significant damage and resulting fatal injuries were caused when the bottom of the car made direct contact with one of the debris fence support posts, which is part of the Speedway's fence system.
The spectator debris fences at the Speedway worked as designed, and because Renna's car struck the fence and not the wall, it did not impact the Speedway's SAFER Barrier, Barnhart said.
Officials said the car's speed was in the normal range of other accidents at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the last few years.
"The IRL continues to review all race incidents during the year to evaluate safety, but each individual accident usually has a unique set of variables," Barnhart said.
IRL officials were able to download all the data from the ADR2 (accident data recorder), which is in every IRL car. The ADR2 can record vehicle parameters at 1,000 samples per second just prior to, during and after an accident-triggering event. The system records data from both of the vehicle's internal sensors, as well as information from the car's on-board data acquisition system.
As the car entered Turn 3, all the data indicated there were no mechanical failures on any of the car's equipment that are monitored by sensors. However, while the data acquisition systems are comprehensive, there are elements of the car that are unable to be tracked by the systems. Because of this, it is impossible to completely rule out mechanical failure as a cause of the accident.
"The list of items on a car that can fail, and that aren't monitored by sensors, is significant," Barnhart said. "Several of those failures could cause a crash. In addition, unforeseen factors can also come into play and contribute to the cause of the accident."
The ADR2 system also allows officials to retrieve data from an earpiece sensor system that measures dynamic forces to a driver's head during an accident. It uses small sensors integrated into the left and right radio earpieces worn by IRL drivers.
The Target Chip Ganassi team's research data device, which was damaged in the incident, had to be sent to the manufacturer for data retrieval, and that information was returned to the IRL to be analyzed. The device contains all suspension-related information.
"Tony Renna was an experienced and talented race driver, doing his job and trying to achieve maximum speed from his car," Barnhart said. "He was highly respected by his peers and was a young, rising star in the Indy Racing League. He will be missed."