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CHAMPCAR/CART: Rahal on Senna's accident

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The following is taken directly from an article which appeared in the Monday, May 2nd issue of the "Columbus Dispatch". The article was written by Tim May and is used here without permission. Headline: "Senna may have lived in...

The following is taken directly from an article which appeared in the Monday, May 2nd issue of the "Columbus Dispatch". The article was written by Tim May and is used here without permission.

Headline: "Senna may have lived in Indy car, Rahal says"

... "The one thing you always fear as a driver is something breaking on your car or something happening over which you have no control," Rahal said. "I don't know the details yet of what happened to Senna, but I have to think it was some kind of tire or mechanical failure. "For whatever reason, it's a real tragedy." ... "The guy was considered to be one of the greatest ever," said Rahal, a three-time IndyCar season champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner. "I considered him to be a very good driver. How great he was was hard to say because he always seemed to be fortunate to be with the right team, with the right engine or the right car, at the right time throughout his career." Then again, last year, Senna suffered through a season with a lesser- powered McLaren-Ford. "But then you look at what he did in the European Grand Prix at Donnington Park in England last year," Rahal said. "He dominated in the rain. And in the rain, there is a belief that's where the best drivers usually show. "I don't know if he was the greatest ever, when you have guys like Jim Clark and Juan Fangio and some of those great names of the past. But you would have to say he was one of the best." The thought of which made his death that much tougher to take, Rahal said, because had Senna been driving an Indy car in that crash, there's a good chance he would have survived, maybe even walked away. Though they might appear similar, Formula One cars are roughly 400-500 pounds lighter than Indy cars. Much of that extra weight in a 1550-lb Indy car is dedicated to driver protection. While the helmets of Indy drivers seem to barely pop above the rim of the open cockpit, the rim of the cockpit in F1 cars is roughly at shoulder level. That means in a side swipe crash like Senna's, there is much more of a chance of a driver's head striking the wall, which apparently happened to Senna. And apparently that's the same type of injury suffered by F1 rookie Roland Ratzenberger, who died Saturday after a crash at the same track. ... There has been only one driver killed in the IndyCar series since [Jim Hickman was killed at Milwaukee], rookie Jovy Marcelo dying in a crash during practice at Indianapolis two years ago. Rahal said it was because Indy car designers have worked diligently to strengthen the safety of the cockpit for the drivers, adding bulk and crushable components to the car body to absorb some of the impact of a crash. The cockpit also has been moved farther back in the chassis. "An Indy car is designed based in the fact there is a chance you are going to hit the wall," Rahal said. "I think you can look at the cars and see there is more of a margin of safety built into an Indy car.... The way a Formula One driver sticks up out of the cockpit, he is going to be a lot more vulnerable, especially in an accident like Senna had." ...

-- - Mike Holthouse - (holthous@cis.ohio-state.edu) "Racing is a sport... everything else is just a game!"

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