It's been nearly two months since Tony Renna lost his life at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, performing his first Firestone tire test at the famed oval in his new ride, the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota. It's taken that long to recover and reconstruct data that might help explain what happened to the 26-year-old Deland, FL native on the morning of October 22nd.
While the data "did not produce a 100-percent conclusion as to why the tragic accident occurred," the League revealed the investigation of Renna's turn 3 shunt "was more difficult and prolonged because it was a private test," said Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of racing operations for the Indy Racing League.
The review centered on why the car became airborne and what happened to it during the accident. While the cause is still unknown, IRL officials did get some valuable information.
"The goal of an accident review is to learn as much as we can about what happens during a crash, but not necessarily why a crash happened," Barnard admitted. "The League focuses on what happens during the crash because that is where we learn more about chassis integrity and other safety initiatives.
"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," Barnhart continued.
The data from the accident review says the car entered Turn 3 at 227mph, but just after the apex, did a 90-degree snap to the left into the infield grass. Tony skipped sideways through the grass and air got under the tub. The car began to lift at the rear, spinning it about 30 degrees to the left while airborne.
The review says the car while airborne made contact with the debris fence on the outside retaining wall. The most significant damage and resulting fatal injuries came about when the bottom of the car made direct contact with one of the debris fence support posts, part of the track's fencing system. Half of the car remained in the fence when officials arrived at the scene.
The League found the spectator fences worked just as designed and, because Renna's car struck the fence, not wall, there was no impact with the SAFER barrier. The speed at which Renna was traveling at the time was in the normal range of similar accidents at the Speedway over the last few years.
Able to download all of the data from the ADR2 (accident data recorder) that is in every IRL chassis, officials found there were no mechanical failures on any of the car's equipment monitored by such sensors.
While the ADR2 can record vehicle parameters at 1000 samples per second just prior to, during and after an accident-triggering event - and these systems are comprehensive - there are elements of the car that are unable to be tracked by ADR2. "Because of this," Barnhart acknowledged, "it is impossible to completely rule out mechanical failure as a cause" of the accident and subsequent death.
"The list of items on a car that can fail, and that are not monitored by sensors is significant. 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," he said.
The ADR2's earpiece sensor system that measures dynamic forces to a driver's head during an accident using small sensors integrated into the both radio earpieces was also retrieved and analyzed. The Target Chip Ganassi team's research data device was damaged in the incident, and had to go back to the maker for data retrieval before coming back to the League for analysis on suspension-related information.
The Indy Racing League has informed Renna's father Joe and the balance of his family about the findings of the accident review. In a statement to the IRL the Renna family said, "We appreciate the due diligence of the League and their investigation."
Nowhere in the report is there discussion of the weather (quite cool), the amount of G force to the car and driver at the moment of impact, or the time of day (shortly after nine in that Wednesday morning) and further information is simply not available.
While headlines in the local newspaper said "Signs point to driver error", Barnhart noted, "Tony Renna was an experienced and talented driver, doing his job and trying to achieve maximum speed from the car. He was highly respected by his peers and was a young, rising star in the Indy Racing League. He will be missed."