Lessons can be learned from Hinchcliffe accident

Tony Kanaan believes something constructive will come from Hinchcliffe's wreck.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Tony Kanaan didn’t shy away from addressing the recent wrecks with the new IndyCar aero kit over the last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Kanaan, who was in North Carolina to promote the Indy 500, was very outspoken when describing the dangers inherent to auto racing and accepting the risk.

The suspension that came in through his leg, it did not bend - (It) was still like a saw that went straight into both of his legs.

Tony Kanaan on Hinchcliffe accident

Following James Hinchcliffe’s accident at the speedway on Monday where a suspension piece broke off of his car, punctured the tub, pierced the driver’s right thigh and damaged an artery, the risks became more real. 

"If there was any doubt that a Honda could flip, it was answered (Monday)," Kanaan said. "Obviously, there is a concern. I as a driver, don't know the fix for it, but I believe between IndyCar, Chevy and Honda they're definitely looking into it.

When you hit a wall and 215mph — and I’m going to tell you he didn't break a single bone, but he had the suspension going through his leg. I’m not trying to say it’s not that bad, but it’s really not that bad.

Tony Kanaan

"If you look at the crashes, two of them were mechanical failures. Hinch's was a suspension. Newgarden was a tire going down. To say we had cars flipping up in the air was obviously just one car. The others just rolled over which I think if we looked at crashes from the past, that happened as well. I don't have an answer for the fix but I know for a fact that we're working extremely closely with the two manufacturers to understand if something has changed or if it's just coincidence that those things happened.

This piece came from underneath the car through his seat. How are you going to guess that? So, I guess, we’ll look into it. It’s the law of physics. You can’t prevent everything

Tony Kanaan

"To be honest, this is no different than any other year for me...racing is not safe. I think we know the risk we take every day and I'm willing to take the risk." 

We can learn from this

While Hinchcliffe is expected to make a full recovery, due to the quick attention of IndyCar’s Holmatro Safety Team, Kanaan believes a lesson can be learned from the accident. 

“I’ve been hurt in the same scenario back in 2003 when a suspension piece came into the tub,” Kanaan said. “We’re not going to be able to make a car 100 percent safe. When you hit a wall and 215 miles an hour — and I’m going to tell you he didn't break a single bone, but he had the suspension going through his leg. I’m not trying to say it’s not that bad, but it’s really not that bad. 

“We’re obviously going to look into if we can prevent more, we added obtrusion panels in the past year. The car is already reinforced but unfortunately like everywhere, how we learn from it, it was always something had to happen for us to react. So far, since this car has been built, we never had one, since the old car. This piece came from underneath the car through his seat. How are you going to guess that? So, I guess, we’ll look into it. It’s the law of physics. You can’t prevent everything.”

Suspenion piece didn't bend

Kanaan said the additional reinforcements that were added to the tub came as a result to the additional downforce and loads into the suspension from the new aero kits. According to Kanaan, the suspension “wishbone” that failed on Hinchcliffe’s car “was an old piece”.

“The suspension that came in through his leg, it did not bend,” Kanaan said. “It broke on the boat and that suspension was still like a saw that went straight into both of his legs.”

Kanaan isn’t concerned the loads at Indy, which he acknowledged are not nearly as severe as what the cars endure on other ovals — such as Texas Motor Speedway or Iowa Speedway. 

“If you look at the numbers downforce-wise, we’re not producing more than we did last year on the ovals because we had to over compensate,” Kanaan said. “We took somethings out of the under trail to equalize a little bit. 

“It’s one of those things. We don't have an explanation. I don't have all the technical information because I’m not an engineer, I’m not an aerodynamicist. But we’re willing to take the risk and I think that’s what makes us different.”  

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Event Indy 500
Track Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Drivers Tony Kanaan , James Hinchcliffe
Article type Interview