IRL: A glimpse into the rescue of Briscoe

Ryan Briscoe's fire borne accident on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway last Sunday had plenty of people in the Indy Racing League paddock gasping at its severity as the Australian rookie IndyCar Series driver's Panoz/Toyota/Firestone projectile...

Ryan Briscoe's fire borne accident on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway last Sunday had plenty of people in the Indy Racing League paddock gasping at its severity as the Australian rookie IndyCar Series driver's Panoz/Toyota/Firestone projectile danced along the turn 3-4 complex, coming to rest in a myriad of pieces strewn about the banked oval.

As he came to a stop the IRL's crack Delphi Safety Team was on the site and on the job to discover the amount of damage to Briscoe and the physical property of the track.

Dave Brown, who is the fire and safety coordinator for the team and who drives Commander One, the primary rescue vehicle explained the brutality of the impact and what actually happened to Briscoe during Tuesday evening's Autosport Radio show here in Indianapolis.

He said the accelerometer in Briscoe's helmet registered in excess of 150g's on impact and "that much force against the shoulders is bound to cause breakage and Ryan also sustained damage to his T1 and T2 discs" in the lower back. These injuries were in addition to concussion, singed eyebrows and bruises to both of his knees.

There was no question in Brown's mind that the car would come apart but he was incredulous - as was most everyone on site - to see the Panoz chassis intact after the force of the accident.

"That Chicagoland SAFER barrier is the second-best fencing we've got in the series, to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kevin Forbes designed it and had a lot of input in the application," Brown acknowledged.

"The car pushed back out onto the track" after riding the wall "and hit a pole, which tore the sidepods and rear wheels" from the chassis. "The tub remained intact and normally you don't find that," he reiterated.

At the time, Briscoe was riding with about 20 gallons of methanol in his 30- gallon tank, so that when the engine and transmission tore away from the tub, a flash fire erupted. "There were 10-12 gallons of methanol burning at the edge of the track and the car was engulfed in methanol flame," Brown recalled.

"I shot off the extinguisher before I realized I needed water," Brown explained. "We used 50 of our 80 gallons [of water] on the truck to put out the fire and the steam kept rising up to our faces," causing some discomfort for the Delphi Safety crew.

Using the shoehorn to remove Target Chip Ganassi's youngest driver, Brown wanted to protect the integrity of his back. Briscoe was quite distressed, afraid of the fire that occurred around him and the Delphi Safety Team had to assuage those fears even as they removed him delicately from the wreckage.

Once Briscoe was carefully taken to the infield care center and in the capable hands of ace orthopedic surgeon Dr. Terry Trammell, the safety team set about repairing the SAFER barrier and balance of fencing in the area so that competition could continue.

As the cars remained on pit road for the 17-minute red flag, repairs to the fence ensued. "The guys did a great job putting the fence back together," Brown related. "They had to get it replaced solid with all of the cables in place, but we're accustomed to a timeline like that."

The Delphi Safety Team holds practices and classes for the single-race workers at every venue, together with regular training for the team's regular crew that travels to each race on this year's 17-event calendar.

There are four-hour classes for everyone who works a race and morning tune- ups for all. "We work on cleaning the track, dealing with fire, extractions and basically set scenarios for each crew to follow."

The standard team has its initial meetings the first week of January to prepare for each season and there's an 8-9-hour training course each year. Before each Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, there's a four-hour training course for everyone on the Delphi team. Brown noted that the average motorsports service on the squad is 23 years.

Enhanced by "one of the best databases in the business, with information on every car, driver and track," Brown's team can - and does - follow any driver's progress from hospital through full recovery.

Brown expects Ryan Briscoe to be sidelined for a minimum of 6-8 weeks, which would take him out of commission for the balance of the season, which resumes next weekend on the Watkins Glen International road course.

"Of course you can't predict recovery from concussion," said Brown about one of Briscoe's injuries. "He's going to lose those two races but we've got to give him time to recover properly."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi