Here are a couple of things to chew on as we head into the holiday season - the inquiry into Dan Wheldon's death and a new class for the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship:
1. When I was reading the transcript of the press conference dealing with the inquiry into the death of Dan Wheldon in the final IZOD IndyCar Series race of the 2011 season at Las Vegas in October, this stopped me cold.
Brian Barnhart (he was race director at the time of the accident) was spelling out exactly what happened and he said this: "The accident began as a result of contact between the 06 of Jim Hinchcliffe and the 17 of Wade Cunningham as they entered the first turn."
Jim Hinchliffe? I know James Hinchcliffe, but I never heard of Jim Hinchcliffe.
I’ve known James Hinchcliffe for years and I have never, ever, heard anyone – his father, his fans, his teammate, his girl, his PR people, other drivers, TV announcers, journalists, series officials, anyone – call him anything but James.
And it's not like he's some unknown. He's raced Formula Atlantic, A1-GP and Indy Lights, among other series. He's a seasoned TV colour commentator. He raced in every IndyCar Series race this season but one and won the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year award. I mean, he's a somebody.
So why in the world would the race director of the IndyCar series call him by a wrong name?
I really can't figure that one out.
– Okay, moving right along, Barnhart says that Hinchcliffe and Cunningham touched wheels and that is what sent Cunningham's car spinning toward the infield. He subsquently hit, or was hit by, cars driven by J.R. Hildebrand, Jay Howard and Townsend Bell.
The report as delivered by Barnhart is very detailed as to what happened in that sequence, which is as it should be.
However, he then goes on to describe what he calls "the next event," which was a collision involving cars driven by Vitor Meira, E.J. Viso, Charlie Kimball (among others) and Wheldon. But while the report is exact in what happened to start the first collision (contact between Hinchcliffe and Cunningham), it is vague as to what happened to start "the next event."
As has been observed by others, the purpose of the investigation was not to point the finger at the drivers. However, anyone who has watched the crash video is very aware that "the next event" was triggered by a car driven by Vitor Meira that started to spin for no apparent reason and the report should have been specific about that because it's only fair.
– It’s amazing that nobody other than Wheldon was killed in that crash. It shows how far racing car safety has come.
Wheldon’s bad luck was that he hit the fencing above the SAFER barrier and died when he hit a pole holding up the fence. Pippa Mann flew through the air about the same distance as Wheldon (about 100 yards) and her car was both on fire and upside down. She escaped with a burned finger. Hildebrand and Will Power also got airborne and were shaken up. Only Hildebrand and Mann were kept in hospital.
They say that the 2012 car will be safer for the drivers but you'd have to say that the old Dallara did a pretty good job in Vegas when the chips were down, wouldn't you?
2. Nico Hulkenberg was removed from the Formula One unemployment line last Friday when he was assigned a Force India seat for the 2012 season. However, Adrian Sutil immediately took his place and is now looking for work.
3. The Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship has announced the creation of a new division for the 2012 season, the B-Spec Class.
B-Spec is designed to be an entry level and affordable category and highlights one of the fastest-growing segments of the automobile business. Eligible cars include the Honda Fit, Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500, Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Rio, Mini Cooper, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.
The new B-Spec Class will feature showroom stock racing cars utilizing stock engines and chassis, fitted with a competition roll cage, racing seat and other safety equipment along with the approved Continental ExtremeContact race tires and Sunoco race fuel.
"This is an exciting new development for CTCC which will provide an entry level into professional racing in Canada," said John Bondar, president of the series.
"I can’t wait to see all of the new competitors on some of the most challenging tracks in Canada. I am proud to confirm that B-Spec will be included in all rounds of the 2012 CTCC season."