L&T Motorsport

TOCA’s Miracle 2017

It has been a horrible year for accidents so far
(Photo from: www.motorsport.com)

2017 will surely be referred back to as one of the worst years in modern history for accidents in the British Touring Car Championship and the TOCA support package, although the large majority of those have been caused by freak circumstances creating devastating results.

Billy Monger’s accident at Donington Park earlier this season sent shock waves through the whole of motorsport with last Saturday’s BTCC accident at Croft proving yet again that Motorsport is a dangerous sport.

Currently both Jeff Smith and Luke Davenport remain in hospital, with Davenport being put in an induced coma to recover from their injuries while Smith was heavily sedated. Davenport’s injuries included a broken pelvis, a broken leg, a broken arm, lung and chest injuries as well as concussion. Jeff Smith suffered two dislocated shoulders and seven broken ribs with some broken in multiple places. Smith was awake an talking by Sunday afternoon and moved to a Trauma Ward from ICU with Davenport being bought out of his coma on Thursday.

The third driver who was injured in the crash, Aron Taylor-Smith was also sent to hospital with concussion and a fractured left fibula. Fortunately he was discharged late Saturday evening and was interviewed on Sunday for the BTCC coverage.

Although the sheer violence and speed of the crash was shocking to watch, it must be noted that 10 years ago, it is likely that the outcome could have been far worse than just a few broken bones.

This article will be looking at how the cars, drivers and most importantly marshals and medical staff reacted when called upon during the crashes we have seen this season.

The first aspect which deserves praise for this feat is TOCA and RML for production a strong and safe chassis that all the cars in the BTCC currently use. Since the NGTC regulations were introduced in 2012 drivers have been positioned more centrally within the car to give them greater protection from side impacts, as seen with all three drivers involved.

The car has also been designed to disintegrate around the driver shell to ensure as much energy is taken out of the impact as possible before it reaches the driver. Despite multiple impacts, the crash structure faired fantastically, and although some of the scenes may have been frightening with body panels detaching from each car it may have been the best scenario possible.

With the addition of padded bucket seats, HANS devices and six point harnesses, the drivers neck, head and body are equipped with the best safety equipment possible, ensuring that injuries such as whip lash, back injuries and additional neck injuries are kept to a minimum.

The speed of the marshals and doctors is also something which must be praised. It is said time and time again that without these people, motorsport would not happen. This statement cannot be stressed enough, as without the level of dedication and knowledge shown, each driver may have fared a lot worse. Each driver was attended to within seconds of the accident happening, a testament to those who helped.

This is not the only time this season that the medical staff have been called upon as at Donington Park in April the motorsport world as shaken by Billy Monger’s accident. Sadly the crash resulted in Billy losing both his lower legs (although this has not stopped him one bit!) however the expert medical knowledge of Dr Paul Trafford and his extrication team cannot be overlooked.

For over 90 minutes, Billy remained in his car as those worked both tirelessly and carefully to ensure Billy was in the best possible condition to be worked on and around. Since the accident Billy has returned to the TOCA paddock at Oulton Park and has also tested simulators with hand controls. He truly is an inspiration.

Although these two events have been the most catastrophic of the year there have also been notable accidents in other categories on the TOCA schedule which have resulted in a lot of damage but no injuries.

The best example of this would be Renault Clio Cup rookie Lucas Orrock who has already had his fair share of crashes despite only competing in five TOCA events. His series debut at Brands Hatch saw him roll at Paddock Hill Bend after he overcorrected, found himself in the gravel, dug in and coming to rest on his roof. This was before being involved in a multi car incident at Donington Park which again left him rolling through the air, albeit this time a lot more spectacularly. Fortunately, Orrock was completely unharmed.

Once more this could be thanks in part to the safety of the car, as the roll cage remained rigid throughout, ensuring that there was no risk of Lucas being crushed within his own car. Once again the car disintegrated somewhat which absorbed any violent energy and allowed Lucas to remain uninjured.

Other examples would be in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Brands Hatch at the opening round of the season where both championships saw multicar accidents though no one was hurt.

Each year safety is improved, not only the cars but also the methods used to aid those in need as well as machinery to help those affected in the event of an accident. Like everyone, marshals and doctors are human, it simply is not possible to avoid some accidents, no matter how quick a flag is deployed or a session stopped.

Motorsport is always looking at new ways to remove the unnecessary risk, without this constant pursuit of be better safety, accidents like these could all have had different outcomes.

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