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My Accident at Texas World Speedway


xcarguy
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Post #1 of 5

 

Well, as of the time of this writing, I’ve spent fifteen weeks to the day in a back brace. This has allowed me more than ample time to analyze and reflect on my accident at Texas Motor Speedway back at the end of February. I’ve spent the last several weeks reviewing my videos; slowing them down, taking still shots, analyzing, uploading, editing, etc. I was surprised at just how much information I was able to pull from one source just by sitting down and dissecting it repetitively. Putting the accident under a microscope, so to speak, brought to mind for me (soundly, I might add) one thought; the importance of safety. For example, once the car left the asphalt, the amount of debris that began to find its way around and into the car’s cockpit was very disconcerting and solidified the need for a full face helmet and shield in an open top car. Think ‘projectile’. And if you participate in HPDE’s, or other forms of high performance driving and do not wear a Hans device, or some other form of head/neck restraint, INVEST in one today.

 

A few post-accident thoughts:

 

· This will never happen to me—if you have any attitude at all of ‘that will never happen to me’, well, trust me, it can happen to you. At this moment in time, I’m the poster child. Heaven forbid that someone take my place.

 

· Protective gear—a must for both driver and passenger in an open-top car; at a minimum a full-face helmet with shield, and make sure your shield is tight and has a good seal when down (stays in place). In addition, I’d highly suggest arm restraints, a five or six point harness, a Hans devise (I’ll never do another HPDE without one), gloves and long sleeve protection (I personally prefer a driver’s suit).

 

· The venue—I’ll never look at any closed course high performance driving environment the same, especially a venue I’ve never run. Sure, I’ll study the line, memorize the turns, heed the advice of others who are well oriented with the course, and such as that. But in the future, I’ll be looking for the things that can hurt me; the things that can potentially kill me; walls, runoff areas, barriers, etc.

 

· Insurance—don’t even think about doing an event without it. I HIGHLY suggest using an insurance provider that specializes in covering HPDE’s. And make sure you’re insured to the point that a total loss will not leave you short because you thought ‘that will never happen to me’.

 

· Your health—don’t take it for granted; I need not say more. I’m starting week sixteen of my recovery (in the brace) and I still do not know what my ‘new normal’ will be.

 

· Mechanical integrity—if you have even the slightest amount of doubt about the integrity of your car following an incident; stop and look it over…..thoroughly!!! No cursory inspection…..again, thorough.

 

· Seating—not sure what I’m going to do here in the future, but I can tell you that I will not be sitting in an aluminum bucket that’s bolted directly to the frame that’s using a thin section of foam and my ass for padding. Seat mounts need to be able to absorb the initial shock of a vertical impact . . . . And I’m open to suggestions on this topic.

 

There’s much more that can be said here, but simply saying, I’ll chalk this up as a true ‘life’ learning experience, one of which I hope to never repeat. And, if I’ve gained anything of value from this adventure that can be passed on to another, then may this information be found handy and helpful.

 

As for the actual cause of the accident, it was a blasted pothole that I hit at the far edge of a rumble strip, which, in turn, later caused a catastrophic failure of the front LH suspension of my car. This failure occurred at 104mph and was quickly followed by, what I would call, a complete loss of brakes. I’ve posted below the exact information—in the form of statements (and an email) prepared by eyewitnesses and the event host--which was sent to my insurance company, and I’ve hidden nothing from my insurer. I’ve included as well, at the top of the list, my own statement (with video still shots) which was also sent to my insurer. Following the statements is a link to an edited (lengthy) video along with narrative which breaks down the video content; due to the video’s length, some may simply wish to jump to a section that most interests them. Along with the video link, is a link to accident and damage photos; while these are incorporated into the video, some may wish to view (cut, copy, etc.) them outside of the video. Feel free to share this with others; may we all learn from it.....may we all be a bit safer.

 

Continued in next post . . . . . . . .

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Post #2 of 5

 

Statements

 

My statement:

 

We (my instructor Jefferson Raley and I) were using the 2.9 mile course configuration and traveling in a clockwise direction. At approximately 3 min and 48 sec into our second training session of the day, I impacted a pothole at the end of a rumble strip located on the left-hand side of a short, straight section (between turns 5 and 4) of the course. The transition between the end of the rumble strip and the road course was deteriorated to the point that a pothole existed at the end of the rumble strip with the pothole being followed by a two to three inch elevation change between the road surface and the ground that extended for several feet beyond the pothole.

 

At the time I struck the pothole, I was unaware of the road condition at this particular section of the course. Normally, there would/should have been an orange cone marking such a hazardous area, but no orange cone was present at the time I struck the pothole. Upon further post-accident review of still images, the cone was present in our previous (first) session, but had apparently been hit and knocked away from its prior location by another car during another session.

 

Immediately after impacting the pothole, I began evaluating the car for any noticeable damage or changes in handling (possible damage to a wheel, an A-arm, shock and/or tie rod), but there was no apparent damage. Ride height for the left-front suspension looked and felt normal (viewable from the driver’s position), camber appeared correct (also viewable from the driver’s position), the car tracked straight with no pulling to the left or right, there was no vibration of any kind, and, absolutely nothing seemed out of the ordinary during cornering, acceleration and braking; based on the items I was evaluating to be damaged, the car drove perfectly.

 

I continued evaluating the car for approximately the next 5 minutes of driving. At 9 min and 20 sec into the session (5 min and 32 sec after impacting the pothole) as I was setting up for the entry into turn 11, the forward mount on the lower A-arm (the mount that connects the A-arm to the frame rail) gave way during initial braking. Post-accident review revealed that hitting the pothole had apparently fractured the A-arm mount where the forward section of the lower left-hand A-arm connected to the frame rail; it was a fresh break. (The thought of impacting the pothole having fractured this mount never crossed my mind.) When the mount gave way, the car jerked to the left (I corrected and tracked straight ahead) and the left-front portion of the car made contact with the road surface. Effective braking was severely diminished as was steering. I elected to track straight ahead and go off course and into the grass as this was the best course of action and would provide me with the most effective braking and the least chance of upsetting and rolling the car.

 

As I drove straight ahead, our path took us across a short, grassy area, then across a section of road that ran perpendicular to our direction of travel and was blocked off from the course we were using, and then back onto the grass. At the time when all of this was taking place, and prior to crossing the road, I could not see any usable runoff area past the section of grass that abutted the far side of the road. I concluded (in my mind) that this was a blind spot and that I would see the terrain once we were across the road and back in the grass. Once we crossed the blocked off section of road and were back in the grass, I discovered that the blind spot was no blind spot at all, but rather a 3’ to 4’ change (decrease) in elevation. Although the terrain was tapered and the drop off gradual, the car went airborne once it reached the edge of the grass where the elevation change began. The car landed primarily flat, but slight nose down. The impact was extremely hard and the pain in my back, immediate and intense.

 

After impacting the ground, we rolled approximately another 100’ and came to a stop. We came to a complete stop at 9 min and 30 sec into the session. From the time the A-arm mount failed to the time the car came to rest was 10 seconds. By 12 minutes into the session, emergency personnel began arriving on scene. Beyond this, I have no reference for time, but an ambulance arrived on scene not long after the first emergency personnel arrived. Although the pain was almost unbearable, I managed to stay alert and coherent and was able to assist the EMTs with placing me on a backboard so I could be removed from the car. I was removed by backboard via the passenger side of the car and immediately loaded into the ambulance for transport to the hospital.

 

To the best of my knowledge and understanding, personnel working the driving education event transported the car back to, and loaded the car into, my trailer. My neighbor, Glen Sams (who attended the event with me) was instrumental in securing the car once loaded and transporting it back to El Dorado, AR.

 

Continued in next post . . . . .

orange cone 1.jpg

orange cone 2.jpg

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Post #3 of 5

 

Statement #1 from instructor

 

Jefferson Raley...We were traveling clockwise, but I will use the traditional counter-clockwise turn names. The incident happened on our second lap. We were entering T11, which is a short braking zone followed by a 90 degree right hand corner. The car jerked slightly to the left as soon as the driver (Shane) applied the brakes. We went off the track straight. The ground dropped down 3-4’ approximately 20’ from the edge of the track. The car went airborne as we hit that slope. When we landed the car bottomed out and the shock went straight through our backs. The car came to a stop approximately 100’ further on. At that point both the front and rear left side suspension had collapsed. I do not know whether the suspension failed before or after landing. Shane was in obvious pain, so I called to the nearest corner worker that we needed medical assistance and an ambulance. I cautioned Shane not to move and risk further injury. I then exited the car so that the medical professionals could attend to Shane.

 

Statement #2 from instructor

 

Here is my more detailed description of the event. I’ve only included information that I have direct knowledge of. I didn’t think it made sense to include information that I’ve learned from you later. For example, I couldn’t see when the left front suspension became detached, I just knew that something on that side had failed.

 

----------------------

 

Shane and I were participating in an untimed, noncompetitive, driver training event on a 2.9 mile closed course. This was Shane’s first event on this course. I am very familiar with the course, having driven it hundreds of times over the past decade. I was instructing Shane from the passenger seat. The course was being run in the less common clockwise direction. As a matter of convention, turns are named for the more common counter-clockwise direction.

 

Early in the training session Shane was on a slightly wide radius coming through turn five and ran onto a rumble strip at the edge of the track. This is a common occurrence that does not usually lead to any issues. Unfortunately, the rumble strip was not optimally designed for running the course in the clockwise direction. The rumble strip ended earlier than expected and was followed by a large pothole. Shane’s left wheels impacted the pothole quite severely.

 

Shane continued on at a reduced paced. I paid close attention to the car’s behavior, trying to detect any vibration or signs that one of the tires was losing pressure. The most common damage from an impact like this would be a bent wheel causing the wheel’s balance to change and the tire to lose air pressure. In some cases the car’s alignment can also be effected. There were no noticeable issues with the car, and we continued with the training session.

 

Several minutes later we were approaching turn 11, a flat 90 degree right turn. Turn 11 requires a significant reduction in speed. I felt the car jerk to the left as Shane began to brake for Turn 11. It was clear from the way the car moved that something on the left suspension had failed. My immediate concern was that Shane may try to keep the car on course, which could have resulted in an uncontrolled spin and serious risk. Shane made the right decision and allowed the car to drive straight off course. This gave us a long, flat area to slow the car, and also got us far out of the way of any other students. The nearest obstructions were far in the distance and not a concern.

 

The ground dropped down 3-4’ approximately 20’ from the edge of the track. The car went airborne as we hit that slope. When we landed the car bottomed out and the shock went straight through our backs. The car came to a stop approximately 100’ further on. The left side suspension had completely failed, and the front left suspension was almost completely detached from the car. Shane was in obvious pain, so I called to the nearest corner worker that we needed medical assistance and an ambulance. I cautioned Shane not to move and risk further injury. I then exited the car so that the medical professionals could attend to Shane.

 

It is my belief that the car’s suspension was damaged when we hit the pothole. I believe this because the left side suspension hit the pothole, and this side failed on entering turn 11. It is possible that a wheel or suspension member was weakened by the pothole and gave way suddenly as we entered turn 11.

 

Both Shane and I were transported to a local hospital for evaluation. It was clear that Shane was more seriously injured. I had injuries to my upper spine and chest as well. The hospital staff were concerned that I could have damaged vertebrae and conducted several tests to determine whether I needed further treatment. My medical insurance has covered most of these costs. So far I have received bills for $1630.69 in costs not covered by my insurance.

 

Statement from corner worker who was first on scene:

 

I was working at TWS turn 10 corner station on Saturday. I was facing in a way to see turn 11. I saw the Caterham lock up heavily (tire smoke) for about 100 feet going into turn 11. It went straight off the track and did not attempt to make the right turn into 10. The ground falls away sharply at the track edge, about 3-4 feet at the point where he exited the track. His rate of speed was still quite high when the car left the track. It went airborne, probably about 3 feet off the ground. The car landed very hard, but basically flat and did not nose into the ground. It rolled to a stop in the open area in the carousel of turn 10 about 150 feet from my position. At that point, Control was contacted and an emergency declared within 30 seconds of the car exiting the track.

 

Statement from staff that was on site at the incident:

 

When I arrived on the scene, the driver was still in the car. The passenger/instructor was out of the car walking around gingerly, obviously experiencing some pain. I asked how he was and he stated that he was feeling considerable pain in his back. The emergency crew was talking to the driver to assess his discomfort and disposition. I asked the instructor what happened. He explained that he felt something break on the left side of the car, the car jumped sideways to the left and the driver immediately got on the brakes hard. He stated that the driver did as we always teach, two feet in and drove straight off of the track. When they left the pavement, there was a drop off at the edge of the track and they were airborne for a good distance before coming down hard and sliding forward to a stop.

 

I then approached the car and when there was a chance to inquire about the driver, I observed that he was coherent, but in considerable pain. He was able to move, but was very vocal about the discomfort in his back. The emergency crew removed him via a backboard out the passenger side of the car. He was mobile enough to be able to assist the paramedics in getting him placed onto the backboard, although still in considerable pain. They placed him in the ambulance and began checking him out. In the meantime, the instructor decided he would also agree to be transported to the medical facility with the driver, just to be safe and get checked out.

 

While the paramedics were looking over the driver and passenger, I looked at the track to see what evidence their might be related to the incident. On the straightaway from turn #12 to #11 his skid marks started before the braking zone and went straight along the left edge of the track, through the braking zone, past the turn in point and off the edge of the track at turn #11. It appears that the car was airborne for about 40 feet, came down slightly nose first and slid straight to a stop. The only obvious damage that I saw on the car was the left front tire and suspension appeared to be loose from the frame and folded under toward the rear of the car.

Dean Kelsey

 

Email from RS

The Drivers Edge

Apr 16

 

Hey Shane,

Good to talk to you this morning, and great to hear recovery is going well.

One thing I need to remind you on that you may not be aware of is that the track we were utilizing, Texas World Speedway is private property, and we The Drivers Edge are a high performance driving school, with in-car instructors and class room, educational event, non-competitive, non-timed not a race…

Take care and let me know how you’re doing…

God Bless…

See YOU at the track,

 

www.thedriversedge.net

 

 

Continued in next post . . . . . .

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Post #4 of 5

 

Video link:

Photo link: http://www471.pair.com/stalkerv/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=28477

 

Video breakdown

Video opening—commentary and photos

1:00—impacting the pothole; forward-facing camera video segment. The camera external audio mics do a much-too-good job of picking up every single sound. Although the audio seems to slightly lag the video throughout its entirety, you can actually hear the a-arm mount fracture in the 1:10 and 1:19 video segments..

1:10—impacting the pothole; rearward-facing camera video segment.

1:19—commentary and photos of the run off area at turn 11.

1:44—partial circuit leading up to, and including, the accident; forward-facing camera video segment.

2:19—one second prior to suspension failure; forward-facing camera video segment. Immediately following the steering wheel jerking to the left, you can hear the mount breakaway.

2:32—partial circuit leading up to, and including, the accident; rearward-facing camera video segment.

3:07— one second prior to suspension failure; rearward-facing camera video segment.

3:27—slow motion video of the accident; forward-facing camera video segment. When viewed in slow mo, the number of sounds that are recorded by the camera mics, and are easily identifiable, is simply amazing.

3:36—again, the audio lags, but you can hear the a-arm mount break away following the steering wheel pull to the left. In slow mo, it sounds like someone striking (off in the distance) a cardboard box with a 2x4.

3:47 to 3:52--slow mo sounds of the rear a-arm fracturing and breaking away followed by the sound of the shock strut snapping at the mount. At the end of this segment, if you look closely (and quickly), you will see, in the rear view mirror, the LF 600 lb. spring departing the car; a still shot of this frame is included still-shot section of the video and is commented on below.

4:07--Jefferson and I are airborne and the camera audio goes silent. Watching this part is, understandably, difficult for me. And the silence, especially when viewing the rear camera footage, has an eerie effect on me. I think it has a lot to do with my not being able to see what’s coming, yet my knowing what’s coming.

4:10—while I didn’t include a still shot later on, you can see the rear hood line, as the car impacts the ground, bow up to just below midway of the rear view mirror’s body; that’ between three and four inches of upward flex.

4:12—immediately following the sound of the impact, you can hear a ticking sound; this is the rear driveshaft u-joint now making contact with the side of the lower rear transmission tunnel frame rail. There is also the sound of a repetitious high pitched squeal present; perhaps a rear brake.

4:52-- slow motion video of the accident; rearward-facing camera video segment.

4:55—again, the slow mo sound of the a-arm breaking away.

5:17—in the upper RH portion of the video, you can see the front spring returning from orbit. This too, is commented on below and is included in the still shot section of the video.

5:26—this is the part that is so eerie for me….the silence before the impact. And when I hear the impact, I think to myself, that’s four of my vertebrae giving it up…….damn it, man!!!!

6:06—photos of the car; post-accident as it sat once it came to rest. At 6:25 (frontal shot of the car), you can see my new ride in the background sporting one of my favorite ‘sports enthusiast’ color combos; lime green and blue.

6:34—car damage photos. Take note of all the dirt and rocks in the oil pan. At 6:47 (second photo in the set), is a close-up shot of the a-arm bracket that fractured and later broke away. The photos at 6:51 and 6:55 depict where the mounts once resided. The photos at 6:59 and 7:03 depict the lower, forward RH a-arm mount after the airborne assault and subsequent impact with the ground; notice the fracture. I can only imagine this is what the LH mount looked like after hitting the pothole. Later on in the chassis design (several years ago now), Brunton incorporated a gusset in this area for strength. Needless to say, my car’s chassis was pre-gusset and, needless to say, my new chassis will have the gussets. FWIW, another Stalker owner (chassis with gussets) hit a tire wall (I believe it was at Sebring) and, instead of ripping the mount away, the impact caused the mount to rip out the wall of the frame rail where the mount was welded on.

7:07 and 7:11—in these two photos, you can see the lower, rear a-arm and where it failed.

7:19—the shock strut and where it broke away from its mount.

7:27 and 7:31—the LH brake line. Notice the bent round tube (part of the frame assembly) just behind the brake line. The brake line was, pinched between this tube and lower, rear a-arm which, in turn, caused a loss of front brakes. This is discussed below in the still shot section of the video.

 

Continued in next post . . . . .

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Post #5 of 5

 

Video link:

Photo link: http://www471.pair.com/stalkerv/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=28477

 

8:28—this begins the still shot breakdown of the accident. The photos in this section are numbered in the video just as they are below.

Photo 1: just prior to braking and breakdown of the LF suspension.

 

Photo 2: the moment of breakdown. Upon breaking for turn 11, the forward-lower LH a-arm mount broke away from the chassis, causing the LF wheel and brake assembly (WBA) to ‘kick up’ as the car’s weight is transferred to the LF. This failure also cause the steering to immediately pull hard to the left.

 

Photo 3: correcting to regain control of the car caused slight over steer (almost unnoticeable in the video) to the right, loading up the RF and RR tires. At this point, the disparity between the actual speed of the car (as referenced by the data logger) and that of the speedometer becomes apparent.

 

Photo 4: the car’s LF has made contact with the rumble strip. Contact with the rumble strip caused the ‘already weakened’ rear-lower a-arm to snap and break (mount remained intact) which, in turn caused the top of the suspension assembly to rotate forward. The rotation is evident due to the lower-outer fender bracket mounting bolt being visible between where my helmet and the edge of the wind deflector merge. At this point, only the upper a-arm, the SS braided brake line and the shock are connecting the WBA to the car.

 

Photos 5-9: the first noticeable piece of the car departs the chassis; the amber lens cover of the LF park light/turn signal.

 

Photo 10: this photo depicts the car’s attitude (note roll bar-to-horizon relation) just before the upper shock mount breaks.

 

Photo 11: the moment the upper shock mount fractured and broke away, further rotating the WBA forward as evidenced by the bottom of the LF fender now visible just above the wind deflector. The breaking away of the upper shock mount caused the shock and spring to make contact with the frame (round tube located between the upper and lower frame rails). This contact bent the round tube and, at the same time, pinched and cut the SS braided brake line causing a complete loss of front brakes. The loss of front brakes, in turn, severely decreased the effectiveness of the brake pedal bias bar which, in turn, severely decreased the effectiveness of the rear brakes. Braking action was further diminished by the increased forward rotation of the WBA as this action caused an increase in weight transfer to the LF of the car. From this point on the disparity between the actual speed of the car and that of the speedometer becomes very apparent. This speed disparity suggests one of two theories or a combination of both. First; the rear brakes were somewhat functional (tires rotating and dragging across the surface simultaneously) yet ineffective. Second; it’s about at this time in the accident that two of the LH header primaries collapsed as they struck the ground, thus causing the engine to shut down. The engine shutting down may have also caused the rear wheels to drag and skid. While I started off with both feet in, at some point, my left foot came off of the clutch pedal (substantiated by engine sound audio in the video as well as post-accident examination revealing no leak or malfunction of the hydraulic clutch assembly). In further reviewing the video, I believe my foot came off of the clutch pedal about the time the shock mount broke away.

 

Photos 12-15: the forward rotation of the WBA made contact with, and damaged, the LH side of the front wing. Photos 12-15 reveals one of the wing’s aluminum mounting brackets departing the car. Photos 13-15 shows the upper wing panel of the front wing assembly as it breaks away from the car. The upper wing panel ends up resting atop of the main wing panel and shows up again in photo 33. Photo 15 reveals the 600 lb. front spring (see rear view mirror in photo) departing the car.

 

Photos 16-29: these photos follow the path of what I initially believed to be a small granite stone, but ended up being a piece of old aluminum debris; the aluminum piece was still in the car after the accident and I recovered it not long after examining the video. This piece of aluminum, kicked up by the car, bounced of off the hood, struck Jefferson in the left temple region of his helmet and then struck me I the arm. In photo 19, the speed disparity is about 24mph (61mph per the data logger vs. 37mph per the speedometer).

 

Photo 30: the front wheels are in the air. We leave the ground at 51mph per the data logger.

 

Photo 31: the car is completely in the air with a slightly nose-down attitude and tilted slightly to the right.

 

Photo 32: the moment of impact; 47mph per the data logger.

 

Photo 33-33a: the moment the rear of the car impacts the ground; the moment I broke four vertebrae. When the front end of the car struck the ground, all that stored up energy was transferred to the rear of the car (still in the air) where the impact was intensified accordingly. The initial shock wave of the impact fractured T2, T10, caused a compression fracture in T11 and a burst fracture in T12. The upper wing panel is visible once again just below the lower RH side of the rear view mirror. Visible just above Jefferson’s helmet is one the rubber insulators that fit between the wing panel and the wing assembly’s RH vertical side panel. Every time I view this portion of the accident, it amazes me how it is that Jefferson did not brake anything in his spinal column. I think the saving grace for Jefferson is that the front suspension on his side of the car was still intact and ‘softened’ the impact on his side of the car. With my wearing a Hans, vs. Jefferson not having one on, I was compressed more downward whereas Jefferson was catapulted more forward; the photos don’t truly capture this as does the video.

 

Photo 34: the initial rebound after the rear of the car impacted the ground. If you compare photos 33 and 34, you can see just how far downward I was compressed during the impact. The upper wing panel is now visible just above the rear view mirror.

 

Photos 35-37: lots of stored up energy being transferred. After the rear end impacts the ground, it is tossed back in the air for a second bounce. The initial impact is so hard that it bounces a piece of debris (rubber) up from the floor pan. Notice also that the impact caused the shield on my helmet to open. The upper wing panel is well above the rear view mirror. Also, at this point, I have four broken vertebrae with one having been compressed and one having burst.

 

Photos 38-40: another one of the wing’s aluminum mounting brackets is thrown over the roll bar and in between Jefferson and myself. I never found the bracket, so I assume it kept going and exited toward the rear of the car.

 

Photos 41-42: these two photos reveal the amount of debris entering the car following the impact. Fortunately, even with the open shield, I suffered no injury to my eyes.

 

Photos 43-44: on the upper RH of the photos, you can see the wing’s aluminum mounting bracket that was visible earlier on in photos 12-15. As for the cone, I’ve only hit one cone in my life and this is it; the cone didn’t fare well.

 

Photos 44-47: the wing assembly’s RH vertical side panel. This piece, once it departed the car, went underneath and then airborne. Fortunately, there were no other cars behind me. My thought here is this, and ‘this’ pertains to HPDE’s; if you’re overtaking a car, and you’re entering a braking zone, don’t crowd the guy….give both of yourselves some room for the unexpected.

 

Photo 48: this is one the rubber insulators that fit between the upper wing panel and the wing assembly’s LH vertical side panel.

 

Photos 49-64: the LF coil spring. When the shock broke away, the spring launched like a missile. I’m thankful it didn’t end up inside the car with Jefferson and me. In photo 64, the car is completely airborne.

 

Photo 65: in tis photo, the car is still airborne and the camera’s center view height is about even with the road course surface. My rear facing camera is mounted at the halfway point on the LH roll bar down tube, immediately behind the driver’s seat.

 

Photo 66: the moment the rear wheels impacted the ground for the first time. The camera’s center view height is now well below the road course surface.

 

Photo 67: this is an image of the second bounce as captured by the rear facing camera.

 

13:16—this portion of the video is the unedited footage form session two with data overlay. Footage is pit-out till accident.

Edited by xcarguy
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I know that feeling - the initial bewilderment as to what has happened, then the "where am I heading" thoughts to lastly, "oh shit this is going to hurt". All of it happening in milliseconds.

 

I think you got somewhat lucky - there could have been a fence or jersey barrier to hit. You could have been luckier though - there could have been a tire barrier. The circuit should not have had the drainage pond unfenced. Sadly it often takes an accident for a circuit to wake up to the myriad of ways that a car can escape the circuit and do damage to yourself.

 

As for seats why not do what I do - standard road seats? Or what about a self moulded foam bead seat in a softer mix to provide some cellular impact protection?

 

So it is 15 weeks since the accident. How are you going to cure the mental damage? I know you know what I mean but for others I refer to the additional fear/caution factor that a major accident embeds in the brain.

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Thank you for posting Shane and good luck with your recovery. Any of us who participate in track day events need to think long and hard about this. You've provided one example of dozens of things that can go wrong. The educational value alone is invaluable. I'm going to be thinking very hard about five point belts and a HANS device. It's a big expense for some of us but. . .

My wishes follow everyone else's: a speedy and complete recovery.

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Shane

 

I echo the hope your recovery is going and continues to go well.

 

I take your warning seriously about safety gear. Now that my Storker is race ready, and setting fast time of day at the last couple events.... I realize the real risk I am taking with my lack of safety gear.

 

When people ask me if my car is safe, my token reply is, "safer than a motorcycle". Though true, a $500 head restraint system seems like a no brainer. I wouldn't/didn't balk at spending money for more speed. Time to invest in safety!

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I don't own a Seven but hang with a bunch of great guys at NJMP who all own at least one. So I hope you don't mind my comments.

 

Shane I really hope your recovery goes well and in a year or so it will all be a distant memory. Your exacting recall and support documentation of the accident is very detailed. Clearly you have thought this through.

 

A number of years ago I spun into the Armco at NJMP on the Thunderbolt track at T11 in the rain in my black Lotus Exige S. Had video camera running in the car as well as the car behind me. Nothing surprised me more than the front end breaking loose and the subsequent spin into the grass heading backwards along the Armco until the Armco turned and I hit it at 80 MPH. It all happened in seconds. My car was totaled and I was sore as hell. Had full nomex underwear, full nomex race suit, CF full face helmet, HANS device, gloves, 5 point harness. Hit the Armco so hard the video camera came off its two bolt mount on the harness bar and spun around 180 degrees facing the engine, not the windshield.

 

I was was able to walk away slowly. For more than a month my upper chest felt like a was having a heart attack every day. The doctors told me I had severely bruised the muscle tissue in my upper chest from the impact. It was the HANS device that crushed me. But my neck and spine was fine. I was strapped in so tight that my body didn't move very much, but it was the shock absorber.

 

The track officials were all very surprised as I am typically a very good driver in the advanced run groups. Lots of questions regarding what I thought happened.

 

After my accident the next run group went out. It had stopped raining but the track was wet. Within four laps a track prepped mustang spun off the track in exactly the same location and hit the Armco even harder. Totalled his car. The track put tires up in front of the Armco as it was now pretty crushed. And guess what they found? Oil on the track. Now it all made sense.

 

I watched my videos hundreds of times. Had a professional instructor watch with me. Dissected every movement and played back in my mind what went wrong and how could I have done something different.

 

I built another track car (my silver Exige S). This time being even more careful regarding safety equipment and the parts being used to build my car.

 

For more than a year I couldn't drive my normal self. Every corner was suspect and I always thought I was too close to the edge of loosing traction. My lap times were pitiful. I almost quit. Had a few high speed encounters and spun in the dry. Got my confidence back that I really do know what I'm doing and one day was back to normal. It took over a year to get there mentally.

 

Maintence was paramont. After every two track days the entire suspension was gone over with a torque wrench. All locking nuts marked with a red line to note any movement. I torqued the wheel nuts after every run group. I threw tires away that were even close to being heat cycled too much.

 

Last year I was at a three day track event at NJMP where I had my personal best track times. The car was running great and it was a fun weekend. Another Lotus friend was on the track, spun out at high speed and hit the tire wall backwards. Big damage to the car, he was ok. Walked away.

 

The next day I thought to myself, there are two types of track drivers. Those that have crashed and those that will. I had already paid my dues. The question was, for how long?

 

I went that home that night and told my wife I was retiring from the track. She had always wondered when I would stop after my first accident. Sold my Exige in a week. Ended my track membership. Sold most of my racing karts ( another story). Bought a 50 year old Lotus Elan S1 that I am restoring and "upgrading".

 

I miss my track friends and the great social environment that come with it. I miss working on my car prepping for the next track event. I don't miss the thought of what happens if...........while on the track.

Edited by Certified Lotus
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Thank you for the incredibly well-documented "incident analysis". As has been noted above, you were "lucky" in some regards, but I doubt that the last few months of pain, hospitals and rehab have felt very "lucky" for you. I suspect that many of us will have a new-found attitude about safety, both on and off the track, and your accident will undoubtedly help prevent and/or minimize injuries for those of us that are willing to take your experience seriously and make some changes going forward. Best of luck with your recovery.

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Thanks to all for your public and private inquiries regarding my recovery. I’ll throw a quick note in the mix. Today, I’m beginning week sixteen in the brace. :nopity: I can now take it off if I’m sitting around the house or taking a shower. Other than that, and aside from when I’m sleeping, I have to be in the brace.......Sh%&t and dang the luck!!! I showered for three months wearing this damn thing (don't try this at home boys and girls); trust me when I say that being able to shower without the brace is a luxury.

 

According to my neurosurgeon, I’m at the peak of my fusion process, but still, it will take a solid six months (so he says) for full fusion of the bone and for the disks to fuse completely to the bone. So, the brace stays; this is the price I’m paying (one I’m willing to pay) for a chance at avoiding surgery. In the long run, if I were to have surgery, it would require entry through my chest as well as my back, and a heart surgeon would have to also be involved in this process. :svengo: This, for very obvious reasons, I would like to avoid if at all possible. Besides, it's an additional twelve weeks of recovery.

 

As for my injury, I’m realizing a little more each day exactly how aggressive and serious it was (still is). When viewed on the X-ray, my vertebrae is all perfectly symmetrical…..until you get to T11 andT12; squished, trapezoid . . . . . Train wreck. To date, the results are that my core is extremely weak, soreness is a constant in the area of injury, and Iexperience random pain that pretty much shuts me down. I can deal with the weakness (PT, in time, will take care of that) and the soreness (it’s the kind of sore you feel the next day after a good workout with muscles you haven’t used in a while, but think is terms of ‘every day’). The pain, however, is another story. That's where the 'rubber meets the road'. And this is what concerns me at this point; I can’t tolerate it without meds. On a positive note, I have switched meds and freed myself from any chance (at least for now)of becoming addicted to Oxycodone (if you remember back, that was the main ingredient that killed Heath Ledger). But, the med I’ve replaced it with is still a prescription drug, created for the sole purpose of relievingpain.....period. And what this will all come down to, in time, is my ability to handle and manage pain, all without taking a prohibited prescription drug that interferes with my primary job performance; for those that recall, my profession is aviation, and right now, I’m still a kiwi. In another six months, or a year, what will my ‘new normal’ be?

 

Emotionally, this has been hard on me, and it’s been hard on my family. I'm up, I'm down,I'm fun to be around, I'm not fun to be around, I bitch a moan, I'm thankful, I'm clear about it all, I'm confused and angry about the whole mess. Is the glass half full or half empty? Hell, I'm just glad there's still some water in the glass to work with. My wife, she's a trooper and a super lady; my wonderful kids, considerate and tolerant. They all, at times (and thankfully so), seem to handle this chapter of my life (our lives) much better than me.

 

And finally, I wonder if I’ll ever again be able to engage in high performance driving. I certainly hope so!!! I suppose I’m being an optimist, or just providing myself a goal, and something to hang my hopes on, as I’m ordering parts for a complete rebuild of the car; this will include a brand spanking new frame with a different cage design, a fancy custom-made Coleman Racing steering rack (less bump steer boys and girls)….and honest-to-goodness gusseted a-arm mounts!!!! But I have to come back down to earth and be honest, I don't knowright now if I will even be able to physically do the build. And even if I am able to drive again, every breaking zone will be an emotional challenge. Every bump, every jar, will let loose the 'what ifs' in my mind. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but truly, I don’t think I will ever be as fast or as quick as I once was; that edge simply won't be there. Fear and caution are powerful motivators. I dare say the mental recovery may very well end up being more challenging than the physical.

 

We’ll see . . . . . . . . . . . :lurk::lurk:

Edited by xcarguy
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Hang in there Shane, you will get through all this and find a "new normal" where you can still enjoy the finer things in life (high performance driving).

 

Thanks for letting us read about the incident and your recovery.

 

Skip

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Shane-The scariest part of this was how prepared you were and how bad it still was. I think we all tell ourselves that by utilizing all the available safety equipment, as you did, we will be ok. And that is true, until it is not. And we really are not the masters of our destiny out there. Yes, we control our fate to a degree, but there is always that wild card event, the unk-unk-(unknown unknown) that you cant prepare for.

 

I have hit plenty of pot holes hard. I hit a rock so hard when I went off at NJMP that I flattened both front tires, and bent both front wheels. Just rolled into the pits, replaced them, and went back out without a moment's thot to suspension/frame damage.

 

I still think the most dangerous thing I do every week, tho, is ride to my bicycle to work on weekends. I know many people who have suffered catastrophic injuries at relatively low speed riding their bikes. Zero protection, invisible to distracted drives, etc.

 

So it is an ongoing question as to where to draw the line. I scared myself so bad once at VIR (no accident, but convinced I was about to die) that I sold my car and didn't return to the track for 2+ years. But here I am.

 

So all much food for thought. In the meantime you have my deep sympathy. The mental follows the physical. I tell my injured clients' spouses, who are always complaining about hubby being grouchy as an old bear:You try having a positive attitude with a pick up truck rolled on top of one of your feet, 24-7. Pretty hard to do.

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. . . . I scared myself so bad once at VIR (no accident, but convinced I was about to die) that I sold my car and didn't return to the track for 2+ years. But here I am . . . .

 

Mike,

 

After being on track with you at NJMP and seeing first hand how well you drive and just how quick you are, I would have never guessed........and thanks.

Edited by xcarguy
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Hi Shane,

I think you gave us a reality check, as we know there's nothing as fun as a track day with friends. But this reinforces that bad things can and do happen.

 

Just yesterday , out doing prep work for the July 4th track weekend, I found myself overlooking a few things that I thought were no big deal.

 

After reading your posts, you have put the boot to my rear , and will really give the old S1 a proper once over. Glad your feeling better and we'll miss you on the

 

Holiday weekend for sure.... All the best, Steve

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Hi Shane,

I think you gave us a reality check, as we know there's nothing as fun as a track day with friends. But this reinforces that bad things can and do happen.

 

Just yesterday , out doing prep work for the July 4th track weekend, I found myself overlooking a few things that I thought were no big deal.

 

After reading your posts, you have put the boot to my rear , and will really give the old S1 a proper once over. Glad your feeling better and we'll miss you on the

 

Holiday weekend for sure.... All the best, Steve

 

Steve,

 

Wish I could be there.......you I still owe the other a ride in each other's car. :)

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Thanks for posting. You've definitely convinced me to buy a HANS, but I have to say there are easier ways to do it!

 

It is still shocking how hard that car pulled. Watching the speedo climb still cracks me up. It would have been amazing to get more time so that you could really lean on the tires. You were learning the track quickly.

 

But mostly I'm just glad you're recovering - and also that it didn't happen in turn 7, 6, 1 or 15.

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Thanks for posting. You've definitely convinced me to buy a HANS, but I have to say there are easier ways to do it!

 

It is still shocking how hard that car pulled. Watching the speedo climb still cracks me up. It would have been amazing to get more time so that you could really lean on the tires. You were learning the track quickly.

 

But mostly I'm just glad you're recovering - and also that it didn't happen in turn 7, 6, 1 or 15.

 

 

Jefferson,

 

Good to hear from you. And hey, if you get a chance to run at TWS again before the gates are locked for the last time, would you see if you could find my LF spring? :jester:

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