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Gordon Smiley's crash in a modern Indy car


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#1 Flat Black

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 17:07

I don't want to seem morbid, but I'm so curious about something that I'll run the risk.

The question for those of you who are up on the safety engineering of modern Indy cars is this: If a driver of a modern Indy car had an identical accident to the one that killed Gordon Smiley in 1982, would s/he survive?

If you view the YouTube video of Smiley's crash, you might be inclined to think there's no way in hell anybody could survive such an impact in any car, no matter how well engineered. But on the other hand, I have seen some incredibly hard hits in modern Indy cars where the driver walks away without a scratch, let alone with life-threatening injuries.

So do you think that the safety engineering has progressed to such a point that a driver could survive a near head-on impact with a wall at around 200 mph?

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#2 Bob Riebe

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 17:38

Originally posted by Flat Black
I don't want to seem morbid, but I'm so curious about something that I'll run the risk.

The question for those of you who are up on the safety engineering of modern Indy cars is this: If a driver of a modern Indy car had an identical accident to the one that killed Gordon Smiley in 1982, would s/he survive?

If you view the YouTube video of Smiley's crash, you might be inclined to think there's no way in hell anybody could survive such an impact in any car, no matter how well engineered. But on the other hand, I have seen some incredibly hard hits in modern Indy cars where the driver walks away without a scratch, let alone with life-threatening injuries.

So do you think that the safety engineering has progressed to such a point that a driver could survive a near head-on impact with a wall at around 200 mph?

When your number is up, your number is up.
NO ONE can cheat death, at the same time if you are not supposed to die, you will not.

#3 BuzzingHornet

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 17:41

Too many factors to make a judgement... how hard is the thing you are hitting, what angle do you hit it at, how well does the car dissipate the energy, what does the driver do to try and influence events...

#4 Cirrus

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 17:44

I think that it's likely that, even if it were possible to make a survival cell that could withstand that sort of impact, the internal organs of the human body probably couldn't.

I seem to recall Buford saying in an earlier thread, that Gordon Smiley's body was lying on the track, looking completely unharmed after the accident.

#5 Flat Black

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 18:32

I'm not privy to all the gory details, but I believe poor Gordon was mangled almost beyond recognition and that the head trauma was massive.

But with the way modern Indy cars are built, the innovation of the Safer-Barrier and the improvement in head gear, I'm almost inclined to think that a driver would survive that impact today. Frankly, though, my technical knowledge is not strong enough to make an educated guess.

#6 byrkus

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 19:09

10 years later, in 1992, Nelson Piquet had a crash with quite similar proportions, head-on to the wall. The front of the car collapsed, and his feet were shattered - but he survived. And 16 years later, I think it's quite safe to say that with today's equipment, similar accident is survivable.

#7 Disco Stu

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 19:27

I vaguely remember hearing that Tomas Scheckter had a similar accident a couple of years ago in a private test there and walked away unscathed.

#8 Russ Snyder

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 20:55

hey Flat back - interesting question.

my answer is most likely no.

The rate of speed and the angel of hit....usually means awful results @ the brickyard.

My answer to this in 1953 (had I been alive ) after Chet Miller crashed his Novi headfirst would be the same...and 1948's Ralph Hepburn, in that same Novi. They both died from head on collisions with the wall going approx 140 mph or so....

Smiley over steered and hit head on....going about 220mph??? His car was a safe as they came for the day...

ANYONE whom hits the wall like that at Indy is in for big trouble.

#9 Bill Becketts

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 21:21

If a remember correctly, Gordon was "Accused" of reacting in the usual way a "Road racer" would when the back end broke away ie. he turned into the slide and when the grip returned.....there was no coming back

#10 brandspro

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 22:01

Drawing on the above mentioned Nelson Piquet shunt and the head-on shunt that Mark Blundell walked away from - on broken ankles - in Rio, I'm inclined to say the chances of surviving that exact incident would be quite good.

#11 Flat Black

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 22:04

One thing to keep in mind: Gordon was doing around 200 mph on impact.

#12 Jones Foyer

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 23:15

Originally posted by Flat Black
One thing to keep in mind: Gordon was doing around 200 mph on impact.


Track speed is nothing, they always say "hit the wall at 200 mph!", but if the car is understeering into the wall, then the speed isn't quite the much as the rolling speed.

At any rate, I haven't seen the video, but know that nosecones as deformable structures are very important safety features now and the monocoques are crash tested. No one can say for sure, but I guarantee survival chances are much higher today.

And what about the construction of the walls at Indy too? A lot of tracks have introduced safety wall technology that would also help...

#13 Jones Foyer

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 23:20

OK, I've seen the video now. They were running aluminum monocoques back then, right? It looks like the mass of the engine and rear came forward through the cockpit. The impact was severe, but i don't think the car would have broken apart that badly today, the HANS device would help reduce the whiplash of the massive hit, but I still think the G forces involved would still be fatally high.

You can only speculate of course. It's a tragedy, but one that is definitely less likely to be as serious with the hard work of drivers, engineers and team owners decades later.

#14 Hugewally

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 23:51

I remember the photo sequence in Road & Track. One of the photos I recall had his helmet touching the wall head on and everything that was suppose to be in front of it compressed into nothing at chest level. No way anyone could've survived a direct impact like that.

Also, check out what Dr Olvey wrote in his book over at http://en.wikipedia....i/Gordon_Smiley

#15 jimclark

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 00:31

Thanks, Hw...I had not read that before (wish I hadn't still). I can see the crash with my minds eye after it's replay that night on ESPN (or somethin'). 'Twas a sad day...

#16 Jack-the-Lad

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 03:03

Originally posted by Cirrus
I think that it's likely that, even if it were possible to make a survival cell that could withstand that sort of impact, the internal organs of the human body probably couldn't.

I seem to recall Buford saying in an earlier thread, that Gordon Smiley's body was lying on the track, looking completely unharmed after the accident.


I could be wrong, but I'm almost certain that poor Gordon's body was still in the car (I do not wish to view the video to confirm this). I spoke to one of the first medical workers who arrived at the crash scene. His description was quite disturbing. Fortunately for Gordon it was over in a split second.

Jack.

#17 jimclark

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 03:13

Originally posted by Cirrus
I seem to recall Buford saying in an earlier thread, that Gordon Smiley's body was lying on the track, looking completely unharmed after the accident.


'Slightly different than Dr Olveys' account... :(

#18 Henri Greuter

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 07:45

Another thing that is much different between the cars of then adn now is that the early '80's Marches had much less overhang over the front axle and the drivers much more in the front part of the chassis.

Should it happen with a current day car, maybe the chances are better but I don't put money on him surviving it.
To my knowledge, not of the current Dallara's ever hit the wall at Indy head-on in an angle like Smiley did.

I believe it has something to do with the fact that the current Dallara's have less downforce than the March of Smiley, allowing the current cars to break out and spin more easily then the Ground-Effect monsters of the early eightties. Have you ever studied the side pods of the early 80's cars? They have huge tunnels compared witht the curent cars. So I got the idea they stuck more to the track than the current Dallara's do. wich effectively meant the end for Gordon.


Henri

#19 Henri Greuter

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 12:45

Originally posted by jimclark
Thanks, Hw...I had not read that before (wish I hadn't still). I can see the crash with my minds eye after it's replay that night on ESPN (or somethin'). 'Twas a sad day...



jimclark,

If you think this was shocking, then I beg you, don't ever look into the details about the crash of Tony Renna in Oct. 2003. I spoke someone who was involved in the aftermath of both Smileý's and Renna's accident. And his comment was so much as that he assumed that after Smiley he had seen all there was to see when it came to fatals without fire. But he was wrong....


Henri

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#20 David M. Kane

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 13:03

Tony Renna was a protege of Derek Daly, so I got the medical details and Henri is correct. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable on ground effects can explain why once that car turn to towards the wall there was little physically he could to change its direction again because of the tremendous downforce.

Ironically while watching a Formula Atlantic race at Road America he had a similar accident where he used the same manuever but it was at a much lower speed. Gordon was a VERY aggressive driver, fearless beyond reason IMO. As JY suggested in a PM to me, an Indy car was perhaps too much for someone of his experience. I think some of the current IRL drivers feel that way about Milka Duno too.

One of the first people ABC-TV interviewed was Johnny Rutherford and he was visible shaken. It showed both in his body language and in his voice. He was frustrated, angry and scared. JR is from Fort Worth and as JY pointed out to me Gordon was from nearby Grapewine (near Dallas-Fort Worth Airport). He had something to with the aircraft business because before he got into Indy Cars he raced out of a shop at an airport/airfield in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.

Having all of that, I never heard anyone say anything bad about Gordon, he was well liked in Road Racing circles.

#21 Flat Black

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 14:32

My understanding of the downforce--and I could well be wrong--is that the less downforce the greater the likelihood of a more or less constant spin once control of the car is lost. And a car that is spinning, by definition, cannot strike the wall head on. With the cars from the early 80s, OTOH, the super high downforce made it entirely possible for a squirrely car to rocket directly into the wall. That's my understanding, anyway.

PS--I saw Smiley's wreck in real time on ABC and remember Jackie Stewart using the occasion to grandstand for reducing the speed of Indy cars. How wrong he was, eh? Speed was not the problem with Gordon's crash; driver error and excessive downforce were.

#22 petefenelon

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 14:51

Originally posted by David M. Kane
Tony Renna was a protege of Derek Daly, so I got the medical details and Henri is correct. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable on ground effects can explain why once that car turn to towards the wall there was little physically he could to change its direction again because of the tremendous downforce.

Ironically while watching a Formula Atlantic race at Road America he had a similar accident where he used the same manuever but it was at a much lower speed. Gordon was a VERY aggressive driver, fearless beyond reason IMO. As JY suggested in a PM to me, an Indy car was perhaps too much for someone of his experience. I think some of the current IRL drivers feel that way about Milka Duno too.

One of the first people ABC-TV interviewed was Johnny Rutherford and he was visible shaken. It showed both in his body language and in his voice.

Having all of that, I never heard anyone say anything bad about Gordon, he was well liked in Road Racing circles.


I've seen Milka racing in sports cars. She tends to drive within her limits most of the time there, but seems far more aggressive in single seaters.

#23 Henri Greuter

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 14:58

Originally posted by David M. Kane
Ironically while watching a Formula Atlantic race at Road America he had a similar accident where he used the same manuever but it was at a much lower speed. Gordon was a VERY aggressive driver, fearless beyond reason IMO. As JY suggested in a PM to me, an Indy car was perhaps too much for someone of his experience. I think some of the current IRL drivers feel that way about Milka Duno too.

One of the first people ABC-TV interviewed was Johnny Rutherford and he was visible shaken. It showed both in his body language and in his voice.

Having all of that, I never heard anyone say anything bad about Gordon, he was well liked in Road Racing circles.


Gordon had two Indy's behind him already, both with high down force wingcars. And how many more CART races? So I wouldn't call it inexperience. (like for example compared with Dave MacDonald who applied his roadrace principles in his rookie year since he was used to drive that way and it had served him well up till then.)
From what I remember having read in the '82 Hungness, Gordon was one of the fastest drivers out there that year up till then, maybe he was pushing too hard to keep up with the fastest guys in qualifying?

I've seen the footrage as it was On TV in the 6 O'clock news of the local TV Channel at Indy that day with the comments of Jackie Stewart.
No disrespect to Gordon but how any TV station ever dared to broadcast this during prime time (dinner) time is beyond me....
But then, dig into history and you'll see a lot of downright shocking pix in the newspapers of then and even earlier years being printed as if it was just another picture.

David, I never got details about Tony Renna but knowing what I did know about Smiley and then heard that comment from this person i spoke, I don't think I want to know them either. I have found no footage or prints of it and according my spokesman, that is not because of that it doesn't exist but because of what it contains....

Henri

#24 Old_school

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:08

Originally posted by brandspro
Drawing on the above mentioned Nelson Piquet shunt and the head-on shunt that Mark Blundell walked away from - on broken ankles - in Rio, I'm inclined to say the chances of surviving that exact incident would be quite good.


Gordon did not scrub much speed prior to impact..

Both Piquet and Blundell had scrubbed off significant speed prior to their impacts. Piquet by spinning and Blundell by using what was left of his failed brakes and impacting at more of an angle than Smiley.

With modern cars, the HANS device and the safer barrier I think there would be a very good chance for survival. But with possible life threatening injuries.

(BTW - I'm an Critical care Paramedic with many (too many) hours of track duty, hence my long winded post :) )

#25 David M. Kane

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:18

Henri:

There is no footage of Tony's accident because it happened at a private test at 9AM on a chilly morning in the middle of the week. I think Ganassi-Target were the only team there, I'm not positive. There was still drew on the grass. The accident was started when he got down too low and ran onto this damp grass on cold tires. It happened on his 1st or 2nd lap out.

#26 Henri Greuter

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:25

Originally posted by Old_school


Gordon did not scrub much speed prior to impact..

Both Piquet and Blundell had scrubbed off significant speed prior to their impacts. Piquet by spinning and Blundell by using what was left of his failed brakes and impacting at more of an angle than Smiley.

With modern cars, the HANS device and the safer barrier I think there would be a very good chance for survival. But with possible life threatening injuries.

(BTW - I'm an Critical care Paramedic with many (too many) hours of track duty, hence my long winded post :) )



Your last remark makes every post you make on this subject more than welcome and respected. You talk from experience that won't be found with many other posters here.


henri

#27 Flat Black

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:43

Perhaps inexperience was not Gordon's downfall, but a certain rash immaturity may well have been. Smiley was a cocksure gambler in an era when such drivers were gravely imperiled at the Brickyard. A touch more respect and humility may have prevented the tragedy.

PS--In McDonald's case, I'm not sure inexperience was the key, although it may have played a role. I think the bigger problem is that the Mickey Thompson Special was an ill-handling, slapdash monster of a car. Indeed, the car was so doom-laden that none other than Jim Clark said to McDonald, "Walk away from that car, mate. Just walk away." Mario Andretti had done just that a month before. McDonald accepted the ride and the rest is horrifying history.

#28 fines

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 16:11

I'm sorry Flat Black, but your last post is one big jar of rubbish!

#29 Flat Black

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 16:55

Specifics? Please do enlighten me.

#30 David M. Kane

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 17:08

Yes Fines I'm curious too. Did you ever see or race against Gordon in FF and Formula Atlantic? He was legendary crazy/aggressive BUT very FAST just Jody and Clay when they were young.

Fines have you read the link in Hugewally's post? Dr. Steve Olvey is a very well respected, etc., etc. or am I missing your point?

#31 Jerome

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 21:44

Regarding Smiley: the head on collision, even in a surviving structure of a car, would produce such massive G-forces, that I can't imagine someone surviving it. Never the less: The strange thing is that there are ofcourse horrific crashes that kill drivers, but also seemingly tame crashes that kill drivers or hurt them. I was suprised when I saw the crash that killed Dale Earnhart. I thought: 'That can't be it. That must have been prior to the accident.' The same thing with Schumacher who broke his legs at Silverstone. It looked rather harmless to me... While I was absolutely sure when I saw Kubica's crash, he was a goner... What did he pull? 20 G? Almost impossible...

#32 Manfred Cubenoggin

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 22:09

Let's not forget the dreadful crash of Danny Ongias just the year prior @ IMS. That just as easily could have been fatal. I think that the only thing that saved him was the fact that the car rotated past a 90-degree normal to the wall and had a chance to disintegrate over a longer period of time even if that could be measured in mere miliseconds. If he'd gone in more or less at the angle of Gordon Smiley, I doubt very much if he would have survived.

#33 Flat Black

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 22:28

Yes, the Ongais crack-up was terrible, but the angle was not as bad as Gordon's. I feel reasonably sure that an accident identical to Ongais' in a current Dallara would not inflict grave injuries.

#34 David M. Kane

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 00:34

Manfried it looked likes to me that Danny car initially reacted similarly to Gordon's, then he got lucky and it rotated. Could this be due to 5-10mph difference qualifying speeds and race lap speeds?

#35 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 00:51

Originally posted by David M. Kane
Yes Fines I'm curious too. Did you ever see or race against Gordon in FF and Formula Atlantic? He was legendary crazy/aggressive BUT very FAST just Jody and Clay when they were young.

Fines have you read the link in Hugewally's post? Dr. Steve Olvey is a very well respected, etc., etc. or am I missing your point?


Missing the point David. There is a glaring error in the post fines is referring to. Can anyone else spot it?

And, not questioning Dr. Olvey (which I'm certain isn't relevant to fines comment), but lately we've seen some direct quotes attributed to folks on Wikipedia that are questionable...or should be. Not saying this is the case in this instance, but be vigilant.

I'll post it in the Wikipedia thread, but an entry was brought to my attention that is howlingly awful.

As far as the crash, the SAFER barriers and HANS device would make a huge difference.

I was pleased to see Henri mention Smiley's prior Indy experience. He did quite well in one of those.

Gordon was actually from Omaha, Nebraska and later moved to Kansas and Grapevine, Texas.

#36 Jack-the-Lad

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 00:59

Originally posted by Jerome
I was suprised when I saw the crash that killed Dale Earnhart. I thought: 'That can't be it. That must have been prior to the accident.'


I had exactly the same reaction.

Jack

#37 David M. Kane

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 01:57

Thanks Jim when I first met him he was in Kansas then moved to Grapevine. I stand corrected.

#38 McGuire

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 04:16

Originally posted by David M. Kane
Perhaps someone more knowledgeable on ground effects can explain why once that car turn to towards the wall there was little physically he could to change its direction again because of the tremendous downforce.


High downforce really has nothing to do with it except that it increases the corner speeds and, naturally, also the closing speed to the wall. Smiley simply did not have time to recorrect after his initial miscorrection. That is the error Steve Olvey is referring to. Indy car drivers are taught to never steer into a slide or spin -- in chasing the car up the track you are essentially steering into the wall. So you let the car go, or turn down when you can.

Every crash is different and the cars crash in different ways today than in the Smiley incident, but drivers can and do survive wall impacts of that magnitude in the current equipment.

#39 fines

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 09:35

Originally posted by Jim Thurman
Missing the point David. There is a glaring error in the post fines is referring to. Can anyone else spot it?

Thanks, Jim, but there is actually more than one glaring error...

Originally posted by Flat Black
Specifics? Please do enlighten me.

My pleasure:

a) I never had the chance to meet or get to know Mr. Smiley, so I can't possibly comment on his persona, but to suggest that after two-and-a-half months of practicing, qualifying and racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was still lacking "respect and humility" is to insult his intelligence! So he was cocky, BIG DEAL! Most racing drivers are, at least those who are successful in this sport. He made a mistake too many, had an accident and paid the price – and we should pay him respect!

b) As for the Dave MacDonald accident, there is an entire thread here on TNF devoted to it, and it runs to several hundred posts. I am not necessarily suggesting you should go and read it, for it is "a long and strange journey", but in it several of the myths surrounding this accident have been busted. Fact is, this was a very ordinary accident, one which could have happened anywhere in the world, to any racing driver in the world, and driving any racing car in the world, it is just that through a number of circumstances it led to such horrible consequences in such a public way, that over the years hundreds, if not thousands of people have felt the need to explain away what cannot be explained away. Motor Racing is DANGEROUS! To say that a car that was capable of a top ten qualifying speed and ran comfortably in the top ten early in the race "was an ill-handling, slapdash monster of a car" is nothing but utter nonsense!

c) I am sure Mr. Andretti would be excited to hear the story about him walking away from the Thompson in 1964, if only for kicking himself in the arse for missing a golden career opportunity... :rolleyes:

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#40 McGuire

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 12:08

Originally posted by fines

Thanks, Jim, but there is actually more than one glaring error...

My pleasure:

a) I never had the chance to meet or get to know Mr. Smiley, so I can't possibly comment on his persona, but to suggest that after two-and-a-half months of practicing, qualifying and racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was still lacking "respect and humility" is to insult his intelligence! So he was cocky, BIG DEAL! Most racing drivers are, at least those who are successful in this sport. He made a mistake too many, had an accident and paid the price – and we should pay him respect!


Exactly. There is an awful lot of writer's artifice in old-timey race journalism. The fact is that anyone can make a mistake -- rookie or veteran, charger or plodder. All drivers make mistakes, and one mistake is all it takes.

#41 Flat Black

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 14:24

Don't insult my intelligence, fines, by suggesting that I was insulting Gordon's. Numerous independent sources who DID know Smiley suggest that he was an overly aggressive driver who was not particularly alive to the dangers of the Brickyard. And it is entirely likely that this attitude contributed to the mistake that led to his death.

As for Thompson's machine, my research has indicated, without counterargument (until you showed up), that the car was fundamentally dangerous. Even more so than a typical Indy Car of the time. Jim Clark thought so. Lone Star JR thought so. So did Andretti. Adding to the danger was Thompson's unwillingness to run the car with a full load of gasoline, owing to his search for speed. And even further down that vein was Thompson's decision to hack away part of the cowlings of the car to make room for new tire specs handed down by the Indy brass.

Add it all up, and McDonald was driving un unguided missile around the speedway. Not a good thing for a rookie to be doing.

Was Mickey Thompson to blame for the deaths of McDonald and Sachs? No, of course not. But his decisions and his engineering were factors.

#42 Old_school

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 15:21

Originally posted by Henri Greuter



Your last remark makes every post you make on this subject more than welcome and respected. You talk from experience that won't be found with many other posters here.


henri


Merci Henri, you're too kind :)

Originally posted by Flat Black
Numerous independent sources who DID know Smiley suggest that he was an overly aggressive driver who was not particularly alive to the dangers of the Brickyard.


having read Steve Olvey's book i'm still somewhat stumped when he states:

Several veteran drivers...had warned him that he was in way over his head, driving all wrong for the Speedway.

Gordon as we all know had already run two Indy 500's, was he doing something out of the ordinary during the '82 Indy ?

Does anyone have more of an insight as to Gordon's mindset at the time ? was he going through personal issues ? Or did his "method" for running the 500 finally fail him ?

#43 ghinzani

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 15:32

Re your last question old_school theres also the factor, oft repudiated, that Smiley was indulging in what the Whittingtons were so famous for. To my mind anyone stupid enough to try and drive on coke is asking for trouble. I assume Smileys autospy would have checked for substances anyway?

#44 Old_school

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 15:44

Originally posted by ghinzani
Re your last question old_school theres also the factor, oft repudiated, that Smiley was indulging in what the Whittingtons were so famous for. To my mind anyone stupid enough to try and drive on coke is asking for trouble. I assume Smileys autospy would have checked for substances anyway?


Was he also in with the Whittingtons ? or just partaking in their "hobby" so to speak.

As for the autopsy i doubt there would have been one. I'm assuming Dr Olvey's description of the injuries to be as accurate as we're going to get, so due to the massive trauma i'm very sure the coroner decided the cause of death as being self evident , made a cursory examination, and filled out the forms.

#45 MPea3

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 16:05

Originally posted by Flat Black
Don't insult my intelligence, fines, by suggesting that I was insulting Gordon's. Numerous independent sources who DID know Smiley suggest that he was an overly aggressive driver who was not particularly alive to the dangers of the Brickyard. And it is entirely likely that this attitude contributed to the mistake that led to his death.



First, welcome to TNF. I don't know if you're new to the place or are a long time lurker who has finally registered, but I hope you find it as wonderful as I always have. There are some wonderful people here who are sticklers for detail and accuracy, but opinions are always welcome even if debatable. One thing you will find though is that long held opinions which aren't supported by fact are shot down.

Without insulting anyone's intelligence though, including yours, with Smiley having already run 2 500s I'd ask who your "independent sources" are.

As for Thompson's machine, my research has indicated, without counterargument (until you showed up), that the car was fundamentally dangerous. Even more so than a typical Indy Car of the time. Jim Clark thought so. Lone Star JR thought so. So did Andretti. Adding to the danger was Thompson's unwillingness to run the car with a full load of gasoline, owing to his search for speed. And even further down that vein was Thompson's decision to hack away part of the cowlings of the car to make room for new tire specs handed down by the Indy brass.


"... my research has indicated, without counterargument (until you showed up)..."

If you've in fact done "research", we'd love to see it. If what you really mean is that you've formed an opinion based on other's, then please read the Mickey Thompson Allstate thread. You may be shocked at some of the things which were accepted as truth which aren't.

Add it all up, and McDonald was driving un unguided missile around the speedway. Not a good thing for a rookie to be doing.

Was Mickey Thompson to blame for the deaths of McDonald and Sachs? No, of course not. But his decisions and his engineering were factors.


Un-guided missile is a bit ridiculous.

#46 MPea3

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 16:08

Originally posted by Old_school


As for the autopsy i doubt there would have been one. I'm assuming Dr Olvey's description of the injuries to be as accurate as we're going to get, so due to the massive trauma i'm very sure the coroner decided the cause of death as being self evident , made a cursory examination, and filled out the forms.


That is pure conjecture. Other than your assumption is there any evidence to support your being "very sure" that there was no autopsy?

#47 Twin Window

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 16:11

Originally posted by Old_school

having read Steve Olvey's book i'm still somewhat stumped when he states: "Several veteran drivers...had warned him that he was in way over his head, driving all wrong for the Speedway." Gordon as we all know had already run two Indy 500's, was he doing something out of the ordinary during the '82 Indy ?

When word got through to Autosport it was mentioned that Gordon had been taken to one side by, IIRC, Al Unser who'd advised him to be less aggressive in the turns save he caused himself some problems as apparently, we were told, Gordon was getting the tail out on a regular basis.

A couple of days later the film from that day arrived and when it came back from the processors in sheets of strips the contents were quite amazing. You'd get say a dozen shots of cars down on the apron with the drivers' hands in a neutral or slightly 'understeery' position on the wheel and then there would be Gordon applying opposite lock. Not armfuls, but it was there. On every frame...

I'd say Gordon was a decent bloke based on my brief encounters with him during his Aurora F1 days. As for doing substances when driving, whilst it's not impossible as there are precedents, I find it unlikely in his case.

#48 fines

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 16:19

Originally posted by Flat Black
Don't insult my intelligence, fines, by suggesting that I was insulting Gordon's. Numerous independent sources who DID know Smiley suggest that he was an overly aggressive driver who was not particularly alive to the dangers of the Brickyard. And it is entirely likely that this attitude contributed to the mistake that led to his death.

I certainly wasn't trying to insult you, but unless this thread does throw up new evidence we must agree to differ.

Originally posted by Flat Black
As for Thompson's machine, my research has indicated, without counterargument (until you showed up), that the car was fundamentally dangerous. Even more so than a typical Indy Car of the time. Jim Clark thought so. Lone Star JR thought so. So did Andretti. Adding to the danger was Thompson's unwillingness to run the car with a full load of gasoline, owing to his search for speed. And even further down that vein was Thompson's decision to hack away part of the cowlings of the car to make room for new tire specs handed down by the Indy brass.

Add it all up, and McDonald was driving un unguided missile around the speedway. Not a good thing for a rookie to be doing.

Was Mickey Thompson to blame for the deaths of McDonald and Sachs? No, of course not. But his decisions and his engineering were factors.

Well, if you have researched this accident then I suggest you post your findings in the appropriate thread, which by accident or otherwise has just shown up on the TNF front page, but be prepared to be tested!;) And, to avoid repetitions, perhaps you should read the other posts first...

I'm still waiting for the slightest bit of evidence that any one person in the world thought of the Thompson car as being excessively dangerous before May 30, 1964, 11:05 am. We all know how many people thought so after the accident, it doesn't prove anything except the psychological vulnerability of those making the statements. And as for the Clark quote, which you have mentioned and reinforced in your last post, it is almost certainly a fake since there are no witnesses for it and it is very much out of character for the Scotsman.

Your statement about Micky Thompson's unwillingness to run the car with a full load of fuel is simply wrong, and the statement about the change of bodywork very confused - read the "Sears Allstate Special" thread and see what others have found out, and if you still think you have something to say then post it there. :wave:

#49 Old_school

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 16:45

Originally posted by MPea3


That is pure conjecture. Other than your assumption is there any evidence to support your being "very sure" that there was no autopsy?


Not actually pure conjecture. It's based on my medical background and experience. The principal aim of an autopsy is to determine the factors that contributed to the individual's death.There would obviously be an external examination, in this case the external examination would be sufficient in basing a conclusion as to the cause of death.

Gordon's death would obviously be considered "unnatural" and although this was 1982 (laws then are nothing compared to what they are today) there would be no need to have an in depth internal autopsy (if his injuries even allowed such a thing). The cause of death is self evident in relation to how the deceased met his fate, massive trauma due to a motor racing accident.He was not drunk or high driving along the freeway. Unless at the time the family requested an in depth internal autopsy and there was something to look for (alcohol level/drug level) this internal autopsy would not have happened. And this was of course 1982, a far cry from the present day "CSI" exploits.

Originally posted by Twin Window
When word got through to Autosport it was mentioned that Gordon had been taken to one side by, IIRC, Al Unser who'd advised him to be less aggressive in the turns save he caused himself some problems as apparently, we were told, Gordon was getting the tail out on a regular basis.


Certainly enlightening, thank you Twinny :) being taken aside for "getting the tail out" certainly makes more sense, after all that is exactly how his accident began.

#50 Jerome

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 17:40

Interesting quote by Coulthard on Autosport.com, showing light on an earlier post in this thread by me, that some crashes look rather unharmful, but are not. Coulthard even mentioned Indy car crashes:

-----------------------------------
"This was one of the biggest hits actually - although it doesn't look like much from the outside," Coulthard told reporters. "It really hurts when you hit the barrier and I would not want to be an IndyCar driver hitting the wall – because today was hard enough. I wouldn't have wanted more than that.

"After the first impact, I wished I was anywhere other than being strapped in a racing car. What I know, which you guys haven't experienced, is that when you lose a corner you lose the brakes.

"The corner has gone, so the fluid is open – you are pushing the brake pedal but there is nothing. At that point it is the luck of the gods whether you hit one wall or another wall – and today obviously I was lucky.

"The second hit, when I got to the end of the run off area, I put my head against the headrest and I was ready for the impact. Then you don't get the whiplash – but the first hit you don't get a chance. I hit my elbow on something, but it is not too bad.

"I have a sore head and a sore elbow, but I don't want to go to the medical centre and get hooked up to stuff. I will see how I feel tomorrow, but I think I will be okay."