Combining the importance of Michael Henderson's work with the first appearance of a harness on a (serious) Lotus open-wheeler outside of Indycars: Racing Car News,1968 – A Matter of Survival
The article properly introduced Australians to Michael Henderson, explaining that he’d come to Australia in February to join the Editorial team of the Medical Journal of Australia. His history included being the parachutist doctor for the RAF team in Cyprus. The article was published shortly before the release of Motor Racing in Safety – the Human Factors.
Giving the background to his research into the subject, Michael explained that he investigated ‘every single damaging accident in British motor racing in 1967, whether or not the driver was injured.’
His findings, as he searched to prove or disprove his theories (and the widely-held belief that to be ‘thrown clear’) were correct. He found that every
driver who was ejected from a single-seater was injured to some extent, many severely. And that no driver who stayed inside the car as it overturned was badly hurt. Just one driver out of 78 could say he was lucky to be thrown out.
And so he came to Australia and just a month or two later two serious crashes occurred at Bathurst. His story about those:
Elsewhere you will read how Johnny Harvey narrowly escaped with his life, and how Leo Geoghegan was lucky to get away with severe bruising in crashes during practice at Bathurst.
Harvey was half-ejected, slammed his head on something hard, and fractured his skull. (Crash helmets only add a few mph to the survivable impact speed). What is extraordinary is that Harvey, a safety-minded driver, usually wears restraint harness – but not on this occasion!*
Geoghegan spun at high speed, clipped a tree, mowed down a row of fence posts – then, at not more than 20 – 30 mph, the Lotus gently tipped him out. At this speed he was still bruised enough to keep him quietly at home for a good few days. If he had been thrown out earlier in the shunt, he could be in hospital now. Neither his car nor Harvey’s suffered any cockpit distortion to speak of – though both were extensively bent otherwise.
Leo is now fitting a restraint harness. Johnny Harvey won’t race again without one, I’m sure. Kevin Bartlett had one fitted straight away, before the race. Fred Gibson was sitting pretty, already well-secured into Niel Allen’s Brabham. A minor revolution in racing safety thinking is quietly taking place.
If it is indeed so that Geoghegan was to have a harness fitted for his next outing, this Lotus was raced with a harness on May 19. If he missed that meeting, the next was June 9.
It seems that all of Niel’s cars had harnesses fitted during 1967, the Brabham Gibson (mostly) drove was refitted in March, 1968, with a Willans 6-point harness (RCN April, 1968
) and it’s easy to assume that the McLaren M4a and the (Elfin) Traco Olds had them fitted at the same time.
* I feel sure that I read in The Rise and Fall of Peter Brock
that Harvey's Brabham, newly purchased by the Bob Jane team, hadn't had the harness fitted due to a shortage of time. Rather than have it poorly fitted, Harvey elected to go without. Does anyone have access to the book to check this?