DJR Team Penske has moved to help improve driver safety in V8 Supercars by developing a protection tray that could be made mandatory in 2016.
The team sprung into action following the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, where Prodrive’s Chaz Mostert and DJRTP’s Scott Pye were both injured in heavy accidents.
Mostert’s left femur snapped at the base of his seat during a 50g impact with the concrete on the run to Forrest’s Elbow, while Pye fractured a rib when his car hit the concrete at Sulman Park.
Designed by one of DJRTP’s locally based American engineers, the protection tray is similar to that seen in NASCAR and effectively extends the sides of the seat to limit the movement of drivers’ legs during accidents.
It is also similar in concept to the E-cell developed by HWA and run in Erebus’ cars, but is seen as a more cost-effective solution as it utilises the standard V8 Supercars seat.
Although DJRTP’s prototype tray has been made out of aluminium, the final version would be constructed out of a fire resistant carbon fibre.
DJRTP managing director Ryan Story says that his squad is eager to utilise expertise from NASCAR and IndyCar to improve V8 Supercars safety wherever possible.
“We have a recent NASCAR sitting in our shop and when you pair that with the level of safety expertise that Team Penske has, we’re fortunate to have significant resources to draw from,” Story told Speedcafe.com.
“After the crash Tim Cindric (Team Penske president) gave the direction that we would engage our lead designer, who has quite a lot of experience in the field, to explore some solutions.
“We want to make sure that when an accident like that occurs again, we’ve done the most we can to avoid seeing similar injuries to what Chaz had.
“This is very similar to the tray that is run in NASCAR, where safety is taken very, very seriously and has been the subject of a lot of investment over the years.
“We’re fortunate also to have Marcos (Ambrose), who has more crashes at 200mph (320km/h) than anyone else in our category, as part of our team as well.
“He has some very forthright views on the direction that we need to be taking and has played an active role in ensuring that some of the key people at V8 Supercars are able to benefit from his experience.
“This certainly won’t be the last time that we look to do something like this for the category.”
Fitted to the chassis that Pye crashed at Bathurst, the tray was inspected by V8 Supercars’ sporting and technical director David Stuart and category medical delegate Dr Carl Le at DJRTP’s headquarters little more than a week after Bathurst.
DJRTP’s member on the category’s Technical Advisory Panel, Nick Hughes, is scheduled to formally present the design for discussion at the next meeting, which coincides with the Coates Hire Sydney 500.
Stuart has meanwhile confirmed to the V8 Supercars website that the category is also looking at other safety solutions in the wake of Mostert’s Bathurst crash, where the driver broke both his leg and his left wrist.
A grab handle to avoid similar wrist injuries and even the possibility of adopting paddle-shifts to remove the central gear stick from the cars are both under discussion.
Stuart’s department will present formal safety reports to both the FIA and CAMS following input from the TAP members.