HANS device inventor Robert Hubbard dies

Jim Downing (left) and the late Dr Robert Hubbard (right), who invented the HANS device together pic: HANS Performance Products Facebook

Dr Robert Hubbard, who co-invented the HANS device, has died at the age of 75 years.

Hubbard was a professor of biomechanical engineering at Michigan State University, and created the HANS device with brother-in-law and sportscar racer Jim Downing in the 1980s.

They patented the HANS device in 1985, having been spurred into action by the death of Downing’s friend Patrick Jacquemart in a testing crash in 1981.

Downing himself raced with a prototype version in IMSA at Daytona in November 1986, but the bulky nature of the early incarnations of HANS stymied its take-up.

Having initially received funding from the state of Michigan, Hubbard and Downing were financially supported in their endeavour by General Motors and the Ford Motor Company.

HANS eventually became compulsory in CART in 2000, initially on oval tracks only, in Formula 1 in 2003, and in Supercars (and Super2) in 2005.

The design of the HANS device serves to significantly reduce the risk of basilar skull fractures by preventing a whip of the head in the event of a sudden stop.

The helmet is attached to the base of the device by way of tethers, while the arms of the HANS are held by the seat belts on the driver’s chest.

CAMS made frontal head restraints such as HANS mandatory in all international and national circuit races, road events, and off road events in 2014.

Speaking at the time as CAMS Driver Development manager, Karl Reindler attributed the HANS device to him surviving his massive start line shunt at Barbagallo Raceway in 2011.

“With the accident I had in Perth in 2011, it saved my life,” said Reindler.

“I walked away from that accident with some burns but had I not had my Frontal Head Restraint on, who knows what the result could have been?”

Hubbard passed away on Tuesday evening (local time).

Speedcafe.com extends its condolences to his friends and family.

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