The Passing of Henry Surtees

I am sure readers of this blog will know by now that Henry Surtees died yesterday from injuries sustained during a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch, he was 18.

Will Buxton reminds us of Mario Andretti’s words upon the death of his Lotus team-mate Ronnie Peterson in an accident at Monza.
“Unfortunately, motor racing is also this.”

Despite all of the great strides forward in motor racing safety over the last thirty or more years, it unfortunately remains the case.

These cars are compliant to 2005 F1 safety regulations, including wheel tethers. No doubt there will be an investigation, hopefully the cause of the apparent tether failure will be found and rectified. I have now seen footage of the incident. That wheel should not have come off.

As for the wheel assembly striking the car, this was nothing more than a freak accident and there is no way anybody can legislate for that, freak accidents will always happen.

The driver is as safely cocooned within the bodyshell as is possible without enclosing him – some are suggesting the latter should be the next move, but in my opinion this would bring about other problems, such as extrication from the car in an emergency. Given the very low number of times an accident such as this happens it would seem counterproductive to run closed-top formula cars.

Henry Surtees

Anybody who attended a BTCC meeting in recent times and stayed trackside for the support series will have seen Henry Surtees race, even if they didn’t realise it at the time. He competed in Formula BMW in 2007 and Formula Renault in 2008, both on the BTCC support package. (Ginetta Juniors was not yet on the package when he ran in it, and FBMW has since merged to become pan-European). His name was known to most who follow the junior ladder in this country and perhaps further afield.

On a personal level, I was at a wet and windy Silverstone last year when he took a podium finish in the afternoon race. I don’t recall much of the race apart from a few spinners and a driver who lost a wing and kept driving (not Surtees), and I didn’t watch him specifically though I was very much aware he was there and I remember being pleased that he scored a good result because it confirmed he was more than just a ‘name’ driver, more than just the son of someone famous.

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It should be noted that Sunday also saw the death of co-driver Flavio Guglielmini on the Rally Bulgaria, while driver Brain Lavio is in a ‘stable’ condition. Rally Bulgaria has been on the FIA European Rally Championship schedule for 20 years and this year was a Candidate Rally for the 2010 WRC, for which a decision will be made in September.

Also on this dark weekend, Ricardo Londono was shot and killed in Colombia. Londono was entered for the Brazilian GP some 28 years ago but was not able to qualify despite reportedly setting some good times earlier that week.

My thoughts go to the families and friends of each of them.

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One thought on “The Passing of Henry Surtees”

  1. Pat,I agree with you about the wheel tether. There have been problems in F2 before with them and something seems a little odd about the way it comes off – surely that part of the car could have been more deformable in the imåpact?Questions have to be asked about the safety of the cars – everyone was surprised at how quickly this series came together and I am worried that things have moved too fast. Align that with the focus on cost-cutting and it makes one wonder how much of a freak accident Henry's was…

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