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.

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.


On The Limit: Jari-Matti Latvala, Rally Portugal

TMR’s Video Of The Week

Driver: Jari-Matti Latvala (Co-driver: Miikka Anttila)
Car: Ford Focus WRC
Team: BP Ford World Rally Team
Series: World Rally Championship
Event: 2009 Rally de Portugal

Background: You’ve probably heard of Jari-Matti’s crash last weekend in which he and co-driver Miikka rolled 17 times down a mountain and survived with barely a scratch. What you probably haven’t seen, and neither had I, was the build-up to the crash and the way he was driving through the stage. It seems his team boss had already warned him to calm down his driving after crashing out early in two previous events this year.

Important note: Please don’t think I’m joining the ranks of the ‘crash-happy’ who go trawling YT for smash-ups. This is to celebrate his driving and the fantastic safety work done by the FIA and the Ford World Rally Team.

This is some of the best driving I’ve ever seen, there are times you can barely watch – and this is the calmed down version?!

(taken from The Official WRC YouTube Channel).

You can see how the crash was only caused by a knock against a barrier, pushing him to the right over the edge of the cliff.

Here’s the external view and a word from the man himself:

They were both VERY lucky indeed, a testament to the major safety improvements made in WRC over the last decade.

More from Latvala (via “It was all my fault, I had the corner marked with a double caution, but the night before, I changed it. I have realised you should never change your notes after the recce. I realised we were going to crash, so I tried to use the Armco to slow the car. But it rolled over it and then it rolled and rolled. I can remember the crashing and the roll cage coming in. I thought: ‘We cannot survive this, it’s just not stopping.’ When it did stop, I looked to my co-driver Miikka and his eyes were red and full of blood because we had been upside down so many times. After I checked we were okay, I said: ‘Maybe this was our last rally.'”