Flames engulfed the No 78 Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing car on lap 99 of the Firestone 550K Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway after it made hard contact with the wall. The car rolled across the steeply embanked track still on fire as it finally came to rest.
As rookie Simona de Silvestro struggled to escape the burning car, the Holmatro Safety Team arrived. What happened next has created a firestorm of its own.
Spectators watched in horror as all but one member of the safety team headed not to the blazing car to assist the young driver, but instead to the front of the safety truck. After what seemed like an eternity, the lone safety member’s frantic efforts and need of assistance were finally acknowledged by other team members who helped pull de Silvestro to safety. Video of the incident is available on YouTube.
HVM Racing Team Principal, Keith Wiggins, said in a release on HVM Racing’s website, “That was a scary moment and we are glad she is alright. The safety crew should be ashamed of themselves.”
Sports anchors and bloggers alike have criticized the safety team’s response. In a sport where a quick response can mean the difference between life and death, Saturday’s performance has many people asking if more training should be required.
Having witness first-hand the efficiency normally demonstrated by safety teams in motorsports, I feel that Saturday’s incident was an exception to the rule. Drivers like Alex Zanardi, Kenny Brack, Emerson Fittipaldi and Davey Hamilton are great examples of the successes that are typically associated with the safety team’s record. While the mistakes at Texas must be reviewed so that something like this doesn’t happen again, I think it’s important to remember that the majority of the time the system works.
On a more personal note, my family and I are extremely happy that Simona is safe. Having lived with us for several months when she first came to the US in 2006, Simona was at one time considered a member of the family. We continue to follow her career and wish her well.