The issue of a race car hitting a safety vehicle has raised its ugly head again and with it, question of a more widespread use of a Virtual Safety Car.
In the very closing stages of the IMSA / United Sports Car race in Detroit, the TRG-Aston Martin Racing 007 driven by James Davison crashed into a safety truck which had pulled out on track to attend to another car which had just gone into the barrier.
Fox Sport's coverage of the incident was pretty lousy but we spoke with out friend, current Pirelli World Challenge GTA championship leader and MOMO boss Henrique Cisneros, who was trackside.
Cisneros confirmed it had started to rain lightly on the penultimate lap but, as the leaders were making their way through for the final time, it started pouring.
The Brumos Porsche slid off into the tires in the first corner of the last lap but the 23 Porsche of Mario Farnbacher and the 007 of Davison were still racing for position when the safety vehicle was deployed on the still hot track.
A local yellow was being waved at start finish which meant drivers could race all the way to that yellow.
It's not an isolated incident, at the Pirelli Challenge race in Bowmanville Ontario, this happened
There are some obvious questions:
Why no full course yellow (double yellow) with the conditions or/and a vehicle on track?
The track was wetter where the incident occurred than further away, all drivers were on slicks, pits were closed. Organizers were aware of this, did they feel pressure to not end the race under caution?
Why did the Aston driver not slow down?
If the yellow at start finish was the first yellow he encountered, by the rules, he was entitled to race all the way to that station. Perhaps he was warned by his crew about conditions but it was the final lap and a pass for the win was possible.
Was there enough time for Race Control to react and would a Virtual Safety Car had been a solution?
As you know the concept of a Virtual Safety Car was introduced in WEC last year and adopted by F1 this season as a response to Jules Bianchi's accident in Japan in 2014, one very similar to this one in its dynamic. An expansion of WEC's "Code 60" zones, it essentially freezes competitors in their current positions and separations as they they continue to make their way around the circuit at reduced speeds.
An advantages of a VSC over a traditional Safety Car, or even a full course yellow, is that it's faster to deploy and takes options away from drivers who cannot rush to close a gap.
Drivers leading the race like it because it allows for clean up yet maintains their track position. Obviously those in the back don't like it for the opposite reason but it certainly is a good toolfor race control to have in situations where everything needs to be slowed down quickly.
Should VSC be introduced in more series? Is it a good system and could VSC take the place of a physical one or should, as per F1 rules, a Safety Car always be used the moment any rescue vehicle is on track.
A Safety Car can reboot a race making it potentially more entertaining, should a VSC period always be followed by a SC picking up the leaders and bunching the field?
As always we welcome your comment as will the Motorsport Safety Foundation who have launched a survey on the subject I encourage you to fill out.