In motorsport, a safety car or pace car is a car which limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack in the case of a caution period such as an obstruction on the track. During a caution period the safety car enters the track ahead of the leader. Competitors are not normally allowed to pass the safety car or other competitors during a caution period, and the safety car leads the field at a pre-determined safe speed, which may vary by series and circuit. At the end of the caution period, the safety car leaves the track and the competitors may resume racing. The first use of a pace car in automobile racing was at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.
In production automobiles, a "safety car" is one which highlights safety features (see automobile safety).
- 1 Implications
- 2 Formula One
- 3 Indianapolis 500
- 4 NASCAR
- 5 Incidents with safety cars and other course cars
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2011)|
The use of a safety car has the side effect of pushing all the competitors together, so any time advantage of one car over another that remains on the same lap is virtually eliminated. This "drawing together" effect can make racing more competitive; conversely, it can be viewed as preventing faster drivers and cars from receiving appropriate rewards for their efforts.
It is common in many forms of racing for drivers to make pitstops during the safety car situation. This way, they can form back up behind the back after refueling and changing tires (and perhaps making more advanced adjustments which would normally cost too much time to be practical in racing conditions). Any other drivers who have to pit within the next few laps would then fall behind this car when they make their pitstop under green-flag conditions.
Cars use less fuel while running under safety car (usually approximately half as much as under racing conditions), which can allow drivers to run longer on a tank of fuel than expected, and in some cases means being able to make one fewer pitstop.
In Formula One or other road racing events if an accident or heavy rain prevents normal racing from continuing safely, the Race Director or Clerk of Course will call for the marshalls to wave yellow flags and hold SC boards, warning drivers that the safety car has been deployed. From 2007, all Formula Cars must have LEDs fitted to the steering wheel, which inform the driver which flags are being waved. A yellow LED is illuminated when the safety car has been deployed.
The F1 Safety Car (SC) has both orange and green lights mounted on its roof in the form of a light bar. The green light allows the driver just behind the SC to pass. This is done so as to allow cars between the SC and the race leader to overtake the SC and continue at reduced speed and without overtaking until they reach the line of cars behind the SC. Once the race leader is right behind the SC, the orange lights go on. This car is to be operated by a professional driver—currently Bernd Mayländer—and must maintain a good speed so that the tires on the racecars can stay at operating temperature and at the same time avoid engine overheating. The driver of the Safety Car also has a co-driver.
In Formula One, during the one lap to green, the SC will have the lights on until it crosses the last intermediate of the race track and the lights will go out. That notifies the drivers that they will be racing in a few moments.
For incidents during the first three laps, the safety car also has an advantage over the traditional red flag; in a red flag, it would take a minimum of fifteen minutes to restart the race, and the two-hour limit would not start until the cars are ready for a second reconnaissance or formation lap. With regards to the time limit, the race is being scored and the time is also counting while a Safety Car period happens, and the race resumes.
Safety car starts and finishes
There have been eight instances where the race has been started under safety car conditions due to wet conditions considered dangerous to race in:
- 1997 Belgian Grand Prix
- 2000 Belgian Grand Prix
- 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix
- 2007 Japanese Grand Prix
- 2008 Italian Grand Prix
- 2009 Chinese Grand Prix
- 2010 Korean Grand Prix
- 2011 Canadian Grand Prix
The same procedure was also used at the restart of the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix. After a rule change in 2005, the procedure has been applied every time the race has been stopped and restarted again, a total of five times, the first time being at the 2007 European Grand Prix.
To date, only five Grands Prix have finished behind the safety car.
- 1999 Canadian Grand Prix,
- 2009 Australian Grand Prix,
- 2009 Italian Grand Prix,
- 2010 Monaco Grand Prix
- 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix
The first use of the Safety Car in Formula One was at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix. However, the Safety Car took its place in front of the wrong driver, which placed part of the field incorrectly one lap down. It took several hours after the end of the race to straighten out who the winner actually was. Starting from the 1993 season, the safety car was officially introduced. The first to be used was a Fiat Tempra in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The same year a safety car was also used in the British Grand Prix.
From 2007, two new procedures were instituted, which were applied for the first time during the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The pit lane was closed immediately upon the deployment of the safety car. No car could enter the pits for the purpose of refuelling until all cars on the track had formed up in a line behind the safety car, they passed the pit entrance, and the message "pit lane open" was given. A ten second stop/go penalty (which must be taken when the race is green again) was imposed on any driver who entered the pit lane and whose car was refuelled before the pitlane open message is given; effectively these drivers were penalised for choosing to remain in the race, rather than running out of fuel. However, any car which was in the pit entry or pit lane when the safety car was deployed would not incur a penalty.
From 2009, however, this procedure has been dropped, and replaced by software that calculates where a car is on the track and a minimum laptime it should take the car to get to the pits. Cars that enter the pits before this time limit has expired are penalised.
When the safety car and the drivers behind it are on the start/finish straight, there is a red light at the exit of the pit lane. Drivers who go past the red light are disqualified from the race. This has happened to several drivers during the years, such as Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. At the same race a year later Lewis Hamilton failed to notice the red light and slammed into the back of the car of Kimi Räikkönen, who was waiting at the end of the pitlane alongside Robert Kubica.
As of the start of the 2010 season, once cars were lined up behind the SC, lapped cars were no longer allowed to unlap themselves before the race was restarted. This rule has been abandoned for the 2012 season, with cars now allowed to unlap themselves before the race resumes.
The first use of a pace car in automobile racing was at the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911. The officials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been selecting a pace car and its driver for the Indy 500 each year since that first race. The first pace car was a Stoddard-Dayton driven by Carl G. Fisher. In recent years Chevrolet models have been chosen as the official pace car, owing to the ability for them to be used at both major automobile races at the Speedway (typically Corvette at the 500 and Impala at the 400). The pace car is selected two months before the race runs, allowing the manufacturer of the selected pace car to produce replicas of that year's car, which sell at a marked premium to collectors and race fans. Pace car replicas are often seen on the streets of Indianapolis weeks before the race is actually held, and a celebrity driver is usually used for the start of the race only.
Automakers compete for the prestige of having one of their models selected as the year's pace car for the publicity. In 1971, the move backfired as no automakers stepped up to provide a pace car. Instead, local Indianapolis-area Dodge dealers fulfilled the duty. Eldon Palmer, a local dealer, lost control of the Dodge Challenger pace car and crashed into a photography stand, injuring several people. The blame for the crash was never fully determined, as officials realized that an orange cone (or perhaps an orange flag), which was to identify Palmer's braking point, was accidentally removed.
During the IndyCar Series season, however, Johnny Rutherford is the normal driver of the IRL pace car for all events. The pace car is deployed for debris, collision, or weather reasons. Since 1993, upon the waving of the yellow flag, pit road is closed until the pace car picks up the leader and he passes the pit entrance the first time, unless track blockage forces the field to drive through pit lane. Another duty of the pace car is to lead the field around the course on parade laps prior to the start of the race. These increase in speed, allowing for a flying start of the race.
Furthermore, two other rule changes have been implemented. Since 2000, with one lap to go before going back to green, the pace car pulls off the track in turn one rather than in turn four. The current leader of the race is then assigned the task of pacing the field back to the green flag. After much consideration, this rule was added to prevent a situation much like the one that happened in the 1995 Indianapolis 500, when Scott Goodyear passed the pace car going back to green. In 2002, another rule was added. With one lap to go before the green, the pace car waves by all cars (if there are any) between the pace car and the actual leader of the race. This allows for the leader to control the restart without lapped cars being in front of him. It also creates a strategy for cars to gain laps back, loosely resembling the "Lucky dog" rule. However, the cars who get waved around are not allowed to pit until the green flag restarts the race (so they do not get the advantage of getting their lap back AND a free pit stop).
In all NASCAR series, if the caution is out for debris, accident, or inclement weather, the flagman will display the yellow caution flag and the pace car  will pull out of the pits and turn on the yellow strobes on top and/or behind the car. One lap before a green flag, the pace car will shut off its lights to signal drivers that a green flag is coming.
Unlike most series in motorsport, owing to NASCAR's short-track roots, each track usually offers their own safety car, typically from the manufacturer, but in recent years, it has been a local dealer or association of regional dealerships-provided safety car. Tracks that use Toyota safety cars will use a Toyota Camry Hybrid, while Ford tracks will use a Ford Mustang, while Chevrolet tracks use a Chevrolet Camaro and most Dodge tracks use a Dodge Challenger. If a manufacturer is promoting a new vehicle, they will often use the new car instead of the standard-specification safety car.
For the Camping World Truck Series, often the Safety Car is a pickup truck, as the series races pickup trucks. Tracks affiliated with a local or regional Chevrolet dealership will use a Chevrolet Silverado, while Chrysler dealership affiliated tracks will use a Ram 1500. Ford-affiliated tracks will often use the F-Series, but Toyota-affiliated tracks are less likely to use the Toyota Tundra, but prefer marketing the Camry Hybrid. However, Ford and Toyota manufacturer sponsored tracks will prefer the Mustang and Camry, respectively, instead of a truck.
Since NASCAR does not allow speedometers or electronic speed limiting devices, the pace car circles the track at pit road speed during the warm-up laps. This allows each driver to note the RPM at which pit road speed is maintained. Drivers exceeding that speed on pit road will be penalized, typically a "drive-through" or "stop and go" penalty, costing them valuable track position.
Since mid-2004, NASCAR official Brett Bodine has driven the vehicle during official race functions during Sprint Cup Series races. Other famous NASCAR pace car drivers include Robert "Buster" Auton, Elmo Langley and Jay Leno.
The Beneficiary Rule (informally known as the "Lucky dog" rule) states once the safety car is deployed, the first car not on the lead lap will regain a lap. The Beneficiary will regain his lap once pit road opens. Bodine will signal that car to pass him through radio contact between NASCAR and that team. The free pass car must pit with the lapped cars.
In 2009, NASCAR introduced a new "Double-file restart" rule that lines the field two cars on each row on every restart, similar to the start of the race, instead of lead-lap cars on the outside and lapped cars on the inside. Also, the "wave-around" rule, similar to what is enforced in the Indy Racing League was adopted to ensure the first car on the restart is the leader, and ensure there are no lapped cars ahead of the leader.
Incidents with safety cars and other course cars
2014 Sprint Unlimited
Before the start of the final segment of the Sprint Cup Series exhibition race at Daytona, the Chevrolet SS pace car caught fire and stopped off the track, delaying the restart. The fire was believed to have started in a trunk-mounted battery pack powering the lights.
2012 Daytona 500
During a Safety Car situation on Lap 160 of the 2012 Daytona 500, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver Juan Pablo Montoya's car had a suspension part failure, and it lost control on turn 3, sharply veering right into a safety truck and jet dryer trailer, causing a massive diesel/jet fuel fire. As it was seen on video, sparks were seen eminating from Montoya's car right before its hard collision with the jet dryer trailer and left drivers side of the truck. Montoya was treated at the infield care center and released. Montoya's report over the radio after the incident was "I left the pits and felt a really weird vibration and I came back in and checked the rear end and said it was okay and I got into the backstraight and we were are going fourth gear but wasn't going that fast. Every time I got on the gas I could feel the rear squeezing. When I was telling the spotter to have a look how the rear was moving the car just turned right." The driver of the Chevolet Silverado Crew Cab, Duane Barnes, was taken to a local hospital for observation and was resting comfortably. He is an employee at Michigan International Speedway, a sister track of Daytona. The tracks often share jet dryer equipment on race weekends to help in case of rain such as the case on Sunday, the original scheduled start time of the race. The entire incident took about two hours to clean up before the last 40 laps were able to be completed.
NASCAR subsequently added the use of the second Safety Car (used during race start situations) to protect the last jet dryer in other Safety Car situations.
2011 6 Hours of Castellet
The 2011 6 Hours of Castellet got off to a controversial start when the pace car did not return to the pits when the green lights came on. The front running LMPs slowed down but some of the GT cars could not react fast enough, resulting in heavy damage to all three GTE Pro class Porsches which caused them to retire. The GTE Am class IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche and GTE Pro JOTA Aston Martin were also caught up in the carnage.
2009 WTCC Pau
An accident occurred during the 2009 FIA WTCC Race of France in Pau, France. A succession of first-lap accidents caused the safety car to be placed on standby, with yellow flags waving on the start-finish section of the track. The safety car driver then proceeded to drive onto the track at slow speed, without official approval, moving across the pit exit line immediately after exiting the pits, instead of confining to the inside of it until the line ended. Race leader Franz Engstler came through the kink on the start-finish straight and was unable to avoid hitting the side of the pace car. Engstler commented "I saw the safety car coming out from the right and realized that I had no chance to brake... I really do not understand why he was going out of the pits". After this incident, the Portuguese Bruno Correia was appointed to be the official and permanent Safety Car driver.
2008 Dutch Supercar Challenge Spa
During the 2008 Dutch Supercar Challenge race at Spa Francorchamps, a crash caused by a safety car occurred. The Seat Leon safety car was released too late, allowing the leading Marcos LM600 to pass, and the Audi TT DTM in 2nd and Mosler MT900R GT3 in 3rd were incorrectly picked up as 'the leading pack'. Race officials immediately realized their mistake, and the safety car was instructed to slow down and let the entire field pass.
As the safety car was exiting turn 11, a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 coming from behind slowed down to pitlane-like speeds reacting to the safety car driving unusually slow on track. However, a BMW a few seconds behind did not see this, as the Gallardo slowed down just after the apex of turn 11, where one can no longer see the corner when coming out of turn 10 'Bruxelles' and on the small straight in between. The BMW did not have nearly as good of brakes as the Gallardo, and slammed into it and the safety car from behind. This sent the BMW into a number of rolls, as well as destroying the rear of the Gallardo, which also caught on fire. The safety car was sent off the track into the Armco at great speed. This was not the end of it however, as a Marcos LM600 coming around turn 11 locked up its brakes and went into a spin onto the wet grass on the inside of the track. Once the out-of control Marcos slid back onto the track, it was hit (t-boned) in the side by a BMW Z3. Furthermore, two E46 BMW M3 GTRs were damaged, one from hitting the rear of the Marcos (this M3 was on the outside line), and the other M3 (on the inside line) slightly damaged its front right. Although this looked only to be aesthetic damage, as the second M3 continued around the track in contrary to the first which slid onto the grass before turn 12 'Pouhon'. The race was stopped, and there were no serious injuries to any of the drivers.
2002 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix
At the 2002 Brazilian Grand Prix, Alex Ribeiro, the Medical Car driver, was involved in a potentially serious incident. During the morning warm-up on race day, Enrique Bernoldi crashed his Arrows in Turn 2. When Ribeiro went out to check on Bernoldi, he opened the door to the car. Just as he opened it, Nick Heidfeld came along in his Sauber, and smashed into the open door. Both Heidfeld and Ribeiro were uninjured in the incident.
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