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Dan Wheldon
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Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Oct 2011   |  11:48 pm GMT  |  176 comments

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Dan Wheldon, the two times Indy 500 winner and IRL series champion. He was killed in an Indycar accident at Las Vegas Speedway.

The race was only his third start this season. Wheldon had taken part at Indy this year on a one-off basis and won the race. He was taking part in a challenge organised by the Indycar series to try to win the race in Vegas from 34th and last place on the grid in pursuit of a $5 million prize fund, when he got caught in a multi car pile up.

“It will be pure entertainment. It’s going to be a pack race, and you never know how that’s going to turn out,” Wheldon wrote in a blog entry before the race.

Dario Franchitti, who was in the race with Wheldon, said “I could see within five laps people were starting to do crazy stuff. I love hard racing but that to me is not really what it’s about. One small mistake from somebody..

“One minute you’re joking around in driver intros and the next he’s gone. He was six years old when I first met him. He was this little kid and the next thing you know he was my team-mate. We put so much pressure on ourselves to win races and championships and today it doesn’t matter.”

Wheldon, from Buckinghamshire, started his career in karts in the UK, racing against Anthony Davidson and Jenson Button with whom he had a rivalry. He was mentored by Terry Fullerton, Ayrton Senna’s great rival from karting days and appropriately, won the FIA ‘Ayrton Senna’ Memorial World Cup. He moved to the USA, rather than chase his F1 dream, because of a lack of funds.

In 2005 he became the first English driver since Graham Hill to win the Indy 500.

His many friends in the world of F1 will be greatly saddened by his untimely death at the age of 33.

Button said, “Just woken up to the most horrific news.. Dan Wheldon RIP… I have so many good memories of racing with Dan in the early 90s, a true fighter. We’ve lost a legend in our sport but also a great guy. I can’t begin to imagine what his family are going through and my thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.”

Team mate Lewis Hamilton said, “This is an extremely sad day. Dan was a racer I’d followed throughout my career, as I often followed in his footsteps as we climbed the motor sport ladder in the UK. He was an extremely talented driver.

“As a British guy, who not only went over to the States but who twice won the Indy 500, he was an inspirational guy, and someone that every racing driver looked up to with respect and admiration. This is a tragic loss at such a young age. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time.”

Rubens Barrichello said on Twitter, “Just got out from the plane and got the terrible news about the death of our friend. Will always remember the great times we had at karting in Brazil my friend. Rest in peace.”

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1

never felt this saddened since ayrton sennas accident

rip dan

2

God bless Dan Wheldon’s family and friends. Please post where we can purchase a copy of his coffee table “Lionheart” This would be a great to contribute to his fund. Gods spead Dan.

3

well it is times like these that max mosely and the FIA seem justified is the actions that they take sometimes in regards to safety. believe me when i say am no max fan, and i was never a fan of grooved tires if F1, but someone has to think of the safety of the drivers and the the spectators. there have been no deaths in F1 since the tragic weekend in san marino in 94 when of course as we all know Senna and Ratzenberger passed away, which on the face of it is quite remarkable. but as we can all see death is just one small mistake away, in any formula, f1, indy, la mans, dtm, world rally, or for that matter even with the smaller less powerful cars, such as the bmw, cheve’s vaxhulls, etc. it is true that ovals with 3 tree wide at 190+ mph is quite a different situation than F1, but none the less, the wheldon tragedy just reminds everyone that race car divers really risk their lives every time they get into a race car. there has been a lot of talk over the years recently in formula one about “improving the show,” or that F1 is “entertainment.” this is true of course, but it does seem like a strange way to describes something that can end in a death/s.

4

I want to thank Great Britain for all of your top talent though the years. Too many to name. I am sorry that this ill-conceived notion took your son. We loved Dan, it was easy to forget where he came from, one of our own. But I immediately thought of you. All of the great drivers both the living and the dead you have given to the world. I want you to remember this about Dan. It was a quiet night on Twitter in November a couple of years ago. All of us suffering “racing withdrawal”, a very painful condition. All of the sudden here’s @DanWheldon! He’s talking trash to another competitor about an upcoming Kart race in Las Vegas! It was obvious he was serious, not a joke or an advert for the event. BTW, here is a Wheldon ad:“I couldn’t be more excited to be participating in SKUSA SuperNationals again this year,” Wheldon said. “I have to say that this race is one of my absolute favorites. It is really a testament to the level of competition. The talent participating is so great that you really do feel like you are at a professional-level racing event.

“And having Las Vegas host America’s premier karting event makes SuperNats a destination for the participants and the fans alike. I’m telling you, it’s going to be a great time, and I look forward to bringing in a win in the National Guard/Arrow/BTK kart.”

In America Tony Stewart represents this old school type of driver, and he does so admirably.

But- for the rest of my life in my mind- Dan Wheldon embodied it.

5

Farewell Dan Wheldon. You will now join Jim Clark and Aryton Senna in heaven. I feel so sad for his family. Motor Sport can be so cruel.

6

I hope IRL sees to it that they start taking some of the safety features and the such from F1 and fighter jets, and eventually incorporate these elements into their chassis.

An aside is in noting that the IRL has slipped from it’s CART racing heritage (before someone jumps me, CART and IRL merged a few years ago) and prefers increasing the show of a race over actual race craft.

Though this is not unlike F1, I still don’t think the IRL takes into account of the safety factors involved. F1 learned from the events in 1994 and clearly it is time for the “lesser” series to do the same.

RIP Dan

7

The Indy Cars (the term IRL hasn’t been in use since the “merger” (takeover) of Champcar and IRL. It is now the Izod Indy Car Series, or IndyCar for short. CART was no longer an organization at the time of the merger. It was the Champcar World Series. Because they travel at a much higher rate of speed (on ovals) than an F-1 car, Indy cars are actually put through a much more rigorous series of tests. There would have been many more deaths over the last few years if they were using F-1 cars.

8

This is exactly why indi cars shouldn’t race on oval tracks. They can go fram 0MPH to nearly 230MPH in hust a few seconds. Even when ther on street corses when thay crash at 60MPH thay just all fall apart!

I hace belived that thes kinds of tracks wher so fast for them. I can finaly proove my point,

Rest In Peace Dan.

9

Those speeds are reached only on a couple of ovals, mostly Indy, Michigan, Fontana and the High banked 1.5 mile ovals like Texas and Las Vegas. The first three were actually designed for open wheel racing, the latter two were not. As I have stated earlier, it’s the tracks designed for NASCAR that are, in my opinion, totally unsuited for open wheel racing, because of the high banking. The speed differentials between the front of the grid and the back are minimal, causing the cars to remain in a bunched up pack like we saw for the first few laps last weekend. Also, the cars are supposed to fall apart. this is what dissipates the energy which would otherwise kill the driver, like in the sixties and seventies, when they used tube frame chassis. Banning all ovals from Indy Car is wrong. They were designed for ovals.

10

As a Yank, and a die hard F1 fan (US racing does nothing for me) sadly I didnt know who Mr. Wheldon was until last night when I saw the terrible footage. From reading all of the above posts, it sounds like he was a terrific guy, and I am sorry for the loss of a true gentleman, hero, racer, and amassador to those of you who live in the UK, and the rest of Europe. My heart goes out to you, and his family.

RIP Dan

11

24 hours on and it still doesn’t seem real, I remember Senna but was too young to really comprehend it all. Remember watching live on tv when Greg Moore was killed which was very difficult.

This is a massive loss to Britain and the greater motorsport community.

Before I make my point its only right to pay tribute to Dan Wheldon as one of the greatest driving exports this country has ever produced.

2 Indy 500 wins and an Indy title in the space of 6 years puts Dan right up there with any of the British motor racing legends.

The hardest thing about it all is that sinking feeling that it could have been avoided if it hadn’t been for a series of questionable decisions.

Firstly to think that they were even going to let rally drivers, x games drivers etc into the race is almost scary in itself. But the decision to allow a 34 car entry was irresponsible at best and a possible case of gross negligence at worst.

That it was allowed at Las Vegas, a Nascar track that had no place on the Indycar calender only makes it worse. It seems they have been fixated on creating restrictor plate-style Nascar racing despite the dangers being ten fold with open wheelers.

One of the things that struck me was after only a few laps was that cars were already touching wheels and it made you fear the worst, had the crash happened half way through the race you could have maybe put it down to a racing accident but that it happened after only 12 laps showed that the cars clearly were not suited to racing there and it was only a matter of time.

The other scary thing is that there could have so easily have been 2 or 3 drivers who lost their lives in the accident and it was only luck that prevented this.

I’m not calling for resignations or anything like that, what Indycar needs right now is leadership but it also needs to hold its hands up and bring about some fundamental changes for the future.

In my humble opinion the 1.5 mile ovals like Vegas, Texas, Iowa have no place in this form of racing. Places like Milwaukee and New Hampshire yes but Indycar cannot take these any more unnecessary risks with where they race.

I’d be amazed and appalled in equal measure if they return to Vegas next year. The championship needs to build its future on road courses, street tracks, short ovals and of course the Indy 500.

I found last nights viewing the most difficult of my 20 years of watching motorsports and although you can never make racing completely safe lets hope we never see a multiple car crash the likes of that ever again.

It all seems so cruel on Dan Wheldon of course his family, it will take a long time for everyone for it to sink in.

RIP DW

12

Iowa is actually a 7/8ths of a mile track with much lower speeds than Vegas or Texas, which itself is a much safer track as its much wider.

I agree with most of what you’ve said though, safety at high banked ovals needs to be closely looked at and for the sub 2 mile tracks a grid limit would be a very good idea.

13

Good father, good husband, good friend, good racer and already dearly missed. Dan Wheldon, may you sleep among the tall trees.

14

Those who are talking about the “barbaric” practice of putting the fastest guys at the back of the grid and then asking them to rip through the field to win millions of dollars,remember,post 2002 Mosley and Bernie both mulled long and hard about a similar rule to stop the Schumacher juggernaut!

As for the safety concerns on US circuits, the issue is with cars that are reaching ridiculous speeds on ovals that has limited/or no tolerance for errors.The circuits are on par with the best in the world,its the inherent unforgiving nature of ovals and the lack of run-0ff areas that makes motorracing in US so dangerous, and ofcourse some terrible luck. Who remembers Motogp 2010 at Indianapolis when young Peter Lenz died of severe injuries after being runover by fellow compitetors?

15

That runs on the modified f1 track backwards

16

My heartfelt condolences to the family and may Dan Wheldon rest in peace. I don’t think now in hindsight people should call to ban this style of racing. I’m sure Dan wouldn’t agree as he was one of the best oval racers on the planet and brought a lot pleasure to his fans. Indy car has been exceptionally safe over the years despite the dangers. No motorsport or in fact sport of any kind can guarantee 100% safety.

17

This shows why IndyCar need to go through the same process that F1 did after the death of Senna.

RIP Dan. Great character…great driver.

Hopefully his family will be given space to grieve.

18

RIP Dan! You will be sadly missed.

19

I feel I should set something straght for the people that don’t follow/understand Indycar racing regarding safety.

Indycar racing is incredibly safe, Things like the HANS device & rear crash structures (Of which F1 uses a varient) were both developed & 1st run in Indycar. The SAFER barrier run at all Ovals was developed by the Indy Motor Speedway & 1st run during Indycar events.

The cars are also incredibly safe, They have to run to FIA safety standards & drivers have walked away from some really big accidents in recent years, Inlcuding some big 230mph hits at indy.

The biggest problem with Indycar racing is firstly the Dallara chassis been run untill now. Since 2003 its been very prone to taking off & sending drivers into the Catch-Fencing, This is something which the actual indycar series has tried to fix but since it was an inherant problem with the actual Dallara chassis there wasn’t a great deal they could do short of introducing a new chassis (Which they will do for 2012).

The other problem is that Aero package they run on these sorts of Oval. They run a higher downforce package than they should in order to create Pack-racing similar to Nascar Plate racing.

While this racing can at times be exciting to watch & does produces some fantastic finishes (Like at Kansas 2 weeks ago) its not something which should be done everywhere as its more dangerous on some circuits than it is others.

There is no reason for Indycar to stop racing on ovals or stop racing on tracks like this. They just need to do something like what CART did & create an Aero Package which slows speeds, disbands the big packs but doesn’t make the racing less exciting.

CART’s answer was something called the hanford device. A strip of carbon across the bottom of the rear wing which created a lot of drag & a massive hole in the air which brought back the slipstreaming sling-shot pass.

By its very nature Oval racing will be more dangerous because speeds are higher & the walls are closer. Despite last nights tragic events Indycar should not walk away from Oval racing completely, Its a big part of Indycar’s past & there biggest race of the year (The Indy 500) is afterall an oval.

The 2012 car (Which ironically Dan Wheldon helped develop) has a lot of additional safety built into it to prevent the car taking off & getting into the catch-Fencing, This should prevent another accident like what was seen yesterday from happening.

The 2012 car will be a lot safer & with the right aero package they will be able to continue racing on circuits like Las Vegas more safely.

20

RIP Dan. He was such an engaging personality and spoke with such passion for Indycar and I was so happy that he was going to have afull-time ride with Andretti next year.

I really wonder if drivers like Dario and Tony Kanaan will be driving next year. They lost a great friend in Greg Moore, and now Dan.

And a job well done to the Sky sports team and ABC. I would have liked to see the tribute but I can understand that Sky felt the need to end the coverage.

21

I was devastated to here the news first thing this morning, a true tragedy, the Images now locked in my head for ever, just like the Images of Those that went before him, It brings into reality the dangers of the sport, and shows that Indy cars, with their higher speeds, on tracks with concrete walls, are more dangerous than the F1 cars of today, yes its been 5 years since Paul Dana died, in an horrific crash, but 7 others have lost their lives In either Indy,champ or IRL, since Ayrton Senna lost his life, and was the last driver to lose his life in an F1 crash, so maybe its about time the organisers stateside took a look at safety issues….RIP Dan, my thoughts are with your family…..

22

Thoughts are with his family, especially wife and children. Seen him on tv many times and he has always come across as a genuine and likeable guy.

As much as people say that F1 has become too sanitized over the years with the implementation of ever more safety features, in a moment like this you really appreciate the effort put into such things and realise the human aspect of the sport. A great ambassador for motorsport was lost in a display of greed above safety in an effort to entertain the masses(to my mind anyway – too many cars on an unsuitable track).

23

It is a common misconception that American oval racing takes place “between concrete walls.” This is true for many smaller ovals where speeds are relatively modest. However, like most high speed ovals in the USA, the Las Vegas track has SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers rather than concrete walls. The SAFER system mitigates the severity of a crash when a driver impacts the outside wall. The first circuit to adopt the SAFER system was Indianpolis in 2002. Alas, poor Dan Wheldon became airborne and hit the catch fencing above the wall, so the SAFER system did not come into play. It is perhaps worth noting that there are only 5 oval races on the provisional 2012 Indycar calendar, versus 7 street and road circuits. And yes, Las Vegas is on the provisional calendar. I wonder if it will remain so?

– Jeff

24

James.

I was hoping you could lend some insight into television protocal for such horrendous events. I was watching the race live and knew from the first reply that we were dealing with a fatality. Yet we were shown the replay countless times, on board shots, super slow motion replays.

If a footballer has a nasty break on the pitch the brodcaster tends not to show a reply. Why should motor sport be any different? I am sure I speak for the vast majority of fans when I say I dont want to see a replay of a man being killed over and over again.

Thankfully no driver was killed whilst you were working on ITV but I do remember the Kubica accident being an accident that on first viewing we knew could have been badly injured. You and MB must have been around RK a few times by then and no doubt do not want to see the reply of an injured associate over and over again.

I really felt for Eddie Cheever last night who sounded like he was close to tears. Do the broadcasters have any say on the replays been shown and can they request it stop.

25

Sickening to watch, Dan Wheldon was a great driver and by all accounts a real nice guy. R.I.P

That said, and being from the US, I am disgusted with IndyCar. It is a sham of a series that has been torn to pieces over the years and has never lived up to it’s potential.

Why did the cars explode into fireballs? Why are there chain link catch fences with metal poles not 10′ from the track? These are things you simply will not see in F1. Sure racing is dangerous, but this was just ridiculous.

IndyCar, IRL, or whatever it is being called this week needs a serious overhaul. The series should focus on the amazing road courses we have in the US and run a limited number of the prestigious oval tracks. Maybe even just the Indianapolis 500?

Running around picking up the scraps from NASCAR is no way to run a proper racing league.

26

Shane, this was my concern when the IRL was formed. An “open-wheel NASCAR” … it just worried me. I mean, NASCAR always counts on “the big one” (involving who knows how many cars each time) happening at Talledega and, to a lesser extent, Daytona. And the drivers generally hate the restrictor plate rules at those tracks, precisely because the packs are inescapable, where small mistakes cause catastrophe.

Remember when CART went to Texas the first time? They cancelled the race when the speeds were too hight. I recall that the drivers were getting severe vertigo from the G forces – and those were measured as comparable to those experienced by astronauts. When the IRL went there, it was deemed safe, because the cars weren’t as fast. They’ve been too fast for some time now.

It’s spectacular, and scary to watch, and Wheldon paid the ultimate price for sticking to the concept. Hopefully, the new car will mitigate some of the danger.

27

The fire was just flash fire, In order to absorb energy the gerboxes are designed to crumple on impact & when that happens the oil briefly catches fire but goes out almost immediately.

The catch fencing at Indycar tracks are built to the same standard as F1 & there are tracks in f1 which have the catch fencing that close to the tracks.

Do you propose removing the catch fencing so that debris from accidents can go straght to the spectators?

Also Indycar has been moving away from Ovals the past few years, There is only 5 ovals scheduled for 2012, The other 11 are Road/Street circuits.

28

I know, I know… All good points, it was just so awful.

As for the fires, I went back and watched again and all but one car was a flash fire, so… not too bad I guess. One out of 15 or so. The one that did catch fire was completely destroyed at the rear, so I suppose that is understandable.

I guess I am really just sickened by all of it. I know racing is dangerous, but that really just seemed ridiculous. We see pretty bad wrecks from time to time in F1, but it seems like they have really poured some thought and earnest effort into mitigating the danger as much as possible. Running 34 open wheeled, open cockpit cars on that track in Las Vegas was, in hindsight, a very bad idea. It seems like people knew it was a bad idea at the time too, but for the sake of the show they simply pressed on.

I would love to see IndyCar come out of this stronger, hopefully they can pull it together.

29

RIP Dan..Modern open wheelers are now too fast too well handling ( flat throttle ) for banked speedways.Have been now for many years.Rear of the grid chase the cash style races belong on the dirt tracks.Until the IRL wakes up i fear this will happen again.Seems a lot of drivers who would not be qualified to race in most open wheel catagories too easily get a ride in an indycar and be allowed to race at 200mph.

30

There was only one person racing for cash and he didn’t cause the crash

31

Something which should be pointed out is that the new car which will be brought in next year has been designed to try & prevent cars flying over one another.

It has a bumper behind the rear wheels & the bodywork infront of the rear wheels has all been designed to prevent cars been able to launch over the rear wheels.

The floor also extends infront of the side-pod to prevent another cars wheels been able to get into a position to launch over the front wheels.

Next years cars have many things built into them which not only make them a lot safer in the event of an accident but which should also keep cars on the ground.

32

…yes and Dan Wheldon was the test driver for this new car, so a safer Indy car will be part of his legacy. I imagine many a quiet tear will be shed at the start of next season, when drivers strap into their newly designed cars for that 1st Indy race.

33

Rename the main trophy after him as a fitting memorial

34

Its the LEAST they could do. Frankly, I would like to see some heads roll too. This is the United Sates, I know, and here we tend to always inject a little dose of PT Barnum in everything sports related, but the line has to be drawn when lives are at stake.

Indycar and that Vegas track are like oil and water they don’t mix, and that whole business of $5 million for going from last to first, is just a an overdose of PT Barnum, which detracts from the serious nature of this sport (yes I know Wheldon didn’t cause the accident). F1 may have its share of clowns, buffoons and comical moments but they don’t mess with driver safety.

Indycar management has been pathetic and they need to answer to a higher authority. Its the least that can be done to truly honor Dan Weldon.

35

There is a suggestion out there to name the new car DW01 in honor of Dan.

36

How ironic I should mention yesterday’s blog comments about happy memories of Indycars in Mansell’s era then be woken up by this (headline news on BBC Radio 2 no less) terrible news. I, and everyone else here, loves motorsport in every genre it comes in but no-one wants to see this.

My thoughts are with his family and especially his two young children.

37

An awful day for motorsport. Feel terrible for Dan’s friends and family. The tributes pouring in today show how highly respected Dan was in the motorsport world.

I watched the race live and felt uncomfortable watching the opening laps, as there were just too many cars racing close together, and the speeds were insane, so it seemed only a matter of time until there was a serious accident. Sadly in motorsport it often takes a fatality for lessons to be learned and changes made.

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