Our friend Ralf Becker posted this video, from Dogfight Magazine, on his own site and it was simply too good not to share. I’ll warn you in advance that parts of it are hard to watch; there aren’t details given, but you know that some of the drivers didn’t survive the wrecks shown. The only thing that mattered in those days was speed; even handling took a back seat (no pun intended), and safety was a complete afterthought. Helmets were made of leather or stiffened fabric, at least until they started using fiberglass. Most had a simple cotton strap suspension system that did virtually noting to prevent injury. Coveralls were cotton, but they eventually started treating the material with fire resistant chemicals. It took huevos mas grande to run with the big dogs back in the day, and very few racers made it to retirement age. Video below.
It’s been 10 years since Dale Earnhardt’s death at the Daytona 500, 17 years since the tragic loss of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix and 5 years since the death of Paul Dana in the IRL. Tracks have embraced improvements like the energy-absorbing SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier and sanctioning bodies have mandated safety devices like the HANS head and neck restraint. Most have even policed who gets a license and who doesn’t, but that’s not the case across the board (for example, can anyone tell me why Milka Dunno has a competition license?). Even with all the improvements, racing remains a dangerous game, and it isn’t a question of if another driver is killed, only when.