Rubbing, it’s said, is racing, and anyone who’s ever turned a wheel in competition can attest to the validity of that statement. No matter how much you don’t want to bin your race car, when the red mist descends all logic goes out the window. When you’re racing sports cars, bumping, pushing and rubbing usually results in nothing worse than some bent sheet metal and the occasion tire mark down the side of your race car. In fact, show me an SCCA IT class car without body damage, and I’ll show you a racer who simply isn’t trying hard enough.
Switch to formula cars, however, and rubbing can have some pretty dire consequences. Since there’s no bodywork to keep wheels from making contact, it’s up to the driver to keep his tires away from those of his competitors. Failure to do so can easily result in an airborne and inverted race car, and few things in racing potentially suck as much as sliding an upside down race car through a gravel trap at triple-digit speeds.
The You Tube video below is from last weekend’s World Series by Renault race. Heading into turn one, Jean Eric Vergne and Robert Wickens, the series’ leaders, were dicing for position. Nathanael Berthon was closing on Wickens from behind at a high rate of speed, and couldn’t avoid tire-to-tire contact. The accident doesn’t look like much until you watch the onboard footage from Wickens’ car at 1:33 into the video.
No one was seriously hurt in the incident, which is an impressive testament to the construction of modern formula racing cars. Despite DNFing this particular race, Wickens had amassed enough points to take the championship away from Vergne, whose race ended after just 17 laps.