SAFETY CONCERN: IndyCar driver Justin Wilson's death has sparked a review of driver safety. Image: Twitter
HOUSTON, Texas - Tributes continued to pour in following the death of British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, along with renewed calls throughout the motor racing world for a review of driver safety in the sport.
Wilson, a former F1 driver and seven-time winner in IndyCar racing, died after suffering a severe head injury during a wreck in the closing laps of an IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania on Sunday (August 23).
Read: #RIPJustin: F1 mourns another death in the family
Wilson's Andretti Autosport team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay posted on Twitter: "Can't describe the sadness I feel for the loss of such a wonderful person. Justin was inspiring in so many ways & still is."
'EPITOME OF A GREAT GUY'
Graham Rahal, son of 1986 Indy 500 winner and former Jaguar F1 manager Bobby Rahal, said in a statement: "Some things in life just don't make sense. I know there's always a plan, but this one doesn't make any sense to me.
"Justin was the epitome of a great guy, an incredible team mate, great father and a wonderful friend."
The death of Wilson, who never regained consciousness after he was struck in the helmet by debris from a car he was following before he slammed into a wall, has sparked widespread calls for the introduction of closed cockpits, or canopies.
Former F1 driver Lucas di Grassi of Brazil said on Twitter: "It's not only safer, it is more aero efficient, therefore, the future.
"Canopies will be used in every single formula (open-wheel) series in the future. Not only for safety, but for aerodynamic improvement."
Hunter-Reay, who won the Indy 500 last year, felt that his sport was continually working harder on safety issues but that more could still be done.
Hunter-Reay said: "These cars are inherently dangerous with the open cockpit like that, head exposed.
"Maybe in the future we can work toward something that resembles a canopy ... something that can give us a little protection and still keep the tradition of the sport."
Since 1966, there have been 18 deaths in IndyCar (which includes the series' previous incarnations as Champ Car, CART and Indy Racing League). Eight alone have come at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all but two on ovals.
Wilson was the first IndyCar driver to die following a race accident since fellow Briton, Dan Wheldon, was killed in a fiery crash in Las Vegas in October 2011.
Wheldon's death also triggered calls for safety reviews in a sport that involves tightly-bunched cars competing on high-speed, high risk ovals unique to American open wheel racing.
Safer Walls, collapsible barriers designed to cushion impact, are now standard at ovals like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while the mobile hospitals and state-of-the-art trauma centres pioneered by IndyCar are fixtures at every race.
The HANS (Head and Neck Support) device was developed in the United States and is now mandatory in most levels of motor racing from F1 to Monster Trucks.
Read: #RIPJustin Indycar racing takes grim toll
Bobby Rahal told Reuters: "The high speed ovals certainly represent the greatest risk because of the speed, because of the concrete wall and lately because of the closeness of the racing, which is far closer than it is in F1.
"The cars are very safe today but there is still that ultimate risk regardless and that will always exist. When you are side-by-side or three abreast it doesn't take much.
"A little movement on a road course wouldn't mean very much but a little movement on an oval might take out four cars."