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Bill Milliken Responds to Fitch SAFER Letter
SAE Fellow and the author of "Race Car Vehicle Dynamics", the bible on the subject, responds to Fitch

WILLIAMSVILLE, NY - May 12, 2002 -- Dear John:

I understand that Indy believes it has installed a "soft" wall. In actual fact they have designed an extremely rigid wall. Anyone who knows the first principles of structures will recognize that the section inertia is so high on the beams they have used that they can't possibly bend or deflect to absorb enough energy. Furthermore, the beam wall thickness is such that they can only buckle or fracture. If they can't bend, the polystyrene behind them--which is the wrong material in any event--is not brought into play.

The idea of a good barrier is to resist breaking or snagging, to bend to absorb energy and to redirect the vehicle without bouncing it back into the traffic stream.

It seems apparent that the engineers who contrived the Indy "soft" barrier were completely ignorant of the history of barrier research and highway applications. The earliest work was done in the 50's at Cornell Aero Lab by Ed Dye and adapted by yourself to the racing scene. I was involved slightly as I served on the board of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Association which was interested in replacing Armco with something that made sense.

It is my guess that the engineers involved in the Indy "soft" wall are in the NIH (not invented here) category who can't imagine that history has anything to offer or if it does, copy it and claim credit. But note--those who copy seldom are aware of the basic principles involved and only do a second rate job. In my judgement, Indy should use you as a consultant and do the job right.

If we at MRA have developed an enviable reputation, it is because we always study history and we try out level best to credit those who have ideas.

I think it is time to give credit where it belongs in this racing safety area and I am sure it is not with those who are learning on the job at great expense in time and money.

Indy is a great institution and I hope it will finally have the safety barriers it deserves.


W. F. Milliken

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