500 Press Release
NOTE: The following
release dated February 18, 2001 was distibuted at Daytona prior
to that race, with illustrations of the referenced safety devices
attached. Matters not pertinent to the tragedy of February 18 have
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
433 Salmon Kill Road
Lime Rock, CT 06039
at Daytona 500
Win SCCA's Snively Racing Safety Award
John Fitch Honored for
44 Years of Outstanding Contributions,
Accepts George Snively Memorial Award
Rock, Connecticut, February 18, 2001 - John
Fitch's dedication to safety began in 1957 when the subject was a non-issue.
Starting at Lime Rock, he optimized the run-off areas and installed the
first lowered guard rails that prevented post-snagging by race car hubs
for the inaugural race at the then-new road course in Conneticut. Later
he designed the energy-absorbing pit wall-ends for Lime Rock and Watkins
become best known in recent years for safety advocacy that includes spearheading
the drive to pave the gravel traps and to use tire walls or other "soft
wall" ideas only where they cannot pocket and reject cars into traffic.
The need to re-think these practices is convincingly proven by a videotape
of actual racing events produced by Mr. Fitch's company, Impact Attenuation.
Attenuation has created racing safety concepts that await sponsorship
for high-speed demonstration. They are the energy-absorbing Compression
Barrier -- a retrofit for oval tracks, the Displaceable Guardrail for
the infields of oval tracks as well as a replacement for conventional
guardrails on road courses, and a Driver Capsule that provides in-car
protection for high velocity impacts.
The Compression Barrier has two functions on an oval track: energy-absorption
and redirection. It incorporates a row of resilient tubes between the
concrete wall and low-friction steel railings. This provides up to three
feet of energy absorption and the steel facing redirects the car at a
shallow angle, in contrast to so-called soft-walls that snag and reject
cars violently back into traffic.
The Driver Capsule is a trough-like seat incorporating a hinged seatback
that insures that the driver's helmet and torso move in unison at a rate
regulated by a reel attached to the chassis. As described on the drawing,
high speed protection from hyperextension of the neck and basal skull
fractureis unique to this design.
The Displaceable Guardrail for road courses and oval infields features
steel beams mounted to skids instead of to posts imbedded in the ground.
It can slide several feet and redirects cars parallel to the track. It
is ideal for infield barriers on ovals and for road courses wherever guardrails
addition to work in the field of racing safety, John Fitch has been an
innovator in highway safety since 1968 when he invented The Fitch Barrier,
those yellow barrels for protection at exit ramps and bridge abutments
from coast to coast where they have saved thousands of lives in the past
33 years. In 1998 he won The Stonex Award for lifetime achievements in
highway safety by the U.S. Transportation Research Board, part of the
National Academy of Sciences.
is one of the few active in the cause of racing safety who have actually
been racing drivers. He was the first SCCA national champion. He was the
first SCCA national champion. He drove with the Cunningham Team in international
events and managed the first factory Corvette teams at Sebring in the
'50s. He is the only American to have driven for the Mercedes-Benz team,
with teammates Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.
was with that team that his preoccupation with safety began, at Le Mans
in 1955 when his co-driver on the Mercedes team crashed and 85 spectators
were killed, a tragedy that motivated his focus on road safety, for public
roads as well as for racing.
Impact Attenuation Inc.
433 Salmon Kill Road
Lakeville, CT 06039
221 W.5th St. Box D
Palisade, CO 81526