Sample Sport Research Paper on Challenges Facing Motorsport Drivers

The number and frequency of accidents in the motorsport racing events have prompted the focus on the challenges facing drivers in this career. Drivers are prone to accidents and injuries. They risk getting internal injuries due to blunt force trauma. Sometimes a driver may not hit an object at high speed or the impact may not be intense, but the driver still ends up dying. Accidents are associated with high speed, track issues, and car safety properties. The number of car and motorcycle racers that have died since the 1960s is massive. Motorsport is known as a dangerous sport and the governing bodies have worked hard to improve the conditions of racing to improve safety. Accidents, however, seem to be still on the rise. Recently, in August, Jules Bianchi got an accident and critically injured himself (Burns, 2014; Johnson, 2014). Recently in August, Kevin Stewart hit a fellow car racer on the track causing him to die instantly (CBS News, 2014). So many racers have died due to different injuries. Examples of racers who have died are; Jim Clark, Eddie Sachs, Joe Weatherly, Ayrton Senna, Adam Petty, Jim Fitzgerald, and many more (Scott, 2011). Compared to other sports, such prevalence of death ranks it as among the most dangerous sports. Not a year passes by without an accident. The incidence of accidents is also high. So many accidents occur and the drivers escape unhurt (Slobounov, 2008).). It is, therefore, important to present the challenges motorsport drivers experience. Knowledge about the challenges can inform aspiring drivers about the risks found in motorsport. The challenges can also be used by sanctioning and regulating bodies to improve the safety of the sport.

The Challenges and Dangers
The Fear of Death
Not many drivers would say that they fear death, but when one of them gets an accident, and they see the events of the tragic death, many of them panic or get demoralized. They feel sad and vulnerable. Considering the number of accidents that occur in the race tracks, one will agree with them that they are vulnerable. Some of them even get angry thinking that the racer’s death would have been prevented if something were done. They are always faced with uncertainty of what will happen next. One time, a racer is fine, the next minute even during practice, a racer gets into an accident and dies. Adam petty died while practicing. He got a basilar skull fracture when his car hit the outside wall head on. Mark Donohue also died during a practice session (Majerus, 2007). Kevin Conley describes what it feels like to be a stock-car or open-wheel drive racer. He noted that drivers are always aware of the dangers involved in racing. The persistent feeling of fear was likened to a normal driver driving down a mountain road, hits an ice patch and has to think quickly of a way of avoiding a fall over a cliff. The drivers are always in a state of panic especially due to the awareness of the dangers of high speeds (Michaud, 2011).

Motorsport racers are prone to accidents with unpredictable causes. Dale Earnhardt is said to have died trying to set off a complex set of safety modifications. Some racers have died due to fires, others due to high-speed collisions. The problem is, the motorsport governing bodies have worked hard to ensure that the racers are safe. Take the example of Scott Kalitta. Kalitta was a drag racer; the only race that requires parachutes. These parachutes are in place for the safety of the racer. If the speed is above 150mph, then a racer should be ready to use the parachutes to reduce speed. Ironically in 2008, Kalitta’s car engine exploded destroying the car’s safety utilities. Kalitta was going at 300mph, and so he ended up hitting the post at the end of the track (Majerus, 2007).
Another case that provides evidence of the uncertainty of the racers’ lives in this career is Allan Simonsen’s death. Allan Simonsen’s car is said to have been one of the modern ones with all up to date safety equipments. How Allan’s car crashed is still unknown, but some scholars have argued that it could be due to sudden deceleration injury. A video recorded from behind shows that Allan’s car gathered speed while its left back tire was on the painted blue line. This section of the track was supposedly smooth due to some wetness. The scholars’ opinions suggest that some improvements on the track could be the causes of accidents that the car racers encounter. Most of the racing safety measures have also been improved after a fatal experience with one of the drivers (Majerus, 2007).
Most accidents have been the driving force behind improving safety regulations and facilities. Jules Bianchi’s accident, for example, has prompted the review of the double yellow flag regulation. Before Bianchi crashed, a fellow racer had lost control at a similar sport. The crane was removing Sutil’s car, and so there had to be double yellow flags. The double yellow flags however did no help Bianchi, and he still ended up crashing on the crane. The proposed regulations aim at virtually controlling the speeds of the car in sections where there are double yellow flags (FIA Accident Panel, 2014). These and many more accidents show that even with the improved safety measures, the causes of the accidents are still unpredictable. There is one race where the starter switched on the green lights before the racers could prepare causing mayhem and accidents in the race track (Slobounov, 2008). Scott (2011) also indicates that at least one wreck happens in every competition. This raises the likelihood of one driver getting hurt, severely injured or dying in a race.

Race Track Injuries
Another challenge that race car drivers face is the kind of injuries that they get in accidents. The prevalence of accidents is high and even though some of them do not die, they remain with paralyzing conditions. During accidents, drivers get injuries due to blunt force trauma, and penetrating traumas. These cause spinal cord and brain injuries that destroy their ability to race again and even their mobility. Some of them become paralyzed and remain in wheelchairs all their lives. There are certain deceleration injuries that cause internal injuries to the body organs mostly leading to death. The fatality of these injuries also places the motorsport in the category of the most dangerous sports. Apart from the many deaths that are related to the motorsports, the injuries are also severe (Slobounov, 2008).
Slobounov (2008) indicates that brain injuries can lead to depression, headaches, inability to think and reason, vision problems, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, dizziness, and balance problems, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. These warning signs may also be seen in post-concussion syndrome. The driver experiences the pain of losing a career, becomes psychologically damaged, remains with the physical injuries, and the family’s welfare is also affected (Slobounov, 2008).
Types of Cars
There are saloon cars that have the cockpit enclosed and single seat cars with their cockpits open. The saloon car has plenty of room in its cockpit while the single seat car has its cockpit cramped with little room for the legs. Due to the open nature of single-seat cars, the drivers of these cars are prone to head and neck injuries. It is very easy for their heads to be knocked by objects that they encounter during an accident. They are also at risk of getting injuries from penetrating trauma (Minoyama & Tsuchida, 2004).
In Minoyama and Tsuchida (2004) it was established that there was a higher rate of head/face injury. This is because of the reduced chances of a racer hitting his head on the steering wheel in saloon race cars. In saloon race cars, however, there are a lot of tension forces on the neck due to the space available. On impact, the racer’s head has nothing to rest on or hit making it stop abruptly. Such forces cause more of neck injuries than sometimes extend to the head (Minoyama & Tsuchida, 2004).
Track Issues
The unsuitability of the track is also another challenge. There are times that accidents are caused by the type of track. An example is the case of Dan Wheldon. So many drivers of the IndyCar World Championships in October 2011 noted that the track was not suitable. The drivers only indicated that it was risky since any small mistake led to a massive wreck (Michaud, 2011).
Hidden Dangers in the Cars
Race car drivers are sometimes exposed to the car fumes for all the time that they spend racing. A race may take six hours and during all this time, the driver has no alternative except to stick to the track and hope to win the race. Another challenge that the drivers experience is exposure to carbon monoxide. This once happened to Brad Keselowski. He got exposed to carbon monoxide from damaged squash boards. He was lucky that his carbon monoxide levels were detected before he could go for his race. Another issue is the risk of getting blood clots. Stock car and open wheel race car drivers are at risk because they have limited movement and are always seated for long hours in the cars during competition, and practice (Bauer-Herzog, 2010).
The main cause of the challenges the drivers are facing is the risk of getting an accident and the actual accidents. The world motorsport governing bodies, however, have worked hard to improve the safety of the races. Every serious accident informs the sanctioning bodies of the necessary steps in making the tracks safer. The runoffs have been made wider and even the fastest corners. There are high-catch fences and strong tire barriers. The high-catch fences have been put in place to prevent race cars flipping over to the spectator’s side. They are also designed to absorb some forces on impact so that the drivers do not get severe injuries. This is why most drivers even though they have crashed a number of times, they have managed to escape unhurt. The high-catch fences were developed after incidences of cars flying high into the spectator area. An example of the high-catch fences serving its purpose is when Kyle Larson’s car hit the fence during the NASCAR Nationwide series. The car was flipped back onto the race track, but some of the spectators still got injured from car parts and debris that flew into the stands (Minerva, 2013). When the drivers are involved in accidents, the probability of them hitting their heads and getting brain injury is high. Because of this, improved helmets have been developed. There are also HANS neck-protecting devices that prevent such injuries during racing. In some cases, the racers died because the medical team or rescuers could not reach in time. Trackside medical team service has improved and even included trauma specialists and evacuation helicopters. In Williamson (n.d) there are about 36 formula one car drivers who have died due to accidents in the race tracks or during practice from the 1950. This number is not exclusive as there are other motorsport accidents that have caused the death of drivers and spectators. There are also recent accidents such as that of Stewart and Kevin ward. All of these 36 drivers died from severe neck or brain injury or both. This explains the focus on HANS devices and improved helmets that can protect the drivers in case of an impact (Williamson, n.d).
The best solution so far is to improve the safety of the drivers, which NASCAR has done very well. The organization still works to improve safety irrespective of the already made steps. Every accident informs the next step, if the high-catch fences should be rectified and made of material that absorbs impact forces. There are drivers who died from internal injuries due to all impact forces going direct into their bodies. They showed no signs of injury from the accidents but after autopsies, revealed several internal body damages. Motorsport cannot be 100% safe, but the risks involved are too high. It is however understandable that it is all about high-speed driving which is almost a guarantee of accidents. The main problem is the speed and the time spent on the race tracks. Other drivers also deliberately attack others on the race track. This happened in the case of Stewart and Kevin Ward. Although Ward made a mistake by trying to confront Stewart on the race track, the act of pushing Ward off the track was unacceptable. Senna is also another driver who owned up to his mistakes of pushing drivers off the track (CBS News, 2014). If the regulation bodies could find a way of managing the speed, then the number of accidents could reduce. The speeds lead to high impact, and they cause abrupt deceleration injuries. It is ironical that the speed is the main feature of the sport. It seems that all the regulating bodies can do is to make improvements regularly as they have always done. In Bianchi’s case, the FIA now plans to regulate speeds virtually in places of double yellow flags (FIA Accident Panel, 2014).

The death rate is too high in motorsport. A common type of injury is also fatal; spinal cord, brain, and neck injuries. The kind of challenges covered in this research concerns the stock-car and open-wheel drive cars. If challenges from motorbike racing would also be included, then the level of risk would even go higher. Regular assessments and reviews should be done to on previous accidents and challenges that drivers have faced, and new regulations on safety developed. Drivers’ attitudes and actions affect their actions in the track and their safety. Hidden car dangers, race track problems, and car type, all influence their safety in the race tracks. If the sport is still to impress its fans and achieve its objectives, more than what is already implemented in safety matters should be done.

Reference List

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