Rants, Recipes and Ramblings

Viper Crash at PIR

Back in 2002 I was the in-car instructor for a student in a Dodge Viper.  I had a copy of the incident report on my old site along with a video of the incident.  Over the years copies of this video have sprung up on websites all over the place.

Here is a better copy of that video along with the official report I files (with names redacted).

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

Oh, that morning one of the other instructors had a camera crew up on the roof of the Buddy Jobe suites at the end of the front straight testing out a new HD Camera.  That’s why the video is in “wide-screen”


Text of the Report that I filed about the incident (names removed)

Analysis of On-Track Incident at Phoenix International Raceway €“ November 30, 2002

Student:            Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx
Scottsdale, AZ

Vehicle:            2000 Dodge Viper Roadster

The morning began with an on-track “station-wagon” session.  During this low speed introductory event I took Mr. Xxxxxxxx out for a ride in my 1988 Porsche 944 to show him the line that would be presented to him in the classroom and to show him some of the points of interest that he should pay particular attention to.  In particular I showed him the areas that I always stress during these ride-along sessions:

  1.     The need to late apex T2
  2.     The importance of treating T7 as a constant radius, even though the track looks like it is moving out and in on you, so that T8 is a non-event.
  3.     The Proper line through NASCAR 3 and 4 so as to not run the risk of getting to high on the track where there are €œmarbles€ and to not get to low so as to stay above the yellow and white line on the exit of T4.  During one of the laps I actually took him below the white line so that he could feel the transition and explained what to do if he were to find himself in that area.
  4.     Told him that every student drives through the Oval the first couple of times at around 60 miles an hour which in turn helps to keep them below our established speed limit.
  5.     Showed him that he is to carry his speed through T1 and use the NASCAR pit boxes between T1 and T2 as his breaking and downshifting area.

When the students were released from their first classroom session I was waiting outside and seeing Mr. Xxxxxxxx I asked him if he had an instructor to ride with him yet.  He did not, so I climbed into his car and directed him to drive up to the grid in the cold pits to wait for his session to begin.

While sitting in his car waiting to be released to go on track I asked him some questions about his car and how long he had owned it.  He indicated that this was his second Viper and that he had not done any schools before but that he had driven on PIR during a ride around session during a Grand-Am event.

As I normally do I reiterated to him that this was not a race session and that we would not be allowed to pass on the corners, just on the designated straights and that there was an established speed limit on the front straight of no more than 100 miles per hour.  I told him the saying that I tell every student and prospective student, “you drove the car out here and you want to drive it home”, therefore, “only drive the car to the level that you feel comfortable doing ” don’t push it.

With that said we eventually headed out onto the track.  The first four or five laps were uneventful and I found myself quite impressed that by the second lap he appeared to have mastered the concept of T7, albeit at a fairly low speed but on the line nonetheless.  He was driving correctly through the pit boxes between T1 and T2 even though some of the cars in front of us were off this line.  His entrance to T2 was not quite late enough but was starting to get better with each lap as he saw the benefit to turning in later each time as I explained to him upon exiting T3.

Eventually we found ourselves with only one car, a BMW Z3, in front of us as we exited T9 onto the Oval and Mr. Xxxxxxxx stayed low on the exit and the Z3 stayed high to wave us by when we passed.  This would be his first trip down the front straight were he was not following another student or Novice Street Session driver.  He transited through the Oval at almost 70 miles per hour with a comfortable line and speed that did not present any noticeable feelings on the senses. Once onto the front straight he opened up the throttle a bit but maintained the established speed limit. In fact he indicated later, although I did not actually feel it, that he brushed the brakes once to stay under this limit.

On turn-in for T1 he put in the clutch and I believe went down from fourth to third and then second and let out the clutch before I could say anything.  As soon as he let the clutch back out the rear end locked up and around the car came.  I then found us sliding passenger side first toward the wall and the T1 worker area.  At first I thought we were going to miss the wall and if Mr. Xxxxxxxx had moved the wheel slightly with the direction of the spin to bring the nose back around rather than into the spin try and stop it we would have.  As it were we hit with a glancing blow and came to a rest a short distance away and on the gore area between the transition of NASCAR 1 and the Road course T1 facing toward the rest of the cars coming through T1 and looking out through the now raised hood of the vehicle.

I restrained Mr. Xxxxxxxx from exiting the vehicle until the corner workers had secured the area with yellow flags (which were out and waving immediately) and that the emergency crew had arrived to act as a roadblock for us with the wrecker.  Once they arrived and parked in front of us I allowed Mr. Xxxxxxxx to exit the vehicle.

While waiting in the vehicle for the above to occur I gave the corner workers a €œthumbs-up€ to indicate that we appeared to be ok and uninjured and started the debrief with Mr. Xxxxxxxx when he asked “what did I do wrong?”  I told him that the incident was caused due to his downshifting as he entered T1.  He indicated to me that “no one” had told him not to do that.  I did not argue with him as that was not the time or place given his current state of mind and agitation but I know that I mentioned it during the station wagon session as this is part of my normal delivery during those sessions and I know that this is a topic of one of the slides during the PowerPoint presentation in the first classroom session.

Once out of the vehicle we were checked over by the Ambulance Crew and Mr. Xxxxxxxx was actually transported back to the infield while they took his vitals and filed out there evaluation sheet on him.  I stayed out to walk Ralph Evans and Gene Felton through a quick review of what had happened and looked at the point of impact with the T1 wall.  I then walked back to the paddock area to collect Mr. Xxxxxxxx from the ambulance crew and sit him down for a bit of a more formal debriefing.

I took him to the picnic table by Mr. Mort’s mobile canteen and bought him a Coke to help settle his nerves.  About this time the wrecker crew showed up with his car and I left him to find a spot for them to set it down and to get borrow some jack stands to set the nose on so as to make it easier to pick backup later when the car would be transported out of the facility.

When I returned to Mr. Xxxxxxxx he had already talked to Al Box of Fat Albert Auto Body about having his car transported to his facility for repairs and a wrecker had been called to come collect the vehicle.

Mr. Xxxxxxxx and I continued our debriefing as to what caused the incident and I collected his personal information so that I could prepare this report for him and for ASRA.

I told him that he because he had slower cars in front of him for his previous trips down the front straight they had helped to modulate his speed, braking and line to the point that he had not had an issue before the incident since he had not actually been able to get up to the speed limit and therefore had not needed to actually brake as much as he found himself needing to do once he was out front.

Once we had concluded our talk I took Mr. Xxxxxxxx over to meet with Ralph Evans so that an Incident Report could be completed and so that Ralph could assist Mr. Xxxxxxxx – in properly reporting this drivers school incident to his insurance carrier for coverage.

David W. Riddle
ASRA Driving Instructor 11470
SCCA National License 286699

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