Motor racing: New safety plan for Indianapolis

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The Independent Online
ORGANISERS WILL be trying everything in their power tomorrow to ensure that the Indianapolis 500 tomorrow goes safely and that the 400,000 fans are well protected.

The event will be the first for the Indy Racing League, the four-year- old rival to the more established CART Indy-car series, since a wheel and suspension parts flew into the grandstand in Concord, North Carolina, on 1 May, killing three fans and injuring eight others. "The story of this race needs to be about racing, not tragedy," said the Dutch-born Arie Luyendyk, a two-time Indy winner who will retire from the cockpit following the chequered flag. In an effort to avoid another fatal wreck, the cars will be fitted with cables designed to keep wheels and suspension parts out of the crowd. "I'm glad the IRL has addressed this situation so quickly, but I'm going to be sure I'm not the first one to test it," said Billy Boat, who will start from the outside of the front row. Tethering wheels could add to the danger for drivers because the tires might rebound into the open cockpit during a crash. But Leo Mehl, executive director of the IRL, believes the new safety system will be better for everyone. "The more we can keep attached to the race car, the better off the driver and the fans are going to be," Mehl said.

Like most of the drivers, Luyendyk shrugged off the added danger. "It's inherent in our business that the driver is always in jeopardy," Luyendyk said.

Although everyone is talking about the safety of fans, once the green flag waves the action on the track probably will produce one of the most compelling races in years. "I really believe there are 15 guys out here who could win the race, including me," said defending champion Eddie Cheever, who aims to become the first driver to win consecutive Indy 500s since Al Unser Sr in 1970-71.