One Holmatro Safety Team crew practices wheeling an IndyCar around an imaginary street circuit corner, positioning it for a fellow member to insert the starter and send the driver on their way. Another reviews driver extrication procedures, while another is updated on Holmatro rescue tool use.
Many of the actions will be utilized during the 2014 IndyCar Series season that commences March 30 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, so on a blustery day in Speedway, Ind., the Holmatro Safety Team gathers at the Dallara facility to review procedures and protocols and get briefed on updates.
“The last race of the year everybody is pretty ready for a break, but by the time our training rolls around they’re champing at the bit to get back at it,” said Mike Yates, INDYCAR’s manager of track safety operations. “As our protocol evolves, this training updates everyone. We have to be prepared for all contingencies."
Holmatro Safety Team members average 20 years’ experience in their respective areas (firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, physicians, nurses) in municipalities and hospitals. Many are leaders in their departments, such as a fire chief, captains and lieutenants.
"That experience is invaluable and the competitors really appreciate that," Yates said.
The Holmatro Safety Team, present at each INDYCAR event, is represented by four-person crews of professional firefighters and paramedics on each of three Chevrolet trucks. Two are safety vehicles with the latest Holmatro rescue equipment onboard, while the third is utilized for track clean-up. Additionally, there are two firemen/paramedics on pit lane to serve as incident command for local pit firemen and a dispatcher in Race Control.
INDYCAR medical director Dr. Michael Olinger and an orthopedic surgeon respond to incidents in a Honda command vehicle. Three nurses, including a liaison with the local medical facility, complement the group.
Yates conducts daily meetings with local track safety personnel during a race weekend to address INDYCAR procedures and provide updates.
A minor but important adjustment this season will be to reorient damaged cars forward as they're lifted by tow trucks. After a Holmatro Safety Team member removes the front wing, a cinch bar will be inserted and tethers will be attached to guide the car.
"I think it will help our efficiency getting the car hooked up and ready to lift, and it will help the attitude of the car as it's lifted to prevent any rear wing damage," Yates said. "We do a lot more than fire and rescue now; we're really an extension of the pit crews for all the cars on track. On a street or road course, when we get to a car, while the driver is checked the other guys on the crew check the car to see if it's been damaged but can be driven back to the pit or if it just needs to be restarted to get it back in the race. We do this all locally and keep the rest of the racetrack green."