Brutal Indy 500 Crash Shows How Far Motorsport Safety Has Come


Had the SAFER barrier not been installed, Sebastien Bourdais may not have survived this brutal crash.

Motor racing is inherently dangerous, but thanks to advances in car and track safety fatalities are mercifully rare compared to 20 years ago. In 1982, Gordon Smiley was tragically killed during qualifying at the Indy 500, and a scary smash-up involving French driver Sebastien Bourdais, who has also raced in Formula One, at last weekend’s race event looked eerily similar. During qualifying on the third lap of the 101st Indy 500, Bourdais lost control of his Honda race car while exiting turn two.

The rear tires appear to lose traction, and as Bourdais tries to recover by countersteering, the tires regain traction at the wrong moment, sending the car slamming hard into the wall. The violent crash flips the car over causing it to momentarily slide on its roof and burst into flames, before flipping back onto its wheels.

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Despite the severity of the impact, Bourdais survived and was still conscious but suffered a fractured pelvis and right hip. He’s since received successful surgery over the weekend to repair his hip and pelvis, but most likely won’t be racing for the rest of the season. Before the crash, Bourdais had set the fastest laps of the day reaching speeds of over 231 mph. Had this brutal accident happened 20 years ago before the SAFER barrier was installed which cushioned the impact, Bourdais may not have been so lucky.

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