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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2001

Detroit Grand Prix notebook: CART to take HANS-on approach

BY DAVE WOOLFORD
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) drivers will wear the HANS device at all upcoming road races, according to Kirk Russell, CART director of competition.

The question remains, when?

CART mandated last year that all of its drivers must wear the HANS (head and neck restraint system) at oval tracks. CART stated recently that the HANS device would be mandated at road courses starting with the Miller Lite 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington on Aug. 12.

Russell said yesterday that it might be later this season before it becomes mandatory on road courses and could carry over to next season before the final decision is made.

“We set an implementation date for Mid-Ohio,” Russell admitted. “We've got a lot of work to do before then and that's a very aggressive schedule. I don't want to say it will be this season. We've got to work out a few things.

“We have some guys who are using them at all the tracks right now. It's like breaking in a new pair of shoes. You sort of have to know what's going on in regard to how it fits. We are going to do everything we can to move forward with the HANS program and to encourage people to step up and cooperate with us. It's important.

“We know it doesn't matter if you're in road racing or oval-track racing, the HANS device is definitely an appliance that is as significant to motor racing safety as the certified helmet was back in the 1950s.”

Drivers have complained that the system becomes too restrictive on road courses where there's a lot more activity within the cockpit concerning turning both ways, shifting and braking.

Bruno Junqueira, the second-fastest qualifier yesterday, was noticeably bothered by a sore back when he climbed onto the podium following qualifications.

He said it was a product of the HANS device he used while testing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car course. There are between 10 and 12 variations of the device.

PLEASED WITH COURSE: Gil de Ferran, unlike a lot of other drivers here this weekend, had nothing but compliments in regard to the winding, 14-turn Belle Isle course.

He said the island course should remain a permanent site even though popular opinion is that the CART race won't return here tomorrow's 20th Detroit Grand Prix.

“I think this is a great race track,” said de Ferran, the third-fastest qualifier. “It is a challenging race track for the drivers. There is no reason why they could not develop this as a permanent site. The foundation is already there.

“Nature has been very kind to this island.”

But de Ferran, like every other driver, said the track needs repaved.

THREE-TIME WINNER: Paul Gentilozzi, of Lansing, Mich., won his second consecutive Trans-Am race on Belle Isle yesterday. It was his third victory here overall. Brian Simo was second, followed by Johnny Miller.

He has 21 career Trans-Am wins and is tied with former Jaguar driver Bob Tullius for third place in all-time victories.

TOUGH SLOT: Kenny Brack, CART's points leader, will start 10th today, an unfavorable position at a facility where track position is everything because of the difficulty in passing.

“I don't think we are really too far off on the proper setup,” said the 1999 Indy 500 winner, then driving for A.J. Foyt. “It's just not where we want to be right now. It's a difficult race here. You can't make a slight mistake.”



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