True fans of motorsport the world over would have heard of the name Professor Sid Watkins. The man who, following years of witnessing countless drivers, friends of Dr Watkins, pay the ultimate price in their pursuit of Formula One glory, campaigned tirelessly for improvements to on-track medical facilities. Over time, these facilities were gradually improved and developed into the standard responsible for saving many lives that would otherwise have been lost. Today, Formula 1 is recognised as the pioneer that led the way in the quest to make world motorsport as safe as possible.
While Dr Watkins plied his trade in Europe, across the Atlantic in the United States, Dr Steve Olvey and Dr Terry Trammell were doing essentially the same thing.
The author, Dr Olvey, regales the reader with his compelling, “tell it like it is” account of his life, detailing the stories and experiences which helped transform American motorsport into a world- leader for safety.
The book begins in 2001 at the Lausitzring in Germany, with the first half of the tale of the horrendous crash that claimed two-time CART Series champion Alex Zanardi’s legs, but not his life. From there, the story progresses through a timeline of Dr Olvey’s life, starting with his first attendance at the Indianapolis 500, where he witnessed the fiery accident and death of his favourite driver, Bill Vukovich.
Dr Olvey tells of his movements growing up through college and university, volunteering his time at the Indianapolis Speedway’s infield medical care centre, his interactions with some of the greatest open-wheel racers America has seen, his jump from USAC to the newly formed CART Series as Medical Director, and many more. The book also recalls Dr Olvey’s involvement in treating and rehabilitating drivers such as Rick Mears, Roberto Guerrero, Derek Daly and Alex Zanardi, and also delves into the tragic deaths of Gordon Smiley, David “Swede” Savage, Jeff Krosnoff, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Greg Moore, to name a few.
The concept, design, testing and evolution of many of the in-car and on-track safety devices and procedures is also rigorously examined. Examples of these include the infield care centres, the on-track medical vehicles, and the now standard HANS (Head And Neck Support) device, the worldwide use of which has prevented or reduced the severity of countless injuries which may otherwise have been fatal.
The reader is taken through 40 years worth of experiences in the life of Dr Steve Olvey in 320 pages. Many of the heroes of world motorsport owe their lives to the work of medical professionals such as Dr Olvey, and all the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow know they may partake in this dangerous sport with a renewed confidence knowing their lives are in the best of hands should the worst occur.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award Rapid Response…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.
Rapid Response (© 2006, Haynes Publishing, hardback edition) is available at Amazon.com
This review was written by our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon.