Last week at Sonoma Raceway in California drifter Joe Tardiff was involved in a serious accident. Joe was running at the popular Wednesday night drift session following Chris Mills in a tandem train. Chris came into run the wall closest to the crowd when he straightened out and ran into the wall. Almost immediately after hitting the wall Joe came in hot, ready to run the wall, and slammed into him.
Accidents are bound to happen when cars move at high speed inches from each-other. The danger is part of the excitement for racing and drifting; drifting is a safer sport compared to rally cross but still accidents happen. Safety must be more important than what engine you are going to put in the car. Drivers need to factor safety into the cost of their builds, if you can afford the LS3 swap then you can afford fire suppression.
Lucky for everyone involved Sonoma Raceway staff is well trained and well prepared for any accident. Joe was pinned in his seat for 20 minutes by the door and lower frame. Sonoma staff used the jaws of life to cut the door, and roof off of the car, after removing Joe he was rushed to the hospital.
At the hospital the staff determined that Joe had a concussion and a broken pelvis. He was transferred over to UC Davis for surgery.
Everyone wears a helmet when racing but it wasn’t always so. All NASCAR drivers wear a HANS device but it wasn’t always so. Accidents are what change the way people see safety; we hope that this accident will help people to refocus and invest in safety. Drifting is fun and it should stay fun! But.. physics doesn’t care if you are at a fun track day or a full FD comp, 50MPH is the same at both tracks.
I bring all this up because it is up to each and every driver and team to be responsible for their own safety. No one will care more about you life than you. If there is a fire do you want to wait for the track staff to come get you, or do you want to be able to save yourself? Many drift events are held at tracks that have little to no safety staff or gear. You must be responsible for your own safety.
News of Joe’s accident spread quickly on the internet, his willingness to help and positive outlook has given him a large group of friends. Even from the hospital he was sending update to tell people he was OK.
Surgeons went in and placed 2 pins or (new mods) into his pelvis to help it set correctly. Just 2 days later Joe was up started on his long road to recovery.
Many of the events that I cover are in Las Vegas and other hot and humid places. Wearing long pants to shoot pictures and video of cars sucks… But I know that a little sweating is a lot better than getting hit with hot rubber and burned. Drivers take much larger risks in their cars but often do not wear a racing suit. Not only does the suit make you look super sexy 😉 it can also help save your life.
The accident at Sonoma Raceway was a perfect storm, Chris had come to a stop at a wall and Joe had no where to go. The impact sent the K-rails a full foot (why there is barricade and K-rail between the crowd). Chris’s 350Z had a rear bash bar that lined up to do the most damage; the rear bar went in between Joe’s Single door bar and the frame.
The impact could not have happened at a worse spot on the car. With just a single door bar and a 4 point roll bar in back the frame buckled. The door bent inward and the frame pushed in and up, trapping Joe in the car and breaking his hip. The Sparco seat did have head protection that helped keep his helmet from bouncing around and gave his neck a little protection.
Cages and door bars are required for most drifting activity’s, but the bars design and placement is mostly up to the driver (in amateur events). Refer to Formula Drift rulebook section 3.2 for rules concerning Roll cages. As I said before 50MPH is the same if it is FD or your buddy’s in a parking lot. Each driver and team MUST think about safety.
The Formula Drift rules for door bars:
All roll cage tubing in the requirements listed below must be a minimum of 1.5x .095 inch for all materials.All vehicles shall have a minimum of two door bars across each front door opening. The door bars may run parallel, or in the shape of an “X”. If the two door bars do not intersect as they do when forming an “X”, then a minimum of two vertical tube sections shall connect the upper and lower door bars.
There will be a lot of blame to pass around, and a lot of people feel terrible about this accident. We should not blame or shit talk anyone; instead lets come together as a community and improve. Lets just be thankful that Joe and Chris were able to recover from this accident and hope that something like this doesn’t happen again.