24 September 2021 | General

FLASHBACK: When S5000 passed the safety test

Driver Safety has been key to the introduction and acceptance of S5000 as Australia’s new premier open-wheel category.

And while never wanting to see accidents on-track, a major moment during a key point in this year’s S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship proved the durability and safety of the FIA-endorsed chassis that makes up the backbone of the Rogers AF01/V8 car used by the entire grid.

Ironically, it was a flying start from Valvoline Team GRM driver Nathan Herne that led to the incident at the start of the final race of Phillip Island’s second round of the Gold Star earlier this year.

Starting on the outside of the second row, the 18-year-old Sydney teenager made one of the best ever S5000 starts and rapidly gained ground on the front row – comprised of open wheel veterans Tom Randle and Tim Macrow.

Herne looked to drivers’ right to find a way past the Castrol-backed BRM entry in front, however a diminishing gap saw the front of Herne’s car make contact with the rear wheel of Randle’s.

The impact launched the Valvoline car into the air, approaching a 45-degree angle with three of the four wheels off the ground before bouncing back to earth.

The race was suspended during Herne’s recovery, though the young star was able to climb from his car into the hands of the waiting medical crews.

Incidents where open-wheel cars get air and land heavily are critical in the sport because there are limited crash structures to protect the driver as opposed to a frontal, side or rear impact.

However the strength of the Ligier-Onroak developed chassis – based on their Formula 3 chassis, which meets all current FIA crash standards – worked wonders in protecting the driver.

Herne was taken to a local hospital for precautionary checks however was released the following day and raced in the next round of the championship at Sandown just four days later.

The Carbon-Fibre safety cell includes not only the life-saving Halo device, but thick front-impact bulkheads, an FIA-approved removable seat insert that can see a driver extricated from the car without moving them, and current side-impact protection standards on the sides of the tub itself.

At Sandown, Herne would qualify fourth and finish second in the first heat in a remarkable turnaround from his previous Sunday.

Furthermore, after thorough checks by the Garry Rogers Motorsport crew, he also raced in the same chassis for the remainder of the year, showing just how durable the S5000 package is.

While it was a crash no one wanted to see, Nathan Herne’s aerial exploits at the Island did prove that the Rogers AF01/V8 S5000 racer is as tough and as safe as they come.

S5000 MAGIC MOMENTS: Herne gets air