Pit Stops

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 auto race. I followed it on TV and was astounded by the many mishaps in the pits. They were all caused by the driver taking off before the crewmen had completed their tasks. This is how races are lost. Sometimes, lives are put in jeopardy as wheels and other parts turn into projectiles, or racing fuel catches fire.

One question bugs me: why is there no “lollipop man” — like in Formula 1? This is a crew member whose sole job consists of monitoring the pit crew to make sure everyone is done. While they work, he holds a “stop” (or “brake”) sign on a long stick (the “lollipop”) in front of the driver’s eyes. Once all crew members signal “clear”, the lollipop man turns the “stop” sign to “go” and jumps out of the way as the driver guns the engine.

This would be a simple solution to an old problem. I can’t figure out why Indy 500 teams are not employing it.¬†Overall, it seems to me that pit stops in Indy racing are by far not as sophisticated compared to what happens in Formula 1.

Watch this clip from a BBC documentary:



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Journalist and media professional currently based in Los Angeles, California. Focusing on science and technology.