Having America's two premier sports car series unified under the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship was promising enough for road racing, but being part of the NASCAR family has also already created some tangible benefits for the newly merged series.
Even as its inaugural unified event, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, was still completing its final laps two weeks ago at Daytona International Speedway, the USC was making use of some big-time NASCAR resources.
The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) which sanctions the TUDOR series, loaded two badly wrecked cars up and transported them to NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. for analysis by top NASCAR engineers.
The accident -- replayed on national television broadcasts -- happened three hours into the 24-hour race when a Chevrolet prototype driven by veteran Memo Gidley collided at speed with a GT-class Ferrari that had slowed on track.
Gidley remains hospitalized in Daytona Beach after three surgeries to repair a broken lower back, and fractures to his left elbow, and left foot and heel. Malucelli was discharged two days after the accident and flew home to Italy.
In the meantime, IMSA and NASCAR are examining the cars in the first joint venture between the series.
"It made a lot of sense for us to use the resources we had at the NASCAR R&D Center, the guys there and the ability to do somestudy of the cars after the incident,'" said Scot Elkins, IMSA's Vice President for Competition and Technical Regulations. "It's really the first time we've taken advantage of that resource.
"In this instance, NASCAR engineers are taking a look at the car. The prototype car is quite similar in nature to what they've been looking at because it is a tube frame car. It made a lot of sense to have NASCAR engineers take a look and give us some feedback in regards to the incident. And I'm sure going into the future we'll be working even more closely together with the technical staff and engineers at R&D there's some expertise we'll have that they won't with some of the other type of cars, so it's an ongoing process but one that should be pretty incredible going forward."
Elkins said there is no timeline on completing the results and there wasn't a rush on the report.
"They are a little different cars than what the guys are used to looking at so we're taking a little more time and being a little more thorough that we get all the data we need," Elkins said.
"The whole purpose was to send the cars there and take a look and see if there was anything we could do in the future or if we need to change something. We don't know until we get the results."
As for the drivers, it was good news that Malucelli was able to leave the hospital. Gidley, a hugely popular driver in the paddock, is hopeful to be transferred from Halifax Health to a rehabilitation facility in his native California soon ? possibly this week, according to his team.
A third surgery was performed Friday to repair a fracture on his left heel.
"Memo is a competitive person and a fighter," said Bob Stallings, who owns the prototype Gidley was co-driving in the Rolex 24. "Clearly he is drawing on those strengths as he makes his way through this ordeal."
Stallings said the team has received a huge outpouring of well wishes and that doctors are optimistic Gidley will make a "substantial recovery."
In the meantime IMSA is using all its resources -- which now includes NASCAR's state-of-the-art R&D facility -- to ensure the cars are as safe as possible.
"It's the first time we've done this and just now starting to define our relationship with guys at R&D and it's only going to grow from here," Elkins said.
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