HANS Saves Device Co-Inventor Jim Downing — Again

jim downing mitty road atlanta
HANS Saves Device Co-Inventor Jim Downing — AgainTrish England

Jim Downing, who introduced motor racing’s first head restraint along with inventor Bob Hubbard nearly four decades ago, was saved from serious head or neck injuries by his HANS in a vintage race last weekend.

Downing, 82, was driving a BMW-powered Toj chassis, built for Group C2, when the crash occurred at Turn 1 on Saturday during The Mitty at Road Atlanta.

jim downing hans
Jim Downing is a co-inventor of the Head and Neck Safety device.HANS Performance

“I could feel the HANS working,” said Downing from a hospital bed at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center following surgery to repair an L2 vertebra discovered after the incident. “Several cars crashed and there was a hole. I went for the hole and a car slid across in front of me. I T-boned it.”

Expected to make a full recovery, Downing said his crash in the Mitty is an example of how difficult it is to know in advance when a head restraint might be needed, citing those who wear one only when mandated. “There are drivers who pretend they can predict when a crash might happen or whether it will be a HANS-type crash or not.”

It was the second time a HANS has prevented a head or neck injury to Downing in a violent crash. In June of 2012, a rear wing support collapsed on the back straight at Mid-Ohio during an SCCA club race. His Prototype 1 car flipped and a trip through the muddy grass detached the roll hoop. He was hospitalized afterward with an upper back injury.

A five-time IMSA champion, Downing wore a HANS for the first time in an IMSA race in Daytona in 1986.

downing mitty hans road atlanta
Jim Downing’s Mitty suffered quite a bit of damage in Saturday’s crash at Road Atlanta.Jim Goodroe