Safety car: What you need to know about safety cars in motorsport image

For those who don’t know a safety car limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack in the case of a caution period such as an obstruction on the track.

When a safety car a pace car is deployed, overtaking is not permitted, and the safety car leads the field at a pre-determined safe speed, which may vary by series and circuit. At the end of the caution period, the safety car leaves the track and the competitors may resume racing. The first use of a safety car in automobile racing was at the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911. At that time a Stoddard-Dayton driven by Carl G. Fisher was used.

Formula1 Safety car
The Safety Car has been a regular part of Formula One for the past fourteen years although it first appeared long ago in the chaotic 1973 Canadian Grand Prix. On that occasion its arrival was a complete disaster. It failed to pick up the leader and therefore gave half of the cars a one lap advantage.

The safety car is on standby throughout a Grand Prix, ready to be dispatched by Race Control at a moment’s notice. State-of-the-art radio and video equipment enable communication to be maintained at all times. The Safety Car must be quick enough to prevent the F1 cars from losing pressure in the tyres and temperature in the brakes.

The F1 Safety Car (SC) has both yellow and green lights mounted on its roof in the form of a light bar. The green light allows the driver just behind the SC to pass. This is done so as to allow cars between the SC and the race leader to overtake the SC and continue at reduced speed and without overtaking until they reach the line of cars behind the SC. Once the race leader is right behind the SC, the yellow lights go on.

For 2011 the Official F1 Safety car is the Mercedes SLS Amg. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG has the best possible credentials for this demanding role in the top flight of motor racing: its 6.3-litre V8 engine has a peak output of 420 kW (571 hp) and a maximum torque of 650 Nm, enabling the gullwing model to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds.

Nascar Pace car
The first safety car or pace car was used at the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911. At the wheel of the Stoddard-Dayton at the 1911 “500” was Carl G. Fisher, one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although 2011 marks the 100th anniversaries for Chevrolet and the Indianapolis 500, the connection can be traced back to as early as 1905.

That year, Louis Chevrolet and Carl G. Fisher competed while touring the Midwest as daredevil drivers in racing exhibitions, and the excitement of automobile racing shaped the fortunes of both men.

A special-edition Chevrolet Camaro Convertible will be the official pace car of the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet will produce 500 matching replicas of this special Indianapolis 500 Pace Car so that enthusiasts can purchase their own piece of history.

Other motorsport safety cars
MotoGP – BMW 1 M
DTM – Mercedes C63 AMG