Books

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Rapid Response: My inside story as a motor racing life-saver

Dr Stephen Olvey. Published by Evro Publishing, £25. ISBN: 978-1-910505-39-7

We know racing depends on squads of trained people, that there must be marshals, rescue crews, and officials, and we know there must be medical help on hand. We see the ambulances, the doctors’ cars, the helicopters standing by and we hope, in the nicest way, that their journey here will be wasted. We don’t see inside the medical facility, the blood stocks, the resuscitators, the oxygen, and we know nothing about the wider planning – local trauma centres alerted, flight plans plotted, translators located. For a major meeting these things are way beyond a circuit’s own facilities; all this has to be arranged and delivered in advance of first practice. This is the reality that Dr Stephen Olvey sets out to explain in Rapid Response.

Olvey was a racing addict from childhood, and a racing doctor for most of his adulthood, joining the Indianapolis medical team while still a medical student before eventually taking charge of the whole trauma response for CART racing. It was Olvey who was responsible for medical care during the CART race at the Lausitzring on a terrible day in 2001 when Alex Tagliani speared into the side of Alex Zanardi’s car. We know the consequences of that vicious impact, and how the Italian has turned his resultant disability into a triumph of spirit, becoming a champion Paralympian. That’s the good element, but Olvey inevitably gives us the other side – what happened in the critical minutes after impact.

IndyCar's Tony Kanaan is treated

He tells us that anywhere in the wider world, Zanardi’s accident would be 100 per cent fatal, that blood loss would have ended his life in minutes. It was only all those preparations, on top of the critical care protocol assembled over years of experience plus an emergency team poised for instant arrival, that stabilised his condition and stopped the last pint of blood draining onto the asphalt. Even then Olvey and on-track doctor Terry Trammell had to short-cut the intended procedure, and decide whether to send Zanardi on a fast local helicopter flip or a longer flight to a major trauma facility. He chose the latter; Zanardi survived. But imagine his anguish had it gone the other way. This is his preface, and it’s not easy to read.

Significantly, the foreword is by a friend of the author – Alex Zanardi himself, who compares the passion of race medics to the passion of drivers, lamenting that they’re only recognised in tragic circumstances. A famously positive individual, he writes: “I would like to think that [Olvey] understands that what I still have in life, thanks to him, is much more than what I have lost.”

It’s a contrast after that tough first chapter to travel back to 1960s America and the staggering lack of even first aid at many tracks. Drivers at Indy were luckier – the Speedway had medical director Dr Hanna, who would lead a general improvement in circuit response and whose ethos Olvey would adopt. Ironically the first injuries Olvey experienced there were to himself. Sliding around in the ambulance on the way to where Graham Hill had had a practice spin in 1966, he’d cut his arms and didn’t realise he was bleeding. Hill looked at him upon arrival and said: “I’m fine, but you look bloody awful!”

I said ‘ambulance’; in fact it was a hearse. Many circuits hired one from the local funeral home as their first aid vehicle, and there was frequently no medical equipment around. Even more shocking is how often the local emergency room was unmanned. It was the weekend, after all. As she threw doctor and injured driver out, one annoyed nurse said: “The surgeon’s on the golf course and I’m not about to call him for any stupid race car driver”.

Finally in 1975 USAC decided to create a dedicated medical team, asking Olvey “…if I knew any doctors willing to go to the races, not get paid, risk their lives, ruin their marriages and perhaps lose their jobs.’ I hastily replied ‘I would!”.

This was the core of what is now the Indycar system, which travels to all meets. Olvey claims it was a world first, though in Europe the International Grand Prix Medical Service began in ’67, and I doubt if his assertion that things were as bad over here as in the US holds up – even the smallest British town would have had A&E in the ’60s. However, Sid Watkins’ afterword fills in that history.

Over the years Olvey became friends with most of the CART and Indy circus and tells tales of parties, blazing pianos and post-race binges – plus bad behaviour. I like AJ Foyt less now. There are grim descriptions: Foyt almost severing an arm, Chip Ganassi apparently lifeless in a wreck, struggling to save Rick Mears’ feet, and Olvey relays them in prose that’s simple and graphic without being sensational. Photos of Derek Daly’s and Danny Ongais’ crashes are shocking, but maybe they’re the only way to convey the violence of these impacts. The photo of Zanardi mid-accident is sickening, though.

“Graham Hill looked at the doctor upon arrival and said ‘I’m fine but you look bloody awful’”

But this book is also about the huge safety improvements we’ve seen in car, track and equipment. As well as attending race injuries, Olvey has deeply researched trauma and rapid response in his day post as a neurosurgeon, especially concussion: he wonders how many accidents were caused by concussed drivers getting back in the car. He pushed for HANS systems early on, but good ol’ US stubbornness often resisted such namby-pamby attitudes until mandated. And the law was always looming: Indy kept two attorneys in the medical centre and Olvey describes pointless pretence of resus on a dead driver so as not to declare him deceased on track. This book illustrates a lot more than just medicine.

Dr Olvey, who continues his racing connections as a member of the FIA Medical Commission and many consultancies, has undoubtedly saved many a life both directly and indirectly. It’s a revealing read, and if it conveys the very worst things in racing, it also depicts some of the best.

You may also like

Related products