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Subject: Robert Hubbard, invented auto racing's HANS device

He was 75
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Date Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 02:27:48pm

Robert Hubbard, the engineer who worked alongside brother-in-law and IMSA racer Jim Downing to create the HANS device, died on Tuesday. He was 75.

By the 1980s, Downing and Hubbard had reached the conclusion that racers were being killed in crashes because their heads were not properly restrained, leading to spinal injuries and basilar skull fractures. The death of Downing's friend, Patrick Jacquemart, in a Renault 5 Turbo at Mid-Ohio in 1981 was the seminal moment that propelled the project forward.

Per the HANS official website:

"Bobs invention truly changed the world of auto racing safety, and he was a kind hearted person who would help anyone in need. He will be missed greatly."

Hubbard was a professor of materials science at Michigan State University and needed a small business grant from the State of Michigan to launch what became the HANS device project. The first patent for the HANS device was filed in 1985 and Downing first used the device in 1986. The first production model of the HANS was sold in 1991 and North American manufacturers began to invest in the development.

It took a decade for the device to become as widely accepted as it is now, with the Formula 1 deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix propelling the sport toward an increased focus on driver safety.

Gerhard Berger tested a version of the HANS device with Ferrari in 1995. CART mandated the device by the end of the decade.

But it wasn't until 2001 that the device became widely accepted with the death of Dale Earnhardt on the last lap of NASCAR's Daytona 500. The HANS was becoming increasingly prominent in the garage following the deaths of John Nemechek, Adam Petty and Tony Roper.

Downing said that was the moment HANS device sales went from 250 since its development to 250 in a single week. He has estimated that 3,000 were sold by the end of 2001.

The HANS device is now mandated in every NASCAR division and various racing sanctioning bodies across the globe.


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Subject Author Date
He created something that has made auto racing so much safer (NT)Lemnpiper ( sadly some think it made racing too safe as well)Wednesday, February 06, 03:00:25pm

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