until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


What Turvey’s crash meant for his small Formula E team

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Even as Oliver Turvey was being ferried back to the paddock by medical teams after his monster accident at the end of last Saturday’s opening practice session in Rome, the NIO333 team was thinking ahead.

His NIO333 001 car lay forlornly where it had come to rest on the startline and was completely destroyed in the dramatic accident which saw Turvey plough into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne and Jake Dennis at virtually unabated speed.

It was determined to have been triggered by Turvey forgetting that the practice starts were taking place. But it was also contributed to by the end of the grid hatchings being located on the start line, which itself was located on a blind rising kink.

The impact shocked Vergne severely and even a waiting Sebastien Buemi glanced nervously in his mirrors as the rotating NIO333 ricocheted off both the DS and the BMW.

All three were thankfully unharmed in the wreck. Turvey put his team’s collective minds to rest by instantly getting in contact.

“Oliver has been here a while now and everyone likes him, so of course our first priority was his welfare,” NIO333 team principal Christian Silk told The Race as he reflected on the drama.

“He came on the radio straight away and said ‘sorry, guys,’ he was lucid and coherent straightaway on the radio. So that took some worry away.”

Tom Blomqvist Oliver Turvey Nio333 Formula E

While Turvey gathered his thoughts the team got straight to work and quickly ascertained that his survival cell was not raceable. While the wheel tethers had worked as designed, the monocoque had several cracks and had to be replaced.

That meant getting a fresh spare tub from official suppliers Spark Racing Technology, who delivered it immediately to the NIO333 garage.

It was, however, merely a bare unit, which was significant. This was because for the race against time that the team faced to get the car ready, of which the clock was already ticking, it would essentially be doing the new build piecemeal.

Some teams have spare monocoques ‘dressed’ to some degree, usually with fiddly or time consuming components such as uprights and wiring-looms already affixed. It can gain an hour and more for teams should the worse happen. But NIO333 wasn’t one of the lucky few.

“We’re not a big team in the sense that we just don’t carry the built-up spares as some of the other teams do,” says Silk.

“We’ve really tried to optimise our freight as much as possible and cut down on the weight we’re carrying. But unfortunately it burnt us a bit this time because ultimately the mechanics have more work to do and it’s tough when you are against the clock.”

Oliver Turvey (gbr), Nio 333, Nio 333 001

The build was reasonably smooth for the team but as Silk indicates it was also a learning experience, akin to those other teams have done in Formula E over the seasons.

The Andretti team completed a remarkable effort to get Robin Frijns out in time for the 2016 Hong Kong E-Prix, while the Renault e.dams squad did the same after Sebastien Buemi’s infamous Montreal shunt a year later.

Audi also ensured that Daniel Abt was able to start last year’s Mexico City E-Prix but had the luxury of a degree of dressing to their spare monocoque.

“We learn stuff by carrying on and pushing on and seeing what the problems are and how long it takes to get a car together.

“We now know how long it takes to get the car together, we know what we’ve got to do to try and speed up that process next time.

“You know, it doesn’t happen very often that you have a lot of damage like that, but we could well have it again this season. So we need to make sure we’re covered and we can deal with a situation appropriately.”

Silk sought some unique inspiration during the fraught and long day endured by the team last Saturday. It came in the unlikely form of former Williams, Benetton and Ligier designer and engineer Frank Dernie (pictured below).

Frank Dernie Williams F1

Known throughout the industry for his humorous and wise quips, Dernie instilled many of his observations in to a young Silk when they worked together at Benetton in the early 1990’s.

“Frank used to say ‘there’s no such thing as a one-off, it’s just the first of,’ remembers Silk.

“This incident, unless we do something about it, will happen again, at some point. So I just think it would be good for the key stakeholders to sit down and decide what the best way of mitigating against this sort of thing happening in the future.

“Certainly, as a team we will do that because we live and die together.

“We need to have a look at our processes internally and see what we do as a team to try and mitigate against this, and just encourage the whole ecosystem just to give it some serious thought.

“No one likes that sort of thing happening. We’re all working to the same aim, which is ultimately fun, exciting but most importantly safe motorsport.”


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