HANS Inventors Win Award

Another big step in the recognition of the HANS (Head and Neck Safety) Device was made this week in Indianapolis, as its inventors, Dr. Robert Hubbard and James Downing, were awarded the 35th Louis Schwitzer Award.

Hubbard, a biomechanics professor at the College of Engineering at Michigan State University, accepted a $5000 check from Borg Warner as well as a plaque and garage sign. Downing, longtime sports car racer and five-time IMSA champion, was in Atlanta making HANS Devices.

The other candidates for the award were Dallara for their 2001 chassis update kit, G Froce for their 2001 chassis update kit and suspension modifications, Infiniti for their new Indy 35A engine, and the IRL for their new timing and scoring system.

“I’m extremely grateful to be up here and be receiving this award,” Hubbard said. “I’m grateful for the committee for the selection they’ve make and the support of Borg Warner and the cooperation that we’ve had from the car companies and the sanctioning bodies and the drivers and the teams after a decade of frustration and wonderment of why this thing hasn’t happened.

“Obviously, the tide is turning, I couldn’t be happier.”

The HANS Device was first designed in the mid-80s, but has become more popular in the past few years. In 2000, about 250 were sold. So far this year, around 1,000 devices were ordered.

The HANS Device, used by many CART and IRL drivers, keeps the head on top of the shoulders by sitting on the torso of the driver and being held to the body by the shoulder harness.

The continuing challenges faced by Hubbard and Dowing are to find a way to produce the device at a lower cost and to make it as comfortable to wear for the drivers as possible.

“I think everybody should wear one of these things,” Hubbard said. “But we have to make sure that the device is acceptable to the drivers, and that’s really what I can do and how I can help out,” he continued.

The Louis Schwitzer award was named after the race pioneer who won the first automobile race held at the Indianapolis Speedway in 1909. Past winners of the award include A.J. Foyt, Jim Hall and Gian Paolo Dallara.

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