Yellow Yellow Yellow: The IndyCar Safety Team (2017) "The unsung heroes."
Yellow Yellow Yellow: The IndyCar Safety Team (2017)
Film Genre: Documentary
Director: Michael William Miles
Runtime: 44 minutes
In motor racing, the yellow flag signifies a danger on the track. Sometimes it's nothing more than a piece of debris that has fallen off one of the vehicles or from the stands, but usually it is a car (or multiple cars) stopped on the track after a problem or a collision. IndyCar is one of the few racing series with its own dedicated safety team that travels to all of the races - the Holmatro Safety Team, led by Michael Yates and Mike Carey. They are the first on the scene when an accident happens (within seconds of the impact), stopping possible fires and administering first aid if necessary and cleaning up the wreckage. Later, IndyCar safety personnel analyze the crash data to try and prevent similar accidents in the future. The IndyCar Safety Team does not seek fame or recognition, they simply aim to do the best job they can and make sure nobody gets hurt.
Yellow Yellow Yellow consists primarily of interviews with the Safety Team members and IndyCar safety personnel, along with a few IndyCar drivers. The most prominently featured driver is James Hinchcliffe, who was seriously injured in the final practice session for the 2015 Indianapolis 500 race when a broken suspension rod pierced his thigh and pelvis during a massive high-speed crash into the barrier. The popular Canadian racer would make a full recovery and compete again the next season, but as he himself states, things might have turned out much worse without the efforts of the Safety Team. The documentary doesn't go into detail on how close the situation was, but an article written by Hinchcliffe in Men's Journal a year later (content warning: detailed textual descriptions of injuries) describes that it was a matter of minutes.
While Hinchcliffe's story forms the core of the documentary and provides it with a feel-good ending as he takes pole position in the 2016 Indy 500, we also get to see some of the advanced safety equipment used by the team. None of it gets very in-depth as this is clearly a documentary aimed at a general audience, but seeing all the equipment these guys use to simulate accidents and use the data to improve safety even further is quite fascinating. I wouldn't have minded a deeper look into IndyCar's safety in general, but this film is meant to be about the team first and we do at least get a decent glimpse at recent safety improvements such as the SAFER barriers on oval tracks.
The focus on the people may also be the reason for what I thought was a strange omission - the complete lack of talk about driver head protection, or more specifically cockpit protection to prevent drivers from getting struck on the helmet by loose wheels or bodywork. This has been a hot topic for several years, not only in IndyCar but in Formula One as well, and both series are planning to introduce cockpit protection devices (F1 has the unsightly "halo" device bolted on the 2018 cars, whereas IndyCar is testing their windshield solution and potentially incorporating it later this year).
While it may not contain any new information for hardcore fans and its short runtime doesn't allow the filmmakers to go particularly in-depth even if they wanted, Yellow Yellow Yellow is a nice glimpse at the oft-forgotten heroes of motor racing and the safety measures used on today's race tracks.
Yellow Yellow Yellow: The IndyCar Safety Team is available on Amazon Prime Video in selected countries.