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Book Review - Rapid Response

My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life-Saver

by Stephen Olvey

Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life-Saver

Reviewed by Chuck Arehart

As many car enthusiasts are also race fans, we should take a minute to step into the shoes of those who protect the skilled drivers of the racing world. No matter if your tastes are World Rally, NASCAR or Formula One, Dr. Stephen Olvey’s memoir of his 30-plus year career of tending to the wounded of motor sports will give you a new appreciation for what happens after the yellow flag flies and the driver doesn’t simply get out of the car and wave to the crowd.

Alessandro Zanardi’s foreword reveals to the casual fan what a commitment to motor sports (or being at the top of any profession) really entails. When Zanardi lost his legs during a gruesome racing incident in which a fellow competitor knifed through his car, Olvey and his crew—some of racing’s best medical angels—responded quickly and decisively. Alessandro’s description of this and other catastrophic incidents reveal the vast difference between doctor and racing trauma response expert. Zanardi made a full recovery and went on to race again using prosthetic legs and hand controls.

After witnessing the Keystone Kops-like antics of medical response in the early days of the Indy 500, Olvey formed a medical staff that other racing organizations try to emulate. He and his crew convinced the Championship Auto Racing Teams sanctioning body to have dedicated medical staff on hand at each race who would know the drivers and practically have their medical histories committed to memory. Only the best local medical facilities would be on full standby during a race weekend. Olvey has since gone on to research and develop engineering practices specifically designed to enhance driver safety in the race car, resulting in fewer injuries and more lives saved.

When racing hit its stride in the mid-20th century, it was considered to be an activity suitable only for fools or heroes, and it’s truly a wonder that more drivers weren’t killed then. No matter how safe racing becomes, we still occasionally lose those who choose motor sports as their profession. The efforts of Dr. Olvey and his colleagues help keep those events few and far between.

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(Updated: 12/13/11 NW)

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