Rapid Response – how careless torque costs lives
05 September, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Stephen Olvey in Rapid Response
Directed by Michael Miles and Roger Hinze
When you drive a super-charged car very, very fast round and round in circles, and the aim is to be quicker than another person in another car on the same bit of Tarmac, obviously there is a fairly good chance something unpleasant might happen.
Rapid Response charts how medical care in the sport of motor racing has changed over the past 50 years – and how advances in on-circuit triage, emergency response and research into driving has helped make the sport much safer (though of course still extremely dangerous).
This is a very well-researched film, with interviews with people such as Stephen Olvey, a key figure in medicine and motor sport. As a child he had loved the Indianapolis 500, and as a medical student got a job helping the one doctor at the track… and then became a world expert in looking after drivers.
When he started, motor sport was accepted as being something that led to drivers having absolutely horrendous crashes – one in seven drivers died at the Indy 500 over the years – and there was a horrific number of fatalities. Yet very little was being done to ask why, and what could be done to make it safer. Here is where Dr Olvey stepped in. The film is based on his memoirs, and what is striking is how the sport has helped trauma medicine, in much the same way the mechanics who design and build the cars have helped car technology. Racing has played a role in areas such as concussion research and advanced orthopaedic surgery.
Other figures such as Dr Terry Trammell, whose expertise in orthopaedics has made him a go-to among race drivers are included. The drivers themselves – from those who flew round circuits in absolute death traps to modern speed freaks who have an array of technological advances to help them reach the chequered flag safely – speak candidly, meaning this film leaves no questions unanswered.
But despite the careful tone and the informative approach, there is something deeply uncomfortable here too – co-directors Hinze and Miles have found hours of footage of frankly disturbing crashes, some fatal, and it makes this a very unpleasant film to watch. Many will say they simply do not need to spend 90 minutes in a cinema watching cars flip, smash and burst into flames when you know another human is inside.
While it tries to deal with this in a sensitive and careful way – and the story it tells is fascinating – the images will haunt you for some time.