Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Will We Ever Find out What Caused This Gut-Wrenching 145 MPH Crash at Road America?

Robert Dubler has been a staple driver on the long-running One Lap of America tour, competing in each of the past 12 years. I first met him when I did the One Lap race back in 2005 and he immediately struck me as one of the most charismatic character on the tour: the Clint Eastwood of Switzerland and The Wizard of Oz monikers equally apply. Dubler is also one of the best drivers I have ever met: he was driving a Pontiac Grand Am P.O.S. rental back in 2005 and he was usually running in the top half of a field where well set up cars with 300-400 HP were considered just average.

Needless to say, I was shell-shocked to hear that Dubler had a horrific 145 MPH crash and rolled the car over the fence at Road America during the 2012 One Lap event. How could that be? I've seen him drive and I know what he is capable of. Then I found this intense and absolutely horrifying in-car video of his crash.

What would possess a superbly experienced driver like Dubler to turn his CTS-V wagon deliberately off track at 145 MPH? Look where his car is pointing right before the crash:

NOTE: The owner has removed the video from YouTube.

This happened in Turn 8 at Road America during the last road course event on the 2012 One Lap calendar. The CTS-V wagon had been flawless up until that point. You know Dubler must have had no brakes to turn the car in such a suicidal way. Dubler attempted to brake for the turn and the brake pedal went to the floor without returning. Sensing he had no brakes, in a split-second decision Dubler cut infield of the turn to scrub some speed off and avoid hitting the outer wall head on. It's like cutting your own arm off to give yourself a chance to survive. Pause the video at 0:23 and you will see that the car is intentionally aimed to get as close to the inside wall as possible, just missing the event photographer in white shirt on the left.

When the car came in contact with the inside curbing, the right front suspension (wheel, brakes, hub, part of upright) ripped from the chassis and tucked under the car, causing it to pitch up and into the gravel trap. The car then rotated 180 degrees, hit the wall, and flipped 4-5 times over the wall (the in-car cam broke free on the second roll). The CTS-V landed wheels down and amazingly, Robert walked right out of the car without a visible scratch. The car had no roll cage. That Robert survived the crash is a testament to the CTS-V's structural rigidity (even though the doors did open during the crash.)

The CTS-V wagon back on the trailer after a horrific 145 MPH crash

Coincidentally, the exact same thing happened to another CTS-V (this one a sedan), which rolled over the fence at Road America's Turn 12 during the 2010 One Lap event. That car crashed on the recon lap and it was assumed at the time that the crash was related to poor bedding of the pads to the rotors. It may be too much of a similarity with Dubler's CTS-V to chalk it up to coincidence. It is quite possible that there was a mechanical/electrical brake system failure due to a specific combination of variables (speed, pitch, yaw, etc.) Brock Yates Jr. was recently quoted as describing the condition as "ice mode" in the ABS system. In essence, due to the car's aggressive slip angles, the computer falsely calculates conditions specific to driving on ice and only allows a small percentage of the brakes to be applied, so the tires wouldn't lock up.

The CTS-V wagon's right front suspension was ripped out in the crash

This "ice mode" mystery should be easy to resolve with the data logged in by GM's in-car black box, better known as OnStar. After two very similar and well documented crashes, shouldn't someone be looking at the speed, pitch, yaw, and ABS data logged in the final seconds leading up to the rollover? Robert Dubler was very lucky to survive this insanely scary crash. He would be relieved to know what caused it.


  1. To the author:

    Why don't you just call up Dubler Racing and ask him what happened instead of writing this BS article full of "what was he thinking" and "we'll never know" crap? ANYONE who is involved with racing knows that brake failures happen. It's just part of racing.

    And the GM "Black Box"?!?! Are you retarded? There is no such thing as data logging that will give you that kind of accuracy down to the second in a production made car!

    Do some research before making BLIND posts on the internet!

  2. Ah, looks like we struck a chord here. Why do you assume we don't have our story straight? Do you really think we are making up this stuff: "Dubler attempted to brake for the turn and the brake pedal went to the floor without returning. Sensing he had no brakes, in a split-second decision Dubler cut infield of the turn to scrub some speed off and avoid hitting the outer wall head on?" Maybe Robert just thought he'd cut through the infield at 145 MPH to shave a second or two off of Turn 8?

    Insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who volunteer to share their car's OnStar data with them. You are correct: we don't know the level of data that is logged in by OnStar. We know that the data is available to the CTS-V's computer for the electronics to be able to control the car. Storage is hardly an issue. Why wouldn't vital data like pitch, yaw, and ABS be logged in OnStar to help make the cars safer?

  3. I've seen Robert drive numerous times, too. He is DEFINITELY one of the most talented drivers out there...by far. I'm not sure about this particular ABS unit, but my experience shows that when ABS normally cuts in, the pedal gets hard and pumps UP.

  4. After reading comments made by Robert Dubler himself about the accident, you have several falsehoods and assumptions in this "article".

    From Robert: "Let's put something straight: It was not a 145mph crash, maybe 100mph (had no time to check the speed), the brake pedal came up, but there was no pressure, turning in was not suicidal, it was the option I chose to slow the car down (with not the desired effect!) and I was cautious because on turn 5 I had a very slight fading or something similar, the next two turns there was only slight braking necessary and I had a good feeling. The "zero" brake at turn 8 was really a surprise but I had the time to "pump" the brake at least three times and still turn in early. Overall it was one of the best car I ever drove, sadly it deserted me!"

    So how about you folks get your information straight first before posting instead of trying to make a pro look like a idiot with all the sensationalistic jack assery?


  5. Fantastic - we must be getting really popular if we earned all of these in one fell swoop:

    We are "retarded", don't know that brake failures happen all the time as part of racing, we publish "crap" and "articles" - wait, it's not the same thing?, we don't know that production-made cars don't log data, we post BLIND on the internet, we have "falsehoods" (what?), we somehow "make a pro look like a idiot" even though we spoke so highly of his driving abilities, and we are apparently prone to "sensationalistic jack assery" on any given day.

    Phew, and I was worried you'd call us fat!!

    There are 14 seconds of uninterrupted acceleration in the video coming out of a medium speed turn (70-80 MPH) right up to the crash. A CTS-V motor better be able to get it over 100 MPH in that time ;o) Turning in to cut through the infield at that speed was the option Dubler chose to slow the car down?! Maybe jumping over the wall would have cut the distance even further…

  6. 145 into the braking zone in that car sounds about right to me. I could see 45mph being scrubbed before impact due to some brake effect and pitching the car in. I probably would have done the same thing, otherwise it's straight into the wall at 120mph. There is no escape road there and the inner kerbs are *huge* and racers are warned not to cross them or they will rip your suspension off.

    If there are no brakes then he was probably hoping to pitch it through there as best he could, hoping to scrub some speed before impact, maybe get lucky and ride it out without having a major shunt. not much for options really

    The tire barriers are designed to toss a car up in the air to disperse the energy, not absorb the car's energy head on. It's racing . It happens. They are the risks we know of and choose to take.

    I don't think the article makes Dubler look like an idiot at all - regradless - it's a blog, sharing thoughts and opiion. It's not like he's saying "the driver was over his head and taking dumb risks " or something like that. It's speculation and conjecture based on reasonable assumptions, so chill out,Vinny - you seem awfully worked up over this.