The Synthesis of Motorsports, Risk Management and Technology

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Gallagher offers a supportive and team-oriented culture in which employees can thrive. The key tenets of this culture were captured in a one-page document, The Gallagher Way, penned in 1984 by our former Chairman and CEO, Robert E. Gallagher. Throughout the year, we’ll showcase how these tenets are reflected in current Gallagher initiatives, including our global involvement in motorsports.


Driving a car at 220 mph on a track with other cars going equally as fast is a risky endeavor. This is a fact. The ability to mitigate the risk of collision through human error is also difficult, in part because the behaviors and motivations of the other drivers are unknown. However, great improvements have been made in decreasing the risk of bodily harm through technological advancements, both in the cars and on the tracks around the globe. The motorsports industry has done a great job recognizing problems and taking the steps needed to make improvements to save lives.

The same can be said for Gallagher - the global insurance broker, consultant and risk management services company based in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Gallagher has spearheaded the industry’s move to provide complete protection for racing teams, drivers, suppliers, service vendors and venues, by understanding the industry, and delivering coverages tailored to their exact needs.

Kevin Hughes, Area Vice President for Gallagher, explains, “There are human lives behind the wheel or jumping over the wall in front of the car at these races. One product we’ve worked diligently to develop is personal injury and accident coverage, because we saw a need in the marketplace where there were holes in coverage. So Gallagher worked with our relationships in London to create and roll out a proprietary product that no one else has access to. We’ve written our own program where NASCAR Cup Series, IndyCar or National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drivers and crew can come to us, and insure themselves, so that their interests and their families are taken care of financially. That’s something very important to us at Gallagher.”

Despite improved risk management and technology, the decisions of drivers are still the most important factor in the safety equation. Motorsports and risk management can have a cause-and-effect relationship that needs to be understood on a somewhat psychological level. Sure, it is incredibly important to improve safety across the board for participants in such a dangerous sport, but a competitive nature, combined with an unreasonable sense of security due to improved safety, can be a dangerous combination.

“On the [various] circuits, they’ve really made a huge step forward,” says FIA World Touring Car Championship driver Tom Chilton, who mans the No. 3 car, sponsored by Gallagher. Chilton adds, “In some cases, they’re using a big tarmac runoff now which is much better - especially for someone driving a flat-bottom car. A carbon-fiber flat bottom that hits a gravel runoff at very high speed, can slide across it like a skimming stone. A big piece of tarmac causes it to stop faster.”

Safer? You bet. But as Chilton continues, it’s easy to see where things can, and will, get sticky. “The tarmac is safer, but as far as I’m concerned, it kills the racing a bit because when someone takes a risk and makes a mistake, they can just get right back on the track. It doesn’t hinder them. I’m the type of driver who doesn’t make [many] mistakes, so I get upset when some young hotheaded driver does, and gets right back on the track ahead of me. It’s really frustrating. In the old days, they’d be out of the race.”

Perhaps more important than actual track safety improvements are the incredible advancements within the cars and protective equipment worn by the drivers themselves. “In terms of the cars, they now have safety cells holding the fuel,” notes Chilton. “In the old days, what killed people was the fuel spraying all over the drivers, and they’d burn to death. Also, they now have valve shutoffs that stop pumping fuel all around the car cell, which has made a massive difference.”

“Inside the cars, everything on the driver is well developed, from the HANS Device (head and neck support), to the seats themselves, which are a lot stronger, and the roll cages, which are incredibly strong. We wear fireproof overalls so we can sit in fire for three minutes before we burn. All of this stuff has been so well developed over the past 10 years. The single-seaters were such that the drivers were exposed from just below the shoulders, so something could come across them and take their head off. They’re also bringing out the Halo for Formula 1, which, for example, can stop a tire from hitting a driver in the face. It’s all a lot safer.”

Risk mitigation on the track, in the car and on the driver’s gear, has made tremendous gains through technological advancements over the past decade. But in racing – as in life – it still takes the will of the participant to modify their behavior to manage risk effectively. At Gallagher, it’s that kind of personal responsibility that drives us to meet risks head-on. We identified a need for comprehensive protection for drivers and their crews and developed new products to meet that need. Running to problems – not away from them – is The Gallagher Way.