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Giuffre Cranes Take to Track at Indianapolis 500

In a situation where mere seconds can be the difference between victory and disaster, a Recovery Vehicle is essential.

Thu May 09, 2013 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Giuffre Brothers Cranes designed and fabricated the 2013 Official Recovery Vehicle of the Indianapolis 500.
Giuffre Brothers Cranes designed and fabricated the 2013 Official Recovery Vehicle of the Indianapolis 500.

This Memorial Day weekend, as more than 400,000 spectators and millions of viewers hear those famous words “gentleman start your engines,” alongside the brickyard at the Indianapolis 500 racetrack will be the familiar Giuffre Brothers Cranes’ colors, as the “official recovery vehicle” prepares to make the afternoon go smoothly and safely for America’s elite race car drivers.

For the third year in a row, Milwaukee-based Giuffre Brothers Cranes has designed and constructed the “Official Indy 500 Recovery Vehicle,” a specialized, articulating boom truck to assure a fast, clean and safe response to incidents and accidents that occur during one of the world’s most watched sporting events.

“In racing and in television, a few seconds can be worth millions of dollars,” said Dominic Giuffre, president of Giuffre Brothers Cranes. “Most importantly, however, is the safety of the drivers and the public, and our specialized truck, unlike a conventional tow truck, provides the safest and most efficient way to deal with disabled vehicles during a race.”

Giuffre brothers Dominic and Frank are no strangers to the racing community. They have been actively involved in Indy-style racing for decades, both as team owners and race promoters at Wisconsin’s famous Milwaukee Mile racetrack.

“Racing flows in our blood, and can be traced back to the 1950’s when our Dad would work at racetracks,” said Dominic. “In 2011, when managers at Indy mentioned they wanted to develop a new high-tech recovery vehicle, one able to quickly reach out and safely evacuate a damaged car, it was only natural our team would be the one to design it, given our experience in the racing industry and our knowledge of cranes.”

Prior to 2011, Giuffre said, most United States racetracks used old-fashioned tow trucks to remove damaged and disabled vehicles from the track. Since Indy-style cars are towed by lifting them by a hook mounted near the center of the vehicle, the auto could easily bounce around, potentially creating a human safety hazard, more damage to the disabled vehicle, or allow the dangling car to spill fluids like oil onto the track, creating a dangerous situation for the remaining drivers. Europe’s Formula One racetracks were already using a specialized truck to remove cars, and Indy 500 management wanted to create something even better.

“Our design brings the old-fashioned wrecker into the 21st century,” said Giuffre. “Our plan was to design and build a special crane attached to a flat bed truck that could lift, recover and clear a car from the track quicker and safer than the old version.”

Giuffre also added another valuable trait. When the truck reaches the team’s garage, it can reach out and deposit the car directly on the floor inside the garage, rather than dropping it outside the garage door.

The Giuffre design team’s 2013 vehicle of choice is a combination Fassi hydraulic knuckle boom crane, mounted on a Freightliner M2 truck with an Allison automatic transmission and 20-ft. (6.1 m) flat bed. The articulating crane allows it to reach out over other vehicles, lift the disabled car up, and place it directly on the flat bed.

As a precaution, the flat bed is covered with a fabric “diaper” to prevent and collect any fluids from spilling on the track. The truck also features special tie downs, riggings and emergency lighting to safely speed the operation along. The Allison transmission, Giuffre said, was manufactured about one half mile from the Indianapolis racetrack.

“In any race, seconds can mean the difference between winning and losing,” said Giuffre. “We designed this vehicle to operate efficiently, quickly and safely, so drivers and viewers can return to the business of racing as fast as possible.”

Giuffre said since the recovery vehicle’s inauguration in 2011, similar Giuffre Brothers trucks have been used in every Indy and NASCAR race. “It’s such an honor to work with the great teams who put these events on,” said Giuffre. “And it’s a plus that we get to be involved in a sport we are truly passionate about.”

Giuffre Brothers Cranes, Inc. was founded in Milwaukee, Wisc., in 1963, by Dominic and Frank Giuffre, and is the country’s largest supplier of boom trucks for the construction and roofing industry. The company has locations in Milwaukee, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Utah, Phoenix and Palm Beach, Fla. The company is headquartered at 6635 S. 13th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53221

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