Lear Corporation (NYSE: LEA - news), one of the world's largest automotive suppliers and Technology Partner to Jaguar Racing, has unveiled the new Lear APEX(TM) (Advanced Protection & Extrication) System. This next generation of Lear's award-winning Formula One (F1) extractable seat system will further drive safety advances for racecar drivers and, perhaps in the future, for everyday drivers of motor vehicles.

In the event of a crash, the Lear APEX System (patent pending) provides improved head protection as well as enhanced driver safety during the extrication and transport of an injured driver. The APEX System is designed to fit into a standardized package space (or monocoque tub), allowing it to be easily adapted for other open-cockpit race series (CART, IRL, etc.) that adopt a standard cockpit.

Lear's introduction of the APEX System to the media and officials of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) is part of the U.S. Grand Prix festivities that run through Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While Lear's development work on the APEX System is part of its ongoing support of and affiliation with Jaguar Racing, this next generation seat has important safety implications for F1 as well as other race series.

"Lear is taking driver safety to the next level with this breakthrough technology that draws on our energy management and systems engineering expertise," said Jim Masters, Lear Corporation President - Technology Division and Director - Lear Motorsports. "The Lear APEX System meets all the specifications of the current extractable seat but also provides enhanced head and neck protection during a side impact. And once extricated, the driver's seat now can be disassembled to more easily transport the driver in an outstretched position while maintaining stabilization."

The Lear APEX System features a unique, dual-shell construction with an energy-absorbing liner. The common outer shell is a carbon fiber composite part designed to be a standard part of all F1 cockpits. The kevlar/carbon inner shell is custom-formed from a cast of the driver's body while seated in the common shell. The space between the two shells is then filled with an energy-absorbing material for improved impact protection. Another major enhancement is the seat's hinge system with quick-release rods for easy disassembly of the extricated seat, allowing the driver to be safely transported in an outstretched position while spinal, head and neck stabilization is maintained.

The APEX System also is designed to regulate driver head height to ensure proper position relative to the head surround in the event of an impact. The head surround's inner core is composed of Lear's new energy-absorbing ceramcel foam. The surround can be removed in three separate pieces using Lear's hinge system to aid extrication and minimize head movement.

Under the direction of Lear Motorsports Manager Ted Grohs, a technical team from Lear's Engineering, Design, Concept Development and Validation departments worked together to take the APEX System from concept to production. Testing and prove-out of the final system is in process on Lear's MIRA side impact validation system, which measures the seat's performance at impacts of up to 100 Gs in 25 milliseconds. Dr. Shreve Archer, Medical Doctor with Impact Medical Technologies, provided medical consultation to Lear's team.

"The APEX System is another opportunity for Lear to make a major contribution to Formula One and motorsports safety, and to showcase our capabilities in developing safety applications that someday soon could be transferred from the racetrack to the roadways," Masters said.

"I am very grateful to Lear Corporation, together with the Stewart Ford team, for the development in 1998 of the extractable seat for the Formula One cockpit," said Professor Sid Watkins, the FIA Medical Commission Chairman. "The design and production of this seat represents a very great step forward in safety for the extrication of racing drivers, who may have sustained spinal injuries in an accident. The development in the Year 2000 of the next- generation system is another significant and welcome advance."

The original extractable seat system, introduced in late 1998, was a collaboration between technical and design engineers at Lear, Jaguar Racing (formerly Stewart Grand Prix) and the FIA. The FIA's Technical Working Group adopted technical specifications of the prototype seat designed and developed by Lear and Jaguar Racing in conjunction with Professor Sid Watkins, the FIA Medical Commission Chairman, and Charlie Whiting, the FIA Safety Delegate.

When that seat was unveiled at the Japanese Grand Prix on October 30, 1998, the FIA also announced its extraordinary decision to make that type of extractable seat mandatory on all Formula One racecars as of January 1, 1999. All Grand Prix drivers now use a version of the seat made in accordance with Lear-Jaguar Racing design specifications. Track marshals are trained to apply the extractable seat system's head stabilization board, attach the belts and lift the immobilized driver from the car without causing further injury.

Lear Corporation, a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Southfield, Mich., USA, focuses on automotive interiors and electronics, and is the world's fifth-largest automotive supplier. Sales in 1999 were $12.4 billion. The company's world-class products are designed, engineered and manufactured by more than 120,000 employees in over 300 facilities located in 33 countries.