On the surface it sounds like Docol R8 is not only a better product to make race car chassis out of but it is an easier product for someone to use as well. Lowe agrees, “I liken it to if you are a good welder, it will make you look great. If you are a great welder, it will make you look like a rock star. And those aren’t my words, those are descriptions that came back from other fabricators. We’ve had Ganassi Racing, Lincoln Electric and Brian Butler at Butlerbuilt Seats all evaluate the material. We have had several labs evaluate them as well. We have put it out there in good capable hands, gotten some good favorable feedback on the quality of the material and the consistency of the material.”
Quality, consistency and ease of use translate into something that could very well potentially impact the whole of short track racing.
The Safer Material?
The 2013 season has been a tough year for short track racing, bringing safety concerns to the forefront of bench racing discussions. Beyond your standard safety equipment can the design of the car and what it is constructed of make a difference in how safe you are? Here at Circle Track we know it can and Al confirmed our beliefs.
“Yes, I can absolutely say that it is going to be a safer material,” he said emphatically. “It’s 15-20 percent stronger than 4130. It is more tolerant to the high heat and welded zones. It is not as brittle, so it should deform under impact more consistently than 4130 or any other material for that matter.”
Pretty strong position so we asked Al to explain what he meant by “deforming more consistently under an impact” as we were curious as to how that is going to make the racers safer.
“Now that’s one they have to open up their mind a little bit and think about the past. A little story that goes along with that is how come we can see two cars hit the wall relatively the same way and the same speed, one driver walks away, one driver drives away in an ambulance and the two cars are in two completely different conditions. The inconsistencies in the materials that we are accustomed to using do not allow us to control how that material will fail. Because Docol is so consistent on its manufacturing process, particularly dimensionally, that is the material will collapse or crush the same way each and every time.”
“With that in mind that is why this product is so successful in our automotive industry. Bumpers, foot boxes, door bars, crash bars in production cars. They want something that’s very repeatable. That’s what this material was created for, very repeatable characteristics. The stock car, the big stock car NASCAR guys they are so heavy and overly triangular. When we look at our Sprint Cars and the vast majority of our Modified and Late Models they aren’t as heavily triangulated as a NASCAR stock car. In an accident they do deform much, much more. Docol will give them more control, consistency and understanding the deformation of the material.”
All of that translates into predictability. If car designers and chassis builders were able to predict exactly how a vehicle would react in a particular crash they could design that car to protect the driver better than they ever have in the past.
That predictability and repeatability also holds an exciting potential. Having that consistency across platforms (meaning the individual chassis from a single builder), you could conceivably end up with better racing. Because giving the platform for the racer to build off of is more even. So you really are putting the burden of creating the fast car on the engineering side of how you put the whole thing together. What components you are using for your suspension system, engine choices and so forth.
So Now You Want It
Better, safer racing all from a change in roll bar material? It’s not that far out of reason. In the past racing drove technology improvements in passenger cars. In this particular case, over the road vehicle safety technology has driven an improvement in how we race. It’s an example of Detroit technology going in the opposite direction.
At the time of this interview AED already had the SFI spec material for the full body drag cars as well as Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Cars (SFI Spec. 2.3N and 10) while the .095 wall material needed for Sprints, Stockers and Midgets was in production. By the time you read this, those materials should be on AED’s shelves. In fact, several Midget builders have already signed on to build their next cars with Docol R8.
As you might guess thanks to all of its superior attributes, Docol R8 is more expensive than a typical 4130 or mild steel but remember it’s a better material and when things are better they are not necessarily going to be cheaper. You should expect to pay about 12-14 percent more for the Docal R8 over 4130. Now that’s a small price to pay for a better, stronger material for the foundation of your next race car.