3—Sneakers

Similar in nature to No. 1, proper footwear can save your toes in the event of a nasty fire. Anybody who has raced a longer event knows that your feet will get hot from the sheer heat of the engine compartment. That's why most safety companies make boot heel heat shields. If you choose to wear sneakers in a race, be warned that in the event of a fire you may have to step right into that fire in order to get yourself out of the car. After all, next to your hands the next thing you use when getting out of a race car is your feet. Now, those sneakers are probably not brand-new and if they have any oil, grease, or other race car fluid on them they'll act like torches on your feet. Check out the comparison to the left. Scary huh?

The shoe on the left is soiled with common race car fluids, while the one on the right is brand-new. Now we’re betting if you race with sneakers like these you probably wear them to work on the car as well. The likelihood of them being perfectly clean is pretty remote.

The dirty shoe took just 7 seconds after introduction of flame to begin to melt at the tongue and laces.

The new shoe took a little more than double the amount of time to begin to melt. Even so, it looked like this after just 15 seconds.

4—Bra

We recently heard of a very real story of a young girl racing in the Midwest that ended in near tragedy. She was involved in a wreck that resulted in a fire. She was wearing a single-layer firesuit, which only gives 3 seconds of protection before second degree burns occur on the body. Underneath the firesuit she was wearing a regular bra. The heat from the fire was intense enough to radiate through the suit and melt the nylon and polyester in her bra, which subsequently fused to her skin and scarred her for life.

Both Simpson Race Products and PXP Racewear make fire retardant bras. So, for all you lady racers out there, if you don't already have one, go out and buy one.

While this may look funny, it’s no laughing matter. Bras are highly flammable and should never be worn in a racing environment. It took just 4 seconds from the introduction of flame for the lace to burn and the padding to begin to melt. I did not even have time to pull the torch away.

At this juncture we are well past the point of severe physical damage less than 10 seconds from flame introduction. The point here is that little drip of fire you see falling from the bra is actually molten foam, nylon, and polyester that would be melting to somebody’s skin.

Here’s where those drips of molten bra ended up in our burn tray. You can see them all over the remainder of the jeans and the tray. Now imagine that on your skin.

5—Jeans

After all of this talk about three-layer suits and fire retardant brassieres, our fifth and final item may seem…well…just plain dumb. But, you would be surprised how many tracks our staff has been to where certain divisions are actually allowed to wear jeans. In fact, two years ago when we visited the Indianapolis Speedrome we witnessed the winner of the Factory Stock division climb from his car wearing nothing but jeans, a t-shirt, and an FR jacket with his open-faced helmet. We were pretty shocked, but it wasn't the only time that scene played out. That track has since been sold and the new ownership has a whole new set of rules for the drivers which reads, in part, as follows:

Every driver must wear a long-sleeved uniform designed by the manufacturer as a fire resistant race car driver's uniform and gloves. The uniform must fit snugly around the neck, wrists, and ankles and cover the driver's entire body at all times he/she is on the track or infield. Every driver must also make use of an approved neck/helmet pad or HANS-style safety device.

Back to the point…if you wear jeans while racing a car you're just asking for big trouble. Plain and simple, you should be wearing a full driver's uniform…period.

There is just 15 seconds between the first photo where we introduce flame and the second photo where the whole leg is engulfed. Jeans don’t belong in a race car, any race car.

Conclusion

Hands down, the bra lit off the quickest in just 4 seconds. The helmet was next with the cheeks pads aflame in just 6 seconds. That was followed by a tie between the mechanic's gloves and the dirty sneaker at 7. The jeans took the longest at 15 seconds, but don't think for a minute that is sufficient. Take the case of a blown motor that leads to an oil fire that enters the cockpit of the race car. Consider how long it would take you to get that car stopped, your belts unbuckled, and yourself out…if you can do it in under 6 seconds then feel free to wear any of the aforementioned gear in place of the proper stuff.

When we set out to conduct this experiment, we knew it would be unsettling but to sit there and watch each of these things burn and think about the prospect of having a body part in them while being stuck in a crashed race car was downright terrifying. So you want to see what we saw first-hand? Head on over to www.circletrack.com and click on the video section of the site and look for the one titled "5 Things that Will Catch on Fire." It is eye opening.