Think today’s safety systems didn’t help this guy? They all worked together to h
This is the so-called Earnhardt bar. It became mandated after Dale Earnhardt almost had a
Every bar on the car has a specific size and location requirement. The rollcage bars are f
One of the more recent additions to a rollcage design are these gussets. They are mandated
This is the so-called Petty bar. It provides an additional cage support and was made
An example of an advanced safety fuel cell from ATL
This helmet from SImpson incorporates many safety features..
A properly sized racing seat is vital to the overall safety system in your racer
eep close inspection of your belts. After any hard contact, or at least every five years,
Besides providing grip, racing gloves serve as an important fire barrier.
Firesuits are your shield against fire - make sure you race with one that fits properly an
The most important element of racing is not necessarily quick lap timesit is safety. Safety is one of those things that every racer has to be concerned with. It doesnt matter if you are a hobbyist or if your plan is to make it to the ranks of Winston Cup racing; safety concerns everyone, and so for that, we are doing a primer in race safety. The following pages are designed to inform and to reinforce the importance safety equipment has in racing. Some of this you have probably heard before, but it is vital every racer knows how to race safely, for in racing, a good day at the track is one you can walk away from.
One of the basic elements of safety for the racer is the rollcage. This remarkable part of the race car has been in evolution since the days of convertibles thundering on the sands of Daytona Beach.
Year after year, we all witness drivers crawling out of torn-up cars and simply walking away. They are able to do that because through years of observation and engineering, rollcages have become a virtual safety cocoon. And its a good thing too, because as recently as Daytona, there were some spectacular flying cars that brought the point home. Just ask Jeff Green, Geoffrey Bodine, and Ricky Ruddeach is likely to extol the virtues of the rollcage.
To review what makes a good rollcage, we spoke with Bob Banzi Hewitt, shop manager at the #50 Winston Cup team for Midwest Transit Racing in Concord, North Carolina. We wanted to know the current state-of-the-art for rollcage design.
By choosing a Winston Cup rollcage, we can show what is required for the racers who go well above the speeds of most Saturday-night racers. Therefore, it makes sense that if it works for them, it will work for you, and if for some reason, your cage comes up short, you can apply some fixes to be safer.
Basically, fuel cells protect with three lines of defense. First is generally a metal container, and the next layer is a rubberized bladder that resides inside the metal box. The metal container acts to blunt or deflect the impact while the bladder then deforms or distorts away from and around the intrusion. A bladder resists puncture at impact through its flexibility. Manufacturers are challenged with designing bladders strong enough to resist an impact yet pliable enough so it can deform around an intrusion. Fires still happen from fuel or oil hoses snapping off or carb bolts coming loose, but these typically result in flash fires that are easier to contain. The fuel cell keeps the gallons of fuel inside the tank from spewing on the track, thus creating an inferno.
All fuel cells must be foam-baffled to suppress the worst type of accidentexplosion. Foam baffling works by breaking up a flame front and prevents the flame from reaching an explosive velocity. There is a possibility of having a contained fire in the fuel cell, but that is far less a hazard than if the cell blows apart.
The third area is rollovers. Despite the latest attempt to prevent it, cars still do roll over. A fuel cells check valve prevents fuel from coming out of a fill neck or vent. A check valve is simply a ball bearing that responds to gravity, so when the car flips, the bearing slides with it, effectively stopping fuel from pouring out the fill neck and vent. Check with your racing organization to learn exactly what fuel cell specifications are required in your car.
Most organizations require bladders be replaced every five years while the foam can last much longer (less if used with alcohol), but make sure your inspect the foam regularly, especially if you are using fuel additives. A good check is to see if bits of foam make it to your fuel filter; if any are present, its time to change.
Protecting that space between your ears is a big task for a helmet. A helmets primary function is to protect the head and the brain, and it is a last line of defense in an impact. Besides the impact protection, a helmet must also offer fire protection in auto racing. Nonauto racing helmets do not provide a sufficient level of safety for auto racing, so always use the correct helmet for the job. Currently, most sanctioning bodies require a helmet with a certified Snell 95 rating or higher. The Snell Memorial Foundation is an independent helmet rating organization that sets a uniform standard for helmet safety.
Construction and materials vary between manufacturers, however most utilized the same principle. A helmet has a hard shell to dissipate as much energy as possible. The second layer is the liner, which is a thick layer of energy-absorbing material. For multiple impacts, liner material that restores to its original form is vital. Finally, the interior liner is the part of the helmet that contacts the driver, and its also where the fire-retardant material is found. Closed-faced helmets (the kind that wrap around the front of a face) offer the most protection from fire and impacts. Open-faced helmets dont offer as much protection and should be avoided. All auto racing helmets on the market today are designed to withstand only one hard impact. So if it takes a hit, then its effectiveness has been diminished, and its time to get a new one. For that reason, buying a used helmet is a big gamble.
Seats are made to absorb the energy of a crash and keep it away from your body. The quality and thickness of the aluminum and the amount of padding used in seat con- struction determine its effectiveness. The more aluminum and padding, the higher the seats cost. Basi-cally, seat selection breaks down to a racers budget and the speeds at which the racer competes. An economy seat may work at tracks up to 3/8-mile, but for anything larger, you should get into an intermediate, stronger seat with more padding.
Look for proper padding in critical areas, such as the seat bottom and rib support area, while avoiding any air gaps. Also, make sure the seat fits you snuggly, that the shoulder-harness holes are at the proper height, and that you are supported in the head, shoulder, rib, and thighs. Get a seat that has at least 1/8-inch aluminum construction, and dont forget to factor in your own body weight. Obviously, a lightweight driver would not create the same forces of inertia a heavier driver would, so make sure the strength of the seat is proportionate to your weight. Basically, a seat has to fit your body just as your helmet fits your head.
A racing seat is designed to flex under heavy stress, so whether a seat needs to be replaced or not is all upon the severity of the crash. A mild crash may just bend it out a bit so it can be formed back in. But a violent crash, well, you probably walked away without breaking your ribs so thank you, the seat did its jobnow get a new one.
The use of seatbelts is obviousto keep you in the seat and let the safety systems of the car absorb the impact. Luckily, choosing seatbelts is not difficult. The most important elements of belts are quality construction, ease of use, and pricing.
Do not, however, be fooled by price alone. There is a difference in seatbelt materials, including how the hardware is made and the quality of the webbing. If a system is really inexpensive, you may be looking at webbing that is not top or military quality. Webbing is designed to stretch a certain amount and act like a shock absorber. The key to manufacturing webbing is to design materials and stitching that will stretch the right amount. Too much stretch or too little and the belt will fail.
Also, look at the hardware. Many basic belt systems use stamped hardware that is not anodized. Anodizing doesnt really affect the performance of the belts, but it does keep the hardware from turning a rusty or tinge color.
The most important thing is to be comfortable with your system. You want belts that are easy to get out of and can be loosened and tightened with your gloves on. Keep close inspection of your belts. After any hard contact, or at least every five years, you should replace your belts, and some sanctioning bodies recommend changing belts even more frequently than that. If you get a car that already has belts in it, replace them. Dont even think of running that car, because you dont know what has happened to it or where it has been. Think about it, your body is going behind those beltstake care of it.
Driving gloves serve multiple purposes. The most important role of a glove is fire protection. The second (and still very important role) is to provide a solid, predictable grip on the steering wheel. Nomex is a common material for driving gloves, and multiple layers are common. Other materials provide added grip on the palm of the glove (like leather or rubber). Fit and feel are important considerations when choosing a glove, too. A great glove should ultimately result in less strain on a drivers hands. Sizing usually ranges incrementally from extra small to medium to extra large and so on.
The firesuit is the last line of defense to emerging from a fiery accident, and suit manufacturers have made great strides in protecting drivers at all levels. Firesuits are available in one- and two-piece models. One-piece suits fit the driver from neck to ankles, while two-piece suits are pants and a jacket. The two-piece suit overlaps where the jacket and the pants meet, but the possibility for fire to sneak in does exist. So, the one-piece suits are considered to be safer because they do not have a possible gap in protection like the two-piece suits. The two most common materials used in suits are Nomex and Proban. Generally, Nomex costs more but will potentially last longer if cared for properly. Proban, while lower in price, usually needs to be replaced sooner than Nomex. Another drawback for Proban is that Proban is made from cotton and treated with chemicals to make it fire retardant. Over time, washing reduces the fire-retardant effectiveness of Proban. Most manufacturers agree that Nomex is the best material for protecting a driver from fire.
Firesuits have anywhere between one and five layers. Most oval track Stock car racers wear suits with two or three layers. Obviously, more layers provide more fire protection, but recent advancements in material technology have changed that axiom slightly. Several rating systems are used to determine the overall fire protection of the suit. Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) and SFI ratings are two common numerical evaluations of heat performance. In a raging gasoline inferno between 1,800 degrees F and 2,000 degrees F, a suit with the lowest rating offers about three seconds of protection before second-degree burns occur, while a suit with the highest rating would offer about 40 seconds of protection (by SFI estimates). Usually, the higher the fire-protection number, the more the suit will cost. ct