I read an article last night on Dirt on Dirt about the direction dirt late models are going with the newest safety agenda trying to be rolled out nationwide. There seems to be a little push back in smaller regional series as far as implementation being pushed through too fast.
I can understand the racing community doesn’t want to see people hurt or killed in the sport, but I think some of this is just a knee jerk reaction to a couple of incidents which took place last year.
First, let me say I’m in full support of the regulations being mandated to solve the problem with fire in a race car.
I’ve seen cars burn and people burn. This is one scary situation.
Last week I installed a fire suppression system in a car. It met the bare minimum requirements of the Lucas Oil dirt late model series. It came completely assembled except for having the mounting brackets on the tank. (these were packaged in the kit and needed some minor assembly)
I mounted the cockpit nozzle through the driver cockpit tin on the right side. And, I had to make a small bracket to mount the nozzle on the fuel cell.
The bottle itself mounted very close to polar moment near the tail shaft of the transmission.
The only problem I possibly see with the self-discharge nozzles is they need to be protected when you wash the car.
The nozzles come with a rubber boot which should be reinstalled for pressure washing. I’m assuming the problem lies with high pressure water from the pressure washer breaking the glass or plastic vial in the nozzle and discharging the system.
I can see some teams neglecting this step and some systems being discharged during car washing.
The whole system was around $700 dollars and freight was an additional charge because of it needing a hazmat shipping label.
This will go a long way in protecting the driver of the car which is on fire, but also protecting others on the track. With a multi car incident, if one car erupts, they all go up. Not a good scenario for all involved.
This is a great rule, but the problem rises with inspecting the system.
Are sanctioning bodies really going to take the time and inspect bottles to make sure they are full and ready for action?
If one of these systems get set off by accident, will the team continue to run it knowing the inspectors are too busy checking the torque on rear suspension bolts?
The other suggested rule change I like is the updated rule on fuel cells. I came to dirt late models through another form of racing.
In that form of racing, rubber bladder fuel cells were normal. I came to dirt late models in the mid-nineties and was shocked by what was normal for fuel cells. Even some of the ‘Pros’ had garbage I would be afraid to use on my lawn mower let alone on a race car.
This new rule comes along way, but I don’t think it’s even going far enough. All cells should be impact resistant bladder cells, protected by crash resistant structures, and fittings protected from breakage in a crash.
The one area I don’t believe is being thoroughly thought through is the mandatory seat.
Full containment seats are a good thing, but not enough has been thought through for an exit strategy for the driver.
I was at Volusia several years ago when Earl Pearson Jr. was in an accident where it was tough to extract him from the car. The roof height coupled with the cockpit design and a wraparound headrest of a full containment seat make it nearly impossible to extract a driver from a car.
I’ve seen athletic small drivers struggle getting in and out of their cars under normal circumstances in the pits while getting ready for a race.
Now, put them in a situation where they are upside down, possibly unconscious, and barricaded in by other cars involved in the accident, and we have a very bad situation unfolding.
All because of a knee jerk reaction of mandating seats without thinking through possible other scenario’s. Racing needs better quality seats, but it also needs to think through redesigning the entire cockpits of these cars.
The problem with that is, it will need to be mandated by all sanctioning bodies because that may mean giving up a lot of downforce because of a deck and cockpit design. No car builder will be willing to slow their car down in the name of safety unless everyone else has to do it also.
I believe sanctioning bodies may be walking a slippery slope here. If you mandate a full containment seat and a driver dies because the seat prevented extraction from a car …
I’m glad I’m not a lawyer.
In lighter news, I started outlining my next book today and it’s shaping up to be a more advanced suspension book. I’m including some from my other two books as a refresher, but a good portion will be totally fresh content.
Large sections dedicated to shocks, bump-stops, front roll centers, and stacking springs. The racing landscape has changed quite a bit since my first book.
The good thing is the first book lays a good foundation. It cuts everything down to basic principles so anyone will have the ability to think things through and solve many of the problems that arise.
It teaches you to think like the pro’s think. The pros don’t think in terms of ‘put this bar here and you’ll be fast’. The pros think in terms of ‘put this bar here and it will help’s me turn here because it does this to the car’.
That’s the level we need to think at when tuning cars.
I heard a line, supposedly, from the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky. I’ll paraphrase because I heard the quote second hand.
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
We’ll talk soon,