IS SAFETY COMING FIRST FOR YOUR RACE TEAM? The dangers of racing are serious. While most racers know the dangers when they drive onto the track many fail to make safety a priority. It should be every racers first priority to minimize safety risks by keeping equipment up to date and routinely checked. It also up to racers to hold their competitors responsible for poorly maintained safety issues. If you have a friend or fellow competitor that you know is short cutting their safety make a point to pressure them into upgrading or take time to help them fix the issue. You could be saving their body from serious injury.
Encouragingly, over the last several seasons racers have begun to take a much more serious approach to their personal safety while competing. It's no secret race cars are becoming faster and with speed comes increased injury opportunities. The old adage that racers will spend whatever it takes to win but not a cent more than necessary for their required safety equipment is thankfully becoming a thing of the past.
Advancement in new safety equipment far surpasses what was on the market only a short time ago. Safety products can be expensive but the expense is due in part to manufactures who don't shortcut their time or money to create a quality product they trust when needed to shield our bodies from danger.
Recent research has led to new designs and materials which is now being used in today's safety including helmets. When buying a helmet for use in auto racing, always make sure it has the newest 'Snell' foundation certification. Be aware that helmets also carry a M or SA rating sticker inside. A racer wants the SA (Sports Application) sticker, as it has been designed and tested specifically for competitive applications. If the helmet you are looking at doesn't include these certifications, you are settling for something less than optimal for your intentions. The SA rated helmets have fire resistant materials in the lining, etc., and are tested for the most extreme possibilities. The M (motorcycle) rated helmets aren't as rigorously tested and should not be used in circle track racing. Helmets that are designed with neck restraint attachments will often feature an 'H' on the sticker or product number. The saying goes, if you have a $5 head, buy a $5 helmet, otherwise, get a helmet ready to hold up to sudden impact of roll bars and/or debris. When properly cared for (not abused by throwing it at your peers during a raged moment of displeasure) a helmet can last for years. This may be the single best investment you ever make in regards to racing.
Note: A helmet that has been struck hard or contacted by something like a roll bar should be carefully examined before used again. If cracked, chipped or otherwise damaged, the helmet should be replaced.
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Everyone knows a fire suit, gloves and shoes are the driver's first line of personal protection against a fire. However, some may not be more than heavy cloth designed only to withstand slightly above average temperatures. Obviously the more layers of protection, the better, you want to look for suits that are SFI 5 certified and at least two layers. Suits with multiple layers are usually $200-250 more than single layer suits but can double flame resistance times and will hold up longer to racing conditions. If you can't find the extra money in the budget for a multi-layered fire suit, or fire resistant undergarments, wear 100% cotton long underwear beneath your suit. This is is far better than a blended material which could melt into the skin's surface. Cotton is comfortable and also wicks the sweat away from the body, making it much less hot than you may think. The last suggestion comes from the old time professional racers who had no better option. Beyond safety, comfort in a suit can go along way on race nights and even enhance your ability to steer or gas the car right. It is important that you do not dry clean your suit. Dry cleaning solutions contain flammable chemicals that can actually feed a fire.
The use of fire resistant gloves should be incorporated by every racer. We understand that in some cases it may decrease the wheels feel in your hands but its a great line of defense from rocks, debris, and interior metal cuts. Most importantly, in the event of fire, you need the use of your hands when exiting the car. Outside of that, we need them for nearly everything in life. Protect them, you'll get use to wearing them in no time, and the protection offered is worth the minimal expense.
Note: Keep you fire suit and gloves clean, not oil soaked like your race night shop rag. They offer little protection if compromised by being contaminated with every petroleum product known to man.
A full containment racing seat and solid five point (minimum) harness system are starting to become more common no matter what the division a racer runs in. Racers should try having a 16.5 SFI rating harness. To work as intended, they must be correctly installed. Do not shortcut this process. Check welds for the mounting locations. Use durable, rust free bolts where needed. Make sure the shoulder belts cross your body correctly and don't put strain on your spinal column. Be certain the lap belts cross your pelvic girdle correctly so they aren't the cause of internal injuries in a hard crash. Several companies offer belt padding, we highly recommend these to prevent excessive shoulder or body bruising during a collision. When the season is over, closely inspect all of mounting points and equipment for cracks, hardware failures and nicks, cuts or fraying in the belt material. If the belt webbing is being frayed or cut by anything, that's a problem that needs repair or attention. Soak (wash) the belt material to get the dirt out of the webbing, as this can chafe and deteriorated the webbing's composition. Do the same for the seat cover. Outdated belts or ones with fraying or cuts in the webbing indicate that the belts need replaced. Thirty years ago, the cost of a new set of belts would bring tears to the eyes of nearly any buyer, but the price of a harness system has significantly dropped over the years. Like the helmets, this isn't the place to cut costs, especially considering it's importance.
Even if your division requires nothing for neck support a padded neck brace should be worn at minimum to help protect your neck during a crash. Braces may feel tight and uncomfortable but they are designed to be in order to properly support your neck upon impact. Ultimately, whether HANS device's to window nets or roll bar padding, the more that you can do to protect yourself, the better. Properly installed, fitted and regularly maintained safety equipment can last for many seasons of racing and exponentially increases the odds that a major crash has little impact to those involved. It only takes the one week you decide not to check or properly put on your safety gear for the right circumstances to land you on racing's injured reserve list or worse.
Note: Please, never go on the race track with the mentality that it won't or can't happen to me. Accidents happen and they are not selective about who or when.
The National Safety Council fought for years to mandate seat belts in passenger vehicles, providing volumes of data on how they saved lives. Now that we have become accustomed to using them, we can hardly imagine life without their usage. Develop that kind of mindset with your personal safety equipment and we guarantee you will have more fun racing with much less risk.
Reading and understand current safety practices is important. Understanding what all products are out there to help keep you safe will make you much more confident that what you're currently doing or possibly planning to purchase will be at least a more informed decision. If you still have trouble deciding which safety products to use or buy, our phone line is available at 304.771.5051. You can also reach us by email service where we will be glad to help you at firstname.lastname@example.org. To shop our complete line of safety products or to view other racing items visit www.shopg2.com.