Racing Goes Safer Seminar at the
2019 SCCA National Convention
Las Vegas, Nevada
South Point Hotel and Casino
January 18-19, 2019
Following our Mini Seminar at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA, the Stand 21 Drivers Safety Foundation, “Racing Goes safer”, was invited by the Sports Car Club of America to make a presentation at their National Convention in Las Vegas. This was a two part mini seminar, the first addressing SCCA personnel such as race managers, track marshals and support crew, the second targeted to racers attending the Convention.
This presentation by RGS member, Philippe de Lespinay, took place in the South Point Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Two large screens and portable microphones offered the 120-plus attendance in the large room with an excellent audiovisual forum. After briefly introducing himself to the audience, Mr. de Lespinay proceeded in introducing Stand 21 Racewear and its long history of manufacturing auto racing safety products, and now supporting the Racing Goes Safer Foundation. This was followed by an introduction of the Foundation, its founding members and its current administrators, as well as its purpose of bettering and improving motorsport safety through education.
Three videos were shown:
Stand 21’s General manager Romain Morizot, performs a live test of the fire resistance of the company’s products. This first video, demonstrated that the current FIA and SFI safety standards are now adequate in many circumstances when the driver is still conscious and mobile inside a burning racing car.
Highly qualified racer, Ken Block rolls his rally car and exits it promptly as fire engulfs the car. This shows that it can happen to anyone, including top professionals. No one is exempt, and flames do not discriminate.
An SRT Viper set itself on fire at the Sebring 12-hour following an on-track incident, when the driver exited the burning car while failing to switch off the fuel pump. The fire crew runs out of extinguishing powder, and car is still burning as it is loaded on a truck away from the racing taking place around it. Mr. de Lespinay indicates that many club racing cars, especially older models, must be modified to make sure that electrical fuel pumps must automatically stop when the engine is no longer running.
The following are recommendations and suggestions for the SCCA to implement in their various racing divisions. Each paragraph was explained and discussed in detail. De Lespinay followed Snell’s Ed Becker’s recommendations about inspecting suitable helmets, and proposed that physical condition is often more critical than certification stickers. Questions arose about the difference between the various M and SA standards, which in fact mostly affect the fire resistance of the helmet, far less critical in motorcycle racing.
The suggestion was made to the SCCA to now accept FIA certified garments, helmets and Frontal Head Restraint (FHR) devices as well as SFI and Snell rated garments and devices, and to make their tech inspectors aware of the various acceptable standards. It was also suggested that the old standard of “two layers is acceptable” be fully replaced and updated, as the RGS Foundation does not consider the flame protection afforded by an SFI 3.3-A/1 rated racing suit even when worn with full length fire retardant underwear, provides adequate protection. Finally, a demonstration of the Lid Lifter balaclava was performed on an SCCA official, who confirmed that no neck muscles stretching, pulling or twisting was felt.
The next segment touched onto the history and present status of the Frontal Head Restraint devices, with Mr. de Lespinay telling the story and development of the Downing/Hubbard HANS, later developed almost exclusively in France by the stand 21 Company. The expiration of the patent by February 1, 2019, opens the door to an array of new devices inspired but not always as adequate as the original design. Mr. de Lespinay pointed out that new FHR devices are now available at a price under $380.00, making them affordable to all:
The next subject touched the growing threat of fake garments and other racing safety devices manufactured in the Orient, in China, Pakistan and other locations. The presentation showed a fake Sparco racing suit made of highly flammable materials, with fake factory embroidery and of course missing the FIA mandated metal-foil scanning label. Also shown was a fake Sabelt safety harness tested by the SFI to their standard, resulting in catastrophic failure.
The next subject regarded the medical conditions and proposed solutions encountered by drivers and sometimes, crew due crashes causing concussions and heat stress due to the wearing of inadequate protective clothing.
The discussion continued, centered on how to recognize the symptoms and treat the condition through the now accepted “Five Steps” to a progressive return to racing or a definitive end of such activity by the victim.
Addressing the phenomenon and medical condition of what is now recognized as a serious danger to racers and crew alike, de Lespinay explained what is now known as “Heat Stress” and its consequences. Heat Stress in racing cars is most often caused by wearing inadequate clothing, of which one of more layers of the fire protective material fails to allow for perspiration’s evaporation. This causes a medical condition where perspiration builds up on the whole skin surface of the body, and failing evaporation, body temperature rises to dangerous levels, causing on more affected and older drivers, extreme discomfort often followed by partial or complete collapse and sometimes, syncope or heart failure.
To conclude, Mr. de Lespinay suggested to the attending SCCA administrator, to eventually mandate that all drivers should keep in their garment bags, with a clear tag on the outside, the following medical form that will potentially save lives when urgent cars is needed, as the simple knowledge of a patient’s blood type can be vital in case of need of an emergency transfusion. The chart below was provided to the RGS Foundation by Robert Calisi, one of his most involved and supporting members.
On behalf of the Stand 21 “Racing Goes Safer” Foundation, Mr. de Lespinay thanked the SCCA for their invitation to this presentation, and their warm welcoming at the 2019 SCCA National Convention.