"It Will Never Happen to Me"
Racing Goes Safer Seminar at the
2020 SCCA National Convention
Las Vegas, Nevada
South Point Hotel and Casino
January 18, 2020
Napa Room C
After a successful seminar in 2019, the “Racing Goes Safer” drivers safety foundation returned to Las
Vegas at the SCCA invitation.
Speaker Philippe de Lespinay was joined by Mrs. Hong Zhang of the Snell Memorial Foundation.
The attendance was composed of SCCA and NASA racers as well as tech inspectors and medics.
Honorary guest was former Indy car racer Scott Goodyear.
(Philippe DeLespinay of the Racing Goes Safer Foundation with Scott Goodyear (former IndyCar racer)
The seminar began with a presentation of the Stand 21 Foundation, the qualifications of its Board of
Directors members and its nationwide seminars, as well as its partial financing by private donations.
The main subject addressed was the possibility of serious on-board fires in the typical club racing cars, such as the shown examples, a Mazda Miata and a Corvette. Thanks to Grassroots Motorsports
magazine, our speaker was able to show a particularly catastrophic incident that affected amateur racer Charles Espenlaub and his “Spec” Miata. Charles describes his scary plight in an issue of
"How I Became a Human Torch and Survived"
The second example is of drag racer Lyle Barnett in his brand-new, well prepared Corvette. A faulty
injector caused fuel leakage and a catastrophic explosion within tenths of second of the car reaching
over 150 MPH, and his efforts to slow down and exit the car. Lyle was literally on fire and unfortunately, made the main error of drivers engulfed in on-board fire, taking a deep breath after his equipment failed. His helmet’s visor melted almost instantly, allowing flames and gases to reach his lungs. His extremities also suffered major burns. Lyle survived, but with his life forever altered.
(Philippe DeLespinay (Racing Goes Safer Foundation) discusses Lyle Barnettes fire.)
Mr. de Lespinay explained the concept of multiple protective layers of a racing suit and the air pockets
between them, recommending the use of a minimum of an SFI rated suit of the 3.2A/5 level (or FIA 8858 level) AND full length breathable underwear. He demonstrated the “blow test” on underwear and an SFI 3.2A/5 rated sample suit.
Many club racers are content wearing an SFI 3.2A/1 racing suit, of which heat rating is about 3 seconds before a second-degree burn. Even when worn with full-length underwear, it is simply a very high risk. Unfortunately, some racing garment retailers appear to mislead their customers, as seen in the advertizing samples shown in the presentation, lifted from online retailing outfits.
A video of a man wearing adequate protection, then set ablaze after his suit was coated with a
flammable pasty substance and not affected by over 10 seconds in that inferno was shown to
After a 15 minute break, Mr. de Lespinay invited Mrs. Hong Zhang of the Snell Memorial Foundation to make her presentation.
(Mrs. Hong Zhang of the Snell Memorial Foundation with Philippe DeLespinay of the Racing Goes Safer Foundation)
Mrs. Zhang, assistant to Ed Becker at the Snell Memorial Foundation and a Snell employee for the past 20 years, presented the basics for the Snell SA2020 standard. The new standard will begin on October 1, 2020, and will also render Snell M and SA2010 helmets obsolete for further organized competition. Mrs. Zhang responded to the many questions regarding the new standard, what of the older helmets out there and comparisons with the FIA standards. All good and very informative to
Mr. de Lespinay returned to the podium to demonstrate and circulate within the audience, a new low-
cost FHR (Frontal Head Restraint device), as well as how to properly affix the belts to the car to ensure that the device would accomplish its mission in an accident.
The Lid Lifter was then demonstrated to a willing volunteer, who communicated his amazement with
the audience, of feeling zero stress on his neck as the helmet was extracted.