Classic Racing Times
First Drivers Safety Seminar
August 17, 2017
Pocono International Raceway, Pennsylvania
Presented by Philippe De Lespinay, Stand 21 Safety Foundation, RacingGoesSafer.org
The Stand 21 Drivers Safety Foundation thanks Gary Mondschein and the Classic Racing Times for their courtesy and help in making this mini seminar possible.
Vintage Indy cars and oval-track drivers are generally past their prime and using older machinery for high-speed demonstration. They are exposed to similar or greater risks as younger racing drivers of current and far more sophisticated machinery. The speed element is less of a factor with vintage cars, but drivers’ physical condition as well as that of their machinery may prove a dangerous cocktail. For these reason, it is strongly encouraged that anyone who will be behind the wheel of one of these cars, as well as their family members, attend this important meeting.
1/ Driver’s preparation before an event
Weather conditions often cause improper protection
- Drivers wrongly believe that wearing less clothing will keep them cooler: FALSE. Direct or secondary heat exposure from the sun will cause faster increase in body temperature.
- “Cotton fiber breathes naturally”. True of some garments, not of others: a blow test is the only way to find out. To perform a blow test, tightly join 4 fingers flat, insert hand inside sleeve, join lips tightly against material and blow hard. Do not mix breath heat for permeability: air must pass through the material with little resistance.
But cotton underwear, often mixed with polyester fabric, exposes greater risk in case of fire: polyester will melt on your skin.
Conclusion: avoid wearing tee shirts under your racing suit, instead, shop for adequate fire retardant underclothing with long sleeves and test for breathability before buying (perform blow test). Beware of counterfeit products purchased online at very low prices!
Track conditions inspection, on-track fire safety
When you arrive:
- Inquire of on-track fire suppression equipment. Locate where personnel with adequate extinguishers are located, so in case of emergency you can stop your car where you know there is help. If your car burns methanol: make sure that the fire marshals are alerted and have plenty of water in buckets or from their fire trucks to douse you in case of an emergency. Organize with fire personnel, to signal for invisible flames to alert the fire marshals.
Hydration information & disinformation, exercise and nutrition
- Water is what your body needs. But excessive drinking of water may dilute your body electrolytes, you need a balance. Check your urine color: excessively light means you are drinking too much, excessively dark, not enough.
- Is it better to drink water or so-called “energy” drinks? Fruit, nuts, or seeds can supply those ever-mentioned electrolytes just as easily as such drinks can. The difference is that enhanced beverages contain salt and sugar compelling our bodies to feel thirsty and to drink more. No matter how many sports drinks you down, they will never quench your thirst the way water does.
- Chocolate milk replaces lost electrolytes 3 times better than so-called “energy” drinks.
- Such high-power energy drinks are being marketed to adults, promoting beverages containing ingredients that sound scientific, but may be unfamiliar to many consumers. There is scant scientific support for these ingredients to make the kind of claims manufacturers use in hyping their products, Most of the energy from these drinks comes from the sugar and caffeine, not from the unnecessary extras. These drinks contain plenty of calories from sugar, which can add up quickly if you drink a few cans. Aside from caffeine and sugar, some of the more common ingredients are taurine, ginseng, guarana, vitamins and green tea.
- Conclusion: stick to water as much as possible.
Mental Preparation and Focus
Focusing on the job ahead is the goal, not trying to analyze the mistakes already made. Dr. Jacques Dallaire’s book, “Performance Thinking” defines mental skills for the competitive world and life. Importance of keeping racers minds onto the job at hand, especially after an error of judgment and a near miss create temporary confusion that may lead to a crash. The “Seven Key Rules of the Mental Road”, rule # 1 being that if one is to get out of a hole, one must stop digging.
2/ Suitable equipment
- Helmet standards: SNELL VS FIA. Helmets bearing an FIA 8860-2004 or 2010 offer over 20% greater impact protection than helmets exceeding the SA-2015 standard. The FIA 8859 standard corresponds to the SNELL SA-2015. Compression of the inner liner due to helmet wear in multiple events over a period of time, often from the results of acceleration and deceleration, renders the helmet’s fit loose on the wearer and makes the helmet not only less efficient but possibly dangerous. This becomes critical as soon as the helmet can rotate even slightly in two planes on the head.
- It is also critically important for a racer to purchase his helmet from a factory-trained retailer, made to his individual head’s measures, instead of selecting a “one fits all” S, M or L generic unit of which fitment is often inadequate and will not offer adequate protection and comfort. Address COST of helmets VS that of the first minutes in the hospital’s emergency room.
BREATHING INSIDE YOUR HELMET:
- Helmet ventilation: breathe in, but where do you breathe out? Helmets must provide adequate air circulation, to allow wearer to breathe clean air, free of expelled carbon dioxide.
- Open-face helmets do not guarantee proper oxygenation of the brain as airflow from an open cockpit may hamper proper breathing.
- The use of a proper, permeable balaclava reduces the amount of perspiration on the face and head.
- The use of Fluticasone propionate (Flonase) nasal spray to clear nasal passages used twice, then once a day, is beneficial to the ones afflicted with allergies.
- HANS and the importance of triangulation from tethers, as well as the importance of shoulder belts fitment and angles. If belts are properly installed, it negates the need for artificial “band-aids” such as high side retainers that may present a danger. It is important from time to time, to check the FIA and SFI approved lists of certified devices online. Check HANS recommendations for shoulder belts settings and angles on the Stand 21 website at .
- Racing suit & Underwear: wearing adequate, fire-retardant clothing to keep the body from excessive perspiration and heat stress conditions is critical, especially for older, more vulnerable drivers and crew. It is important to understand the danger of wearing inadequate polyester/cotton-blend tees and briefs (not counting Nylon briefs and bras for women drivers). Wear instead genuine, permeability-tested Nomex-fabric underwear. Wearing such underwear inside a typical SFI-5 rated suit increases heat protection from open flame by nearly 50%, while reducing body heat by offering a barrier against outside elements such as sunlight and engine generated heat from the racing vehicle.
- Racing suits: overly advertised “lightweight suits” is a marketing ploy that has no bearing on actual protection or comfort. A “lighter” suit, as advertised, may be 1 lb lighter than a “standard” suit. Eat less breakfast to make up the difference.
- The Lid Lifter balaclava offers an elegant and simpler solution to the removal of the helmet in case of an accident where the driver may be unconscious and can be performed by personnel with minimal training in case of a life-threatening emergency (demonstration followed).
3/ Car Preparation
-Safety belts fitment: the required shoulder belts fitment angles must be met to ensure the HANS functionality. The 15% in and down rule applies, follow manufacturers recommendations.
- 5-point VS 6-point: the current 6-point system greatly reduces the pressure encountered by the chest during an impact, while minimizing the risk of ‘submarining’.
-Cars with no roll bars or anchor points: most exposed to the greater risks. Drive slower, there is nothing to gain.
3/ TBI & Concussion
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a traumatic force to the head or upper body that causes the brain to shake inside of the skull. The injury is defined as a concussion when it causes a change in mental status such as amnesia, disorientation, mental fogginess, confusion, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision or loss of consciousness. There are 21 symptoms that have been demonstrated to be caused by a concussion. Loss of consciousness is not an indicator of injury severity. Because no two concussions are exactly alike and symptoms are not always definite, the injury’s severity, effects and recovery are sometimes difficult to determine.
The obvious physical effects of concussion include:
Dizziness with imbalance
However, the exact short-term and long-term effects of concussion are still evolving. Data shows that concussions are cumulative. Repetitive head trauma leads to a permanent decrease in brain function. Long-term effects include vision problems, memory deterioration, impaired balance, loss of coordination, and persistent headaches. Concussions lead to disorders such as early Alzheimer’s disease, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and anxiety disorders.
The most notable complication of concussion is second impact syndrome. In this syndrome, a person who is recovering from an initial concussion sustains a subsequent concussive injury, resulting in diffuse brain swelling and severe, permanent neurological dysfunction or death.
The current recommended treatment for concussion involves:
Rest (mental and physical)
Concussion Test and Post-Concussion Symptoms
Protocol for evaluating and treating suspected concussion in an athlete
Remove the driver from competition immediately and do not allow him or her to resume driving for the remainder of the event.
Perform a Concussion Test and a Post-Concussion Symptoms Scale test on-site and compare the results with the established baseline data.
Monitor for worsening of symptoms and/or focal neurological deficits, including weakness and sensory change, every 15 to 30 minutes during the first several hours after injury.
If symptoms worsen, the driver should be transported to an emergency department for further evaluation, because changes may suggest an injury more serious than a concussion.
Once a driver has suffered an initial concussion, his or her chances of encountering another are 3 to 6 times greater than a driver who has never sustained a concussion.
Drivers who suffer 3 or more concussions are at increased risk of experiencing loss of consciousness (8-fold greater risk), anterograde/post-traumatic amnesia/PTA (reduced ability to form new memories after a brain injury) (5.5-fold greater risk), and confusion (5.1-fold greater risk) after a subsequent concussion.
Recovery time varies!
Please keep aware of new developments, information and watch the videos and demonstrations on the Stand 21 Safety Foundation’s website at www.racinggoessafer.org.