First hand account of race track safety !
Have you ever wondered about those funny looking suits the race drivers wear, you know the ones with all of the advertising on them. Maybe that's the ticket, maybe they are just a good place for a sponsor to put their logo. Well let me tell you, they are very useful for much more than a billboard for your sponsor.............
The 4th of July here in the US is a National Holiday, one that usually spent celebrating the birth of our Independence. What goes along with that is always a bit of "fireworks", fire crackers, cheery bombs, sparklers....... you know what I am talking about. But on this 4th of July yours truly decided to celebrate if a very unusual way.....with "fire" not "fireworks".
It all began at the Portland International Raceway during the 4th of July SCCA National race. I entered the GT1 class and was racing with some of the best cars that had come to the track for the weekend. The cars were fast, the racing was fun and very competitive. But as in most funfilled days there always seems to be one little "glitch" that can make your day less than enjoyable for a short term or in some cases long term. In my case it is long term.
While racing with the GT1 class I had an encounter with turn 10 at the Portland track. My car began to slide as I entered the corner to low in the turn, trying to make room for another faster car. As my car entered the turn it slid sideways and was collected up (hit) by a car I had been racing. In his defense, it was not his fault, he had no place to go but where he did and he just didn't have enough room to get by me. I was in his way and his car hit mine, it is that simple. It is what happened thereafter that is the meat of this story.
After the two cars collided, his car spun off into the grass, my car spun back onto the track. But the impact from the collision moved the rear of my car's frame over about 4 inches. As a result it pushed the fuel cell out of it's mounting, broke the fuel pump from it's mount and ripped off the fuel return line (the line that returns excess fuel back to the cell of the car doesn't need it). As a result the fuel that was in the line spilled down onto the hot exhaust and you can imagine what happened then. Poof, Up in flames we go. I actually didn't even realize that I was on fire until I saw he black smoke coming from around the passenger side of the car. The car was engulfed quickly and the flames begin to reach up both sides of the car, making my exit imperitave and in need of being quick.
While experiencing all of this excitement I had a few good friends on my side - my fire suit, (the same fire suit I had spent so much money on and complained that it was too expensive), the long sleeved fireproof shirt, the long underwear pants I wear when driving the car, the fireproof socks, shoes, head sock and of course my helmet and Haans Device, all expensive and totally un-necessary until you need them. But was I ever happy on the 4th of July that I had them. With the fire seeping into the cockpit through every opening the car was quickly filling up with smoke, the fire had progressed to both sides of the car and wasa coming in around the seat melting the fabric to my suit. I was about to exit right through the fire. I managed to get my belts loose, get the window net down and the door open. All I saw was a wall of flame, but I took off running straight though it, luckliy for me it was very thin and I was throuogh it in no time. But I do remember the heat, it was hot !
So.........all of you racers out there that may think safety equipment is for sissys, I want you all to know, if I am considered a sissy because I wear everyting known to man, then so be it. Actually I don't consider me or anyone else a sissy that wear bulk safety equipment, I consider us smart. I was a strong supporter of safety equipment and an avid safety equipment user and will always be as long as I am ever in the seat of a race car.
If you want to drive a racecar, before you do so check out what is going to be required by youur sanctioning body as far as safety equipment and then double it ! Get everything you can that will ensure your personal safety, do not try to save money on this, it can be your life at stake here if you try to go with a second rate piece vs. a proven and competitant piece of gear. Take a look at ht photos attached to this article adn then reaslize that I had 15 to 20 seconds of time to be protected by all the gear, more then that and I could have been in more truoble. Be careful, wear everything you can to be safe adn above all - have fun ! Life is short, don't wait to experience what you have always dreamed of doing for yourself, your number counld be called any day at any time.