I attended a recent safety seminar put on by Stand21 during the Long Beach Grand Prix. Stand21 are my favorite safety gear brand as their approach to product development is driven by safety and performance. They work with industry experts, including professors, physicians and others who have a keen interest in improving safety in motorsports. They hold these seminars at various times of the year and are well worth attending. This year they had several presentations from Dr. Terry Trammell, Dr. John Melvin, Danny Ebberts and Dr. Jacques Dallaire.
Terry spoke specifically about fire safety and the importance of fire resistant underwear. Studies that he conducted showed that an extra layer of clothing more than doubles the time BEFORE fire temps begin causing damage to the human skin. The correct underwear can also keep you cooler as well - which I can vouch for having run in very hot conditions at Spring Mountain.
The most dramatic presentation came from race car driver, Danny Ebberts. Watch the video linked below to see his off-road truck get engulfed in flame. He narrowly escaped but still suffered 2nd degree burns and was hospitalized for weeks. Danny's speech was especially relevant as one tip he provided I had never heard - hold your breath in a fire incident. This was something that can save you from damaging your lungs.
Terry stressed that cotton t-shirts are really not going to provide the protection that proper racing underwear can provide. Additionally, plastic based performance shirts are known to melt to the skin - what may be appropriate to wear during a 5K running race may not hold up when your race car is on fire.
He also addressed women specific issues. Specifically, he mentioned bras as a source of trouble. Terry mentioned under-wire bras as a special no-no as they speed up heat transfer. Stand21 introduced a jog bra that is fire resistant to give women better options.
Additionally he talked about the safety concerns for women with long hair. He recommended that they put their hair into a 'flat-braid' so it goes down the neck under a balaclava and can be tucked into the driving suit. He suggested that hair that is exposed acts like a wick for fire.
I'm especially concerned that many trackday participants don't consider the possibility of fires when they are on the track. Most production cars that are running stock fuel systems can be very safe. It is the track cars that are using modified fuel systems that I have seen catch on fire. A couple of years ago, a Lotus Cup racer's track-prepped Exige caught on fire in a race. The fire exploded through the rear glass and engulfed the driver - who luckily only suffered some singed hairs on his face. He told me that eve that he would never wear an open faced helmet in a car again! Be careful of any mods you make to your fuel systems and be prepared with the proper fire protection clothing and fire suppression system.
I use Stand21 products because of their technical approach to product development. Fashion is not foremost in their minds - though their products look great. Most importantly, I've been happy with their comfort as well - especially in the heat of the desert tracks I frequent. I blogged about their products a couple years ago: HERE.
Stand21 feel so strongly about safety education that they have set up a non-profit organization, Racing Goes Safer, designed to improve motorsports safety. Learn more about them: HERE