January 9, 2019


SAFETY: Will your fire suit stand the heat?

Years ago, drivers fearlessly climbed into their race cars wearing only cotton t-shirts and jeans. These days, most motorsport participants are more informed about driver safety and the importance of being protected from head-to-toe in any racing event. The ability of someone to emerge from a burning car virtually unscathed is a direct result of the increase in personal safety awareness. Of course, drag racing or motorsport of any kind is inherently risky but the chance of injury can be reduced if you take the time to protect yourself properly. Personal safety is a system of the driver suit, accessories, and helmet. The hub of this system is the driver suit. There are many things that influence what kind of suit you need. Sanctioning body rules, track requirements, the type and speed of your car and so. How do you put these factors together to ensure you buy the suit that is right for you? Some drivers look for a manufacturer’s name they know or trust. Other people may be new to the sport and not as familiar with the products available. No matter how much you already know (or don’t know) about driver suits, there is a standard that will guide you in your choice of a well-made garment. That standard is the SFI Foundation Specification 3.2A for Driver Suits. You have probably noticed the black and white SFI patch on many drivers’ left shoulders at various tracks, from drag strips to dirt ovals. The patch demonstrates that the manufacturer certifies the suit to meet or exceed the SFI specification. What does this mean to the consumer? It means that there is a way to differentiate quality-assured products from untested products. A driver suit that is certified to meet the SFI spec has been laboratory tested and has passed the requirements of that test. Before getting into the details of the testing procedures, it is necessary to understand what the SFI Foundation is and what it does. SFI is a non-profit organisation established to issue and administer standards for specialty/performance automotive and racing equipment. This includes parts like clutch assemblies and fuel cells as well as personal driver safety items. The standards/specifications are created via a committee process. The technical committees are comprised of individuals from all facets of the industry. Through their expertise and research, a spec is drafted and then offered to all interested parties in the form of a public hearing. Once revised to the committee’s satisfaction, the spec is presented to the SFI Board of Directors for approval. If approved, the spec is published and made available to the public. Sanctioning bodies all over the world include SFI specs in their rulebooks and use them as minimum requirements. The driver suit spec 3.2A tests a garment’s fire retardant capabilities. The spec contains a rating system based on the garment’s capability to provide Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) in the presence of both direct flame and radiant heat. The purpose of the TPP is to measure the length of time the person wearing the garment can be exposed to a heat source before incurring a second degree, or skin blistering, burn. A Nitro Funny Car fire is one of the harshest tests for fire suit safety. The SFI 3.2A/20 fire suit for nitro drivers will buy the driver 40 seconds of time before second degree burns if the suit is cared for and fitted properly. The TPP rating is the product of exposure heat flux and exposure time. The TPP results can be converted to the time before a second degree burn occurs. The higher the garment rating, the more time before a second degree burn. Here are the SFI ratings with the corresponding TPP values and times to a second degree burn: SFI Rating – TPP Value – Time to 2nd Degree Burn 3.2A/1 – 6 – 3 Seconds 3.2A/3 – 14 – 7 Seconds 3.2A/5 – 19 – 10 Seconds 3.2A/10 – 38 – 19 Seconds 3.2A/15 – 60 – 30 Seconds 3.2A/20 – 80 – 40 Seconds Another test included in the spec is the after-flame test. A direct flame is applied to the fabric and then removed, and the time it takes the material to self-extinguish is measured. This is called after-flame time and it must be 2.0 seconds or less for the layer of fabric to pass. Cuff material is also subjected to this test. The flammability test evaluates single layers of fabric only. The individual layers of a multiple-layer suit are tested for after-flame time separately. The TPP test can be used to evaluate multiple-layer configurations as well as single-layer fabrics. The samples used in testing are assembled with the identical fabrics and layer order as an actual driver suit. Other tests required by Spec 3.2A include thread heat resistance, zipper heat resistance, and multiple layer thermal shrinkage resistance. A common misunderstanding about SFI ratings is that they represent the number of fabric layers in the garment. It is actually possible for driver suits with various numbers of layers to have the same performance rating. This is due to the wide range of materials used by manufacturers today. The radiant heat portion of the spec is significant because the majority of racer burns are caused by heat transfer rather than direct flame. Insulation is the best way to prevent this kind of burn. Using multiple layers of fabric helps keep the heat source away from the skin longer because each layer creates air gaps that have to heat up. The extra seconds gained with each layer are precious to a driver trying to escape from a burning car. Another way to obtain extra air gaps is to wear racing underwear. Fire resistant underwear should be worn with every type of driver suit, especially single layer suits because it will double the minimum protection time (+3 seconds). The 3.2A rating does not include underwear. It is certified through SFI Spec 3.3 for Driver Accessories and undergoes the same TPP and flammability tests as

//

Top five position reflects hard work of Speedmaster team

Emilio and Adamo Spinozzi have moved to fifth place in the 400 Thunder Pro Slammer Championship following two wins from three rounds at Willowbank Raceway on Saturday. While Emilio is the first to admit luck has played a part in being in the top five after three championship rounds, he said the team has been making sure the Speedmaster Chevelle is prepared to make the start line for every round. “There’s the old saying ‘to finish first, first you must finish’ and the hard work of the Speedmaster team allows us to be out there for every round,” he said. “We’ve had our fair share of luck on side this season, but we’ve also been reasonably consistent and made sure we are on that start line without fail. You can’t take advantage of opponents slipping up if you aren’t there.” The Speedmaster Chevelle’s first challenge at Willowbank’s New Years Thunder event was Queensland’s Russell Pavey, but the team caught an early break when Pavey left a red light on the tree, while Spinozzi had to battle tyre shake. “I didn’t see Russell’s red light at first, so I was on and off the throttle thinking I had to chase him down,” Spinozzi said. The next round delivered more fortune against legendary driver John Zappia. Zappia crossed the centre line which saw an automatic win for Spinozzi. “I saw John coming over so I got off the throttle for a bit, and then back into it once I saw he had his car under control.” Two wins up, Spinozzi made it to the B Final for the event, taking on Sam Fenech. There the Speedmaster Chevelle made one of its best launches yet, but got loose shortly after half track. “Sam was out in front and it didn’t look like we could chase him down, so with the car getting skatey it was the right choice to take my foot off the throttle and live to fight another day,” Spinozzi said. “We weren’t disappointed at all though. Two win lights and we moved to fifth place in the points. We know that’s a position we are going to have to defend vigorously for the remaining half of the season.” While there were highlights for Spinozzi, there were some lowlights for the class with racers Andrew Searle and Kelvin Lyle having some big accidents. “We never like to see our fellow racers damaging their cars or themselves. We’d like to pass on our best wishes to both Andrew and Kelvin and hope to see them back on the track soon,” Spinozzi said. Spinozzi Racing crew chief Mick Marriott said the team tested a more aggressive set up in the pursuit of quick times, but had to give full credit for the team for learning an entirely new race car. “The racing is almost the last part of it,” he said. “The engine preparation, car preparation and turn around is all done at our workshop, and the fact we are doing that all in-house has been just as big a learning curve.” The team now heads for Sydney Dragway for the next round of the championship, Santo’s Summer Thunder on January 18 and 19. Spinozzi thanked team sponsors Speedmaster, Hitachi Construction Machinery, Nicsons Concrete, Torco Oils, LJ Hooker Commercial Macarthur, Soligo Concrete, Sloanebuilt Trailers, Pasta Italia, Optimum Fire, Planned Signs, Kemps Creek Mitre 10, Western Filters, Speedflow, Al’s Race Glides, Smithfield Diff and Gearbox, Race Teknix and Corfield Media Solutions for their continued support. – Spinozzi Racing Media Release

//
Drag News Magazine