Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 20:02:55 -0600
From: Scott Blazey <edpm3_at_earthlink.net>
Subject: Track Safety Equipment
This will be a little long, but those of you who know me also know that I
often suffer from diarrhea of the keyboard.
First of all, thanks to anyone and everyone for setting up this new digest.
For a lot of years I found the other digest fun and useful, but it was
getting to be like using a port-a-potty that was long overdue for service.
Duane is right about any safety equipment being a compromise. As a
compromise, it's up to you to decide what and how much you give up on the
street for more safety on the track.
Rollbars are great for rollover protection, a little bit of side protection
(depending on the angle of the strike), stiffening the chassis, and hanging
your shoulder harnesses. All good for the track. So what do you give up on
the street? Room for your head and other body parts to move around without
hitting something. You must understand that in a collision on the street,
your unhelmeted head and arms are much closer to some mild steel, even when
the steel is padded. And so is your passenger's head. Don't even think
about putting anyone in the back seat of a rollbar'd car, unless you can
stand the emotional trauma and punitive damages.
Four-point harnesses are great for holding you in the proper position on
the track. Don't remove your stock belts because camlocking up the trick
comp harness every time you drive to the post office gets old after about,
oh, one time.
The 5th or 6th (crotch) strap(s) do indeed help keep you from submarining.
But perhaps more importantly, they hold the lap belt down low around your
hips when you cinch up the shoulder straps, and in a collision, will help
prevent the lap belt from riding up under your rib cage and rearranging
your internal organs. Be warned, however, that the crotch straps need to
proceed directly from the buckle down to the attach point, with perhaps a 5
degree forward cant allowed; otherwise, the strap(s) will not perform its
required function correctly. If you're looping a crotch strap over the
front of your stock seat, you are setting yourself up for potentially more
injuries that if you had no strap. Another good reason to get a racing seat.
At Gateway Tech last year, Joe Marko discussed the results of a study that
showed that the safest combination was a 2 inch lap belt and 3 inch
shoulder straps. If I remember his explanation correctly (an unlikely
probability), the 2 inch belt was more likely to be positioned correctly,
given the average person's skeletal structure. A 3 inch lap belt was more
likely to be positioned in such a way as to slide up toward the abdomen
upon impact. However, this combination is almost never seen because most,
if not all, racing sanctioning bodies mandate 3 inch lap belts, figuring
bigger is better and stronger and a wider belt must spread out the load
Attaching seat harnesses by fitting the ends between the seat rails and car
floor is not a good idea. At the very least, if you do this, you should use
longer bolts of the appropriate grade, but keep in mind that the seat rails
are no longer resting flush on the floor as designed, and now only the bolt
is keeping the rail from moving, not the combination of bolt and friction
from a tight, surface-to-surface pressure. However you mount any safety
equipment, try to make sure that your method does not reduce the safety
that BMW engineers built into the car.
Naturally, everything I've said about safety equipment and installation can
be overridden by Rule #7 (see below).
That should do it for now. You can rinse and spit.
(Rule #7. Any modification is authorized if it looks cool.)
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