Head and Neck Support (HANS) Device:
Steel and Foam Energy Reducing (SAFER) Barrier:
Hi and welcome to Failurology; a podcast about engineering failures. I’m your host, Nicole
And I’m Brian. And we’re both from Calgary, AB.
Thank you again to our Patreon subscribers! For less than a box of cereal, you can hear us talk about more interesting engineering failures!
This week in engineering news, Nascar is Going to the Moon.
Nascar has partnered with Leidos, a Fortune 500 science and technology company for the design and technology of the Lunar Terrain Vehicle or LTV.
The LTV will transport two astronauts across the lunar surface starting with the Artemis 5 mission in the late 2020’s.
NASCAR was chosen for, “Their deep experience and capability in developing high performance vehicles in harsh environments” as well as the need for NASCAR vehicles to have fast and agile maintenance, something that will be beneficial on the moon.
If you want to read more about this adventure check out the link on the web page for this episode at failurology.ca
Now on to this week’s engineering failure; the first of a two part episode on motorsport safety. NASCAR was the inspiration for this episode, but we discuss other forms of racing as well.
Richard Petty - 1970 Rebel 400 at Darlington, arms and shoulders dangling out of the car on a wreck. NASCAR mandated that all cars have a window net to contain drivers arms during a crash and protect the driver from flying debris. Seriously, how did it take this long to make window nets mandatory? Also, Richard Petty’s mom wasn’t a big fan of seeing her son's limbs out the window during a crash.
HANS devices/2001 Daytona 500
Dale Earnhardt died of a basilar skull fracture on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 after hitting the outside wall. It is Nascar’s 4th death in less than a year across the three national series. Basilar skull fracture happens when the seat belt catches the body and the head keeps going, HANS devices allow the head and body to move in sync, preventing whiplash effect.
Geoff Bodine - truck racing - sent into the barrier at 190 mph (306 kph) during the Dayton 250 Truck Series
Ryan Newman - 2020 - should have died but walked out of the hospital a few days later
IndyCar into SAFER barrier in Indy 500 qualifying right after it was installed
Kendall Hebert, a 17 year old from Tecumseh Ontario, near Windsor and Detroit Michigan, died from a jet-car crash in the fall of 2006. She had just received the Guinness World Record for the world’s fastest female drag racer. Police believe her jet car got caught in a cross wind, causing it to smash into a concrete barrier, roll over said barrier, and then roll several times. Her car was going 480 kph at the time of the crash. She was ejected from her car, and many believe her seatbelt had malfunctioned because the car's frame had held up well in the crash.
Early Motorsports Safety
Humans have been racing each other in various devices since the saber tooth tiger era – at least since at least 700 BC in Ancient Greece.
Motorsports and automobile racing started soon after the invention of gasoline powered internal combustion engine cars in the 1880s.
First organized automobile competition, a reliability test in 1894 went from Paris to Rouen, France with the winner having an average speed of 16.4 km/h, slower than the speed of a top marathon runner. I know someone that can run that fast. Not me, but someone else. I am slow.
Qualifying speed was set at 10 miles per hour which was too stringent for most of the vehicles entered, qualifying speed reduced to 8 miles per hour.
The event also included a 90 minute lunch break and was promoted as a “Competition for Horseless Carriages”
The eventual first place finisher, Count Jules de Dion was the first vehicle to arrive in Rouen with a blistering average speed of 11.66 miles per hour and a time of 6 hours 48 minutes, including time spent when he detoured into a potato field.
Unfortunately, he was awarded the second prize as his steam-powered tractor required a passenger to serve as an onboard stoker.
For reference, the record time for running a 50 mile event is 4:50:08
This race saw the first fatality of a driver and a mechanic.
Roll cages and fire extinguishers were introduced through the 1920’s and 1930’s in racing but safety largely remained an after thought until the 1950’s with the introduction of driver helmets specific to racing.
Used since 1950, people positioned around the track (typically road courses) are able to alert drivers to issues by waving a yellow flag or blue flag to indicate that faster cars are overtaking.
In some racing events, they may provide first air or fire fighting, at larger tracks, this is handled by professional safety crews
Early helmets were made of leather, and later helmets were made of hard materials such as metal and fiberglass.
The first modern racing helmet was created in 1953 by Bell Auto Parts, and was made of a composite material that was lighter and stronger than previous helmets.
In the 1960s and 1970s, full-face helmets became popular in racing to provide better protection to the face and head.
In the 1980s and 1990s, improvements were made to helmet design to improve aerodynamics and ventilation.
In 2001 carbon fibre helmets were introduced and modern helmets are stringently tested to withstand racing and crash forces
Fire Resistant Suits
Drivers wore short sleeved shirts for keeping cool while racing in early racing days.
Overalls were introduced in 1963 by the FIA and in 1975 overalls had to meet a fire-resistant standard.
Current race suits/fire suits must withstand being heated to 600 to 800 degrees for more than 11 seconds for F1. NASCAR fire suits need to protect up to 1000 degree heat.
NASCAR Hall of Fame member Tony Flock was the first driver to wear a fire-retardant jumpsuit.
Survival Cell – F1 racing
Area of the car where the driver is seated
Built out of 6mm exceedingly strong carbon fibre composite with a layer of Kevlar, which is penetration resistant and the crash protection structures absorb huge amounts of energy during a crash
Has a fire suppression system that can be activated by the driver or externally that sprays fire retardant foam around the monocoque and engine
Used in NASCAR and other racing series, came as a result of Richard Petty’s 1970 crash during the Rebel 400 where his arms and shoulder were dangling out of the car. His mother didn’t like seeing this and made a checkerboard netting out of dish towels to prevent this.
Safety net has (obviously) been developed from this.
After a wreck, a driver will put the window net down to signify to safety teams that they are alright.
Introduced by NASCAR in the 1994 season, the roof flaps are designed to keep cars from becoming airborne and flipping down the track. At high speeds and certain rotation angles, the car acts more like a wing. As a car turns around and reaches an angle where lift occurs, the low pressure above the flaps causes them to deploy automatically.
Roof flaps eliminate most of the lift on the vehicle, generally keeping the car on the ground.
We’re going to pause here and will carry on with motorsport safety in our next episode. So there you have it, Part 1 of our series on motorsport safety. Over the years, we’ve raced some cars, we’ve learned a lot, and we continued to adapt and improve the safety of motorsport.
For photos, sources and an episode summary from this week’s episode head to Failurology.ca. If you’re enjoying what you’re hearing, please rate, review and subscribe to Failurology, so more people can find us. If you want to chat with us, our Twitter handle is @failurology, you can email us email@example.com, you can connect with us on Linked In or you can message us on our Patreon page. Check out the show notes for links to all of these. Thanks, everyone for listening. And tune in to the next episode for part 2 of motorsport safety. Bye everyone, talk soon!