Professional racing is a huge industry worldwide and can cover a whole range of differing disciplines, but whether it’s Formula 1 racing in Monaco or the Dakar Rally in a Freelander, safety is always top of the drivers’, officials’ and governing bodies’ agenda. However, whilst Formula 1 drivers hit the top speeds, they do so in an incredibly controlled environment — the track. Rally drivers, who have to drive in a standard road-car body shell, must contend with public roads, rough terrain and hairpin bends, all of which can mean the challenge of maintaining driver and spectator safety is a big one.
In most cases, rally cars must be based on a standard four-seat production model which has been produced for use on public roads and in numbers greater than 25,000. However, there are some races for specific vehicles, such as the Defender Challenge. This is a ‘one-make’ rally for drivers of Land Rover Defender 90 Hard Tops. A similar race is the British Cross Country Freelander Challenge, which features the RACE2RECOVERY team (comprising former British servicemen who have been injured in combat operations).
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_Rover_Defender
However, regardless of the race type or the levels of heroism shown by the competitors prior to taking up the sport, the cars you see flying over hills and haring round tight corners are not the same as the standard car sitting on your driveway. They are fitted with specially designed enhancements designed to keep the drivers, co-drivers and spectators safe.
One of the first features you’ll see as you peer through the rally car window is that all unnecessary fittings, including the rear seats, have been removed. This is as much about ensuring the cars are fast as it is about safety. The two seats that remain are fitted with racing harnesses akin to those in an F1 car, with the belt positioning designed to ensure the torso of the driver (or co-driver) is restrained, thus reducing injury. The seats themselves are made of molded carbon-fiber, which is also intended to reduce the effects of any impact.
Perhaps the most crucial safety feature for a car guaranteed to be cornering at high speed is the metal roll-cage. This is made from tubular steel and is welded into the chassis of the car to prevent the roof from collapsing if the car tips over. In addition to this, all rally cars are also fitted with side-impact protection, which aims to dissipate the force of any impact and prevent serious injury to the driver and co-driver. You can check out Dynamic Metals for info on the best materials for automobiles, and also info on them sponsoring the Race2Recovery Freelander Challenge.
Finally, the speeds at which these cars race make braking a priority, and the brake discs on a rally car, which are made of carbon-fiber, are massive. In some cases, these brake discs are bigger than the wheels of a standard car and will heat up so much during braking that they will glow red-hot.
Whether you’re racing in Wales, Africa, or the U.S., on roads or off-road, ensuring your car is safe is vital. Making the right choice in metals for your roll cage and making sure all of your security features are top-notch can be both vital and a basic entry requirement for happy and safe racing.
Jack writes for Dynamic Metals, a company sourcing and supplying high-grade and exotic metals for all major industries including: Motor Racing, Aerospace, Defense, Advanced Engineering, Medical and Oil & Gas. He covers topics on the safety and effectiveness of specific metals chosen.
Note: for those who love to attend these races, we would suggest you wear earplugs to protect your hearing! pb