Additional leg protection under development
- By Bruce Newton
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
NASCAR-style driver foot and leg protection is being developed by DJR Team Penske with the support of V8 Supercars in the wake of Chaz Mostert and Scott Pye’s high impact crashes at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Mostert crashed his Pepsi Max Ford Falcon FG X early in Friday qualifying and sustained a broken left leg and wrist, as well as left knee injuries. Pye hit the wall at the top of the mountain late in the race on Sunday in the XBOX Falcon and suffered a fractured right rib and some foot bruising.
The protection system is being developed based on the tray used in NASCAR, where Penske also races, by a design engineer on secondment to Australia from the USA. Work started after Bathurst.
The tray requires modification for use in Australia because seats used in V8 Supercars are a totally different design to that of NASCAR and need to conform to FIA 8862 standard. V8 Supercars also has the added complexity of the Pirtek Enduro Cup, which means drivers of different sizes sharing the car and having to swap in and out quickly at pit stops.
But if the issues are sorted and approvals gained then it could be a control or mandated item fitted to all cars in time for the 2016 season.
“They (Penske) are looking at a tray which is going to come up on the left-hand side of the car to approximately the same height as the seat, and the same on the right-hand side to stop the driver’s foot drifting out toward the door, offering a secondary or tertiary level of protection around the feet,” explained V8 Supercars sporting and technical director David Stuart, who visited the Penske workshop during the Castrol Gold Coast 600 meeting with category medico Dr Carl Le to view the development.
“It looks quite good; I will be very interested to see the final product.”
Stuart said the next step in the process would be for the chassis technical advisory panel (TAP), which comprises the technical directors of the constructor teams, to review the design.
“We will get the Penske representative on the chassis TAP to present that and we will get buy-in from the other technical directors from the other teams,” he explained. “They can look at what Penske have got, investigate if there is any way it can be improved and discuss whether it should it be implemented in the category.
“We will get people’s thoughts … on that and try to progress it as a category solution.”
Other potential outcomes to emerge from the Bathurst accidents include the possible investigation of some form of handle or grab for the driver to hang on into in an impact. Mostert broke his wrist because he still had hold of the gear shift when he hit the wall.
“The rally guys are always told to cross their arms and grab their belts or their head,” explained Stuart. “Dr Carl thinks that having something they can hold which is in front of their head and chest, like a handle from the roof, or the top windscreen mount would be helpful.
“Whenever we look at something like that we have to look at what the possible secondary functions of that might be.”
Stuart confirmed there had also been discussion about swapping to steering column mounted gearshift paddles from the traditional gearshift lever in the wake of Mostert’s broken leg, although the belief now is he suffered the injury on the edge of the seat rather than the lever.
Such a shift would be relatively straight forward because the capability is incorporated into the Next Generation racer’s wiring harness and there are systems commercially available on the market that could be adapted to fit.
“I think something that does make our category unique is we still use a gear lever,” cautioned Stuart. “So there are different levels of thought, but it is certainly something we could look at with regard to driver safety and future development of the category.
“The cars could accept that, there are several different systems out there you can commercially buy and put on the car. It’s something we could adapt relatively easily.”
Stuart said he expected completed reports on both high impact Bathurst crashes to be completed and available for the TAP to review at the final meeting of the season at the Coates Hire Sydney 500 in December, where he expected the tray and other potential changes to the cars to be discussed.
In-depth reports would also be filed with the global motorsport ruling body, the FIA and its Australian affiliate CAMS.
Assessment of the cars began at Bathurst and have continued at their workshops after being stripped down.
Stuart said V8 Supercars’ investigations showed the roll cages of both cars had stood up to immense forces and done their job properly in protecting the drivers.
“The standard of safety the cars are currently at is very good,” Stuart said. “Chaz’s accident was certainly spectacular… but the level of g (impact) that Scott Pye sustained is similar to the level of g that Chaz sustained.
“So they are different accidents – which is good; Chaz’s is like a pinball, and Scott’s is a straight-in angular accident. So we have a couple of very good examples of the level of safety and protection the cars are providing to the drivers.”
Wheel tethers mandated for the category just before the Wilson Security Sandown 500 also worked well in the Mostert accident, with only the right rear detaching.