Specialist motor sport safety requirements

While mainstream motor sports have obvious safety requirements, as described above, there are many other forms of motor sport which have unique safety problems. Two of these have been mentioned in the introduction, mud racing and desert racing. There are many more such as Motor cross, Truck racing, hill climbing, speedway racing, go-karts, drag racing, rally cross, swamp racing, monster trucks and motorkhana to name a few more. In all of these sports, the idea is to get to a destination or around a set course faster than any one else. Due to the vast differences in vehicles, not all regulations are applicable to all classes. This short section will highlight the major differences for some of the above mentioned types of motor sport from a safety perspective.

Desert Racing.

Desert racing is unique in character, see figure on right. In no other type of motor sport are the drivers and vehicles so far from help. Even in rallying, there are marshaling points at regular intervals and each stage may only be up to 40 km long. In desert racing a stage may be over 700km, such as in the Paris-Dakar for example. In this instance, the vehicles do not stop unless halted by an accident or mechanical failure. In this situation, the drivers and co-drivers must have first aid training and carry extensive medical kits as well as fire extinguishers, good radio communications equipment and water. Other vehicles in long trek desert racing will also stop to help other competitors if it is necessary. The incident response in this situation is usually by helicopter, but may take quite a long time, especially if a distress call cannot be made. Many desert races do not have set paths the drivers must follow, but the drivers must plot their own course between set points. To cover these distances, the vehicles must carry around 400 litres of fuel. Dehydration is another big problem. In the desert, temperatures in the vehicles can exceed 50° c. Drivers and co-drivers must take huge amounts of water continuously to remain healthy. The problem of remoteness is compounded if navigation problems occur. If desert racing on a motorcycle, a small fall could smash your continuous scrolling map and your Global Positioning System, leaving you very isolated.

Mud Racing.

Mud racing is a relatively slow form of motor sport, but it has its unique dangers. Here in Australia, the local four-wheel drive mud racing is done in specially constructed paddocks with large pits filled with water and mud. The vehicles race against the clock in pairs around a short course. There are four safety teams standing on parts of the course and fire tankers at each end. The safety personnel can reach any accident on foot in less than ten seconds. This is very important in mud racing as a roll onto a mud pit may leave the driver strapped into their seat and underwater. The safety teams have fire extinguishers and snorkles to allow trapped drivers to breathe. Two tractors are on standby with straps to lift or tow vehicles if needed.

Truck Racing.

Truck racing would have to be the heaviest motor sport attracting large corporate sponsorship here in Australia and overseas. 1200Horse Power Prime Movers, usually used for towing Semi-Trailers, are raced around tracks at high speed. While they are speed limited to 160kph, unlimited the trucks are capable of 220kph in a straight line. This is a huge amount of kinetic energy, especially when each truck weighs about six and a half tonnes. The barriers around these tracks must be immensely strong and sand traps must be avoided, see figure on right top. Sand traps are a hazard to a truck because they are so high. They simply fall over unless they hit them straight on. The trucks themselves are very strong, this also means that there is very little to absorb energy, such as a crumple zone. The tracks need to be very forgiving for trucks, allowing them to spin off and come to a halt gradually. Oran park here in Australia seems to have become a haven for truck racing, providing flowing corners, wide grass runoff areas and strong barriers protecting the spectators, see figure on right bottom.

Off road Hill Climbing.

The use of custom made four wheel drives for hill climbing has been taken to the extreme in Iceland. 800 Horse Power vehicles with huge knobby tyres claw their way up seemingly impossible inclines, figures on right. The races take place in quarries to avoid environmental damage. The same vehicles are also used for mud racing and swamp racing and are able to drive across the top of water. When hill climbing, the vehicles (they cannot really be called cars) start from a stationary point close to the beginning of the hill. When they start climbing the hill, stones and dirt are thrown in all directions. Many do not even make it to the top and roll or flip back to the bottom of the hill. These vehicles are exceptionally strong and often are undamaged, short of a few blown tyres. The rigidity of the chassis places a lot of strain on the driver when falling down off a hill. The drivers wear neck braces to support their heads as the vehicles fall back heavily, as well as the usual helmets and harnesses. Fire marshals are situated at the top and bottom of each section of hill climb, as it is not uncommon for some to catch fire when they fall down the hills, and some to catch fire whilst climbing.

Monster Trucks.

These are more of a spectator sport than a real competitive motor sport. They are highly modified vehicles that compete against others by driving over cars, jumping cars and crushing cars, see figure 18 on right. The biggest problem from a safety perspective is the risk to spectators. Monster trucks often race in small closed arenas. Their size and climbing ability makes them ideal candidates to jump the barriers. These trucks have been seen out of control, bouncing from one side to another on the tyres. Recent developments in tyres and shock absorbers have made them more responsive and safer, but the risk is still there. The chassis' need to be very strong due to the weight and the height of the vehicles in a roll over situation.

Drag Racing.

Drag racing is becoming more popular in Australia. Any vehicles can be involved in a drag race, but the pinnacle of drag racing is Top Fuel, although Top Door Slammer is probably just as spectacular. Top fuel Drag cars are very long, very light and very powerful, usually around 4500Hp, see figure on right. As an example of the power involved, a Top Fuel car can accelerate from 0-100kph in its own length, and 160kph in one second. Terminal velocities over 400m are often over 450kph. The stresses involved on the cars and drivers are enormous, engines often exploding under load, figure below right. The drivers are enclosed in a very strong safety cell in front of the engine. They are protected from an engine explosion by a metal plate on the rear of the safety cell. The superchargers on the engines are wrapped
in a heavy nylon shroud.This is strapped down to the engine. These were brought in due to the high number of superchargers flying to pieces and sending shrapnel in all directions. The engines often break away from the rest of the car during an accident. When these cars lose control, it is usually at very high speed, the cars flipping into the air, or rolling. The barriers along the length of the drag strips are concrete, as it is preferable for a drag car to bounce off and slide, rather than be caught by the barrier. Angles of impact are usually relatively slight, but speeds are very high. These cars need parachutes to slow down at the end of the run. If the chutes fail, runoff roads must be provided to allow the cars to come to rest gradually. Medical services must be close by any Top Fuel race, due to the relatively high risk of an accident. The Ambulances usually are running during any meeting ready for an instant response to an accident. Other drag cars, such as the Top Door Slammers have the engine in front of the driver and actually intruding into the drivers compartment. Engine failures in this instance can be very dangerous. To minimise the risk, the engine compartments have burst panels to blow out away from the driver.

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