FROM THE EDITOR
Here’s what I think about this edition’s special section on cutting-edge developments in race safety:
I think this issue of PRI Magazine provides some of the most in-depth, informative, and downright fascinating reporting we’ve ever done on the subject of safety in motorsports. Simply put, our series of articles on the latest advances in driver, vehicle, and race track protection are a must-read for anyone in the business of racing. The piece titled “Safety Engineers” by writer Drew Hardin reveals how companies like Bell Racing are developing purpose-built helmets for different applications, each with unique airflow management systems. “Models from five or 10 years ago don’t have many of those features, or the helmets were more generic and less specific,” Bell’s Kyle Kietzmann told us. Among other eye-openers is Stroud Safety’s new SFI 20 boot, which debuted at the 2021 PRI Trade Show and, with a nod toward the emerging EV race market, comes standard with an electrical charge resistance—in addition to heat and chemical protection—in the sole.
On the vehicle side, safety product manufacturers continue to scrutinize every inch of the car to determine where and how upgrades can be made without sacrificing driver comfort or performance. The team at RaceQuip, for example, recently found “a composite matrix fiber-reinforced polymer that allows us to build very strong, yet lightweight and affordable seats,” according to Patrick Utt, who added that the discovery led to their launching five new models within the last 12 months. It hardly stops there, though, as safety belts and harnesses, fire suppression systems, fuel cells, and even steering wheels have benefited from a greater understanding of how different components perform under impact.
Speaking of which, our “Special Report: Follow the Science” by writer Steve Statham offers a comprehensive and insightful look at the work being done—much of it behind the scenes—by top-tier medical professionals on behalf of racers and teams across the competition spectrum. From nutrition and sleep requirements to the proper level of hydration for drivers and crew members, Statham’s piece uncovers how relatively new revelations about biometrics and how the body works are reducing driver fatigue, dehydration, and more. Driving much of this research is a marked shift in perception about racers: “When I started this, race car drivers were not even considered athletes. They just thought they sat there and drove their car around the race track and nothing much happened,” explained Michigan State University professor Dr. David Ferguson. “[But] we now know that they are considered athletes. Their cardio-respiratory fitness is pretty much equal to an elite triathlete. The G-forces they’re going to experience are quite massive—actually, every race car driver would qualify for the Apollo space program for the amount of G-forces they can handle.” Heady stuff…. And there’s a lot more where that came from, so we invite you to dig into our safety coverage, beginning with Statham’s report on page 34, and give some thought, as we did, on where these developments, and evolving technologies, could lead our sport in the years to come.