A quick path to having a safer race car? Cribbing from the pros.
Back in the day–before the requirement to run a homologated race car–professional teams just seemed to have the resources to design the safest cages, fit the latest gear, and take a holistic approach to safety. Looking for tips on building a top-notch cage? You’d probably snoop around the IMSA paddock.
But the situation in the pro paddock has changed. Nearly all of the cars seen in today’s IMSA and SRO competition come from the factories’ competition departments or an authorized agent. That means the safety gear needed for competition hasn’t been added to a modified production car; it was engineered in from the get-go.
FCP Euro is one of those IMSA teams, and it campaigns the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. While the Mercedes-AMG program is managed by the automaker, the cars are built and developed by an outside partner–in this case, HWA Team. In addition to GT machines, HWA Team has also constructed cars for DTM, Formula E, Formula 2 and Formula 3.
“The car is built by AMG and HWA, and obviously they have the flexibility to really instill some pretty stringent safety measures in the car,” notes FCP Euro driver Nate Vincent.
His parting thoughts on running today’s FIA-certified cars? “Makes you feel safe when you’re going out there with 40-, 50-some-odd cars knowing that everyone has the same equipment and everyone’s kind of taking the same precautions as you are.”
The roof features an FIA-mandated emergency hatch for escape or stabilizing a driver’s neck after an incident.
The fuel cell comes with the car. “The cell is ATL,” Nate says, “a household name in fuel cells.”
The one-piece carbon seat is bolted to the car in six places; it cannot move. “It’s part of the safety shell of the car,” Nate explains. To accommodate different drivers, the pedals slide fore and aft. The fixed seat also helps with weight balance, he adds, as the driver’s mass stays put no matter their height.
The FIA-certified roll cage is formed in high-strength steel–a stronger grade of metal than the mild steel commonly found at the club racing level. Since the Mercedes-AMG GT4 features an aluminum chassis, the cage is then bolted in. “Like any car with an FIA certification, like this car has, these cages have actually been designed and then crushed to make sure they held up to the test,” Nate says, “and then they’re implemented.”
An electronically tripped Lifeline fire system also comes standard, meaning no cables to bind. Buttons allow easy access for both driver and corner workers.
Endurance racing places additional wear and tear on the driver harnesses, and Nate notes that they’re replaced regularly; the ones on the FCP Euro car come from Schroth. Bungies are used to pull the harnesses out of the way when released. “That’s really for driver changes,” he explains, “to make sure you don’t sit down on the harnesses and you can get them buckled in.”
Today’s standard calls for window nets on both sides of the driver’s head. FCP Euro’s outer net, which comes from Safecraft, features a giant red button that’s hard to miss. Once the window net is released, a bungee pulls it back and out of the way–again, for quicker driver changes.
IMSA is strict on helmet weight, Nate says, so he uses earbuds in his Stilo instead of ear cups to keep it lighter. IMSA also requires a helmet removal device, approving both the Eject bulb inflator and the Stand 21 Lid Lifter. The Eject system uses an inflatable bag to gently lift the helmet off the head, while the Lid Lifter features a balaclava fitted with two handles; pulling both handles frees the helmet.
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I loooove racecar interior photos. Seeing all the random things taped up makes me feel better about all the radom things taped up on my car 🙂
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