In its formative years, motorsports were often considered extreme and dangerous, and many a times, cars would turn into fireballs in the middle of many of today’s world renowned racetracks. Engines were easily torched, the cars had very little technology, and there was almost no safety regulation in races.
Not long after catching wind of the high mortality rates in motorsport, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) the organization behind the Formula One (F1), World Rally Championship (WRC) and World Endurance Championship (WEC) stepped in.
Due to the high mortality rates of drivers in the past, the FIA kicked the door down and wanted to ensure that drivers were kept safe in doing what they loved most, racing. With the safety of the drivers in mind the FIA formed Expert Advisory Safety Committee (EASC) in 1994. This committee would go on to research the use of safety equipment developed solely for the various different motorsports.
EASC worked together with the FIA for years, turning the events under their umbrella into the most thrilling experience for spectators, and one of the safest platforms for both drivers and teams to showcase their skills. In 2002, EASC finalized new FIA specification for Head and Neck Support (HANS), the device that keeps the drivers head in place should there be an accident. It can now commonly be seen at motorsport events of every level.
Technology also plays a major factor in keeping these machines fast and safe. Over the years, materials used for compartments, such as the fuel tank/bag, have been upgraded to military grade materials that are not easily penetrable, minimizing leaks and keeping the drivers safer.
Rulesets have also been tweaked to reduce accidents in the pits over the years. In F1, refueling is no longer allowed during races, keeping pit crews and drivers safe from petrol sparking and causing fires in the pits. The FIA has also implemented the use of the Advanced Side Impact System and Accident Data Recorders (ADRs) to WRC cars not only to help keep drivers safe, but also to keep a record of accidents and what their causes are to further improve on safety technologies.
Not overlooking any aspect of safety procedures, the safety staff that work at the circuits during these events are also trained to properly extract drivers from cockpits and follow a protocol to properly ensure the safety of the drivers after the extrication is performed.
So, the next time you watch any races, you can be assured that behind-the-scenes of the exciting race, safety for both the drivers and the teams is of utmost priority in the minds of any motorsport event organizer.